niniane: belle face (belle face)
[personal profile] niniane
Anyhow, have moved to Dreamwidth since it feels about time. I'm Mutive over there (in case anyone cares - I'm guessing not, but hey!)

Anyway, back to the vacation posting! Next on the cruise ship itinerary was St. Kitts and Nevis, a part of the British Empire. It was apparently found by Christopher Columbus, who gave Nevis its name because the clouds on the top of the island looked like snow. (St. Kitts I think is a touch more easily explained!) At least this is one version. There are also stories about how it was named after a "miraculous" snow in Rome attributed to Nuestra Senora de Nieves. So, yeah, whatever. It means snow even though the place is about as un-snowy as it gets.

Anyway, St. Kitts is known for a few things - it's gorgeous beaches, its medical schools, and it's UNESCO heritage monument, Brimstone Fortress. We were to see two of the three. (We did pass by the medical schools, which are used primarily by the US to train doctors who couldn't get into US schools. Clever. I'm thinking this might be a great place to retire...wonderful tropical environment + LOTS of doctors and nurses!)

Although St. Kitts and Nevis are former sugar colony islands, sugar is no longer grown there. (As our taxi driver pointed out, sugar cane growing is HARD work and you know what there are in St. Kitts and Nevis? Better jobs in training doctors and tourism.) But it's definitely part of the history, as we shall see at Brimstone Fortress.

The flag of St. Kitts and Nevis flying over Brimstone fortress.

A view from Brimstone fortress, overlooking the Caribbean.

Anyway, Brimstone fortress was built on a high hill to defend St. Kitts from any potential invading armies. I think it fired like, maybe two shots from the cannons, which probably did nothing. But hey! It sure looked scary!

A cannon in Brimstone Hill Fortress.

Me with a cannon, because I'm all mature like that. At least I'm not riding it, Dr. Strangelove style, like I would in Puerto Rico...

Despite it not actually doing much, Brimstone Hill still had to be staffed. This was something of an issue. White soldiers were brought over regularly from Europe, but had about a 5/6 fatality rate (i.e. only one in six would survive their term of duty to return). Needless to say, this made army recruiting hard! (Even though, according to the plaques around the site, the soldiers didn't do much. They basically got their food, ate it all around 10 am, then started drinking, and um, spent pretty much all day,  every day, rather drunk. Other people did all the real work around the fortress as apparently it was seen as unhealthy for whites to work in hot climates, so they just sat about gambling and drinking while black slaves or rare freed blacks did all the actual work. So it was a pretty easy life...but still pretty deadly.)

A few army commanders eventually got the idea that if they couldn't recruit Europeans (who seemed to die instantly in the climate), that maybe they could recruit blacks. Which was pretty cool with the blacks, as apparently, even though they were still technically slaves, they were treated as equals to everyone else while in the army. But the landowners weren't especially fond of the army training their slaves to use weapons and organize so this only lasted so long, too. 

So eventually, of course, this place went from a functioning fortress to a tourist destination and that's that. Still, it's a pretty cool piece of history and has some extraordinary views!

Just another amazing view of paradise and all that...

The inside of the fortress. It's amazingly secure, even now. The walls are about six feet thick. KP, being KP, spent a bit of time being rather awed by how impregnable this place would be even in the modern day. And yes, yes, it would be REALLY hard to take.

The entire fortress. It's not bad for a 17th century structure in a deeply unforgiving climate!

Anyway, since I'm allergic to tours (and hate them charging me too much), we'd paid a local about $30 to take us to the fortress. (Less than half what it would have cost either of us to take a tour, FWIW.) He was still waiting when we climbed down in his taxi. But then we saw a hill across from the fortress and were like, "are you willing to wait for us to climb it?" And the poor patient man said yes, so of course we did and took pictures because we are the most touristy-tourists ever.

Me in front of Brimstone Hill fortress, proving my tourist cred.

Anyway, when we got back into the car, the driver was all willing to take us back...but then I'd heard that St. Kitts had amazing beaches (like EVERYWHERE in the Caribbean), but hadn't researched them, but had mentioned it to KP, who wanted to go to a beach and have a short break from all this history. So we asked the driver where the best beach was. The driver said Friar's beach and offered to take us there for another $20 (or so...I don't remember all the dollar figures, but it wasn't too exorbitant), then leave, because we could get other taxis from there. This seemed fair to both of us. So we headed over there. And it was gorgeous!

Friar's Beach. Clearly popular, but not TOO popular!

It had a nice swimming area with some cool fish (if you brought your mask), a little dock you could jump off of (which I did, obviously), and a restaurant that wasn't cheap, but was pretty good, so we were content. Not to mention that the beach was free, so I guess that made up for the American-costed meals. (I know, I know, but I get USED to my super cheap food when traveling abroad!)

This definitely felt like the *good* beach, because a group of people I ran into where all the workers on a Cruise ship having their day off, and I figure they'd  know this area better than anyone other than the locals. (Probably.)

We swam, we walked a bit, then it came time for us to get back on the boat. :(

About five minutes of walking led us to amazing places like this.

We *could* have hired a taxi, but then there were a couple of locals with a REALLY amazing boat who were doing a "water taxi". And...well, I mean, for the same price as a land taxi, we'd be CRAZY to not take the water taxi. We got on board, and listened to booming music while sipping beers (that we bought from them for $1 each...they were pretty good beers, too!), while waiting for other people to board. No one did and we kind of nudged them, because the ship would leave eventually, and they took off, giving us an amazing view of the ocean as we zoomed back into port.

Sometime along the way, one of the boat-entrepreneurs pulled something small and wiggling from a box. It was a puppy:

This puppy, to be exact.

She was so young that when she ran, her back paws would fly over her front. It was really adorable. The boat guys claimed they had a ton of tourists gushing over her, which does not surprise me in the least. (She is freaking ADORABLE!) I also got the feeling that their trade was a bit more robust in the morning.

Which all goes to say - if you do take a cruise, pass on the added tours and just book the boat tour guys at the dock. They'll charge you $20 each way, and you'll get the same (if not better) experience for half the price. Research really does pay.

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