Grenada: 11 March to 10 June 2022

Updated: Sep 22


Granada is a city in southern Spain. Grenada is a Caribbean island nation. Glad we got that sorted!


There's a German saying "Einmal ist Keinmal", which means more or less "once is never", and it refers to the fact that you cannot really get the measure of something when you experience it for the first time, because you have nothing to calibrate it against. (Think of your first serious relationship - how you felt about it while you were in it and how you feel about it now.)


Grenada was our first Caribbean island, so I cannot write here that it's the best or one of the best ones, but it was pretty damn good as such. For starters, it lived up to the clichés: The beaches, the palm trees, the rum, the weed, the laid-back attitude towards life, the ubiquitous reggae music, the gaudily painted houses.


Clichés

And, for what it's worth, during our time on Grenada we spoke to quite a few old Caribbean hands who said they prefer Grenada to other islands in the region.


I especially liked how mountainous and jungle-clad large parts of the island are. Maryke said it looks like the kind of island where King Kong might suddenly come crashing out of the foilage. We later learnt that, thanks to its mountains that create a micro-climate, Grenada is the world's smallest island with a rain forest.


Waiting for King Kong

One minor let-down was the food. In such a muggy, tropical climate, I would not have expected the standard fare to be stodgy stews. Thailand, another tropical paradise, got this right with its light and spicy stirfried dishes.


Just another dude


There was one unexpected aspect of Grenada that I found very pleasing. In many countries where the majority of the population are not white, some locals treat white tourists like walking ATMs. In Grenada (white population: 0.4%) I initially braced myself in busy places such as bus stations for hordes of strangers to run up to me, grab me by the arm, shove their faces in front of mine, and shout "My friend! My friend!"


So, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that this was not a thing here. I was just another dude walking down the street, abiding and going about his business. And beach vendors trying to flog trinkets or weed moved on after the first "No thanks" instead of making a nuisance of themselves.


St. George's, the capital of Grenada

Music and minibuses


Grenada's public transport system consists of minibuses that run on designated routes and charge between the equivalent of about US$1 and about US$3 per trip, depending on how far you're going.


They are very similar to South Africa's minibuses in quite a few respects: the way they're pimped, the breakneck driving, swerving, and braking, and how many passengers they can hold. A minor difference is that these vehicles are called "minibus taxis" in South Africa and "buses" in Grenada. A major difference is that Grenada is hilly, and the roads are very narrow and twisty and turny, so you get much more white-knuckle excitement for your money in Grenada.


It departs when it's full. The little wooden bench is where the conductor perches.

On my first trip in a Grenada minibus I was wedged in next to a man whom I assumed to be a Rastafarian. He alternated between berating the driver because he wasn't going fast enough for his liking and muttering "Fucking Jah!" under his breath when we had a close shave with another vehicle.


Most minibuses belt out music - very loudly. If you're unfortunate, you would hail one that play gospel. Reggae is OK, but there seems to be a disjuncture between the laid-back feeling of the music and the hectic pace of the public transport. For me, soca was the perfect music for the occasion: loud and brash, with a fast beat.


Soca music started in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1970s. I had been aware of the style of music, but didn't know that it was a named genre. Grenada's most famous soca performer is Mr Killa, and here is the official video of the song that made him famous back in 2014:



Beer


The two main beer brands on Grenada are Carib and Stag - both lagers. Initially, I drank Carib, but soon realised that it started tasting a bit sweet and chewy after a mere five or six bottles. I switched to Stag, and the problem went away.


After having lived on Grenada for a while, I noticed a strange thing. The vast majority of broken glass lying about on the pavements, in the streets, in parking lots, and on the beach (sigh!) was green - i.e. it came from Stag beer bottles (Carib comes in clear or brown bottles).

Why would this be, given that both beers sell about equally well? Several hypotheses sprang to mind, including:

  • It's easier to spot green broken glass than clear and brown broken glass in the wild.

  • It's the difference in alcohol content: (Carib at 5% vs. Stag at 5.2%).

  • Stag drinkers are richer than Carib drinkers (you can return the bottles at a supermarket for money).

  • Carib drinkers are sneaky bastards who chuck their bottles where no one can see them.

  • A disproportionate number of Stag drinkers are just cunts.

I wasn't able to confirm or disprove any of these hypotheses, so for now it remains a mystery.