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Tour Guides

Our tour by train was due to start at 0930 and we had arranged to meet ‘Jambo’ a taxi driver at the marina entrance at 0900. We were there from 0855 and as he had not appeared by 0905 we went with another one for 16 dollars as opposed to 20 which Jambo had been going to charge us. Our driver was a lady, from Dominica who was half South African, once she had set off with us all and we were on the way she was chatty, inquisitive and informative however when we were halfway to the station she told us that she had made a mistake and that it would actually be 5 dollars each there being 5 of us this would be 25 dollars. Anyway we arrived at the scenic railway terminus, paid her and paid for the tour and then sat in mini buses to wait to go to meet up with the train - it only goes halfway around the island. The minibus had about 14 people in it and our driver, Warner, was very informative and had lots of tips on cures for common ailments like: obesity, swollen joints, cancer, poor eyesight, erectile disfunction and so on which he gave us the recipes for on the way, mostly including ginger, lemons, water melons and other common kitchen ingredients the cancer was cured with leaves from the  merengue tree, my recall may not be total. All quite amusing and was combined with information about the island as we went up the West coast. Arriving at the other end of the railway line. We got out and waited for the train to arrive, however as it was raining we ended up getting back into the bus again. There were about 5 mini buses  about 3/4 full each. The train arrived and previous  travellers got off and we got on, it was a double decked train, open at the top and closed on the lower deck. We opted for the open top deck with about a third of the others. We set off with a running commentary, we had a stewardess and there were rum based drinks on offer as well as similar drinks without the rum so we had various iterations of these amongst us.  Occasionally it was very wet with the trade winds blowing the rain into the train but mostly it wasn’t too bad, there was a roof to the upper deck and roll down see through sides that were mostly up so we could see out. The scenery rolled past at about 10-15 mph and we had a fun couple of hours learning more of the history and geography of the island as we chuffed through it. The government seems to be quite involved in the economy and the sugar plantations which were not making money were shut down and all bets placed on tourism a number of years ago and it appears to be working a bit better than the sugar plantations, a lot of the island though is fallow with only pretty small scale farming going on. The railway line is about 4ft 6 guage and runs for quite a distance with 3 or four viaducts across river valleys, the carriages (5) towed by a diesel locomotive with a couple of generators being housed in a carriage behind the locomotive providing power for air conditiong, fridges and so on. There were probably about 200 passengers on the train. 

It was all very jolly and good fun. Arriving back at the terminus we got off and our taxi driver had come to meet us, just in case. We had passed Fort George or Brimstone Hill fortress, an important fortification down at Sandy Point the previous capital of the Island and thought it would be fun to visit this. Our taxi driver said it would be 15 dollars each, there and back, with a 15 dollar entry fee so we went for this and set off. She gave us a similar commentary to the one we’d had from the  other minibus driver so we knew some of the answers to her questions. About half way there she announced, ‘I’m very sorry, I may have made a mistake, I think it should be 15 dollars each way, but I’m not quite sure, but don’t worry, I will check’ which had us slightly perplexed. On the way up to the fort which is on top of a hill we picked up two stewardesses from a cruise ship that was in who were hitchhiking up the road. At the top she said she had now checked and the price was indeed supposed to be double what she had told us, I said, ‘hard luck, we’ve negotiated 15 dollars’ which she agreed with but said she had made a mistake and would leave it to our conscience as to what we paid her. The fort was interesting, a huge fortification, built by the British, sieged and taken by 8000 (against 1000 defenders) French in the 1780s but given back to the British a year later under the treaty of Versailles.

Going back to the boat we sang ‘amazing grace’ as the hymn had been composed by a local dodgy slave ship captain who was unpopular but survived a hurricane, found the light and became a minister. We ended up. Paying her 100 dollars.

Back at the harbour I thought we needed to clear out for the morning and tried quite hard to follow the instructions given to me by the Customs lady. I couldn’t do this, even with Patrick’s help, it involved a website and form filling with lots of stupid questions like port  of disembarkation, this will probably be Scotland for me but having become very irate and frustrated at the customs office where a computer was available which we could use, telephones not working for this step,  and initially not finding anyone at immigration  with the customs lady being quite unhelpful, I found the immigration lady who turned out to be a different, more helpful  one and helped me to fill in the form on her computer, something the previous one had not said we were allowed to do. It transpired however that we couldn’t clear out until the morning as we weren’t leaving the country til Saturday on account of the weather. 

Blood pressures having been restored a little we (Patrick and I) returned to the boat amongst showers and squalls, some bridge was played, I made some chicken mince for dinner and a relatively early night followed.

Today we’ll clear out and to to anchor.


Jock and Team D

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