Pirate’s Bay, Tobago

We spent two days road-tripping around the island, getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road and slowly getting comfortable with the narrow and winding roads. From the south of the island we followed the road along the east coast with the Atlantic as our view. After stopping at Argyle Falls we headed on to Charlotteville, with a few more picture stops along the way.

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Charlotteville is a small fishing village on the north coast of the island. Colorful homes perch upon the lush mountains that surround it and groups of locals lime over Carib near the beach. A charming village with friendly people, our main reason for stopping by was to make our way to Pirate’s Bay.

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Be warned, do not try to drive there! It is much easier (and safer!) to park the car at the sign and make the walk down the narrow road. The road begins just fine but quickly transforms into a nightmare of an extremely narrow dirt road with rocks jutting out, barely enough room for once car and a terrifying drop off the cliff to the sea below.

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We realized this too late and were left with no choice but to continue on until we found a bigger spot to turn around. After safely making our way off the road (minus the scratches to the car that happened from getting too close to the rock face), we headed back the way we came on foot. At the end of the narrow road and down about 155 steps lined with palm trees, you will come out to a secluded and beautiful bay.

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Pirate’s Bay is a secluded beach nestled in the hills. While there is a rustic washroom available, there is little else in the way of amenities, so be sure to bring some water and snacks if you plan to spend the day. Because it can be difficult to reach (about 15-20 minutes walk from Charlotteville — there’s a great ice cream shop just before the road leading to the bay.. try the peanut!), we had the bay almost entirely to ourselves, with no more than a small handful of people.

If you like to snorkel there is some good underwater activity happening at the rocky area on the left hand side of the beach with lots of fishies to be seen. If you’re looking for some beach fun, there’s a tire swing hanging from a tree that we couldn’t resist! A beautiful bay with soft sand, calm water and a great landscape, it also makes for a great sunset spot.

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Our Hidden Pool in the Sea

I’ve been away for a little while as I try to adjust being back in my hometown but although I’m home I still have a bunch of stories to share with you all. Today, I want to bring you back to a quiet corner of the world in St. Vincent. A short walk from the highway, down a bumpy road and past a friendly goat eating his grass, you’ll come to the house of an artist. It was in this open-concept inspired home filled with colorful paintings and a porch that overlooked the ocean that we lived in for our last weekend on the island.

After four months of travel this house became my refuge and the place where I indulged in lazy days filled with tea and the occasional walk to the store or the beach. Journal and blog writing happened with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean as my background music and on one particular afternoon, we were introduced to a pool of sea water surrounded by rocks.

Our host for the weekend led the way, taking us to Brighton Salt Pond and then up and onwards through a trail above the sea, across a small field and into a cluster of rocky cliffs that held the pools of sea water. Sheltered from the larger ocean by the rocks, these pools of water were shallow and calm, perfect for lounging and sea-shell finding, which is exactly what we spent our time doing. Oh, and playing with the many hermit crabs that inhabited the pool. Here is our journey in photos.

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Brighton Salt Pond Beach is one of St. Vincent’s black sand beaches due to the volcanic land. This beach was popular with the locals, with lots of children running in and out of the waves and loud music playing.

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Below is the calm pool of water we eagerly made our way to.

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The waves occasionally made it over the barrier, tossing us around for just a moment.

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Barbados on a Budget

Barbados is known for its white sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna. What it’s not known for is it’s affordability. The Caribbean isn’t a popular place for those on a backpacker budget, as many are drawn to the extreme budget prices seen in Southeast Asia or South America, but the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world and shouldn’t be missed just because it seems a little pricy. Here are some traveler tips to make the most of your time in Barbados without breaking the bank:

1. Shop Local

Food prices in the supermarkets can be extremely expensive. It’s best to shop locally as much as possible. Cheapside Market in Bridgetown is where I have found the most affordable local produce. Be sure to ask around about prices, as they will vary vendor to vendor. You’ll soon learn who sells at the cheapest price. You can also pick up cartons of fresh coconut water for $12 BBD, roughly $6 US. Saturday morning is the best time to go, with all the vendors out and piles and piled of produce for you to choose from.

2. Rent a House

All-inclusive resort prices in Barbados can be nearly double what you would pay for a week vacation in Mexico. Get the most for your money (and stay a little longer!) by renting a private residence with a couple of friends for a month. This can easily be done for $400 per person, making your stay just over $12 a night. Your place might even have a pool, gazebo, and mango trees! If you don’t have a month to stay, there are some hostels and budget guesthouses on the island, mostly on the South Coast and starting from $18US per night.

3. Barbados National Trust Hikes
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There’s plenty of over priced tours in Barbados, but not everything costs money! Barbados National Trust takes locals and tourists alike out to different parts of the island every Sunday. The hike is free of charge, although small donations are accepted. They say that if you go on the hike every Sunday for a year, you will have hiked the whole island. Barbados National Trust holds three hikes every Sunday, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Hikes last about 3 hours with an average of 7 – 10 miles covered.

4. Hit the Beach!

Barbados is full of beautiful beaches that stretch around the island. The West and South coast beaches are most popular due to the calm, swim friendly waters of the Caribbean Sea. Head to the North and East coast for the rugged beauty of the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Every beach in Barbados is public, free of charge, even if it backs off of the fancy hotels. Brownes Beach, Pebbles Beach, Accra, Batts Rock, Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane, Dover, the options are endless. You can find everything from nearly empty beaches with nothing but sand to beaches filled with people, sunbeds, umbrellas, etc.
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5. Take the Public Transportation

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If you plan to take a taxi everywhere, good luck. You can get anywhere on the island for as little as $2 BBD. You have three options when it comes to public transportation: the big, blue, government-regulated buses, the privately owned yellow bus, or the ZR vans. Each one is $2 one way, no matter how far of a ride you have ahead of you, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Each option is an extremely different experience, with my personal favorite being the ZR. In a van that sits about 12 comfortably, the drivers will often squish in at least 18, with the most I’ve seen being 22 people, crammed in for a speedy ride with loud music. If personal space is your thing, this might not be the option for you, but it’s definitely an experience that should be had. And here’s a fun game for you: can you find the #3 ZR with the handcuffs and condoms hanging from the rear view mirror?

6. Drink Local

Forget the fancy drinks, Barbados is all about the rum, with the local rum being Mount Gay. Rum shacks can be spotted all over the island, with many selling rum by the shot or the glass for cheap prices. If you’re out on St. Lawrence Gap, the Old Jamm Inn offers 2-for-1 rums for $8 BDD. If you’re looking for something else, the local Banks beer can often be found for 4 for $10 BDD.

7. Eat out at Oistins Fish Fry

A Friday night at Oistins is a must for travelers experiencing the island. You can get a huge meal with a meat or seafood and two sides of your choice (often macaroni pie, rice and beans, breadfruit, salad, etc.). Loud music, good company and Bajan food makes for a good evening out that won’t leave your wallet hurting in the morning… unless you get carried away with the rum punch.

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The Day I Learned to Crack Open a Coconut

“At the beach, life is different. Time
doesn’t move hour to hour, but mood
to moment. We live by the currents,
plan by the tides and follow the sun.”
-Unknown

The bus weaved it’s way up and over the hills that make up Barbados’ east coast, winding down the road until at last it came around a corner presenting the most beautiful of views, capturing us all into silence. We were high above the rugged coastline, looking down upon the many cliffs that jutted out into the Atlantic and the palm trees that dotted the shore.

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A very religious island, Easter in Barbados is a big deal. Everything is closed on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, causing a mad rush around the island on Thursday to get everything the family needs for the weekend and everyone you run into is in a great mood with big smiles and wishes of a blessed Easter. I was told that it’s a very bajan thing to rent a cottage in Bathsheba on this long weekend and that’s exactly what a group of us did. Packs strapped to our backs we hopped off the bus to the smell of the ocean — and seaweed.

Unfortunately, Bathsheba is having a bit of a seaweed problem. Cliffs of seaweed have replaced most of the white sand and the smell of it fills the air. No matter, seaweed or no seaweed, we were in for one of the best days on the island (although, I’m often declaring every day here as the best day).

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With a cottage rented to sleep six, fifteen of us headed in and dropped our bags. We made a quick lunch and got comfortable on the deck, eating and chatting and eager to go explore the shore.

Our adventures to the shore taught us many valuable lessons that day. Mainly that cracking open a coconut with your bare hands requires determination and never ending smashing against a jagged rock. That you have to have a delicate touch (which I do not have) to break free an almond from its shell without pulverizing it into dust. That island boys from the West Indies can scale up a coconut tree in the blink of an eye. That dried up seaweed is actually kind of painful to walk on and that there is nothing better than an afternoon by the sea side.

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Together, we climbed up cliffs to get better views of the east coast, waded in the ocean, found some great pieces of coral reef that had dried up on the sand and would have made an excellent center piece for my table at home, and chilled on some rocks to the sound of people telling jokes and the waves kissing the shore.

All roads that afternoon led back to our orange cottage for a night of beer-induced impromptu sing-alongs, sharing coconut water, stories, food and all of our years of wisdom combined for a friend’s twenty-first birthday. But before we say goodbye, dig in to some photos of our afternoon in such a special place and just maybe our next stop could be the moon.

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Mahogany Forests and Coastal Views

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything.
You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree,”
– Michael Crichton

If you took my suggestion from my previous post about visiting theĀ wildlife reserve in Barbados you will be pleased to find that your admission into the animal kingdom also allows you a jaunt up to the Grenade Hall signal station and the mahogany forest that surrounds it. Walking to the left of the ticket booth and, if you’re lucky, a monkey taking a rest on the bench, you’ll find yourself walking up a trail made of brick that will lead you to a tall white tower extending into the sky.

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A small piece of history, you can find old artifacts from the 1800s and listen to the audio story of the history of the station and the area as you climb the wooden staircase to the top. Originally built as a watch tower, the men who worked in the station would communicate to others around the island if there were any ships approaching or outbursts of slave rebellions. Long out of use now, the building stands as a reminder of the history of this land and makes an excellent spot for a view in all directions of the surrounding island.

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Once you’ve had your fill of the panoramic views you can continue your day of exploration by following the trails through the surrounding forest. Through palm trees, mahogany trees and more trees, shrubs and plants that are native to Barbados, you can make your way around the lush forest all while learning about the environment! The forest walk was started to educate locals and visitors about the importance of protecting nature and all of the great benefits a healthy environment has.

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You can even take a moment to explore the small cave that is believed to have sheltered Rastafarian’s and escaped convicts at one point in time. The walk through this forest is a great moment to reconnect with nature. Too often our lives are dictated by appointments, deadlines and rushing around trying to complete our to do list of the day. Spending some time disconnected from the world and immersed in nature is invigorating for our body, mind and spirit and can lower any tension with just a few deep breaths and can leave you feeling refreshed and energized for the rest of the day.

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Just a hop, skip and a jump away is Farley Hill, one of Barbados’ national parks that is nestled just across the street from the wildlife reserve. With easily one of the best views of Barbados, Farley Hill is a popular place for tourists to come and snap a few shots of the Atlantic coast views and for locals to spend their afternoon having a picnic. If anyone in the world can picnic, the bajans can. Especially on a Sunday, you’ll find groups of locals liming around the island with an elaborate picnic spread out.

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Barbados isn’t known for its environmental activism, something that I’ve noticed every day. Most things are given to you in styrofoam containers and if you go to the supermarket they will put a lot of products in individual plastic bags before placing it all into one large plastic bag. That’s not even mentioning the amount of litter. It was a breath of fresh air to see that Farley Hill has taken a step forward and was the cleanest place that I’ve seen so far in Barbados. There was an ample number of garbage bins and tons of signs promoting recycling and no littering. I didn’t see a piece of garbage anywhere!

As you stroll through the 17 acre park, you’ll get to see the ruins of Farley House, an old mansion that was first built in 1818. Passed down through the hands of many prominent local and international figures, the mansion on Farley Hill and the surrounding area was eventually left to be over-run with jungle, hiding what used to be the carriage ways and completely overtaking the house. Since then, Farley House has been cleaned up and restored to showcase the remaining walls, all that is left after a fire destroyed everything inside. What used to be the paths for the carriages were cleared and altered to allow vehicles in and out of the area. Sadly, nobody is allowed to enter the ruins anymore because the structure is unsafe. But it’s intriguing all the same to peer into the walls and imagine what used to be.

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Once you reach the top of Farley Hill, you’ll find yourself 900 feet above sea level with a beautiful panoramic view of the lush greenery of the countryside to the east coast of the island and it’s crashing Atlantic waters. If you happen to come on a clear day, you’ll have an even better view of what you can see below.

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