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 roaming everywhere, which I guess makes their eggs truly free range! In 1990, MacDonald’s opened a large restaurant in Bridgetown at a cost of 3 million US dollars, six months later it closed, due to lack of demand. Today, the island has no MacDonald fast food outlets, however there are plenty of 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. Our vehicle left on time at 8.30am from the dockside, we had eight others, a driver and a guide for company. We were advised to buckle our lap seat belts tightly as the ride would most probably be a bumpy one, this turned out to be an understatement. The tracks that we followed wound their way through sugar plantations and cotton fields and were more suited to donkey and cart than motorised road vehicles.
Leaving the capital took some time as we discovered that Barbadian rush hour is on a par to that of many British cities, a slow, stop start crawl! Eventually we did leave the city behind and were soon climbing up through the lush countryside into the cool 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.
We followed the East Coast Road, regularly diving into the countryside for a bone-rattling diversion to see yet more of Bajan culture. A highlight was catching the Barbadian Green Monkeys unaware as they argued with each other in the trees alongside a rather elegant plantation house. Whatever the dispute was over it was serious enough to completely ignore the pale looking humans with clicking cameras. Soon after our guide pointed out the ‘cow birds’ following a tractor in searching of insects as the machine 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 eventually stopped at the highest point (304m) to see the attractive coastline, visible 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 I think must be one of the most picturesque beaches we have ever been to, with the possible exception being those on Bora Bora. However, the under-tow here is very strong so swimming is strictly not allowed (even by the islanders), but there is one exception: as the surf is so good, this beach has been reserved for those with surf boards. As this is a popular place to picnic, there were a few stalls selling trinkets here, some advertising their presence with a washing line of beach towels for sale, enticingly 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 for all beaches here. What sensible people the Bajans are.
Arriving back at the cruise terminal, we had lunch on board before again venturing out. 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 cruise ships (half an hour walking distance), this stretch of Caribbean beach seemed relatively quiet. Perhaps most of our fellow seafarers had headed off to one of the many other beautiful patches of sand of which this island has an abundance of? We were fortunate to find an empty double hammock underneath two shady palm trees, idyllically located right next to a bar. Not surprisingly we stayed there swinging gently to our hearts content watching with interest people passing by, discussing nothing in particular at great length. We suffered this hardship 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 long plastic tumblers of 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!