27.5.03

Barbados 03 p4

The island centre

Monday May 26

A day we'll remember! There were a handful of things we wanted to visit in the centre and north of the island, and we wanted to do them all in one go because traveling to those parts was a hassle. We grouped together 5 or 6 things we estimated we'd be able to make, but we both underestimated the distances and overestimated the bus network. As a result we spent most of the day walking, looking for buses, and muttering: "Never again".

Walking down through the centre's jungle to Harrisson's Cave
We started with Harrisson's Cave, Barbados' geological wonder. It was named that because John Harrisson owned the land where it's located at the time of its discovery. It's quite lovely, but being regular visitors of Lebanon's Jeita, which is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world, we couldn't help being disappointed. Still we learned some interesting facts, for instance that Barbados stands out among the Caribbean islands for being a true coral reef and not the product of volcanic activity. It is therefore a geological baby, 60 000 years young. Another implication of its being corallian in nature is that there isn't a single rock on the entire island to be carved into a tool! Amerindians relied entirely on seashells to make tools, weapons, jewelry, sculptures, etc.

Glimpse of the cave
Thanks to the Cave I also got a better look at what I believed to be Barbados' goats, which in fact turned out to be wool-less sheep. They are brown with a black belly (hence the name black-belly sheep) and they are believed to have evolved from a cross of African and European breeds, with the former's tropical adaptation and the latter's reproductive rate. At any rate, since they yield no wool, it looks like their only function is to be eaten. I wouldn't know what they taste like though: for someone who reputedly dislikes seafood, I managed to eat nothing but fish for a whole week.

During the long walk to Flower Forest, we caught this grand view of the East Coast beyond the jungle.
As we had to walk to Flower Forest we skipped Welchman Hall Gully, and when we realized that the former and the Eco Museum we were interested in were located on opposite sides of a mountain, we decided to skip that as well. Flower Forest was viciously hidden at the bottom of a long road and slope that we knew we'd have to climb again afterward. It wasn't quite the season for flowers but it was nevertheless worth the detour. What I loved best was a stunning kind of palm tree that seemed to be the product of a modern, plastic sense of sculptural design. The bottom of the trunk curves in on the ground, as if it didn't have roots but was gently balanced on a rounded foot, then rises smoothly and vertically with a gentle taper, rhythmically marked by rings that look painted on. There were of course various types of exotic flowers and orchids in their natural environment, and a baby baobab. When we set out uphill again we were rewarded by the sight of two green monkeys, also known as vervet, pottering about on the road.

These wonderful palm trees
A few flowers of the Forest
The most abundant and respected resident of the Wildlife Reserve
Thanks to a helpful local who volunteered directions before giving us a New York handshake, we managed to get onto a bus – our first governmental bus – that would take us straight to the Wildlife Reserve, a place where animals roamed free around the visitors. We were already exhausted and quite sick of the whole thing, but I didn't want to miss it. It turned out to be a very entertaining stop. There were red-spotted tortoises everywhere - there are actually more of them inside the reserve than in the whole island. They dozed among the trees, blocked the alleyways, and when walking on them, forced the amused visitors to give them right of way.

Stepping carefully over the tortoises were small grey brocket deer and the mutant rabbit, the hutia conga: this strange creature walks and stands on all 4 like a deer, but its kinship to rabbits and hares is revealed when it sits or lies down. A dead giveaway is also its typically "rabbit caught in headlights" gaze as it stares at you with eyes that manage to be filled with horror and completely devoid of expression at the same time. There were also caimans, iguanas (for some reason sharing their enclosure with a large number of fluffy rabbits), green monkeys, guinea fowl, pelicans, ...

The hutia conga. Deer...
... or rabbit?
Vervet or green monkey
Presently we started looking for a bus AGAIN, this time for Gibb's Beach which was in more familiar territory - the West coast, just above Folkstone. Kim had spotted something there called the Seashell Gallery that looked worth checking. It turned out to be simply a seashell shop, but we were very happy to have stopped there. We had a lovely chat with the shop lady while I was choosing my seashells. It was a pattern that recurred almost every time we went shopping: the shopkeeper would ask where we were from, exclaim that we were a long way form home and were the first Lebanese he/she'd ever met, and then a friendly conversation would start where we'd pick up much interesting info about the island.


Once again we were on a bus to Bridgetown, apparently owned by a Spiderman fan (the bus was designed on a Spiderman theme inside and outside). We reached a duty free shop in extremis to grab a couple of bottles of Mount Gay Rum for friends of Kim's. Despite its amusing name it has a claim to venerability as the oldest rum in the world, having been made for 300 years. We ran into Donna (who by now was no longer surprised at seeing us everywhere) and finally caught the bus home - our 6th that day. We had amply deserved a shower and tea with a drop of rum.

The room had been cleaned in our absence and sadly, the nest had been removed. But the dove was sitting in its place, and anytime we wanted to enter the bathroom we'd have to knock on the door first so that it could quietly leave through the window as opposed to suffering a heart attack at a sudden entrance. Even Kim, who cussed at the bird and threatened to eat it, observed this courtesy unfailingly.