Tuesday, March 13, 2007

St. Kitts

Being the tale of Munkee's first venture into the Eastern Caribbean

Wonderous things abound here: Cannabis-praising religions, mildly intoxicating plant brews and monkeys.

On touch-down in St. Kitts, a couple of guys meet the plane to take the luggage but then a woman (in appearance and manners seems to be a supervisor) pats each of them down, including making them take off their hats, in full view of anyone on the right side of the plane who happens to be looking out the window. The woman then stood by and watched them. Making sure they're not stealing? Making sure they're not armed? This was a surreal entrance into a Caribbean gem.

A hike up Mount Liamuiga started fine enough--an interesting short drive through very real neighborhoods, "this is where the real people are," our driver announces. Cut to the chase. This volcano hike is for people who exercise regularly.

The triumphant final view was great, but nowehere near as impressive as King's Canyon or the Olgas in the Australian Outback...and this was much more painful.

We did see a monkey early on and our guide pointed out the "trumpet leaf" which once it's dried fully is used in a tea to treat blood pressure and regulate sugar levels. Our guide also pointed out a type of palm tree that is brewed into a local beverage. Initially, we thought it was an alcoholic beverage, then we thought it was a non-alcoholic soporific, then we tried it and indeed there was no alcohol or psychoactive effect. The drink is called "mauby" and it appears throughout the Caribbean in alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms. I did get a bit tired after 2 sips, but I also did just climb a freggin' volcano.

Flight canceled due to volcanic ash. American Airlines will therefore not cover hotels for the hundreds of stranded travelers. Lucky to get a room, it's hours before AA helps people find rooms and the queues at the taxi stands looked to be about an hour long. Chaos.

Next day is beautiful, no problems at all (except now all the flights are REALLY full whereas last night all the flights were really empty). This led to conspiratorial thoughts about the airlines canceling their 1/3-full flights. Maybe. But there was volcanic ash in the air and it did mess up a lot of other flights throughout the Caribbean that day.

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