2003-01-21 :: Island Hopping
Today our big task was getting from Grenada to Union Island
via boat. We woke up early, repacked all of our stuff, and walked
about ten minutes to our ferry in St. George's. Along the way we saw
one of those huge cruise ships docked in the harbor (AIDA?).
St. George's looked like an interesting place to explore, but we
didn't want to miss our ferry. Maybe we'll take more of a look
around on the way back.
St. George's from the water
The first of today's two boat rides is from St. George's/Grenada
to Carriacou Island. The boat is pretty much what
you would think of when you say ferry boat (two levels, lots of seats).
The ride was pretty nice- in addition to seeing a lot of island
coastline, there were parts of the ride that had some fun swells.
Tim says that there's an underwater volcano in the area that stirs
up the currents. Tim also says you can sometimes see sea life (turtles,
dolphins, etc.), but it was a bit overcast on our ride and we didn't
An hour and a half later we arrived at Carriacou Island. CI looked
a lot more appealing than Grenada (it was smaller, more remote, and
had fewer package-deal tourists). After we de-boated, Tim and Cambria
showed up, drenched from head to toe from the speedboat ride. They
were giggling because their ride to CI had been a bit rougher and
wetter than they had expected. They walked us over to customs and
helped us get our paperwork stamped up.
As it turns out, the guy with the speedboat that Tim and Cambria had
talked into picking us up had bailed at the last minute. Luckily, they
found another guy on Union who agreed to take them to CI to retrieve us.
We all hopped on board his bright red, wooden speedboat, and then promptly
hid under a tarp to seek shelter from a little bit of rain. [ note: Rain
doesn't usually last for too long in the Caribbean, so usually people stop
what they're doing, seek shelter, and then wait it out. ] A few minutes
later things cleared up and we got the boat going (well, after a group
panic when Tim noticed his wedding ring was missing.. but luckily it turned
up on the floor of the boat.. augh..)
The speed boat was a bit of a roller coaster ride. About five minutes
into it, the engine conked out. The owner got the motor started, but
decided to take things slow to be safe. Unfortunately, going slow means
that when you hit a wave, the splash often goes inside the boat
instead of behind it. Therefore, we got fairly well soaked by the
trip. It was exciting though- we'd go slow for a bit (having waves wash over
one side of the deck), then we'd speed up (meaning you would bounce all over
the place and have to hold on to the rail to stay in the boat), and then the
engine would conk out. The first time the motor stalled out, Tim calmed us by
telling us how common it is for the coast guard to find boats drifting in the
ocean without any sign of what happened to the crew. doah.. Anyways, while we
were a bit cold in the end (and drenched), the ride was a blast. I just wish
I'd worn my swimming suit.
The road through Ashton (looking towards water)
We pulled into the harbor at Tim and Cambria's town (Ashton) in Union
about an hour after we left. Tim told us all sorts of info about the islands
and area along the way. After docking, we took about a five minute walk to
get to the house that they rent. Wow.. I must say I'm impressed. It looks
pretty nice, has a great porch, and you can even see a corner of the ocean
from it. They live on the top floor (of two) and have electricity and
running water (not so common on the island). Maybe I like their place
because there are neighborhood goats, sheep, and chickens wandering around
Tim and Cambria's Pad (remember Fantasy Island?)
We spent the afternoon drying off and catching up. Tim and Cambria are the
only PC volunteers on Union Island (which is roughly 8x1 miles and has about
5,000 people). Like a lot of the islands, there's a good bit of poverty and
the school system has some issues. When T+C moved here, they realized that
the schools were in such bad shape that they couldn't just create a few classes
to teach students (Tim says it's hard to teach a computers class when some
of the students can't even read). Instead they're trying to improve the schools
by training some of the teachers (Why? Well, some of the teachers are
just people that got good grades and graduated from the high school. There's a
foreign languages teacher that...doesn't speak the foreign language she teaches.).
The schools of course are under funded, and there isn't much encouragement
for students to excel (if you don't pass an entry test to get into high school,
you're flat out kicked out). It seems like an impossible situation, but Tim
and Cambria are the most capable people I know, and it sounds like they're
at least making a difference in some peoples' lives..