The motto suited the setting. ‘Dat nuh bother me’ was the message on Linky’s car windscreen. Linky was short for ‘Lincoln’ and, like the former U.S. President, he was a man who took matters in his stride.
‘If someone stressing about my business, I just say “dat nuh bother me” and that’s that.’ Fair enough.
We were on a tour with Linky across the volcanic landscape of Carriacou, with sweeping views of coral-lined beaches as we rose on narrow winding lanes that, in usual years, attract thousands of people.
Laid-back: A breathtaking view over Carriacou’s main town, Hillsborough
This laid-back attitude is understandable. In Carriacou and neighbouring island Petite Martinique, both part of the nation of Grenada, there is yet to be a single case of Covid.
Green lights all round. And last week Virgin Atlantic and British Airways began direct flights to Grenada from the UK. Tourism normally accounts for about 40 per cent of the country’s economy; locals have been forced to fall back on agriculture and fishing.
Grenada, known as the ‘Spice Island’, is one of the world’s main nutmeg producers and a big source of cocoa and bananas.
Carriacou has a population of 7,000 and is seven miles long and two miles wide. It’s currently on the UK’s green list
‘Business is way down, man,’ said Cuthbert, owner of Cuthbert’s Bar, a clapboard structure by the blissfully quiet seafront in Hillsborough, Carriacou’s main town. He was watching the West Indies play Australia on TV and drinking a Stag beer with his only customer, a friend named Kester, a retired construction worker.
For a while, with the waves lapping and pelicans swooping, Cuthbert, Kester and I discussed cricket, in particular the merits of West Indian greats Brian Lara and Sir Garfield Sobers. The pandemic seemed a long way away, although the subject did, after a while, crop up.
‘Vaccines? I’m not taking a chance, man,’ said Kester. Cuthbert felt the same, as did Uthan, another construction worker. ‘I don’t trust jabs,’ he said, waving his bottle of stout as though underlining his point. Such views are not held by a minority. Only about a fifth of Grenadians have been vaccinated.
Heavenly: Pictured is the beautiful sandy beach and blue sea at Anse La Roche Bay on Carriacou island
In a country of 112,000 people, where 164 Covid cases have been reported (one death), the attitude of many is indeed ‘dat nuh bother me’ regarding jabs. Overseas visitors, however, must be fully vaccinated and take a PCR test before flying out and another (costing £73) on arrival, ahead of quarantine for 48 hours while waiting for the result.
Is all this worth it? The answer, on the basis of my visit this week: absolutely.
After self-isolation on the main island of Grenada at the Calabash Hotel, just outside St George’s, Grenada’s capital — spent beside an empty palm tree-lined beach — it was a short hop north on a 90-minute ferry to Carriacou. If Grenada is remote, its sister islands feel off the map. Carriacou has a population of 7,000. It is seven miles long and two miles wide.
Women carry fruit trays on ‘Spice Island’ Grenada
There are a couple of dozen guesthouses and simple hotels, the best being the 22-room Mermaid Hotel on the beach at Hillsborough. It is worth paying £40 extra for one of the top rooms. This was where I stayed, amid a handful of other guests who were on staycations from Grenada.
The bar is an enjoyable spot to ‘lime’ (have a drink, in the local parlance) before heading off elsewhere. Our first stop-off with super-cool Linky was the boatbuilding village of Windward, where workers were refining a hull in between breaks at the neighbouring Hot Bush Bar (Stag beers £1).
Next was the military base where Americans arrived during the 1983 invasion to end a hardline Marxist revolution. In the event, the small local force surrendered peacefully.
Then we visited several of the old slave plantation houses.
Some of these are now in ruins and at the small museum in Hillsborough you can learn more about this dark past involving the French and, later, the British, who took over Grenada in 1763 and granted it independence in 1974.
Also look out for the collection of vivid works depicting island scenes by the talented local artist Canute Caliste, who died in 2005. The Queen, no less, is a fan and has some of his works. A few are still available, costing about £1,000.
The ferry from Carriacou to Petite Martinique takes 20 minutes. It is shared with islanders, mainly working in fishing, as well as the doctor and — quite often — nuns in blue and white robes who attend to the sick and provide religious education for children. You are a stone’s throw from the neighbouring island of Petit St Vincent — part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates are said to rent villas — at the little dock on the much more down-to-earth Petite Martinique (population 900).
Goats roam free by the quayside and it did not take long to explore the hilly interior, with its strong cultural ties to Africa dating from slavery days. These find their form in ‘big drum’ celebrations at festivals throughout the year and during flamboyant weddings.
The Daily Mail’s Tom Chesshyre recalls listening to the waves lapping and watching pelicans swooping on Carriacou
The African-influenced dish saraca is served at a restaurant of the same name near the docks: chicken or mutton with dumplings, peas, green bananas and rice.
There are guest houses on Petite Martinique, but most visitors merely make a day trip. Then it is back to the ‘metropolis’ of Carriacou, where taking it slow and easy seems to be the local religion.
A couple more Caribs with Linky, Rani and Kester at Cuthbert’s as the sun sets in a blaze of pink, orange and peach across the silvery sea and suddenly all the jabs, tests and forms of Covid-days travel, well, they don’t seem so tiresome after all.