If I were to begin on a Saturday, I would tell you about the boat from St. Kitts that advances toward the island as I sit on the top deck wearing a sun hat and watching as Mt. Nevis grows larger and the clouds ringing its peak grow distinct. I would tell you that the cottage faces the sea, the gardens are lush and wild donkeys bray outside the open windows at night. I would share the sweetness of the oleander and the Bougainvillea and the sharp sting of a daily swim in the salt.
Immersion has its advantages. It is easier to forget the expectations of nicely paved roads and well-stocked groceries and consistent internet service. It is not hard to slow to the local tempo, to dawdle deliberately on the black sand of the cove or to linger for an afternoon or two in the seclusion of Lover’s Beach. Amenities left behind are eclipsed by the luxury of a breakfast of papaya picked from the tree just outside the window.
Exploration is necessary. The car belongs to the caretaker of the cottage and he gives few guidelines other than a suggestion to follow the highway that rims the island. Without stops, it could be done in just shy of a couple of hours but with curiosity at the wheel, the car veers away from the road and up to the hills where lie the remnants of old sugar plantations. These are the last remains of a time when colonists brought iron and industry and dresses that were too confining for the climate and refinement of a type that might not have been particularly welcome.
For a time, more sugar was produced in Nevis than in all other Caribbean islands combined. Changing economies and British laws about slavery kept the boon short-lived but there is still evidence of profiteering all about the island. At the first stop, the path is overgrown and murky and the only other visitors are monkeys, who are shy and too quick for the camera. This site has been largely untouched, except by weather, and seems forgotten.
The second stop is Golden Rock, where visionary folks from New York City and afar have reinvigorated the property by blending contemporary orange furniture and Zen taste with centuries-old stone walls. There are spectacular trees in the entry to the property and lodging in cottages and the renovated sugar mill. Lunch of lobster salad is fabulous.
The third stop is Montpelier Plantation which operates today as a Relais and Chateaux property. Here Admiral Horatio Nelson married a wealthy widow on a hill overlooking the ocean in 1785 when the plantation was at its zenith. He did her wrong before he met his end but there is still today an amazing view off of the dining room and pool at this plantation.
From the green and abundance of the plantations, the car turns toward the ocean where the wind picks up and the vegetation is sparse. There is evidence of hurricane damage on the beaches and between that and the strong currents, there is not much enjoyment to be gained from snorkeling. What is enjoyed is that there are no other people on the beach. A cooler of chilled Caribe is perfect company.
Aside from the Four Seasons and the renovated plantation inns, development has come slow to Nevis. The town of Charlestown, where Alexander Hamilton spent his childhood, is the capital and hub of commercial life. Asset protection and off-shore tax haven advantages are marketed by the banks. Outside one of these is a walled alley marked as the place where slaves were traded long ago. As the car moves through the narrow streets, an arm reaches out from the shuttered window of a house built up to the edge of the road. The arm is within grasp of mine, and I hear a giggle as the car weaves, startled.
If I were to end on a later Saturday, I would tell you that as the boat leaves the dock and I turn to look again at Mt. Nevis, my skin is browned and my hair is light and my feet are bare and what I carry with me is lighter. I would tell you that as the roll of the ocean picks up, I say goodbye with a tear in my eye.
I will not be returning this winter. It is not that I did not love it nor is it because my wandering is over. It is simply that I have a large list of places to where I hope to wander.
What is on your list?