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Grenada - by Christine McKnelly
Should Have Gone to Annandale
By Christine McKnelly
The monster towers over me, hiding the sun, its tentacle-like roots swirling upward.
“You will come to a big tree,” I whisper, recounting the Grenadian teenager’s advice. I met him on the bus from St. George, and, sensing my fluster, he fished a napkin from his backpack and scrawled directions. An arrow pointed to one intersection on the map, next to the solitary words, “big tree.”
I hadn’t started the day so dismally unprepared. I had bounded from my hotel room uber-prepared to hike the Seven Sisters Falls, my dog-eared guidebook bulging with maps and bus schedules.
My guidebook didn’t warn of the first obstacle I would encounter. It wasn't a boulder or landslide, but rather a human, in the form of a hotel desk clerk. After hearing my plans, she pursed her lips, shook her coiffed hair, and spread a glossy map on the counter between us.
"Here is where you leave the bus," she pointed with fiery-pink nails. "And here are the Seven Sisters." She clicked a nail at a spot several inches over, as if implying I'd be crossing an Amazonian gorge. If I insisted on hiking, I'd need to hire a guide.
I was dead set against a guide. I'd been the kid who shrank from high dives, hid behind bleachers during dodge ball, and screamed through my science club canoe trip as if cresting Niagara Falls. Now I was about to turn forty and was determined to trump my inner wimp. Maybe the Seven Sisters were too tough for someone with polished nails and an up-do, but not me, not now.
I contemplated plopping my guidebook on top of her map and pointing to page 164 where I had highlighted “this is a moderately easy hike.” But I knew she wouldn’t listen. I’d lost credibility as an intelligent tourist the day I checked in, when I asked if she could advise me where to catch the mail boat to Petit Martinique. And when I asked if she knew where I could visit an oil down – a celebratory feast on the beach with salt fish and breadfruit – she offered to send a chef to my room.
"Why don't you go to Annandale Falls? Everybody visits Annandale."
Exactly why I don’t want to go there.
She tried again. "I hiked the Seven Sisters once. My group never made it past the second sister."
So I compromised. If the Seven Sisters were too wicked and Concord too tame, I’d hike the Concord falls near Grand Etang National Park.
I boarded the bus with eroded confidence, feeling unsettled by the change in plans. But the teenager was eager to help and advised me where to exit the bus, and his map faithfully led me to the tree. It was a common species called a gommier, he explained, but rumors claimed crazy men hid in the billowing root folds, waiting to grab children.
When the man appears, not from the gommier, but from a tangle of frangipani trees shading the battered concrete road, I nearly stumble into the folds of the tree. He grips a machete in one muscular hand and motions for me to follow.
I should have gone to Annandale.
His shirt is tattered but clean, his eyes milky, his age indistinguishable. Looking neither surprised nor confused by a white woman standing beneath the gommier clutching a napkin, he beckons in a patois lilt. “Come on, try some cinnamon.” Co’mahn, ty som sinomon.
I shake my head politely.
I follow to the edge of the forest he calls a farm, certainly a subsistence farm, but a living cornucopia of swirling greens, reds and yellows, wafting with the scent of nutmeg and mango.
He nods when I asked to purchase some cinnamon bark, smiles when I ask if he could show me the plant, dasheen, and beams when I requested a tour of the foods local cook in oil down.
I depart with backpack sagging, my guidebook squashed beneath fruits.
Notes for other tourists from Christine:
During my stay on Grenada, I felt a growing sense of frustration at American misperceptions of the island. In the back of the collective American mind, we remember Grenada splashed across the evening news with talk of warfare, chaos and communism. Since the 1980s, Grenada has been associated with something vaguely scary, although the details have faded over the years. In truth, Grenada experiences less criminal activity than many well-known tourist destinations.
The bus system is fantastic and orderly – albeit somewhat chaotic – and prices are generally equivalent to those in the U.S. Despite assertions that Grande Anse is the best beach in Grenada, do stray to nearby Morne Rouge – also known at B.B.C Beach – for flora-lined sands.
Some Grenada recommendations from Leap Local users:
is the property manager at Caribbean Cottage Club. She knows the island well and strives to give travellers the best experiences and advice on trips.
For the adventurous types,offers a safe, insightful and exciting ride down the river - a unique way to take in the local scenery and culture.
Alternatively, you can browse ourto explore all locals and the cultural experiences they can offer you.
While hunting waterfalls in Grenada, she noticed the dramatic decline of the island's nutmeg and banana industries - a symbol of the world-wide trend away from nutritious, locally-grown foods. That vacation inspired Christine to merge her 15-year career in public health with her lifelong love for writing.
Christine's articles and columns have appeared in local and statewide venues since 1988. She served as Editor for the Arkansas Dietitian and was chosen for the editorial board of Living Well With Diabetes. Her current writing focuses on health science, health behavior and literary nonfiction. She blogs at http://www.FlunkyDietitian.comand