Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Peaceful Nevis

Since we missed Nevis on earlier trips we decided to spend a few days exploring the island this time around.  Columbus in 1493 named Nevis after Las Nieves (the snowy ones) because of the clouds looking like snow peaks that often crown Nevis Peak.  In the 18th century the island became known as the Queen of the Caribbean as it was covered with prosperous sugar plantations and fine estates.  Nevis also became well known for its hot sulphur springs.

Nevis, as well as St. Kitts, are British influenced Islands rich with English and American history.  Horatio Nelson while Admiral in the British Navy on Antigua married the young widow Frances Nisbet from Nevis. Also, Alexander Hamilton was born in Charlestown, Nevis and later became one of the founding fathers of the United States and was the first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington.

In 1983 Nevis. along with its sister island St. Kitts. reached full independence as a Federated State. Today Nevis relies on tourism and many old plantation mansions have been restored into charming hotels. It is still a small and peaceful island with very friendly people. Nevis is unlike many other Caribbean islands in that it doesn't have a lot of mega resorts lining the shore, giving it a more authentic Caribbean flavor.

After clearing customs, we caught a public bus from the town square and headed up to the Nevis Botanical Gardens. Bus fare would normally be $2.60 for us both to get us within walking distance, but for an additional dollar we were dropped off right at the entrance to the Gardens. Love privately run transportation!  We spent a couple hours wandering around the lovely grounds all run and maintained by a Philippine family.  We had heard their Thai restaurant was very good so we enjoyed some Pad Thai and a Sweet and Sour dish.

Fountain at Nevis Botanical Gardens. They actually ran and turned on the fountain when they saw us coming.

Lipstick or Wax Palm
Hedgehog or Indian Beech Plant
Lunch at the Thai Restaurant at the gardens.
From the gardens we walked a short distance up to Montpelier Estate where Horatio Nelson and Fanny Nisbit’s wedding took place in 1787.  Still a beautiful sight with a huge Banyan Tree in the center of the circular drive.  It’s now a beautiful inn with luxury accommodations, swimming pool, and gardens.  It was very empty due to the slow season, but its always fun to see how the "other half " live.

The next morning we planned to go up to the Golden Rock Estate and hike up to The Source (water spring source for the area).  As we were getting off our dinghy at the dock we met a friendly couple, Claudia from Switzerland and Bertril from Sweden.  They were also heading up to the Golden Rock so we shared a bus ride and got acquainted as we walked up to the Estate together.  They were going to walk along a trail to the Hermitage Estate and then to the Botanical Gardens. They decided to have a coffee first and as it turned out it was a smart decision as it started pouring rain for the next 25 minutes.

We, of course, wanting to get going on our “rainforest hike,” were soon hiding under an umbrella and some trees trying to keep from getting soaking wet.  Thank goodness the Estate provides hikers with a tall stick and a map which was most helpful in finding our way.  We were just about ready to give up when another couple came hiking down just as the sun started to break through. They told us it was about an hour on up so we stopped whimping-out and continued on up the muddy slippery trail to a nice look-out point.

Meanwhile, Claudia & Bertril were sure we were going to come back down and join them for another coffee and a more tame walk with them.  Probably should have as we were very tired hikers by the time we returned to Golden Rock.

No walk in the park!
Taking a much needed ice tea break at The Golden Rock Inn
Back at the boat we chatted with Claudia & Bertril on s/v Ruth and since they were leaving for Montserrat in the morning.  We made plans to meet up with them at Rendevous Bay once we arrived on Sunday. 

Friday we took it easy in the morning and then went into town for some supplies.  Found a nice produce stand just outside the market with a friendly guy named Michael and bought most of our fresh produce.  A fresh pineapple, papaya, butternut squash, fresh turmeric, a jar of his mango chutney, and other salad makings.  I was going to make a chicken curry for dinner that night but we passed by a square with music and liming going on.  On the corner a young man had some delicious chicken on the barbecue with lots of BBQ sauce.  I took Walter’s advice to buy some ready made and we had that for dinner instead.  Glad we did.

Excellent BBQ chicken
Saturday we cleared out of customs for an early departure the following morning.  Walter really enjoys talking with the Customs officials and likes to learn more about them and the country.  The are usually dour at the beginning, but quickly warm up when you show a genuine interest in their country.

We still hadn’t seen the historical sites in Charlestown so we went to Hamilton House Museum and enjoyed reading about the history of the island.  An interesting book was mentioned, Rivers of Time by June Goodfield. It's about the Europeans first settling in Nevis in 1628 and tells the story of a woman’s travels across the Atlantic Ocean and arriving as a single woman on an island of predominately men and adjusting to a new life.

Alexander Hamilton House is now the House of Assembly for Nevis.
The ship carrying the first settlers of America at Jamestown stopped in Nevis to resupply.
The museum had a large section about slavery on the island.  Since Nevis was the sugar plantation center they received most of the slave shipments.  At one point the slave population was ten times larger than the white plantation owners.  Fortunately, slavery was abolished in the Caribbean islands in 1834.

This road led up to the site of the slave market on Nevis.
There also were a number of Sephardic Jews that fled from the Spanish Inquisition to settle in Nevis. They made up 25% of the population of Charlestown in the 1720’s.  They thrived and came to be the accountants and bureaucrats of the sugar industry.  We visited the Jewish cemetery and at one time a synagogue was located nearby.

All the graves are oriented east/west as is the custom in Judaism. The small stones a Jewish custom to let the spirits know you were here.

We had our lunch at a nearby old Caribbean house called Riviere House which I would highly recommend.  We had a delicious fish dish and the staff was very friendly.  From there we wandered over to the Bath Hotel which is no longer open.  The Spring House is still standing but a new area has been constructed for soaking in 109 degree water.  The temperature was at least 85 degrees that day so we passed.

Locals love to visit the hot springs to soak their tired feet.
One of the most beautiful sunsets yet!
Looking back at our visit of Nevis we really enjoyed the feeling here of an uncrowded, non-tourtisty Caribbean island with wonderful welcoming people hopeful you will visit again.

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