5 Days in Bequia: Unwinding At The Speed of Light

Ian R Clayton February 2012 © AXSES 2012

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clipper sailing out of bequia harbour

Preparation For a Bequia Holiday Escape

I have been to Bequia several times and it has special memories for me, so I always jump at the chance to go there again. That happen recently when my friends, Bruce and Mereta from Montreal and Hanne from Denmark asked me to join them in Bequia. They were passing through Barbados , flying onto Bequia via SVG Air, on a small aircraft that has the feel of being your own private plane.

I have always travelled via LIAT to St. Vincent and then onto Bequia via the one hour Ferry trip. It's an adventure that is fairly rustic; the ferry is an old tin can of a cargo boat with no luxuries for its passengers.

The last time I travelled there I stopped off at Young Island for lunch. It is a lovely interlude that adds a touch of class to the trip. I like adventures of rugged trekking and absolute opulence.


A taxi at the St. Vincent airport will take you to Young Island and pick you up in time for the afternoon ferry. Young Island is a one-minute boat ride across the bay. The restaurant is right on the beach and the ambiance and cuisine are exceptional.

With only 5 days' stay in Bequia, and wanting to meet up right away I elected to try the private plane trip. It's about $400 US return, twice the price of the LIAT flight to St. Vincent, but not that much more if you count in the Young Island lunch, taxi and ferry. It's an hours flight from Barbados to Bequia via SVG saving several hours of connections, taxis and waiting.

A direct flight it was. I asked my travel agent to book it and discovered that 3 airlines shared the planes. I would fly with Trans Island Airlines (TIA). On the tail of our plane the 3 logos of TIA, SVG and Mystique Air are all displayed. Ah!, I thought, very typical of the friendly cooperation of Caribbean business.

 

barbados runway
Hanne was delayed in UK, due to bad weather. We spend some hours trying to make sure she was booked through to Bequia. The Island Airlines were closed for the weekend, this was not all that easy, but the TIA emergency number worked and a charming lady explained that Henna was indeed booked on the next SVG flight which was the same ITA plane that I was on. If she missed that she would automatically be put on the next flight.

 

Hanne was sitting in the departure lounge when I arrived, having got a Virgin flight out of London and having gone straight to a hotel near the Barbados airport. In moments we were off - walking across the runway to the twin otter with the three logos on its tail.

The desk attendant was now the gate attendant and passengers and crew were soon in conversation. All was very casual and totally relaxed. The plane was an open plan and I had a full view of the cockpit, crew and dials. We taxied, turned and were in the air in moments.


flight to bequia from barbados

 

 

 

Descending through clouds to Bequia was a bit choppy. We were dipping left and right and swaying gracefully over Freindship Bay toward the landing strip at Paget Farm in the south west tip of the Island.

The captain allowed the plane to find its own equilibrium, taking the wheel to stabilize it perfectly at touchdown. Life should be like that, I thought. There is no need to struggle with control if you do not need to.


airial view of beaquia beach near airport

 

Customs was thorough but in no time we were in our open-air taxi; a van with a tarpaulin and hard wooden seats with plastic-covered foam cushions. This is the official taxi of Bequia, as much of an icon as the British taxi cab. Its 40$ EC to get to Lower Bay from the airport, no matter if its 1 person or 8.

Lower Bay is a popular spot with people from all over the world. Many return annually for several weeks of total withdrawal. Everyone talks to everyone but if you don't want to chat that is OK too.

 

J. S  Mitchell airport

We were staying at the Charles house in Lower Bay. There are many private homes in the area that are rented out for a few thousand dollars a month. That is pretty inexpensive for the Grenadines.

Another property worth considering is The Nest, a charming one-bedroom villa perched in the hills surrounded by tropical gardens.

Donald Trump is here with the lavish Trump International Golf Club and Raffles Resort on Canouan Island. Rates can be several thousand a night. Royalty stay in private vialls in Mystique, which looks like a golf course.

The Charles house is just across the road from the Lower Bay beach in Bequia. It is sandwiched between a private school and Petra's Mini Mart.


house in lower bay

 

Petra opens for a few hours each afternoon, selling fresh garlic bread, beer, wine and rum as well as provisions. It's a popular spot; a typical rum shop, bar and mini-mart. The patrons sit on the steps rather than at the counter as they meet to chat with friends.

On Friday evenings Petra's is a social meeting place, where friends gather to share a few stories and discuss the events of the week. They listen to CDs played on the sterio of the designated car parked alongside the store.

 

mini mart in lower bay

Events here are low-key affairs. The days unfold naturally, with routines that soon fall into place and carry you effortlessly through the day, the weeks and the months. Time has no urgency, everything can wait as you laze in the sea, soak up another sunset and later let the crickets lull you to sleep.

Let me share with you my journal for the 5 days I spent in Bequia .

 

5th, Sunday - Getting Ready

Hanne got delayed, we think she is on her way to Barbados - I will meet her at the airport and we will go to Bequia tomorrow. The problem is that we don't know what UK flight she is on. No problem man! Bruce was worried I might miss the Super Bowl, but I don't follow it and did not even know it was on, let alone who is playing what. Hanne phoned from her room later to say she was safe and very tired, in a hotel somewhere in Barbados.

departure on SVG, ITA from Barbados


6th, Monday - Bequia Beach

I met Hanne at the airport and we hardly shook hands before they called us to the plane. There it was on the runway, its tail covered with the 3 airline's logos.

We landed safely in Bequia. Bruce was waiting for us with Jeffrey the Taxi man. We were soon on the beach and in the sea, a couple of coves away from Port Elizabeth, where Trans-Atlantic sailors anchor on their way through the Grenadines.


 

lower bay beach

7th, Tuesday - Town & Roti

An eventful day- early swim at 8ish - coffee at Bee's on the beach at 10'ish, a little computer work, a short nap, then into the city for shopping.

Got cash from the ATM at the bank. Ate a roti at about 3pm, a late lunch. Just so happened Hanne and Mereta were at the same cafe. No one is ever very far away here. The cafe is hidden behind the Bequia book store, it was odd that we all found it and at the same time. Maybe it was the roti sign, but life in the slow-down island pace seems to have these coincidences often.

 

The Cafe was a very rustic place, with an extraordinary ambiance. The roti was a potato curry in a sort of wrap. It had an occasional hint of chicken. It was called a chicken roti but mostly it was diced potato, tasty!.

Had another nap on our return home. We are rising slowly for dinner at Fernando's, up in the hill with a fantastic view and a reputation for rustic gourmet dining.

Tomorrow I will try to see Greg who had called the office in Barbados wondering where I disappeared to. Our friends who retired early, sometimes forget what it is like to have to work. But I am here now and we will meet up soon.

 

roti cafe beside bookstore

8th, Wednesday - Swim, Rituals & Fernado's Review

Just got back from the beach at 11. We might miss coffee at Bee's. It's a bit of a rush. Tyron delivered $40 EC worth of coconuts after the swim. All seem very happy at his dispatch of the nuts with his cutlass. We have a bowl of jelly and a jug of coconut water now. Life is complete!

Meeting Greg at 12:30 in town. Will eat a roti again, probably.

Need to get to to the bank ATM machine - The $200 EC I took out yesterday is gone. Was not thinking, 200EC is about $45 US... Will get $600 today.

Later:... Jeffery is driving me to town, I am looking at the bay as we head down the steep hill to the Fig Tree. Behind us, a loud voice bellows - "Where you go man, I is here walking down de hill, come let we walk to Fig Tree man", It was Greg with a convincing Caribbean attitude and accent. A couple of days later he will pass in front of my camera by coincidence, as I am sneaking some photos of Ginger Bread Hotel, saying "What you do dey, tekking dem picture of me, from behind de bush".

Paths cross in Bequia!

 

Fernados last night was full of eccentric looking, well-healed types who obviously enjoy an alternative lifestyle, away from sophistication.

Dinner was good but not great. To start there was a callaloo soup that was excellent. The main meal was a cross between smorgasbord, buffet and a la cart service. The Veggies were an assortment of tastes: A banana pancake the size of a dollar coin, a tablespoon of aubourgine tomato mix (Italian Caribbean inspired I think), a slice of deep fried plantain and some steamed greens. The assorted veggies were arrayed in a circle around the entree set in the centre.

Fernado obviously does the vegetables in advance and cooks the main entree to order or slightly before in anticipation. I had red snapper which was spiced and fried. Bruce had lamb which was tough and dry and both girls had swordfish which they said was good.

The service was very prompt, I suspect the precooked buffet-style veggies streamlined the delivery. I imagine that Fernado has a pretty good idea of what people will be eating and has it all almost ready to go. An improvised blend of haut cuisine and convenience. Way classier than McDonadls, of course.

fernandos dinner


fernadoes kitchen

9th, Thursday - BoilDown Review

I did a bit of cooking last night - fish fried with a slight coat of breadcrumbs, lemon, spice and pepper. Did a boil-down of spinach, onions, sweet potatoes and yam in coconut water and slivers of coconut jelly. It was very successful and plans are to repeat it with a curry chicken dish, if the chicken actually arrives. 2 Yard fowls have been on order from before I arrived, but they are still running in the yard we believe, and may be hard to catch. Deliveries are missed with the usual "tomorrow", a favorite word here.

Our taxi driver showed up at dinner last night, no doubt it was that word of my boil-down got around, news spreads fast in Lower Bay. None left for him to eat, but he managed a couple of beers, and gave us the low-down and some inside information on village life.

 


The rush was a little slower this morning and we returned from Bee's cafe at 12:30, all exhausted by the effort of swim and beach walking.

We are relaxing and drinking tea. No idea what we will do for the evening agenda. We may go to the Frangipani where there is some music. Dinner which is $125EC, is a bit steep. Roti at $12EC is more our style.

cofee time at Bees cafe on the beach

There is more fish in the fridge - we have no idea what it is. We think we ate Caribbean salmon last night and hope that we will meet the fisherman to confirm that, by explaining what is left. Shark and Mahi-mahi, I suspect, hard to tell when it is all filleted and ready for the pan. It's a mystery that may remain unsolved, as the fisherman is also, like the yard fowls, hard to find. We think he may be at the New York Bar in town, where the beers are cheap and the ambiance conducive to having many.

There was talk earlier of a trip to town and shopping, visit an art gallery and a cafe, etc. But it is already 3pm and the idea has not surfaced again.

I am going to take a break now and rest on a lounge chair on the veranda.


 

frangipani waterfronr resturant

10th, Friday - Tantie Pearls Review

We did manage to get to the Frangipani for cocktails at sunset last night. Greg joined us and we all went to Tantie Pearls for dinner. Lovely spot on the hill overlooking the harbour. I had a curry and fresh green vegetables. All enjoyed the meal and the ambiance. Not many people there, unlike Fernandos that was full. I think Fernando's is sort of an Inn-Crowd place.

Tantie's will need to get a few of the leaders and influence's to visit and pass the word around that actually both the view and food is better here. Dinner with wine and cocktails was $100EC per person. We spent about the same at Fernado's, but we did not have cocktails.

tanti rose gourmet resturant with a view
Friday unfolds steadily like most other days. Swim and Coffee at Bees on the beach at 11ish is a ritual now. Tonight we are doing another boil-down. Stopped at Jackies for some provisions. Bruce does not care for the boil-down that much, but Mereta and Hanne have gone to town putting all sort of veggies, sprouts and even beat, into the pot. Must say I prefer the traditional root vegetable boil-down, with just a bit of spinach or callaloo.

Cocktails at The Reef was a mistake. The rum punches are over proof and after two we should have just gone to bed. It turned out to be a night with more wine and beer than was really needed!. Taxi man Jeffrey and Leroy, who is called the Sheriff of Lower Bay, dropped in for an after dinner chat. I think they really like boil-down!

 

 

the reef beach front restuarnt in lower bay bequia

11th, Saturday - Rum Punch Review

fruit vendor in townNow I know that cocktails at The Reef was a mistake. We are all hung over like sailors.

Today there is no ritual swim and coffee. The girls, who stayed up later than Bruce and I, are having trouble getting out of bed.

Bruce and I got Jeffrey to take us into town to get more cash from the ATM and do a bit of shopping.

We went to the Rastas market. The Rastas there are likes bees swarming around you. I am used to being hassled but this is 5 at a time all talking so you can't hear. It was too much even for them and they did let-up a bit. Bought some callaloo and tomatoes. Would have gotten more if I had been able to think straight.


We ate jerk chicken at Tommy's on the waterfront. Excellent and not too expensive at $28EC for a pate of chicken, salad and rice. After that we picked up some mangoes from the delightful street vendor lady who is jolly and round, and does not pester you at all.

Then to SLRs where the chicken wings, BBQed to perfection, are only $1EC each. I bought drumsticks for $2 EC which we will have tonight with our callaloo soup.

Jeffrey was on time to help us collect the case of beer. We needed to go into Knights store and let them know we had a case of empties, less two. The systems of handling returns are very improvised. There are actually 3 wickets to go through and communicating between them is by paper and sign language of some sort. It works.

The calliloo soup was first rate, as good as any, anywhere. Mereta and Hanne did the cooking as Bruce checked menus on the net. I think I was asleep for the preparation, but they all agreed I had done a masterful job finding the drumsticks.

 

BBQ chicken at SLR in PORT ELIZABETH

 

bruce  guards the case of hairoun beer

12th, Sunday - Going Home

This is a sad day. I leave at 2:30. We Swim and get to Bee's at 10:15 but she is not there. Possibly at church. A sign says "Back at 10:30", so we wait. She arrives a little later and we all applaud as the doors open. There are a few regulars sitting on the sand in their deck chairs also waiting and all joining in spontaneous applause.

A very British chap sits nearby with his wife and helps us with information about a ritzy-looking yacht in the bay. It's apparently one of the top 7 charter yachts in the world; costs about $400,000US per week.

We chat about snorkeling and trips we can afford, and soon it's time to go.

Jeffrey collects me on the dot and I am airborne taking my last shots of Bequia and back in Barbados in no time at all. It was treat; a great way to rejuvenate and to catch up with friends, in an island where nothing matters.

We will do this again, probably sooner that we think, whenever Bequia Calls

 


Bee's Cafe on lower bay road

beach house veranda

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See also Sailing on the Freindship Rose, the last of the working wooden schooners.

Trips from Bequia to the Grenadines- Click Here for My FriendShip Rose Story

Your Comments are Welcome



How to get to Bequia

Air
There are no international flights into St Vincent & the Grenadines. Passengers coming from overseas must fly to a neighbouring island, often Barbados or St. Lucia, and then switch to a prop plane. Part of the adventure is to commute via St. Vincent, stop for lunch at Young Island and get an afternoon ferry for the one hour trip to Bequia.


SVG Air (www.svgair.com) Also TIA and Mystique Air
flies from Barbados to Bequia (a 55-minute flight).

LIAT, Airlines of Carriacou, Mustique Airways and Air Martinique
fly between St Vincent and Trinidad, St Lucia, Martinique and Grenada. SVG Air flies from St. Vincent to Bequia and Mustique.

Ferries: There is a good ferry service between St. Vincent the islands of the Grenadines. Schedule information can be found at www.svgtourism.com


Yacht
Private yachts may clear customs in Bequia and Mustique as well as St. Vincent and St. Lucia. Yacht may be charter in many of the islands.

Trips from Bequia to the Grenadines- Click Here for FriendShip Rose

Where to Stay in Bequia

Lower Bay - SeaScape chateau

Leroy and Charlotte Hepburn
walkers11@peoplepe.com
1-784 458 3315




About Ian R Clayton

CEO of AXSES Author:
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