Thursday, August 27, 2015


We went on a wonderful group trip to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls, 1900 feet up the South East mountain of Grenada.  Devon, a charismatic Grenadian man of many talents, was our driver, guide, and “oil down” chef.  I’ll explain more about the oil down later.  Thirteen adult cruisers plus a three year old and a baby, along with a cooler and bags filled with our lunch ingredients, packed into a red mini bus.  Devon first picked up the cruisers from Mount Hartman Bay, and then came by Prickly Bay to get the remainder of us. 

Skeeter keeping lunch from sliding around

Devon's red mini bus

The van was packed full, and we were all amazed that this vehicle would be able to conquer the steep mountainous roads of Grenada with all of our weight in it.  Just as we were pulling out of Prickly Bay marina up the steep driveway, we heard a metallic clamor.  Devon, who never shows signs of stress, and seems to be prepared for anything, got out to see what had happened.  We all looked at one another a little bit worried, but shortly Devon climbed back into his right side drivers’ seat and declared, “It was just the spare tire.”  And we carried on.  We made a short stop at a store so some cruisers could pick up some beer to add to the cooler.  It was very hot in the van in the midday heat, but everyone seemed content, chatting away with friends old and new.      

Everyone packed into the mini bus

The journey up the mountain was steep, windy, and beautiful.  Though these roads were main roads for Grenada, you would never guess it because they seem far too narrow to allow for traffic in both directions.  And often times there are steep mountain drop-offs, stray dogs in the road, kids riding their bikes in the road, and many other obstacles to contend with.  They winded through small villages, plantations, and jungle.  

Having previously studied the map, I realized that a two dimensional map could never really give you an impression of what the roads would be like.  Devon drove these roads with extreme skill, passing other vehicles or allowing others to pass without putting our lives in danger.  He cheerfully chatted away with the passengers in the front seat with him, telling them all about Grenada and local culture.  Having been a passenger on many buses in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South East Asia, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Devon is one of the best drivers I have seen.

The roads are much steeper and windier than they appear!

After the long and scenic drive, Devon pulled into a narrow muddy road.  He stopped beside a small house in the middle of the jungle and paid our entrance fees (5EC per person, equivalent to about $2 US), since the waterfalls are on private property and the landowner is kind enough to let us enjoy the natural beauty of the falls.  The landowner gave Devon 13 sticks, and we continued down to the end of the muddy road.  We got out next to a hut made from bamboo and palm fronds.  We were each given a stick.  Oh!  They were hiking sticks.  I had never really used a stick to hike and didn’t really think I would need it, but I grabbed one anyway.  Devon stayed behind to prepare our “oil down” lunch. 

A family of five arrived in their rental car and joined our group.  They were wonderful people, and I was pleased to find out that they were Spanish speakers (though quite fluent in English as well).  I go through a sort of withdrawal if I don’t get to speak Spanish for a long time, and it had been many months.  I enjoyed chatting and joking with them.  Now there was a wide range of ages and a few different nationalities represented in our group.  We were American, Canadian, Norwegian, Dutch, Grenadian, Peruvian, and Argentinian.  Diversity makes me happy.  It just makes things so much more fun and interesting.  

A really nice group of all ages & backgrounds
Our hiking group

Our hiking guide was an energetic little Grenadian man named Kenny.  Surprisingly, his footwear of choice was slipper style flip flops.  One of the local women told us that he is hard of hearing, which helped us to understand his mannerisms, why we struggled to understand what he was saying, and that we should talk loudly and facing him if we have a question.  He gestured for us to all come close, so we gathered around closely.  He pulled a couple of leaves off a nearby tree and tore them, gesturing for us to smell them.  He did this various times throughout the hike, showing us callaloo, nutmeg, turmeric, mahogany, and many other local plants. 

Kenny, our hiking guide
Kenny showing us callaloo

The hike was surprisingly steep and muddy, and now it made complete sense why we were each given a stick.  Apparently the trail can be much worse, but we had come on a day that was relatively dry for the Grenadian highlands.  We climbed up and down steep muddy hills, past impressive trees, majestic bamboo, and abundant bromeliads.  On the way down a set of steep mud steps terraced out of the mountainside, we were shown to hold onto the wooden “handrails.”  Seconds later, while someone was using one of the wooden handrails for balance, it detached itself and went sliding down the steep slope.  Okay, I guess we shouldn’t count on the rail too much!  It was just a wooden board held to another wooden board by one or two nails.    

Muddy slippery path

Don't trust the hand rails!
It was a very steep and slippery path
Skeeter and I wore our Vibram five-fingers, or “monkey feet,” as my dad calls them.  These are great for hiking, and really give us an advantage to be able to grip slippery spots with our toes, and to be able to comfortably tread right through water instead of having to try to balance over wet slippery rocks.  This allowed us the ability to lend a hand to others who had less than ideal footwear and were struggling not to slip and fall.  Plus, it is kind of ingrained in us to help out.  It feels wrong not to help.  We’ve been working in the service industry teaching scuba diving and crewing on boats for so long we are well attuned to people’s needs and preventing accidents before they happen.  It’s no fun for anyone if there is a medical emergency.  The parents in the group were probably a little bit worried that their kids might get hurt, or heaven forbid, slide down the mountainside.  Our hiking guide, Kenny, would run to the back of the pack and lend a hand whenever he could.  It did make me nervous, though, the way he’d pick up the little kids and lift them over slippery rocks or mud while wearing slipper flip flops. 
Kenny hikes this trail daily in flip flops

We finally arrived at the breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls.  Although the distance of the hike was not too far, it was strenuous.  It was much more steep and slippery than most of us had imagined.  We felt we had earned our reward, and were ready to go for a refreshing swim in the natural pool and wash the mud off of ourselves.  The water was cool and crisp, but felt amazing on our hot, sweaty skin.  There was a big waterfall emptying out into a swimming hole, and then a smaller waterfall cascade into a lower pool.  There was a ledge in the upper pool that was shallow enough to stand on.  As you approached the big waterfall, you reached a shelf where the bottom dropped off and you could no longer stand.  It was nice to swim over to the waterfall and stick your head under it….though the thought did cross our minds that it would really suck if a tree branch or a coconut were to be washed over and crack us in the head.  So needless to say, we didn’t keep our heads under the force of the falling water for too long! 

We can see the waterfall!

Skeeter, Jen & Jody

It was well worth the hike

Now time for a swim!

Most of us enjoyed swimming around just in the big pool, but a couple of brave guys decided to jump from the top of the second waterfall into the lower pool.  A couple of us ladies decided to give it a try, but our intuition told us not to.  We weren’t afraid of the jump, but when we climbed over the rocks to the “jumping platform” and tried to step down onto it, it was clear that it was a bad idea.  The starting point was covered with wet slippery moss, and on a sharp angle.  Had it been mossy but flat, or angled but good grip, I have no doubt we would have done it.  But the way it was, I was 90% sure that I would slip before I even tried to jump, and I’d bounce my head and body off the rocks numerous times before splashing into the pool.  Absolutely NOT worth it.  Especially when you don’t have insurance!  


There are more waterfalls further down the trail (7 in total), but the majority of the group was perfectly content with the refreshing swim and the two waterfalls we saw.  I think the dominant thought in most people’s minds was, “We haven’t broken anything yet today.  Let’s keep it that way!”  Plus, I couldn’t imagine how difficult and nerve racking it would be to hike over the steep slippery parts with a baby strapped on your back, or worrying about your little kids wandering too close to the edge.

When we returned to the trail head we could smell the delicious “oil down” lunch boiling on the wood fire.  Devon had been working very hard while we were gone.  He explained the “oil down” to us, and it’s many ingredients.  It’s called an “oil down” because of the natural oils that come from the coconut milk.  In a big pit over a wood fire, he combined the ingredients: coconut milk, breadfruit, callaloo, carrots, dumplings, lots of spices including turmeric and curry, and lots of meats including salt fish, pork, chicken, and turkey.  It all stewed together and boiled over the fire for a long time to make it very flavorful.

What's that delicious smell!!!???

Devon checking to see if it's ready

It's looking good!  Who's hungry?
While the oil down finished cooking we rehydrated and chatted with one another, enjoying the atmosphere.  It was an overcast day, and seemed to be threatening to rain all day, but it never did.  This was great though, because it helped keep the temperature more comfortable.  We were surrounded by lots of plantation trees, including banana, papaya, pineapple, breadfruit, sugar cane, star fruit, and French cashews, a very perfumy fruit that looked like a reddish pear.  I tried this fruit for the first time, and it was very good.  Near the seed was something that seemed spider webby to me.  I took one more bite, and then realized that I had come within less than a millimeter of eating a spider.  Oops!  Ha, ha!

Socializing as the oil down finishes cooking
Inside a French Cashew
The spider I almost ate
By Lee Coursey (Nutmeg Closeup  Uploaded by Rojypala) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

When the oil down was ready, Devon served up a heaping portion to each of us.  It was delicious.  It tasted similar to a Thai or Indian coconut curry, but wasn’t spicy.  I was surprised that I was able to polish off the whole mound of deliciousness.  Of course I did have some help from my canine friend, who was eager to help all of us with the meat left on the bones.

The callaloo and dumplings floating on top

Devon serves each of us a hefty helping
This is some good stuff!
Our bellies full and content, we all piled back into the mini bus and Devon took us back toward the L’Anse Aux Epines using a different route.  He wanted to get to show us as much of his beautiful island as possible that day.  He took the Annandale and Grand Etang route through the middle of the mountains on the way there, and he took the Grenville and Westerhall southeast coastal route back.  

The orange line indicates our path

We passed by a funeral procession, and there were tons of people walking down the road from the funeral home to the cemetery.  Devon explained to us that Grenadians love attending funerals because they love to dress up…very interesting cultural quirk.  

Shortly before we reached Grenville, I noticed Devon put his seat belt on.  Having spent lots of time in the Caribbean I was sure that this meant we were approaching a police station.  I was right.  Two uniformed women officers, in their police skirts, were stopping cars and checking for seat belts in the front seat.  She scolded Devon because his passenger was not seat-belted, say that he knows better, but did not issue a citation and let us carry on.  

Photo by Neil Moralee

Devon pointed out the big fish market and other places of interest to us.  We talked about the extensive piles of sargassum sea weed piled up all along the east coast, and how unpleasant and unhealthy it is.  It was very stinky, but did not compare to the mountains of it was witnessed being piled up by excavators on the beaches in St. Kitts.  

Sargassum sea weed on the beach

Suddenly the bus started making a hissing noise.  We pulled over on the side of the road next to a little house in Grenville, where a lady was drying her laundry by spreading it over the tops of her hedges.  The bus was overheating.  I guess our weight plus all of the weight of the delicious oil down lunch in our bellies was too much for this little bus to take on these steep hills.  

Devon did what he could to cool down the engine by pouring water into the radiator, and then we all got back into the van and he drove a bit slower and called his brother.  Minutes later we pulled over again, and there was his brother with a shiny bus.  We all piled out of bus #1 and into bus #2, and Devon hopped back into the driver’s seat.  It was impressive how fast and smooth the transition was. 

The rest of the drive back to the marinas was smooth sailing.  Lots of heads were starting to bob as people were starting to drift off into sleep.  It was a long but wonderful day of Grenadian nature and culture, delicious food, and spending time with friends old and new.  

We were very happy we decided to join a group tour, even though this usually isn’t our style or within our budget.  The whole day only cost us $50 EC ($20 US) each, plus tips for our wonderful guides.  And this included our lovely Grenadian oil down lunch!  Most other places the lunch alone could cost that much!  Even though we enjoy being independent travelers and doing things on our own, I would definitely consider doing something like this again!      


  1. Sounds like a great tour. Good thing you wore "Monkey Feet" instead of your mended flip-flops !!
    Where did the DOG come from ?? Just a stray ??
    Very interesting and well put together travel blog.

    1. Thanks, Dad! Yes, those "monkey feet" have come in very handy. But there's nothing wrong with our mended flip-flops. They work like new, though they may not be a thing of beauty.

      The dog was a stray, one of the many that we have befriended on our travels. No, he was not invited to live aboard Salt Whistle. I don't think Momo would approve.

  2. That was quite an adventurous tour and hike, Amy and Skeeter! Glad everything worked out and sounds like everyone really enjoyed their day! Also, you got to speak Spanish! I'm sure you miss that!
    Love you guys!
    Mamacita xoxo ��

    1. Thanks, Mom! It was a really great day and we made some new friends. And as much as I love the ocean, there's nothing like the feeling of swimming in a cool freshwater waterfall pool on a hot day. Yes, I do really miss speaking Spanish. But I'm also really excited that my French has come a long way on our journey as well! Hoping to one day be completely functional in French too.