“I’d tried and failed before, but this time, nothing would stop me. St. Vincent and her Grenadines was the last country of the Americas left to visit, and I was determined to make it there if I had to swim.”
Last One in is a Rotten Egg
Part of trying to visit all 193 countries on earth—at least, while working full-time—will probably include some failures: missed countries, usually due to flight delays or cancellations. When you’re trying to cram visits to 10+ counties into 13 days, you’re basically tempting fate: gambling that all of your flights will leave close to their scheduled departure…or even that they will leave at all. And just like a casino, you can only roll the dice so many times before a bad number comes up and completely wipes you out. It’s simply the odds: the odds that the more flights you take, sooner or later you’re bound to bust.
Normally, the way “regular” people take “regular” vacations, a delayed or canceled flight is just an inconvenience. It means you’ll arrive at your destination a few hours, or worst case scenario, a few days late. No big whoop. But when you’re hitting a new country every other day—or often, every single day—just one missed flight is akin to knocking over that first domino: the domino that sets off a chain reaction that knocks over the rest and voids the rest of your successive flights.
And it’s not like in America, where if you miss your flight to Vegas, there are nine others that same day. Often you’re dealing with bi-weekly, or even simply weekly flights. So if just one of the puzzle pieces of your itinerary goes wrong, the entire rest of your puzzle can go awry. Then, you’re the four-year-old sitting on the floor, crying, with an un-put-together puzzle.
Luckily, this scenario has only happened to me three times….so far. My first go at the Guyanas (Suriname, Guyana, French Guyana) was thwarted by a canceled Suriname Airlines flight. I missed Mogadishu thanks to Daallo Airlines cancelling not one, but two of my flights, consecutively. And I would’ve finished The Americas by age 40 if it hadn’t have been for Liat Airlines changing schedules and causing me to miss my flight to St. Vincent back in 2016. Damn. So close.
So here I was in 2018 with all of the Americas completed: North, Central, South America and the entire Caribbean…with the exception of one tiny collection of dots just above Trinidad, called St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Over the years, I’d worked on mastering efficiency when it came to traveling: visiting “chunks” of countries together: like Fiji–Tuvalu–Tonga; Georgia–Armenia–Azerbaijan, Brunei–Timor-Leste–Indonesia, etc. But here was St. Vincent, this little straggler all by itself, just taunting me, waiting to be plucked. In November on 2018, I got her.
It was no easy task, but I’d already have to be in Orlando, Florida for a half marathon, so I figured this was the perfect time to swoop down and claim the island country. Orlando to St. Vincent, there had to a be a direct flight, right? Nope. Through Miami? Nope. Ft. Lauderdale??? Negative. In fact, not only would I have to connect through Grenada or Trinidad, but I’d have to overnight in both. Challenge accepted; there would be no stopping me from reaching St. Vincent this time around, and I’d have an entire week to do it.
Trinidad, Take Two
My night in Port of Spain, Trinidad was eventful and much better than my first night there in 2014, where I wandered into the wrong part of town and got chased down by a crack head. That first night was a disaster! But luckily this time I was able to meet up with some local friends for drinks, food and fireworks, before returning to the Holiday Inn airport hotel for a whopping three and a half hours of sleep before my annoyingly early flight to St. Vincent.
My excitement overruled my tiredness though, and the next morning I enjoyed the hour flight to SVG airport aboard LIAT airlines. I wouldn’t stay on the main island though. After a three-hour layover and an airport fish cake breakfast, I grabbed a second flight, aboard SVG Airlines, to Union Island.
Just Plane Crazy
Man, this plane was tiny but awesome. The DHC-6 Twin Otter packed in 19 passengers like sardines in a fun-sized can. There were no overhead bins, the seats were half the size of those on Spirit Airlines, and the cockpit didn’t even have a door. I’m not gonna lie, while I was terrified, I thought it was neat to have a view directly into the cockpit. I’ve done smaller planes than this, so it wasn’t my first rodeo (I once braved a tiny six-seater from Suriname to Guyana and a four-seater in rural Uganda!) I sat next to the emergency exit and memorized that seat back safety card like I’d have to give an oral report on it for my college final tomorrow morning. I was ready to bounce if I needed to. Thankfully, the flight was safe, short, and provided great views both out of my window and the pilot’s. We touched down in the island of Canouan to let some passengers off and on, and then it was back up and over to Union Island.
After I deplaned in Union Island on a runway perpendicular to the sea, it was a ten-minute walk down the road to The Anchorage Yacht Club, where Captain “Jude” was waiting for me aboard the S.S. Bitters, a red and yellow wooden boat with three benches and an outboard motor. The ride over to Mayreau Island—my final destination in St. Vincent—was beautiful but bumpy. My rump took a pounding as we repeatedly flew over waves, into the air and slammed back down, hitting the water. I quickly learned I’d lose my iPhone fast if I continued to snap pictures of the gorgeous scenery, so it went back into my bag and I held onto a mooring rope as if I was riding a bull. 15 minutes later we were gliding onto the sand of Mayreau Island. I’d arrived at Salt Whistle Bay.
Carola checked me in at the bar and welcomed me with a fresh coconut water, served in the actual coconut, of course. Salt Whistle Bay consisted of about seven or eight stone bungalows, tons of palm trees and a lot of sand; overlooking a small, emerald-colored bay that hosted about 15 boats from visitors all around the world. Carola informed me that I was not only the first guest of the season, but I was the only guest at Salt Whistle Bay. I’d have the resort all to myself. Jackpot.
Sailing Takes Me Away…
After getting settled in my room, it was back out to jump onto Jude’s boat for a snorkeling trip out to Tobago Cays. When we arrived, Jude suggested I jump into the water to swim with some turtles. I did, and it was fun; but the challenge was getting back into the boat from the sea. There was no ladder, and suddenly, I’d been reminded what happens when you skip the gym for two years.
“C’mon, you can do it,” said Jude. But I indeed needed him to help lift me up onto the craft. What a girly-man! I need to get back to the gym ASAP. Glad there was no one around that I was trying to impress—another benefit of solo travel. You can stink up the bathroom and fail miserably climbing into a boat, and no one will see (or smell) you.
After the turtle swim, Jude pulled up to a beach of a small island where I spent the next hour enjoying the water. While I didn’t see many tropical fish or colorful coral (I could’ve just been in the wrong spot), I did get to see some beautiful and enormous rays swim right past me and that was a thrill.
After swimming I dined on fresh-caught lobster, grilled and seasoned to perfection, right there on the beach. I also found my new favorite soda: Hairoun’s Lemon Bitters. The weather was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant day.
We headed back to the resort where I showered and changed, and then fell asleep in my favorite chair on the sand, near the bar. It’s here where I met my best friend on the island, Laston, whose company I enjoyed, and I’m pretty sure she enjoyed mine, as she wiggled around to get on her back and receive a belly rub. She was such a sweetie.
Carola asked if I’d be joining them for dinner tonight. As the only guest at the resort, it wouldn’t make sense to keep the kitchen open if I wasn’t dining. I told her I wouldn’t be. I’d eaten that huge lobster lunch way late and was still full, but most importantly, I just wanted sleep. This would be my first full night’s sleep in three days. Thanks to an early half-marathon in Orlando, and two successive 6AM flights, I’d only slept about three hours each night. I just needed one long night of complete hibernation. So I prepared…
I stopped at a little mini-market on the beach for some snacks in case I woke up hungry. Inside the orange-painted wooden shack I bought Pringles, an Oh Henry! Bar, a nut bar and a bag of fruit and nuts. Back inside the room I prepared for bed: changing into my jammies, I set up my playlist on my iPhone, ate half of my snacks and ensured my mosquito net was closed (with my supplies inside the next.) Most importantly, I popped a sleeping pill. I was out before sundown.
Loud reggae music woke me in the evening hours, flowing through my rooms open (screened) windows, but I was too sleepy to let it bother me and drifted back to sleep. I’d brought another sleeping pill and a bottle of water into my net in case I needed it, but I didn’t. The next time I opened my eyes it was daylight: 6:30AM, and I’d slept a whopping twelve and a half hours. Hallelujah! I needed the re-charge badly.
The only disappointment was seeing the half-dozen mosquitoes hanging out inside my net. Crap. That meant they’d been there all night. They were either the kind that don’t buzz, or I was just sleeping so deeply they didn’t wake me. I smashed a couple and bright red blood burst out and stained the sheets like a murder scene. I imagined they snacked on my half-naked body all night. Oh boy. I wondered how the hell they got in, and soon found the quarter-sized hole in the net, right behind my head. Those little bastards.
The Village People
I spent my only full day on Mayreau Island just bumming around. I started with a classic bacon and eggs breakfast in my favorite beach chair and then took a walk into the village. There is only one paved road on the island and it starts near Salt Whistle Bay with an incredible incline up to the center of town. Rush hour consisted of a handful of tourists: couples in their 60s, one van and a crab crossing the street.
At the top of the hill I arrived into the charming neighborhood, where I saw a couple of churches, an elementary school (in session), grocery store, and a collection of restaurants, bars and guesthouses. My favorite scene though, was the cemetery, where three small goats were resting on top of a grave. I’m a softie and I’d like to think they were there to be close to their deceased owner.
It was hot as Hades so I stopped into a small grocery store for another Hairoun beverage, this time the lemon-lime, before walking down the other side of the hill. At the bottom I reached a small dock, which I walked to the end of, and a collection of goats outside the island’s power plant.
I headed back up and over the hill and back to Salt Whistle huffing and puffing. I’d done enough work for the day; it was time to relax.
I lounged at the bar for a bit as the noon hour approached. Lunch was yellow coconut curry: with fish, rice and salad. I spent the rest of the afternoon going back and forth to my favorite chair with my favorite dog, and into and out of the tranquil water of the bay. The water was just the right temperature. Laston even came in for dip with me. I love that dog. I watched the sun set from my chair as the crabs danced along the sand.
And the Award Goes to…
It was that afternoon that I realized that I’d never been so relaxed in my life. I had the resort completely to myself, the weather was perfect, the water was still and my belly was full. To make things even sweeter, our computer server back at work had crashed and email was down. No one from the office could get a hold of me even if the building was burning down. This was amazing! And it was because all of this that I awarded Salt Whistle Bay the Ramblin’ Randy “Best Place to Relax” award! I had never felt so at peace in my life. It was pure relaxation to the fullest, and I’m not sure I can ever be this relaxed again.
That night, the chef at Salt Whistle Bay prepared a great dinner for me: a giant fried fish with slaw, fries and a Carib beer. Life is good. I said goodnight to Carola and the crew, my baby Laston, and it was off to bed. This time I covered the hole in the mosquito net by leaning a pillow up against it, and armed my self with one those electric-tennis-racket-bug-zapper-thingies. Success…no trespassers! It was another early night and I was up by 7AM, with just enough time to pack my bags, have another nice breakfast on the beach and say goodbye to Carola and the crew. Jude was right on time for my 7:30 airport pickup and I waved goodbye to Laston as Mayreau got smaller and smaller. I’d totally come back to Salt Whistle Bay, and next time I’d bring Laston some treats from America.
Like the Deserts Miss the Rain
“We gotta beat dee rain,” explained Jude, as he floored it, providing another bumpy ride; this time I swear the boat was going to tip over—it was a pretty intense ride. There was an ominous dark sheet of rain coming down to the left of us, and Jude was determined to beat it to the dock. And he did it. Twelve minutes later we were back at the Anchorage Yacht Club, and I was jogging towards the airport as the drops started to come down, ducking inside the small terminal before getting soaked. The rain pretty much skipped over us and the skies were sunny by the time we took off to Barbados, this time with only three other passengers in the same tiny plane as I arrived in two days earlier.
My experience in St. Vincent sure was special, and a great way to officially finish the Americas. My last trip through the Caribbean was nice, but too rushed. I can’t remember the last time I had an actual full day in a new country, where I just vegetated. Add in great weather, the fact that I was the only guest at the resort, and I didn’t have any “spider incidents,” this trip was one for the books. I was not paid, nor did I receive any comps at Salt Whistle Bay, so it is with all sincerity that I strongly recommend it. I can’t promise that you’ll be the only guest, or the weather will be perfect, or your email server will be down…but I can guarantee you the nicest of people, amazing food, and a sweet doggie named Laston. Give her a belly rub for me when you see her.
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