Dispatch, St. Kitts: Tour guide weaves captivating narrative

By Gay Nagle Myers

Dispatch, St. KittsGay Nagle Myers is visiting St. Kitts and Nevis while in St. Kitts for the Caribbean Tourism Organization's annual conference. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Gay's first dispatch. 

I traveled the length of St. Kitts yesterday, 23 miles long by eight miles wide with lots of switchback roads in between.

Thenford GreyThe shape of St. Kitts resembles an upside-down guitar, and I began at the St. Kitts Marriott (on the neck of the guitar) in the south and made my way north.

Thenford Grey, the van driver, enlightened my colleagues and me along the way, sprinkling island history and anecdotes with Kittitian lore and legend not found in any guidebook.

No vervet monkeys were spotted, although they outnumber residents (40,000-plus of those critters to 35,000 people).

We passed by waving fields of sugarcane and remnants of some of the 200 sugar mills that still dot the landscape (“Tourism has replaced sugarcane production as the top industry,” Grey said).

St. Kitts has nine parishes and hundreds of villages with names like Tabernacle and Newton.

The volcano, which last erupted 1,600 years ago, was renamed some years back. “It’s called Mt. Liamulga, which means Fertile Island. It sounds better than what the British called it — Mount Misery,” Grey said. I agreed.

He pointed out a 400-year-old samma tree, with a branch span of half a football (er, cricket) field.

“A crowd of people could stand under it during a rainstorm and never get wet.”

Timothy HillAs we passed a couple of cows munching, sheep grazing and goats scampering, he asked if I knew how to tell the difference between goats and sheep.

I figured I did, but he summarized in six words: “Tails up-goats; tails down-sheep.” I won’t forget that.

Kitty, the island’s largest leatherback turtle, was tagged with a GPS-like monitor in 2009, and was spotted this summer grazing the sea grass off Cape Cod, Mass.

“She’ll be back. She’s a typical tourist, likes to travel but always returns home,” Grey said.

He pointed out flamboyan trees, poinciana flowers and a tree with sticky resin.

“We use that resin for glue. I held my schoolbooks together with that when I was a kid.”

He warned me never to eat green sea grapes. “Wait till they are purple. That means they are ripe and delicious.”

As he dropped off our weary group at the end of the day, he gave us a final piece of advice. “Don’t tell me worrying doesn’t work. The things I worry about never happen.”

Good thought. We were worried we’d be late for the barbecue and bonfire at Jam Rock beach shack in less than an hour. Grey reminded us he would be our driver. “Nothing to worry about,” reassured us.

The world needs more Thenford Greys.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 

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