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3rd World comfort for a 1st World price
Long Road (Jamaica) to Union Island (The Grenadines), March 2015

Our visit to Jamaica is almost coming to an end as we travel by bus to the capital city Kingston. Only the Blue Mountains are still on out ‘to do’ list, a beautiful mountain area just north of the city. This mountain area is located just a half hour drive from the outskirts of Kingston, but it's a completely different world. We hike several days and during the walks we regularly have fantastic views on the hectic capital of Jamaica below us; a city with a bad reputation. And indeed, if you follow the news, you notice that when night falls in this metropolis, many dark figures emerge from the shadows. However, as a traveller you do not have to worry about this that much as long as you use your common sense (see also the article: Jamaica, safe or not?).

After our visit to Jamaica we board a plane of Caribbean Airlines that takes us through St. Martin to Barbados. We really did not know that much about Barbados. All the information we had was from a 2002 TV commercial of one of Netherlands’ biggest beer producer: Bavaria. The advertisement tells the story of a couple who travel by Concorde to Barbados for a breast implant for her (see advertisement here [sorry, in Dutch only]). They try to tell that after something goes wrong, it’s time for a Bavaria beer. And btw, it is true that Barbados was one of the four destinations in the world of the Concorde aircraft. You can even see one of the planes in a hangar at the airport. Eventually we experienced this small island as a holiday paradise for mainly British tourists, escaping the harsh British climate. Every day, planes full of tourists arrive from all major cities in England. The beaches are nice, but not spectacular in our opinion. What we found especially disappointing about Barbados, is that the development of the tourism industry apparently has been without a plan. The beaches are probably worth it, but the island lacks the atmosphere that you would expect on a tropical Caribbean island (see also the article about Barbados).

The Carribean Airlines plane that brought us from Jamaica to Barbados

Our next destination in the Lesser Antilles was much more enjoyable: Saint Lucia. Not only is the island more beautiful, thanks to the mountainous heart of the island where you can still find an impressive rainforest, but also because of its authenticity. Also for this island tourism is important, but to a lesser extent. Most tourists arrive by cruise ship or with their own yacht. The Cruise people usually only visit the island for a few hours, spending the time in the main town called Castries, or going with an arranged minibus trip to the famous 'Pitons' (point-like rocks appearing from the sea). Tourists who visit by yacht normally only stay in and around the harbour where their yacht is, or at a nearby beach. Elsewhere on the island you won’t see many tourists, keeping these parts of the island still authentic. On St. Lucia, we also hiked through the Edmund Forest Reserve, one of the best places on the island to see the endemic St. Lucia Parrot. It’s not very easy to spot it, but we eventually did (see also the article on St Lucia).

With a propeller plane of the Caribbean airline LIAT we flew to Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, an island group a little further south. This country consists of one slightly bigger island called St. Vincent, and a group of smaller islands called 'The Grenadines’. St. Vincent is similar to St. Lucia; a mountainous island with a green heart. Also here are a few interesting pieces of jungle, and St. Vincent has its own endemic parrot; the St. Vincent Parrot. This parrot is much easier to see than its counterpart in St. Lucia.

A typical over developed street on Barbados

The Grenadines are the real tourist attractions of the island group. There is even one island, named Mystique, which is very popular among the richest of the earth. Queen Elizabeth, Mick Jagger and Bill Gates all have a villa on this paradise island. The normal 'tourist' is discouraged to come to this island. And they do this quite efficiently, namely by making the price of accommodation so high, that only the happy few, which we are not, can pay for a stay here. That’s why we skipped this island. We do have visited some of the other Grenadine islands, where ordinary people are still welcome. Most of the inhabited islands are accessible by public ferry, sometimes on a daily schedule, but usually a few times per week.

The Grenadine islands are very popular among so-called 'yachties', tourists who sail by yacht from island to island. Some travel by private yacht, but most rent a yacht for a few weeks to sail in the area. Usually, these people have deep pockets, and that means that prices on these islands are unreasonable high. A yachtie usually doesn’t need to pay attention to his pennies that much and does mind to pay around four Euros for a coffee or the astonishing amount of fifteen Euro for a meagre chicken leg and some fries. But this problem is true for all islands in the region. This part of the Caribbean attracts wealthy tourists and that is reflected in the price of especially accommodation and meals. As a backpacker, it is not easy to come around for a reasonable amount of money. The cheapest accommodation is still pricey and these rooms are often very basic. 3rd World comfort for a 1st World price. And that makes the area probably not the most relaxed place for for budget-conscious travellers.

In search of St. Lucia's endemic parrot
It is not always easy to find a good Wifi signal in the hotel room
The rainforest of St. Vincent
Waiting for the St. Vincent - Bequia ferry to leave
The small harbour of Bequia (The Grenadines) with a lot of yachts in the background
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