Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

St. Vincent Part 1

This post is a combination of two posts written independently (and miles apart) over Easter. Can you tell who wrote what?

With two weeks off at Easter, we were looking for somewhere new to explore. It had to be fairly close by, not too expensive and something we'd enjoy. When we booked our Christmas break trip to St Lucia we'd learned that Liat airlines offers a very cheap rate for early booking. At that time we knew that we had a 2 week Easter break and that we'd need to "renew" our driving permits at the beginning of April. (We've managed to work the system by leaving the country every 90 days to avoid the hassle of getting a licence). St. Vincent won out, and after our 5 day visit, it certainly didn't disappoint. I dare say it was a vacation made for Paul and Gayle!

We began our research to find a place to stay and things to do.  We found the Richmond Vale hiking center. This place hosts a climate change and international aid school called the Richmond Vale Academy. It seemed like a perfect fit for us!

Our trip started with a 6 am early flight from Trinidad to Kingstown, St. Vincent. Why waste the day, right? After landing around 7 am, 5 minutes in a taxi and we were waiting for a bus with about 25 locals at the leeward terminal. We felt significantly out of place with our large backpacks as we examined the crowd to determine who to ask about which bus traveled to Chateaubelair.  After about 25 minutes, a flurry of activity started as minivans of different colours sped into the lot one after another honking loudly. Each had a conductor who slid open the door and yelled the destination. As the busses stopped passengers got off and paid. While we knew where we were going, we had difficulty understanding the local dialect and asked a young man which bus to take.
We checked in with a driver and loaded our stuff.  In another 15 minutes,the bus was full enough to leave.  

We listened to the locals chatting, laughing and joking and quickly realized that there were similarities with the trinny slang, but we were going to struggle to understand for sure!

Soon we were en route (along a VERY windy road) in a lively minibus to Chateaubelair , a small fishing village on the leeward side of St. Vincent. After an hour and 15 minutes of windy mountain road we arrived at the end of the route.  Almost everyone got off the bus at an small "store" in a little fishing village on the west coast. We we relieved to be able to stretch our legs!  There were a few locals on the streets who pointed us in the direction of Richmond Vale. I guess we were not the first white people with backpacks who got off a minibus...

During our 40 minute walk to the Richmond Vale Academy (our digs for the next 4 days), we met two Vinny farmers. The first, in rubber boots who was carrying a machete was heading in our direction and he said he'd walk with us.  Honestly, we were both a little nervous as we were expecting to be asked for a guiding fee for his help. However our fears were proven wrong.

As Casper walked with us, he pointed out local trees and plants and told us some of the history of the area. We soon caught up to his farming partner, Charlie, who, it turns out has grown children living in Canada. They took us "the back way" to see the plantains they would be harvesting later that day. On the way, we saw the remains of a long defunct Arrowroot mill. They took us under their wings, answering our questions, showing us roadside plants and then giving us a tour of their vegetable farm, as well as inviting us back on Wednesday to help them plant sweet potatoes, by hand, on the steep side of a terraced mountain.  After about 40 minutes of walking, our farmer guides bid us farewell and invited us back on Wednesday to see them breaking new ground. Too bad we wouldn't be able to make it!

We felt very safe and welcome in St. Vincent as we trekked the last 500 m to our destination. 

Fast forward a bit to the highlights of our stay at the Richmond Vale Academy, a center/school that runs educational programs about climate change. It was a super cool experience to be surrounded by people with such strong beliefs about the environment who are committed to living lightly on our Earth. We were able to converse with people from around the world and hear their stories and ideas about sustainable living, while at the same time living lightly as well. Breakfast, lunch and dinner mainly consisted of local, organic foods that were yummy and healthy. We feasted on an invasive species called lion fish for supper one night, caught by local spear fishing. We also got to pick and eat fresh fruit from the fruit garden.

A highlight for me, aside from the fresh guava, papaya, star fruit and applepears, was reconnecting to ideals that are important for me. I really do believe in living lightly and taking action to reduce my impact on the Earth. After 8 months in Trinidad somehow I've managed to put these things on the back burner. It was refreshing and inspirational to see and hear how 2 people have encouraged and motivated numerous others to take action.

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