Last Mango In Paradise Page 2

Splat! A large lump of something yellow hit the path in front of us. Then another, and another. Flinching, I glanced up into the rain-forest canopy. Flashes of movement and an insolent chattering betrayed the culprits—monkeys, and plenty of them. Splat! Now we recognized the somethings as the remains of mangoes dropping from the canopy as the monkeys finished munching them. Messy
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It wasn’t long before we were at the foot of Mount Liamuga, a still-active volcanic peak. All five of us set out on dramatic trails under the rain forest’s thick canopy. We hiked for nearly an hour, sometimes straight up using ropes and log steps set up for those who wanted to climb this very steep mountain. Signs along the way kept us on the path as it got darker and darker on this bright, sunny day. Then mangoes started falling from the sky.

Next, Percy took us to a wonderfully preserved fort called Brimstone Hill. The history of St. Kitts is full of battles between the French and the English, and Percy told us that one such event lasted nearly four weeks, with an invading French and Spanish force bombarding the fotress from land and sea. This battle, he assured us, was the origin of the term “fire and brimstone.”

At nearby Romney Manor, batik cloth is made by hand for sale to tourists. We watched as island women hand-painted the cloth with wax and dipped each piece in vats of boiling water and dyes, and several of us left more brightly attired than when we had arrived. The adjoining botanical gardens are beautifully kept.

We continued our drive through miles of sugar-cane fields. The Carbis—who were eiped out by the French and the British—called St. Kitts. Liamuga, which means “fertile land,” certainly fertile enough to make sugar cane the staple crop. Cane is no longer harvested on St. Kitts because of the collapse of sugar prices worldwide.

Later, back in the marina, we decided it was too hot to stay another night, so we headed for White House Bay, a few miles down the coat. This part of the island is dry and desertlike, covered by scrubby plants, There are slat marshes here, and birds aplenty. The cruising guide promised this would be a great place to spot green monkeys, but we didn’t see any.

Never mind the monkeys—the snorkeling made up for the lack of them. We explored a wreck in shallow water close to the beach, where bright shoals of fish darted away from us. A wonderful dinner materialized from the galley (women know hot o look after each other), and some wine was sipped by a tried but contented crew. This was what we’d come for, the Caribbean that dreams are made of: palm trees, white sand, turquoise water, shady beach bars, and the sound of reggae blending with the sound of the ocean.

Early the next morning we were off to Nevis, just 2 miles to the south of St. Kitts. It is a spectacular approach, with the lush green slopes of Nevis peak rising 3,000 feet skyward. Houses are lightly dotted along the shoreline, but the overwhelming impression is one of solitude. As we anchored off the ferry dock in Charlestown harbor to clear in (again), we saw a man shouting and waving from the shore. “Hello! I’ve been expecting you!” This was Sarge, a friend of Percy’s; it seemed word was traveling from island to island that five women in a boat were heading south. We had to disappoint him, as we didn’t linger long in Charlestwon, although it looked totally charming. The town is a collection of brightly colored buildings with anrrow roads leading into a central plaza, where enormous flowering trees are abuzz with bees. Small markets abound, and we bought a spectacular pineapple.

Imagine a beach nearly three miles long, a long arc of golden sand fringed with palm trees. That’s the Caribbean dream, and that’s also Pinney’s Beach, on Nevi’s west coast, where we anchored for lunch and a visit to the beach bears. Jean explored the elegant Four Seasons resort, while Bird and I opted to observed the local color at Sunshine’s Beach Bar, where the Killer bee cocktail lived up to its name. Back on board, we moved north to Oualie Beach, a wonderfully sheltered spot with good holding and a gorgeous view of St. Kitts. Above us the upper slopes of Nevis Peak were shrouded in clouds and there was a light dusting of cottages among the trees. We had a riotous meal at the Oualie Beach resort that night, where blue marlin was the special, as it was at every other restaurant on the island—a 500-pounder had been caught the day before and distributed among the eateries.

it was time to think about heading back, and it was with genuine regret that we waved goodbye to the beautiful shores of Nevis the next morning and prepared for the long sail to St. Barts. By popular vote we stopped off for a swim at Shitten Bay on St. Kitts—a name that kind of suited the bleak, rocky surroundings. We still hadn’t managed a close look at St. Kitt’s famous green monkeys, and, as if on cue, while we were paddling round, a troop of them appeared on the shore, just yards away. “The only thing missing now is dolphins,” said Jean. I promptly announced that we’d see them at 1 o’clock that afternoon, and Pip promised that there would be a dozen of them playing in the bow wave. And guess what? Just before 1 p.m., as we were broad-reaching at 9 knots toward St. Barts, a large pod of dolphins appeared on cue and frolicked in the bow wave. That afternoon, energized by our terrific sail, we picked up a free mooring in Anse de Colombier. A couple of us ventured ashore and found a footpath that hugged the cliffs around the bay, winding through volcanic rock outcrops, cactus, and flowering bushes surrounded by butterflies. It led to the tiny village of Colombier, with its excellent market stocked with cheap wine and wonderful baked goods.

We planned to spend our last nigh tin the Sunsail marina, but first we had some business to take care of. Alcid from Sunsail had told us that Tintemarre, off the eastern coast of St. Martin, was a must0-see stop. We anchored just yards off the beach and, following Alcid’s instructions, carried jugs of fresh water into the mangroves, where we found several holes had been dug. In went the water, mixing with the soil to a rich volcanic mud that we rubbed over ourselves. As it dried, I could feel my skin tightening. Passing sailors looked askance as five mudcaked women as we sat on the beach, but we didn’t care—our skin felt most amazingly soft and supple. Tomorrow we would fly home to jobs and families, responsibilities and worries, but for now, dirty and happy, we could look back on a week filled with laughter and adventure.

Dana Williams has been a sailing instructor, delivery captain, and successful racer for over thirty years.

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