Monthly Archives: August 2010

Aftermath

We were lucky: Earl passed by a couple of hundred kms north of us, smashing other islands and sparing St Kitts from the worst.  WAlthough we got through relatively unscathed, there is plenty of clean-up work to do.

Some trees were uprooted, and the ground is strewn with leaves, coconuts and other debris – like signs and shingles off rooves.  I don’t think any rooves came off.

The usually calm Caribbean. All the locals think that white house is in a pretty dangerous spot. Do you agree?

During the storm, which lasted nearly 24 hours and saw the departure of my TV and wireless internet signals, there was a lot of bashing around on my roof and around my room as shingles came off and blew around.  I stuck my face out of the door a couple of times, to be greeted by a face full of wind and rain.  By around 2.30pm, the wind was still high but hotel management was phoning each guest to check on our survival, and offering complimentary lunch and dinner, which was a rather nice touch.  Suffice it to say most staff didn’t make it in.

Oops - I only looked away for a second

Of course, once the worst had passed, the sightseers came out in force (even though they were meant to stay home).  The numero uno attraction seemed to be right in my front yard: the Coast Guard had to respond to a distress call nearby my hotel and, on the way there, got overtaken by the waves and ran aground. 

My favourite swimming spot...

The clean-up has started, and everyone is grateful that it wasn’t worse.  The US is watching Earl, which is now a Category 4 Hurricane, although it looks like it will swing past Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands without much impact.  Its path is now to glide up and around the US East coast.

Right now we are watching for another storm front, called Tropical Storm Fiona, and we have a Tropical Storm watch in place.  Fiona doesn’t seem to have as much momentum, though, and we might see her some time on Wednesday.

Shingles blown off my roof

I guess I’m now learning what it is to monitor the weather, a fact of life if you live in the Caribbean during Hurricane Season.  Although I find storms a little thrilling, Earl was quite enough for me, and I hate to think of something so much stronger passing over my adopted home of St Kitts if we are unlucky enough to be straight in the path of the next one.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Earl arrives

Bringing down the shade sail at Spice Mill

Yesterday’s preparation for the hurricane closed many businesses, and Spice Mill (my weekend restaurant on my beach of choice on the island) was closed for lunch as they prepared for Earl. 

The usually busy beach, bar and restaurant was practically deserted except for a few swimmers and the restaurant’s staff, who were busy bringing in all their belongings and taking down the shade sail so they didn’t get ripped apart by Earl.   The day itself started out as normal, but the wind noticably picked up by around lunchtime.

The Caribbean, whipped up into a frenzy

Earl has graduated from a Category 1 Hurricane into a Category 2, and continues to gain strength.  Once it reaches Category 3 (expected to be today), Earl will be classified as “major” and the US Virgin Islands look set to get him next.

The storm still swirls around me, and really does seem to be picking up intensity.  Overnight, there has been plenty of fierce wind and rain, including into my room thanks to some leaks in the roof.  Coconut palm trees bend in the wind (in a fierce hurricane, they bend right over) and the usually calm Caribbean side of the island is a frenzy of waves and white water.

We in St Kitts seem to have escaped the worst of Hurricane Earl, as the eye was further north, so we received the lesser impact – “tropical storm conditions” I think they say.

Right now, I’m wondering if David is coming to collect me for work this morning, or whether (since the storm is still going) people will stay home and wait it out.  I suspect it’s the latter.

I’ve made the executive decision not to tell Mum that there’s a hurricane: apart from worrying her, she is a great fan of the Weather Channel and disaster TV shows (Aircrash Investigations is a particular favourite) so will go into a spin over this and will stress until Earl passes. 

I know it’s odd, but I find storms a tad exhilarating; however, even I admit that it was probably better that I didn’t confess this to Timothy when he called last night from Grenada to check in on me.  After all, his country got smashed to smithereens not so long ago by Ivan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Its name is Earl

The Earl formerly known as Tropical Storm has graduated into a full-blown Hurricane, and there is now a formal Hurricane warning in place for this area.  Earl is around 360km away from Antigua, and heading straight for us.

Here’s the 11.00am update on the US National Hurricane Center’s website:

SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST…1500 UTC…INFORMATION
———————————————–
LOCATION…17.2N 58.4W
ABOUT 225 MI…360 KM E OF ANTIGUA
ABOUT 315 MI…510 KM E OF ST. MARTIN
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…75 MPH…120 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT…W OR 280 DEGREES AT 17 MPH…28 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…985 MB…29.09 INCHES

WATCHES AND WARNINGS
——————–
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY…

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
AND PUERTO RICO…INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES.  A
HURRICANE WATCH IS ALSO IN EFFECT FOR THESE AREAS.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT…

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR…
* ANTIGUA…BARBUDA…MONTSERRAT…ST. KITTS…NEVIS…AND ANGUILLA
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN…SABA…AND ST. EUSTATIUS

A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR…
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICO INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR…
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICO INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES

HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE HURRICANE WARNING AREA
WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS.  PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND
PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Clockwork

Although the hurricane season began nearly 3 months ago now, the most active time is September and October, when locals get even more nervous than they already were.

I already told you that, right at the start of the season, there was a big, sudden, howling storm that buffered the coast.  It’s as if, once again, and right on cue, the weather is reminding me that I’m in the Caribbean. 

Tropical Storm Earl is apparently in “favourable” conditions (this means favourable for Earl, not for us) which means it is likely to graduate into a full-fledged hurricane in the next day.  Earl and is due around this area (known as the northern Leeward Islands) by tomorrow night and into Monday.  The locals are all listening to the news, a sense of nervousness filling the air.  My hairdresser, Shermine, has a touch of the cynic: “Hurricanes just make us spend more money” as people are warned to stock up on tinned food and basics like loo paper and toothpaste.

Earl was birthed in Africa and is making its way across the Atlantic now. 

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tropical-Storm-Earl-marches-towards-the-Leewards

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

San Kind of Juan-derful

Our tour group at the tapas bar

OK, so far in my Caribbean adventures, my favourite place is San Juan in Puerto Rico.  So much so that, even though I only visited for 3 days, and  have already published quite a few posts on Puerto Rico, I still have more material left.  (Yes, I packed in the fun).

San Juan’s cuisine is so good that there is a food tour which, naturally, I signed up to straight away.  We met in one of the main squares at 5pm, and then wandered the streets of Old San Juan, checking out some of the sights and stopping at a few of the worthwhile food stops along the way to sample some traditional Puerto Rican food.

One of our stops was the place where Pina Coladas was invented.  We all got one as part of the tour and, yes, there was an umbrella sticking out of it (although they don’t mix them up in front of you since they sell too many so they have them in a mixing machine…boo!)

We finished off the tour for a dessert at Aureola, the place with the confusing ad, and I can confirm that it is, indeed, a legitimate restaurant rather than a house of disrepute.

The charming streets of Old San Juan, with its beautifully restored buildings

Couldn't agree more!

Something we need more of in Australia are Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and, wouldn’t you know it, there was a store right across from my hotel.  Naturally, I had to visit and slurped up a gorgeous lemonade flavour – perfect in the hot weather! 

I did love the fact that they served a lot of food based on fair trade and organic ingredients.  Plus, the staff were incredibly friendly and the atmosphere was a lot of fun.

One of the reasons I love Old San Juan is its charming streets and, although the buildings (dating back to 1521!) fell into disrepair, a few years back the government made a concerted commitment to restore it to its former glory and, if you visit there, you’ll soon see that it worked!  As you wander the streets, you feel like you are in Spain, not another big US city.

Yummy custard pastries at La Bombonera

I loved Puerto Rico so much that, when I passed through San Juan on my way back from Grenada and had a few hours to kill at the airport, I jumped in a cab and headed straight into Old San Juan to have another mallorca at La Bombonera. 

Naturally, since St Kitts is pretty devoid of spectacular bakeries I took a few snapshots before a selection was packed into a box to take home with me, .  I know you’ll understand  😉

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Trini Roti Challenge

Emerging from Pataraj with a stash of rotis

My first bizarre encounter with Trinidad and Tobago was a Miss Universe pageant.  A gorgeous, exotic contestant in a bright, tiny outfit resplendent with feathers, strutted past the camera in the national costume parade beaming “Trinidad and Tobagoooooo”.  I remember thinking: I have no idea where that is, but it must be one interesting place.

So, here I am.  Port of Spain, Trinidad.  The southernmost island in the Caribbean, so much so that a peninsula on the western side of the island is almost licked by a finger of Venezuela, Sistene Chapel-style, just 16km across the water.

You get to pick your fillings!

Trinidad and Tobago is a deeply fascinating place, a country of 1.3 million people whose Carnivale in February is the Big Daddy of all Caribbean carnivals.  People come from all around the world to slip on the smallest costumes possible, and jiggle for four days of music, madness and debauchery. 

The two islands have different histories, but basically both involved elbowing between France, England and Spain (among others), finally ending up as British colonies dominated by sugar and other agriculture.  Once slavery was abolished in 1834, indentured workers flooded in from India as the African population thumbed their noses at the poor working conditions offered to them.

The Wrap

Today’s Trinidad and Tobago has a population dominated by Indians (known in these parts as “West Indians” for obvious reasons) and African-descendents, each of which account for about 40% of the nation’s people.  The rest are a mix of various nationalities, including Chinese, Venezuelans, Syrians and Lebanese.  Naturally, this means you can find some of the best food in the Caribbean right here!

Fill 'er up

Apart from being the most ethnically diverse place in this part of the world, it’s also pretty much the richest too.  In the late 90’s, the discovery of natural gas and petroleum reserves stabilised the economy although, even today, around 20% of the population lives in poverty.  This relative wealth makes Trinidad and Tobago very important within the Caribbean region.

In April, the longstanding Prime Minister called a snap election around 3 years before he needed to.  Politics is very much race-based here, the Prime Minister was smashed, and the Indian party swept to power, installing TT’s first ever female PM.  Not a bad thing since there is still a lot of sex discrimination here – women tend to earn 50% less than the men in equivalent positions.  However, this particular change has proved to be a critical development for the project I’m working on.  You can read why here

I’m here for a meeting on Monday, so I arrived on Friday night so I can explore a little, and hang out in my favourite hotel, the Hyatt in Port of Spain! (Seriously, I like just knocking around the place)

The hungry crowd inside the Hott Shoppe - they even sell six-packs of rotis in boxes!

I made it my mission on this trip to taste the dish that Trinidad and Tobago is most famous for: the Roti.  A stretchy, strong thin Indian bread wrapped around a curry filling of meat and/or vegetables.  Naturally, I commenced my research online and discovered that two of the best-known places in Port-of-Spain are Pataraj and The Hott Shoppe.  I located a friendly taxi driver, and explained my quest: to sample some of the best rotis in the area, and together we set out.

Picnic in the park

Rotis are traditionally a lunchtime food as they are pretty bulky, and they are predominantly a street food, although there are plenty of shops that make them too.  If you have a hankering for a morning or evening snack, you can try Doubles, which are a fluffy, deep-fried Indian bread (alot like a Malaysian Roti Chanai) folded around curried chick peas and other sauces.  They are sensational – I managed to nab a couple at the airport on my way to the dreamy Hyatt.

I got myself a shrimp roti with potato, channai and spinach from Pataraj, and a chicken and mango curry roti from the Hot Shoppe. 

The verdict? Rotis are totally yummy, with a variety of tasty fillings and locals are totally mad for them.  Even online, there are discussion groups debating the best rotis where ex-pats inform each other where they can find the most authentic and tasty rotis outside of TT.  Trinidadians and Tobagonians living elsewhere are so desperate for them that the Hott Shoppe even sells frozen roti skins for travel!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

CRUNCH

As I drove away from the petrol pump: c-r-r-r-u-u-u -n-c-h.

My head swivelled round.  What was that?

“Don’t worry, it’s just a crab”.  I turned back to see my road kill victim: an ex-crab.

I resisted the urge to leap out of my car and take a snapshot.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized