Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where the rum comes from (or at least a bit of it) A drive up to Grenada's River Antoine Estate Distillery pt.1

We're going for a drive in Grenada, half way around the world from Aitutaki. Leaving Maca Bana in the extreme southern 'tail' of the island, guide Roger Augustine and I began heading north up Grenada's west (Caribbean) coast. It's a beautiful tropical island in the volcanic, Windwards mold -soaring forest -clad mountains, steep cultivated valleys and rushing rivers. The road skirts a dramatic, wildly irregular coastline indented with palm-backed bays and coves, each embracing its own beach -gold, beige or volcanic 'black' sand -take your pick. We passed through a series of old towns, many bearing names that are a legacy of France's early dominion over the island.
Along the way:
Gran Roi: The King Of Calypso, Slinger Francisco 'the Mighty Sparrow' was born here, and not in Trinidad as often assumed (okay, as I assumed). Musically, Grenada is 'soca' country.
Concord Falls: Where a good-sized boa coiled in the rafters of a derelict zinc-roofed bus stop (or souvenir stand?). Right off the road and nice for a dip. If you're lucky you'll pass country folk coming down from the hills with loads balanced on their heads or pack-laden donkeys.
Dougaldston Spice Boucan: Step back a few centuries into this worn but working 'boucan' -French creole for drying platform (the word being 'barbecue' on islands with English heritage). "Boucan', 'Buccaneers', 'barbecue', jerked meat, that's all part of another story, but workers here will give a short explanation of the spices they process and their uses.
Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Plant: (old West Indies style warehouse). Lot's of nutmeg. What's great about these places is that they're working, traditional operations, not (yet) museums. I'll have more to say some other time about this spice that figures so prominently in Grenada's story that it's pictured on the national flag. The glossy, dark shells that are a bi-product of processing are so abundant, however, that they are used as an attractive mulch around plantings. Spread around homes the brittle shells also serve as a 'Grenadian burgler alarm". Gouyave is also the site of 'Fish Fridays' a big jump up with street music, food and of course -rum.
Spice Cloth Grenada, Concord: Printing/clothing workshop of designer Jessie-Ann Jessamy (in another old West Indies spice warehouse) where the girls are busy at work hand-screening nutmeg-motif prints to produce fashionable bags and clothing -distinctive and useful momentos of Grenada. Also rum (and samples) and other traditional Grenadian items like Morne Delice nutmeg jams and syrup (unusual and delicious)
Grenada Bay: Swim in the sheltered 'rock pools' at Bathway Beach.