Sweenys Super Tour

Trip Start Mar 30, 2007
Trip End Apr 28, 2007

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Got up showered had breakfast by the pool, purloined a bagel and a banana for my lunch and then headed off to try and get a tour of the island. After a very roundabout route I find that 'Sweenys Tours' , No 80 on the map is not a tour office as you might expect but just the place where he stops to pick up ! I climb aboard and am treated to a most excellent tour of just about all of the island. Our first stop is the Cruzan rum factory ( Cruzan to St.Croix is as english is to England - again I've no idea why! ) The entire island was at one time covered in sugar cane ( I will spare you the WHOLE history of the island - but in a nutshell it is a fascinating story of tooing and froing between different nations, (7 flags have flown over St.Croix until the americans finally bought it, yes bought it , from the Danes in I think early 1900's) , slavery, emancipation and so on ) and rum was made from the cane, but now that sugar cane is no longer grown, it is made from molasses. Health and safety never seems to be too much of an issue on these tours and we were taken up a metal access stairway to a platform above huge vats , about 10 ft diameter and 20 ft high, of boiling molasses. We saw how it was distilled barrelled and then delivered. After that we were let loose in the sampling room, starting off with a rum punch. Lovely. Then if you wanted you could work your way along the shelf of 10 flavoured rums, a Baileys like rum drink, 20 year rum, 2 year rum and spiced rum! I had sips of the light , dark and spiced rum. I am not a hardened spirits drinker and liked the light colured more filtered version, but best of all I liked the rum punch - that always slides down very nicely indeed! Bought H a bottle of rum 12 years old or something and the prices were so good that I thought I was buying a miniature, but it was in fact a full sized bottle! I also bought myself a T shirt, I am accumulating quite a collection of T shirts for nightwear. After the distillery we went to a botanical garden where we saw all manner of tropical plants , including cotton and kapok trees, orchids, spices and tamarind ( which we tasted, quite a tart citrus flavour. )Sweeny,our guide, did an excellent job, his knowledge and love of all the plants made it all the more interesting. The gardens are on the sight of an old sugar plantation, Which in turn was also a site where the original Arawak Indians lived. It was here that I had my first insight and experience of what a slaves life was like - They slept in a room about the size of a classroom with about 5 or 6 families all sharing that same space. No furniture, just matting on a dirt floor.
Then it was on to a preserved plantation house with not always original, but of the age, antique furniture in each room. It had a cellar that was cooled by a moat that had been dug all around the house, but this was just a dry moat that encouraged the air to circulate and keep moving around the house and so cooling the cellar. Also the walls in the house tapered at the top, the window recesses were angled to also enable the air to circulate more easily. The cook house was separate from the main house so that the heat didn't bother the gentle people within the main house and also if there was a fire it wouls not spread to the main house. There was also a bath house separate to the main house, not sure if this was an asthetic or practical feature. I thought the most fascinating thing though, was, a chair that had two planks of wood extending out of the front of it. This was where the master sat after a days hard work riding around on horseback in his layers of woolen clothing, briches and boots inthe seering heat. When he returned his legs would be so swollen from the heat that he wouldn't be able to remove his boots, so he sat on the chair with his legs up on the planks until the swelling went down and he could take his boots off!
After this we went and had lunch at lovely beachside deli. But here, wait for the very sad tale : Because I'm not used to being let loose on my own , in charge of EVERYTHING ( well I know you're all thinking but JAckie we know you're usually in charge of EVERYTHING. True. But I am mostly in charge of delegating! No one to delegate to, and or carry and organise my stuff ! ) I had not budgeted properly and was rather financially embarrassed by the time we got to the Turtle Deli, that I couldn't join the others for lunch. Luckily I had my contraband bagel and banana to eat ( Remember from the Pink Fancy ) I scraped together my remaining pennies to get a beer and I sat on a rock on the waters edge with a brooding hen sitting on her eggs in front of me, lovely cooling breeze, turquoise sea. Bliss.
Then back on the bus to see where Columbus landed. Seems he was a bit of a divvy explorer, not only did he think he was in australia when he got to the carribean, but when he landed at St. Croix he thought he was at a river tributary, but it was only a salt water inlet!
Oh yeah, we also stopped at ' The Country Snack Stand '. This is a fruit stall in the middle of nowhere that this woman has started up. She sells local produce, mahogony sculptures ( mahogony is an indigenous wood ) hand made jewllery, smoothies and she also has a mini zoo! It has rabbits ,birds and lizards and stuff. It is REALLY REALLY great. I am going to beg b & E to take me back there, because we went there unfortunately after I had skinted myself.
After the Columbus thing we skirted the Northern coast road winding up down and aruond , rarely losing sight of the glistening sea ( St. Croix fact - St. Croix is one of very few islands in the carribean that is entirely surrounded by the carribean sea. Most islands have the carribean on one side and the atlantic on the other. Fact ) While you are travelling in Sweenys open sided bus you're treated to a lovely cooling breeze, no good for your hair do , but very refreshing. Then we got dropped of in town. It had been around a 6 hour tour and all for $45 . What a bargain. On the cruise ship tours start at about $59 and they are 2 2 1/2 hours max door to door. I came back to the hotel and mooched around a bit. I'd picked up a leaflet for a wholefood deli earlier in the day  and was very excited to see they delivered. After much juggling of phone numbers ( Do I need a foreign code etc etc ) I managed to get thru , to a very bemused person asking me how I got the number and who did I think I was phoning. I said ' From your leaflet and Lalita' ( the name of the deli ) I thought he was having trouble with my accent ( very common ) but as we spoke it seemed to me the voice I was speaking to was just about as english as I am ( and if anyone knows my heritage thats not ever so english but english enough! ) He waveringly agreed  to deliver but I don't think they have ever had anyone ACTUALLY ask to have a delivery ! He was very bemused indeed! Unfortunately I was on the phone as he came, so I didn't really have a chance to explain myself and make ammends with him and he departed looking as befuddled as he'd sounded on the phone ! The phone call that I'd been in the middle of was with Bob ( my host ). The hotel guy, Kevin, had said that bob and Evlyn had called a couple of times that day and asked if I could give them a call. I sheepishly explained that I had come halfway round the world to see them, but had neither thier address nor telephone number, ( I've left my address book at home, which is a real pig and so I must apologise to those who I have not put on the email list, but I have been paralysed by this oversight! those of you reading please explain to those who might want to read ) Luckily Mr Hotwl Man had their number ad phoned them for me and gave me the phone. I must exude patheticness from every pore ! Still it got the job done ! The long and short of it is that Bob and Evlyn are picking me up tomorrow at 10.30. It turns out that Sweeny is thier neighbour and I have a sneaking suspicion that they probably know Mr Hotelman because he knew B & E's number, called them by name and then Bob knew that i'd been upgraded. As for my food delivery, I had a very niceavocado wrap, banana, pineapple and mango smoothie and a vegan chocolate mousse, so I am now feeling very virtuous and healthy.
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