Written by Jon:
Back in late June we were still making our way south to meet Clive and stopped in Mayreau on the way. Mayreau is picture postcard pretty. Our first stop was Salt Whistle Bay which has a reputation as being one of the pretties in the Caribbean. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would also be one of the poorest places we’ve visited so far.
We arrived right around sunset and a friendly, chilled out boat boy offered to rent us a mooring but we were happy on anchor. He hung around for a bit making jokes with Teo. He told us that he is from St. Vincent and it is pretty normal to go work on the islands. We watched a gorgeous sunset and really soaked up the magic of the moment. The next morning we headed ashore and took a walk to the other side of the island, there is a road from one side to the other and the bit in between is known as ‘the village’. The people on this island don’t have much money, it seems that their only source of income is tourism and the season for visitors is quite short, November to May. We got chatting to a local guy, Phillip, who was friendly and was happy to show us around, he remembers when he was younger and they had no fresh water on the island, drinking from a very small pool of water, not even big enough to call a lake, more a pond. Now the houses on the islands collect rain water from their roofs and store it in large black bins for the dry season.
We continued down out of the village onto the far side of the island and found a beach which we had largely to ourselves. This is the bay the cruise ships anchor in during the season and gorge out the source of income to the island – all quite now. That afternoon we played on the beach and swam in the clear waters. Teo realised that if he had his mask and snorkel on he didn’t need to stop for air and could keep swimming indefinitely, so up and down the bay we went. We also made friends with a local stray dog which we helped after it got tangled in a fishing net on the beach.
Then back to the village and we met Phillip again from earlier who took us to a bar where he hangs out and was kind enough to teach Teo how to play the drum. After a musical interlude we wandered back through the village and he showed us his family house, their kittens and even a baby goat that was less than a day old. He walked us back down to our boat, chatting about life on the island and the government in Saint Vincent.
Teo had been asking to make a sword for a few days, so before going back to the boat we went around to the windward beach to look for drift wood. We sat, enjoyed the view and then carried our suitably sized drift wood home. Unfortunately, on returning to the dinghy we discovered that somewhere during the day we’d lost the dinghy keys! Teo and I rowed the dinghy back to the boat while Mia retracted our steps. Thankfully, she found the keys where we’d sat on the beach looking for drift wood, but that was only after walking the entire length of the island again!
The poverty of the island is striking with the only sign of new development coming from a christian mission which was expanding. The island has a population of 271 people and three churches. Electricity didn’t come to the island until 2002. What surprised us most was that the seemingly rich and fertile land around the locals huts and houses wasn’t being used to grow anything. We wondered why the common areas weren’t planned with fruit trees to supplement the local diet. No doubt there is a complexity or detail we’ve missed, but it struck us as strange.
Despite the hardship and dependance on tourism, the locals we met were generous, welcoming and very laid-back. We’d gladly return.
After a good night sleep we woke up early to head around to Tobago Cays and hopefully some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean.