Friday, May 7, 2010

The Good Things about St. Kitts

Let's get to the good stuff. There were 2 things that really stood out to us when we hit the island the first time (and still liked when we returned).



1) For an island this size (18 by 5 miles/68 sq mi), you get rolling farmlands;



black,



tan,



and white beaches;



and 2 kinds of rainforests - wet

and dry.

The island is amazingly diverse. It's also surprising how little it's been built up. Of course, we are (I wish I could say unwittingly) helping in changing that, but can only hope the latest projects keep the density down and contribute to the economy. It's all about balance.




2) St. Kitts is gorgeous with crystal clear waters that run to every shade of green to blue. We can see water from just about anywhere on the island. Snorkeling is so/so but diving must be pretty good since people did get those last 2 pictures.




The main road runs along the coast so you're always viewing the water and even when you're in the interior, you can see either the sea, ocean, or both. Dominica and Grenada are beautiful islands, but you can get lost in the forests and not even realize you're surrounded by water. Some may like that change, but give me views of the sea at every turn thank you very much. I just can't get enough.

Of course, now that we've been here awhile (a little over a year), we've got a few more:

3) You get a bonus island, Nevis, with $8 ferry rides between the 2 that make it easy to get to when you need a change of scenery. It's got just enough of a different vibe, plenty of history with places to visit, lots of restaurants (still really liked Coconut Grove, and has great produce (hydroponics? yummy!).



4) It's proximity to nearby islands is a plus. That said, it's a bit of a tease. One reason we decided to sell Jacumba was because all of the islands around us - St. Martin, St. Barts, Montserrat, Antigua, Saba, and Statia were just far enough away that it would take a day to get to them and another day to get back. They were not weekend sails. There are no ferries and although flights are advertised cheap, the accompanying fees (taxes, airport, fuel, etc.) are actually more than double the fares making traveling via this method prohibitive. Hmm, that turned out to be a negative, but how 'bout being able to see the other islands on clear days from the shore and just knowing they're there?

5) Apartments/rentals. Most islands did not have places for us to live really. Islands with universities tend to have to house the students and locals and governments figure out they they can rent places as well. St. Kitts had probably the most options we'd seen in a variety of locations and with a wide-range of prices (some surprisingly affordable).

6) The melting pot I mentioned in a recent blog entry. While there's some animosity between some locals and what they consider outsiders (anyone watching Arizona lately?), most get along here. Many Kittitians have gone to school and/or worked at some point outside the island (or plan to) so are more open-minded to various cultures and enjoy having visitors from all over the world. I know I do, as it adds to the "pot's" flavor. The island was British until recently so there are plenty of Brits here. Students abound. Canada and Taiwan has injected lots of infrastructure investment and has plenty of folks here as well. Now the U.S. has put St. Kitts on its radar and who knows what will happen.

7) They do have industry here. Although sugar cane was their main money maker here until 1996 and the travel industry is still in its infant stages, the island does export quite a bit of goods (even electronics). They've got a bottling plant, clothing manufacturers, and cement plants. Unfortunately, as of 2008, the country was listed as having the 3rd highest debt in the world (at 185% ouch; surprisingly, Japan was 2nd), so apparently a bit more needs to be done there. Still, it's nice that the place doesn't have all its eggs in one basket. It also means that there is work here, either for others or to employ others.

8) We feel safe here. We are definitely more on the alert than we were initially, but, again, no more so than we were when we lived in the States. We lived in a sleepy community in AZ with about 14,000 people. One friend went into the store for 2 minutes to grab a paper and came out to find a car part she was returning (and had in the backseat) stolen. I had my Miata tossed a couple of times (I left the door unlocked so no one would cut the top). My 2-week old car was stolen in NYC. It happens. It's too easy to get caught up in the "vacation" vibes of an island and do stupid things. There are desperate and criminal-types everywhere (remember Aruba?). Just remember that and be aware.

9) The island doesn't feel "third world." There is infrastructure, TV, lots of restaurants with successful entrepreneurs, decent roads (except for the peninsula which seems to be having a hard time holding up to weather/traffic pressures). There are banks, ATMs, grocery stores, hardware stores, and businesses that sell pretty much everything - but at a price (and not necessarily sharing our tastes). I do think that the import taxes need to come down. St. Martin imports everything too, but they're not even half as expensive as this island is and they're less than 70 miles away. As far as housing, although there are definitely some people living in chattels from the 1700s (slave huts basically) - some are nicer than others,



the government is building concrete homes for those via lottery,



and there are plenty more middle-class people (Kittitian and other) scattered throughout,



with the usual ritzier enclaves.



10) The monkeys. Farmers and home owners will disagree with this one, but we love the monkeys. I love hearing them fighting outside our window in the morning. Love seeing them in the roads when I go running in the morning.



I love watching them sit on a roof nearby at sunset, seeming to watch the sphere go down.



Mongoose and turtles are cool too.



I refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are tarantulas and scorpions here.

11) Things to see. For old stuff, you've got lots of ruins to visit,



an old (but still used) railway,



an amazing mostly restored fort,



petroglyphs,



old plantations (on both islands) - Ottley's, Rawlins, Montpelier, Nisbet , Golden Rock, and probably more.



and carnival to enjoy at Christmas.



The hiking is plentiful either by tour operators or hashing (see #12).



And where else would you see a natural rock that looks just like Bart Simpson?



And new stuff - you've got zip lines,



ATVing,



duty-free stores,



art galleries, a separate shout out to our artist pal Tanya,



a golf course,



new cinema,



horse track,



stadiums,



music festival, sports tournaments (cricket, rugby, etc.)...Soon there will be another golf course and a nice marina (with shops).

There are a lot of restaurants covering many ethnicities (need Mexican) and at various prices and various levels of dress-up. You've got street vendors,



walk-up windows,



beach shacks,



and more ritzy places.



12) The Hash House Harriers! What would we do without that group??!

13) St. Kitts has potential. If they play their cards right they can create the right mix of development, local investment, and job creation while leaving enough of the island undisturbed to allow for tourists and locals alike to appreciate the open spaces. There are jobs here (although the work force definitely needs a bit of motivation and the Labor board needs to stop acting like a Union leader) and lots of opportunities to provide more services and improve on those here. It's fun to watch a place come into its own and we have hopes that St. Kitts will do just that.

14) And lastly...wait for it...The sunsets! You knew I couldn't pass that up didn't you?



If that wasn't enough, then start at our blog beginning and hang with us. I didn't even cover everything that's on these islands, but this link was pretty inclusive. That's why we're here and we hope you'll come too, either to visit or stay longer-term. It's truly a beautiful island. Krista, a Kittitian transplant soon to become a local by marriage, has taken some absolutely beautiful photos of the island. If that doesn't convince you to make your airline reservations or set sail, I don't know what will.

Did I miss some? Well then comment and I'll add it.