The Magellan arrived very early at her mooring in Bridgetown at 6.00am. This was lucky as she bagged the closest berth to the port terminal ensuring the passengers from the two cruise ships that arrived afterwards had a much longer walk.
Interesting fact: Chicken is by far the most popular meat eaten on the island, there are hens and cockerels to be seen everywhere, roaming free. In 1990, MacDonald’s opened a large restaurant in Bridgetown at a cost of 3 million US dollars, six months later it closed. The island has no MacDonald fast food outlets, however there are many KFC take-aways. Ronald made a bit of a clown of himself in Barbados!
This is the second time we have been to Bridgetown, so we had decided this time to see a bit more of the island and booked ourselves onto a 4X4 tour. The vehicle left on time at 8.30am and we had eight others as company. We were advised to buckle our lap seat belts tight as the ride would be a bumpy one, this turned out to be an understatement. Tracks that wind their way through sugar plantations and cotton fields are more suited to donkey and cart than motorised road vehicles.
Leaving the capital took some time as Barbadian rush hour is on a par to that of many British cities, a slow, stop start crawl! However, we eventually did leave the city behind and were soon climbing up through the lush countryside into the fresh air of the Highlands. We wouldn’t go far without pausing to take photos from the vehicle of the people, crops, wildlife, houses and stupendous views. We thought this trip would give us the best chance to see the real Barbados, and it turned out so.
A highlight was catching the Barbadian Green Monkeys unaware as they argued with each other in the trees outside a plantation house and the ‘cow birds’ following a tractor searching for insects as it turned the soil over in readiness for another crop of sweet potatoes. The little villages that flew by were pretty by any standard and the occasional ‘Big House’, even more so. We headed out on the East Coast Road, regularly diving into the countryside for a bone-rattling diversion to see more of Bajan culture.
We eventually stopped at the highest point (304m) to see the gorgeous coast line way down below, lines of frothy white waves marching onto sparkling beaches seemingly trying to reach the island’s lush green vegetation, always just out of reach. Here we were treated to rum punch, a highly pleasant, intoxicating and moreish drink. We eagerly sank two large glasses, but when offered a third we all wisely refused as hanging on for dear life at the back of a 4X4 would take all our concentration!
Next stop was down on the coast, at what at what I think must be one of the most picturesque beaches we have ever been to, with possibly the exception being those on Bora Bora. However, the under-tow here is very strong so swimming is not allowed (even by the islanders), as the surf is so good this beach is reserved just for them. There were a few stalls selling trinkets here, advertising their presence with a washing line of beach towels for sale, flapping in the breeze as a lure, Sue took the bait and indulged in some rustic retail therapy and purchased a nice necklace of moonstones from one. Great marketing strategy.
Our route back took us along the Platinum Coast, so named because the exclusivity of the properties there. Pleasingly, though multi-millionaires such as local singer Rhianna and X-Factor Simon Cowell may own beach side properties, the beach itself remains very much public, because that is the law here. What sensible people.
Arriving back a t the cruise terminal, we had lunch on board before venturing out again. This time we took a taxi into Bridgetown and after a short foray around the shopping district we hit the town’s silver sanded beach. There were other cruisers there mixing with the locals but considering its proximity to the city and the ships, this stretch of Caribbean beach seemed quiet. Perhaps most had headed off to other beautiful patches of sand of which this island has an abundance of. We were fortunate to find a double hammock underneath two shady palm trees, suitably located right next to a bar. Not surprisingly we stayed there swinging gently to our hearts content watching with interest the people pass by, discussing nothing in particular, at great length, for the rest of the afternoon. We had gone Caribbean!
Thoroughly rested and relaxed we took a turn through the open-air market to see the locals enjoying drinks in the many shacks that have been turned into ‘Rum shops’. Crowded in little circles, seated on plastic chairs they were enjoying rum punch, spontaneously and raucously laughing in unison, smiles permanently pinned on their faces, obviously having fun and in varying states of inebriation. They are Caribbean.
Though the fierce heat of the day had gone and it now felt like a hot English summers’ day we opted against walking back to the ship as we had done last year, and took a taxi instead. We spent some time in the terminal before boarding the ship to use the WIFI and check out the news, particularly interesting was that of two cruise ships in the Far East that had Coronavirus on board and the passengers were being quarantined for two weeks. We are glad that we chose to go to the Amazon this year and not the Yellow River!