The islands of St Kitts and Niamhus

Trip Start Dec 03, 2005
1
8
38
Trip End Jul 19, 2007


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Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis  ,
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Can you believe it???? An island named after me??? I'm not much of a detective but it's not difficult to know if someone has read or heard my name first. If they pronounce it right then they've heard it first and they are likely to write any sort of combination of letters that resembles the sound. If they've seen it written first, I will usually be called by the name "Ny-am". In the case of the island, they obviously heard it first and attached the ending "us" onto it to show familiarty and so it has become known as Nevis.

Anyway, enough bragging about myself, how was the island? Not one that I'd recommend really. Maybe we just went there on a bad week but I was expecting the people to be the same as those in Antigua. They weren't quite as openly welcoming, more cautiously friendly I'd say. The longer you stayed, the more they got to know you, the more they talked to you. There was a lot more hustling for business by either people trying to do an aloe massage on the beach or taxi drivers asking if you wanted to take a super expensive trip in their taxi. Prices are again extortionate, at one point we were charged USD$12 for 4 eggs - that's USD$3 per egg!!!!

Apparently their sugar industry officially ended July last year and tourism is taking over as the main money earner. Unfortunately I think those in the tourism industry may be extracting the juice before the plant has had time to grow. But that's just my opinion.

Couldn't stay away too long from the oul' bike and we rented 2 to have a look around the island. For some reason we found heads turning to look at us everywhere we went. It can only be for one of the following reasons: tourists on bikes are rare to see, they thought they had found the woman of their dreams as "Me Ma" flew past them like a mirage or maybe it was because I was wearing my helmet backwards? Anyway, it was hard work with the heat, but we also had lots of heavy downpours. Somehow you get the heavy rain but without the thunder and lightning that you'd get at home. This is where the friendly people I expected to find on the island came out and offered us cover.

By the way, to any of you young single white females - the Caribbean is the place to come to!!! Even if it's expensive, you certainly will leave feeling good about yourself. Not only do they offer you compliments on how attractive you look, but they also make you feel young again - one guy offered a guess of 25 for my age, only 4 years too many but still close none the less!!!!

Notes

Number of bites : 2
Number of freckles : increasing dramatically
Number of dates asked out on: 2

Things I learned

The sugar cane industry was the main income earner for the island for quite some time. This was the case for many of the Caribbean islands. It was first produced in the Caribbean in the early 16th century after Columbus brought sugar cane to the Americas on his second voyage in 1493. By 1700, West Indian planters were amongst the richest in the Americas.

The wild ancestor of sugar cane originates in eastern Asia and the production of sugar by boiling it's juice was first discovered in India probably around the 1st millenium BC. Unlike most grasses it's woody stems are filled with a sweet sap. Once cut, the juice must be extracted within 24 - 48 hours otherwise the sucrose content begins to fall. Depending on rainfall and the age of the cane, the yield can be something like the following:

1 acre of land : 30 - 60 loads of cane
1 load of cane : 50 - 100 gallons of juice
1 gallon juice : 1 pound sugar

Molasses is formed from the drippings of the drying process and this can be used to flavour rum which is in itself a product of sugar cane.

Unfortunately sugar cane production was labour intensive and the islands alone couldn't supply the number of people required to work the fields and factories. For this reason, slaves from Africa were brought in and when slavery was abolished indentured servants from India were brought over. Advocates of cruelty in Antigua of the 1750's demonstrated that it was cheaper to wear slaves out young "before they become useless" and buy fresh stock from the ships when they died rather than to support the slaves into old age when they would be crippled by incessant labour.

In order to protect themselves from revolt, planters had created divisions between slaves but this was no longer of any benefit when slavery was legally abolished in the British Empire in 1833. The law was implemented in 1834 but complete freedom didn't come until 1838. At this point, the British West Indies (BWI) was no longer able to compete in the suger market with other sugar producers.

In an attempt to rescue the sugar industry in St Kitts, the government nationalized all sugar lands and bought the central factory (owners resisted as the prices offered for their land were dramatically lower than they wanted [rather ironic considering the history of the use of slavery in the industry!!!]). With the topography of St Kitts though, 80% of the cane still had to be cut by hand and so labout costs were higher than any other sugar producing nation and so on the 16th December 2004, the government announced that it would exit from sugar production on the 30th July 2005.
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