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Date: 27 Feb 2009 13:03:31
Title: Port Zante

26th February St Kitts - we had a wonderful tour of the island today and the decision not to take the train turned out to be a good one. Our driver - called Mackintosh picked us up in a great minibus at 0945 from a point only 100yds from the boat. There was one other couple with us and they turned out to come from Basingstoke and were passengers on the cruise ship docked in the commercial port which is about a mile away. The vessel was berthed there because the wind was a little strong for it this morning and the cruise ship berth at Port Zante is, unusually, at right angle to the wind which makes it very difficult to manoeuvre the vessel onto the berth. The wharf at the commercial port is head to wind and much easier to deal with. Mackintosh turned out to be a real winner - his knowledge of the island was encyclopaedic and we were able to stop pretty much wherever we wanted. The tour lasted all day and we did not get back until after 1600. We stopped at several old sugar cane plantations whose main residences had been converted to other uses and the gardens at all these places were stunning and obviously looked after with loving care. Most of the work on these properties was originally carried out by slaves and with an endless supply of labour at that point the properties had huge terraces gardens planted with (now) mature trees and shrubs which thrive in the tropical climate. Because of its small area (50 square miles) and height (over 4,000ft) the Island creates its own micro climate and has a good rainfall. These small tall islands are known as the Cloud Islands because there is almost always a cloud around the summit of the island. Its and extinct volcano and the soil on the lower slopes is very fertile. Originally the whole island was turned over to sugar cane production and this did not stop until some five years ago. Some of the land is being used for agriculture but the majority is unused now. Sugar cane is very difficult to eradicate so it still grows wild almost everywhere. There was some hilarity with our vehicle as Mackintosh had just had a new alarm system fitted - it had a fault and would go of periodically. As the day wore one we became quite used to it, though Mackintosh was embarrassed by it. The island is incredibly pretty and in comparison to others we have visited very tidy and well kept. All the houses are clean and painted in a wide variety of pastel colours and have neatly kept gardens. Its a huge contrast to Antigua where the locals are more interested in their cars than their houses and gardens. We spent an hour or so at Brimstone Hill Fortress which was designed and built by the British Royal Engineers in 1690. It is huge with a radius of about 1,500 ft and beautifully laid out. It is now a national park and in pristine condition complete with most of its original cannon and fortifications. Its was a huge pleasure to walk round it and no real surprise to find that Prince Charles had been one of the main sponsors for its restoration.Sitting on top of an isolated hill at something like 1,000 ft the views are stunning.

Continuing our tour to circumnavigate the island we came across our train which was full of passengers from the cruise ship and had come off its track. Naturally we stopped to take pictures and laugh at the poor tourists stuck out in the sun. Even more amusing was that half a mile further along the road hidden behind a bend in the road was a string of busses. They were hidden in reserve in case the engineers could not get the train back on the track and the passengers had to be evacuated back to the cruise ship - we all thought this was hilarious. Next stop was a batik factory - again on an old sugar plantation where Anita bought some cushion covers for the boat. Again the setting and gardens were wonderful and the locals love to explain what they are doing and how the do it.

We were back on the boat for 1700 and were joined by the head of customs and the Port Zante Pilot for a beer. We then headed into Picadilly Circus for dinner whilst they sat on the quay with a huge saucepan of fish stew. They were still there on our return and sat around chatting until midnight. We have now decided to stay here and extra day and head of to Antigua early on Saturday morning. Helen tells us that Wild Thing is away form her berth at present so we should be able to go straight in alongside on arrival, remove the dinghy and davit braces at our leisure and get on our own berth on Sunday.

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