Friday, February 24, 2017

Unexpectedly Generous St. Kitts

Three cruise ships were in when we pulled in to the harbor at Basseterre, St. Kitts. All three left in the evening to transport their passengers through the night to the next port. That seems to be pretty standard for cruise ships around here. We often see them pulling out in the evening or cruising by at night, like well lit apartment buildings on the ocean, large floating light shows.
One of the cruise ships on the pier. The yellow building is the entrance to Port Zante. 

Customs and Immigration are located in the cruise ship area, which, without cruise ships in port exudes a slight ghost town feeling. The cruise ships land in Port Zante, an area that has been built to house stores and restaurants to service the disembarking passengers. Diamond stores by the dozen, souvenir shops, tropical clothing stores and restaurants. 

Leaving the Port Zante area feels like entering another (non cruise ship) world. We were the only tourists in the crowded streets. The sidewalks were filled with vendors selling department store goods, often wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon. Almost everyone had their heads down looking at their phones, occasionally glancing up to watch us. 

We were in search of a restaurant that would have some vegetarian fare when we spotted a health food/vitamin shop. Thinking that they might have something for us, or at least some information we entered. Two women were inside and informed us
"Yes, there is at little deli not far from here"
"I can take you" said one.
"That's not necessary, you can just give us directions. "
"No," she said, "you won't find it."

She led us out of the shop, through a twisty, windy alley, out to the next street, sharp turn right, up some stairs to the second story of a small building. The door we entered looked like a residential door and opened into a small foyer with three businesses located there, one of which was the deli, unfortunately closed on Saturdays. 
She was right we would not have found it.

On the way back she warned us that we should not walk in this alley by ourselves, or walk anywhere away from Port Zante for that matter. She said that the government  had changed a few years ago, many people were out of jobs and crime was rising. This made us a bit apprehensive and put an end to our exploring in that area for the day.
Salt Plage, the restaurant at White House bay. Bathed in sundown colors.

We returned to Rhapsody, pulled up anchor and headed to a small harbor further down the island, White House Bay. A beautiful, calm anchorage with a small, very pleasant restaurant located there. It was while visiting this restaurant that we learned some more about St. Kitts.

St. Kitts had a sugar industry that supported much of the population. The problem was that the industry was not self sustaining and was highly subsidized. In 2009 the subsidies stopped, and by default, so did the sugar industry. St. Kitts began the switch to tourism as its main industry. Large piers were built for the cruise ships and the stores and the services were put in to attract their customers.

Caissons for cruise ships.
 The guide book warns of danger at night because "some of them are lit"
We talked with several people, including the retired chief of police, who were very surprised to hear the descriptions of danger that we had been given. They felt that crime was overall very low and St. Kitts had a lot to offer. We began to look at St. Kitts with more favorable eyes. So many friendly individuals, helpful and welcoming, willing to take the time to walk you to a nearby deli, to stop and give assistance or information, or just to say "Welcome to my island".
Gas pump readout for the boat before us. $2966.41
Fortunately that was not our bill!
The crowning experience for us came in the grocery store. We had already checked out of St. Kitts for the following morning when we decided to make a run to the store as we were running low on bananas (Horrors!). As the groceries were being rung up we realized that neither one of us had enough cash, nor did we have any credit cards with us. We were about $30 short. Before we had time to begin to think of a solution, the next woman in line said "I've got this"
"Oh no, you can't do that, we'll figure it out."
"No, I have this" and she paid our bill.
"Where do we find you?"
"I am in the port, at Tropical"
And that is all the information we got.

We returned to the boat to get the $30, and a fused glass pendant I had made, and headed out to try to find her. We got to Port Zante and began the search. Port Zante is like a shopping mall with a central hub and the stores lining the streets which are laid out like spokes. We had no idea where the store was, nor what type of store it was.

Bob took one spoke and I took another. I got to the end of the spoke and could not find the store. I turned around and saw a woman standing by a shop and I began to ask for directions.
"There was a woman who was very kind to me," I began. "She said that she was at Tropical in the Port and I am trying to find her."
The woman started laughing. 
"That was me!" she said.
She had been wearing a hat in the grocery store and I did not recognize her, but sure enough, the woman that I asked for directions was the woman I was seeking!
Bob joined us shortly, we returned the $30 and gave her the pendant in thanks. She was happy, we were happy. Hugs all around.
Time to pay it forward.
A low lying rainbow bathes St. Kitts in color
So, we will return to St. Kitts.  To explore the forts and the old sugar mills and the rainforest at the peak of the island. To explore the sister island of Nevis with its botanical gardens and birthplace of Alexander Hamilton.

We leave St. Kitts with a good feeling in our hearts.

Next stop- Antigua. 

We love to hear your comments.

Unknown said...

Love such warm-hearted travel stories! People all over the world are so much more alike than different--all want safety, kindness, and love. It's governments that are the problem...

Sarah said...

The further you get from individual interaction and compassion, the easier it is to not care.