Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Annual History and Heritage Hike at Kittitian Hill

One of the most popular activities for St. Kitts History and Heritage Month is the Annual Heritage Hike. This year's hike was at The under construction luxury resort Kittitian Hill, which lies on the side of Mt. Liamuiga just above St. Pauls on the northern tip of the Island of St. Kitts.

Imagine this view from your porch and pool.
At first glance my analytic mind started wondering "What does an incomplete luxury resort have to do with history or heritage?" Well, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go along and find out.

Upon further reading I found that this year's theme was "Conserving our Environmental Heritage, with special emphasis on plants."  Ahh, well that made more sense.

To understand why this makes sense you have to look at what's going on in St. Kitts right now. The island has had since 1984 what's called the Citizenship-By-Investment Program, which is also the oldest program of its kind in the world. This program has its positives and negatives and personally I feel if it's managed correctly it can be very beneficial to the island and it's people. (You'll have to wait for another post on this subject so I can go into more detail.)

With this program in mind, many resorts and residences have sprung up with apartments or condos specifically designed for this program. A person buys the condo for nearly half a million dollars and then can become a Kittitian Citizen with a St. Kitts and Nevis passport.

The only development that has been tailor built as a resort that most closely integrates the environment, the local workers, farmers, and island design is Kittitan Hill. It prides itself on being a resort of "Sustainable Luxury Living."

It began to become clearer as to why the hike was being held there and it turned out to be an enjoyable hike. With developments springing up all over the island, the future of St. Kitts and Nevis is being written by these developments.

The hike was a very reasonable 10 e.c. or around four U.S. dollars which included transportation from the National Museum in Basseterre. We all arrived early on a Saturday morning and I was skeptical that we'd leave at the 6.45 a.m. time listed on the schedule because last year the wait was probably a long Kittitian hour before we left.

Not this time, I think the new director is really on the ball. We left right on time. I must mention that Kantours provided around four of their buses for transportation I believe as a donation for the event.

I rode my scooter because I love the scenery along the island main road out in the countryside of St. Kitts.

When we arrived at Kittitian Hill's 400 acre site Mt. Liamuiga welcomed all of us with a nice sprinkling of rain. This wasn't a surprise because this area gets a huge amount of rain because it sits on the western side of Mt. Liamuiga and it's often raining there because of elevation of the volcanic mountain.

Not to worry though, the rain stopped quickly and everyone was out and chomping at the bit to get hiking. First, we had a small introduction by the construction manager who told us to be careful because most things were still under active construction. Then, we listened to a quick story read about Markus, a runaway or marooned slave who was nicknamed "King of the Woods" who lived in the mountains for six years. This took place in the 1830s during the time that slavery was abolished but a period of "apprenticeship" was in place for four years. Markus had his freedom in the mountains, gained freedom legally, but when captured was sent to prison because many "apprentices" joined him in the mountains. He was seen as a rebellious leader and ironically lost his freedom when everything was said and done. (You can read about this story in the Caribbean Migrants book that I'm reading. It's available at the National Museum.)

After this story we were off on the newly paved cement hiking path that circles the perimeter of the resort.

The last time I had been to the resort was in April of 2013 and there was a Hash run there. It poured incessantly and we ended up going home before finishing the hash but we did check out a model cottage and what is called The Terrace, which will hold the lobby, swimming pool, lounge, and fitness area.

Quite a bit of progress has taken place, but quite a bit more needs to be done before the resort is up and running. Below is the Terrace nearing completion.

Ceiling View

Check out the view from this building which I'm told will be the lobby. The resort will not only have condos for sale but also a hotel for short term guests. This will be called Belle Mont Farm and is due to open in late 2014.

It will also have a view of some more cool buildings when they're finished:

This is a view inside the dining hall:

I almost forgot to mention that the hike up the path was quite steep. For some reason we had some military members as security with our group. I thought this photo was cool of a soldier helping an elderly lady up the steep path.

The golf course is nearing completion and now has some beautiful grass growing on it. From the course you have an amazing view of St. Eustatius and a little bit of Saba.

As we made our way around the trail I took a lot of pictures of the cottages being built.

Yes, that will be an infinity pool when it's finished.
So back to why the hike was held here? This development is from the ground up integrating Kittitian life and culture. Every one of the cottages is being planted in what the developers are calling "edible landscapes." The plants of St. Kitts are intertwined in daily life and Kittitian Hill is implementing that into their brand new resort.

A finished model. The floor plan is uniquely open.

The bathroom is out on the veranda. It's not something I'm sure I'd get used to.

You can also see that the dining area and lobby have a remarkable resemblance to the old sugar mill chimneys still seen throughout the island. The cottages are being built with a green philosophy having a low impact on the environment and feature amenities like rainwater collected showers and wood sourced from sustainable sources as roofing and siding over hurricane proof cement block.

Speaking of edible landscape. My favorite part of the hike and most meaningful I believe was at the nursery.

Overall Kittitian Hill appears to be doing everything right for the local people and the nursery is no exception. We were all given a first person tour of the best nursery I've seen on the island and that includes the Department of Agriculture's nursery.

I've been saying since I moved here that this island has so much potential agriculturally. Look at how nice and thick this topsoil is:

The manager of the nursery is Winston Lake, a long time farmer who clearly loves what he is doing. He pointed out to our group all of the many types of plants the resort is growing and developing.

Mr. Lake points out some plants. In the foreground are a bunch of pineapple plants.
Mr. Lake explained that they have fruit and vegetable plants from all over the world and he wasn't kidding. He said that they have over 150 types of mango seedlings, 60 type of banana trees, many varieties of avocados, and even have coffee and cocoa plants.

Could you imagine waking up and for breakfast picking some bananas named "Ice Cream," which they have and grinding coffee beans from coffee plants in your yard? Or picking a tangerine or avocado and making your own guacamole?? Wow, that's cool!

This is what a Coffee plant looks like:

Mr. Lake explained that once the resort is landscaped with all of these plants whatever is left over will probably be sold to local people. I hope this takes place before I leave because I'd love to get a coffee plant, but nonetheless it will be quite amazing to see so many new varieties of plants and fruits being grown in St. Kitts and Nevis. The local people will continue to provide a lot of the food to the residents of the resort once it's up and running too.

A lot of the plants in the nursery the majority of the crowd, which were Kittitians could already identify, including this one which they call a "fat pork."

I was also told that there are actually cocoa plants growing wild in certain areas of St. Kitts too.

Mr. Lake was very friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic about Kittitian Hill and it's future. You can watch this short clip of him here.

By the end of our hike I had completely changed my mind about why we had done the annual hike at Kitttian Hill. The entire place is fascinating with it's philosophy on construction, integrating the environment, and most importantly integrating the local people.

The focus on plants and how it affects Kittitians lives is no stronger than it is and will be at Kittitian Hill. I'm glad I went on the hike and even though it wasn't the raw, old history that I'm traditionally used to exploring I met some great local people and learned a lot.

The hike also gave Kittitians a view of how the citizenship by investment program can benefit both parties involved and still keep St. Kitts the quiet corner of the Caribbean it's always been.

Great job Kittitian Hill and the National Trust. I hope the resort gets finished quickly and it serves as an example throughout the world as to what we should all be doing before developing: Thinking.

Visit Kittitian Hill's Website I'm sure you'll be impressed and learn something new.