Welcome to the Jungle – a visit to the Treehouse Bush Bar

When Capt. Mike and I heard rumors of a secret rum shack built in the forest high above Admiralty Bay and only accessible by foot path, we knew we had to find it!

We’re on the right track!

On our first visit to the Treehouse Bush Bar we joined a tour and took a bus up the steep concrete road to the trail and then walked about a half a mile to the bar. Well that wasn’t so hard! So for our next visit, we called ahead to make sure the owner Ken would be available and we organized a big group of cruisers to walk there from the main dinghy dock in Port Elizabeth, Bequia.

Welcome to Bequia! The town dinghy dock

What a fun afternoon! I’m glad I wore running shoes, not flip flops, because island roads climb straight up! With warm weather all year round, they clearly don’t build roads to accommodate snow and ice! It took our motley crew about a half hour to trek through town and up, up, up, huffing and puffing all the way. After a break to catch our breath and gather the stragglers we turned off road and onto a lovely, shaded path. As long as you keep right at every fork in the path you can’t get lost – left turns lead to local homes and small subsistence farms.

After crossing a small bamboo bridge and following cobblestones for the final 100 meters, we got our first glimpse of the Bush Bar. It’s so cool! Ken has spent at least three years, clearing the land, carrying building supplies in on his back, and building a small wooden and bamboo building all by hand and all by himself. Small trees grow through the boards on the porch, providing a bit of shade. The view from that porch is stunning – it really does feel like you are looking down on the yachts in the Bay from a tree house up in the clouds.

Ken has a solar panel rigged up to a set of golf cart batteries that power a small cooler of beers and a speaker for music. If you’re not a beer drinker, there’s a big thermos jug of rum punch. What else do you need? A few tree stumps provide somewhat rickety chairs, and there’s a table or two for playing dominoes. Ken really deserves to be proud of the little oasis he has built here!

If you’re going to sit on a “chair” you need to have good balance!

The next time you find yourself in Bequia, I highly recommend a trek to the Bush Bar!

The view from the Bush Bar

Into the clouds…

Capt. Mike and I last climbed the La Soufrière volcano on St Vincent 20 years ago, so of course my memories of it are SHARP! Just kidding. My memories of that hike are actually as foggy as the thick clouds at the top of a volcanic mountain. So when Peter on SV Bakoua organized a trip to climb La Soufrière, we jumped at the chance to join.

For the first time in ages, we set an alarm for 5:00 am in order to take the 6:30 ferry from Bequia to Kingston, St Vincent. Oof, that’s a rough start to the day! And a rough passage crossing the channel between the islands. Jimmy met us at the ferry terminal with his big white van (after another taxi driver tried to poach us: “Who you waiting for? Jimmy? I know Jimmy. He tell me to pick you up”. Yeah, right!) It took about an hour and a half to drive up the east coast of St Vincent with Jimmy pointing out some of the changes since we last visited just before the volcano erupted in April 2021. We turned off the main road onto a skinny, bumpy track heading inland, past the sign saying “Volcano trail temporarily closed” 😆 We were the first bus to pull into the parking lot – yay! no cruise ship crowds!

We laced up our shoes, grabbed hiking sticks, and headed out into the bush. We made it barely 50 meters up the trail before the rain started. We were smart enough to bring rain jackets but, sheesh I didn’t expect to need them so soon. Luckily, the vegetation of the rain forest protected us quite a bit, and to be honest the jungle is quite atmospheric and dramatic in the heavy fog and light rain.

The first milestone on the climb that really proved we were walking on a volcano was crossing a riverbed of hardened lava. The lava stream was left behind by the eruption of 1979. Because of all the rain, the river was raging and full of dirt and ash, looking like a river of chocolate milk. It took a little encouragement to get me to jump across the flow!

Soon enough, we climbed out of the jungle and encountered the open, gravely flank of the top of the volcano. Instead of a trail, we now followed a series of rock cairns and plastic bottles topping branches. And a trail of blown-out shoes, lol. Holy cow, the rain and wind really got serious at this point. Capt. Mike estimates the gale-force wind speeds at the top between 50 and 70 knots, using the Beaufort Scale and later Googling “How strong does wind need to be to blow a person sideways”. 😆 Yep. I’d pick up one foot to climb, and find myself blown a bit to the left, planting that foot a couple of feet further left than I had planned. I should have eaten more Christmas cookies! Did I mention the rain? By this point, the gentle rain had transformed into big powerful drops, driving sideways into us with such force, we couldn’t decide if it was pure rain or hail. I had so much water running down my face and off the tip of my nose, it was tough to tell whether it was rain, tears, or snot. But at this point, the summit was only a couple hundred meters away, so we persevered. No lingering on the summit! We snapped a couple pictures and a short video and headed down to safety and comfort.

For some reason, the first little bit of downhill seemed even harder than the climb. I guess we were aiming a little straighter into the wind. And we were also trying to find the trail, instead of just talking any old route to the top. Kasia crab-walked sideways, and I was extremely grateful for two hiking poles. It wasn’t until we reached the shelter of the trees again that we could relax and stop for a quick snack and to drink some water. The rest of the trail was a walk in the park, and we found ourselves back at the van in no time. Soaked to the skin but at least it’s the tropics so we aren’t going to die of frostbite!

All in all, it was one of those “An adventure is never fun while you are having it” days, but we truly felt like we conquered the mountain. Now I’ll bet these memories of hiking La Soufrière won’t fade as quickly as those uneventful, nice weather, shorts-and-t-shirts memories from 20 years ago!

Playing tourist in St Vincent

Sanitas is safely tucked into Admiralty Bay on the island of Bequia in St Vincent and the Grenadines, greatly looking forward to an island Christmas. 🎄 Yesterday, we went on a grand adventure to the nearby big island of St Vincent to explore its west coast and to visit waterfalls, and the REAL Pirates of the Carribean 🏴‍☠️

Have I admitted our greatest fault as a cruising couple? We ALWAYS run a bit late. This time, I blame the Rum Shack Tour we attended the night before. Our cruising friends on SV Sonder must have been a little worried, because they called us “Are you awake? Are you on your way to the ferry? Should we just buy our tickets and go aboard?” No worries, mon. We made it just in time and found great seats on the upper deck to watch the world go by for the 1-hour ferry trip to the big island.

Fraser (the best tour guide in St Vincent!) met us at the ferry terminal, waving wildly to get our attention amid the hustle and bustle of Kingstown on one of the last full shopping days before Christmas. The six of us settled into his pristine white van and set off through the capital city traffic and soon onto the quieter, winding, motion-sickness-inducing west coast “highway”. After stops at stunning viewpoints of Kingstown and several black sand beaches, we made it to gorgeous DarkView Falls. We set off on an intrepid hike through the jungle, crossing a swaying bamboo bridge over a raging river to find the falls. Just kidding! We all did the walk in flip flops. The falls are impressive and beautiful, but today the pool was a bit too shallow for swimming. Fraser did jump in long enough to find us some cute little freshwater crayfish to cuddle.

Next stop, Walliabou Bay where Disney built an entire small city to play the part of Port Royal in the first Pirates of the Carribean movie. Much of it has faded over the years, but the jetty and a few buildings have been preserved as a museum. And of course there’s a bar/restaurant whose walls are covered with photos of the stars Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly smiling and mugging for the camera with local kids. Fraser told us a few stories about the filming and how it completely took over the island – there were no hotel rooms anywhere on the island, with some crew staying on yachts and even a boat ride away on Bequia. It’s kind of fun – by now we’ve sailed Sanitas into many of the most beautiful spots where the franchise was filmed. We’re going to have to watch all of the movies again!

Fraser’s own house is just down the road from Pirates of the Caribbean Bay. He was kind enough to take us there to meet his family and see his backyard garden. He taught us the island method of picking mangos. Did you ever think about how they get all 800-1000 ripe mangos off a mature tree before they fall to the ground or get eaten by birds? Apparently, you cut the longest bamboo stalk you can find, tie a bag to the end, and hoist the whole massive thing into the air grabbing one mango at a time with the bag. No mango is safe from Fraser’s skill. If I were in charge, only the birds would be fed.

Part of the fun of a Fraser tour is listening the Fraser’s stories – he’s the same tour guide we hired last year for a tour of the east coast of the island just days before the Soufriere volcano erupted! He’s lived and worked his entire life in St Vincent and is clearly a brilliant mind for business and a respected member of the community – proved by how many people stopped to wave and talk to him as we drove through each small town. We learned about Fraser’s childhood of walking 5 miles each way to school when the buses broke down. And his long career as a math teacher and accountant before a layoff inspired him to start his own tour and taxi business. And about his two very smart kids studying accounting and law in Trinidad. Maybe a future prime minister of St Vincent? After a lovely lunch on a black sand beach, we headed back to the hustle and bustle of Kingstown for a bit of veggie shopping before the return ferry. We honestly didn’t need much, because Fraser sent each couple home with three massive mangos from his tree, a huge papaya, and a hand of sweet red bananas.

When our ferry arrived safely back in Bequia after an extremely rough ride, I picked up my Christmas present to myself – a massive bouquet of ginger and birds-of-paradise flowers that arrived on the same ferry. I knew it was going to be big, but was still slightly shocked by the size of the bunch I received for about $15usd. I kept about half of the bouquet and turned it into my tropical Christmas “tree” while Capt. Mike played Santa and delivered extra flowers to three of our buddy boats. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas on Sanitas!

Our “Best Of” tour of the Grenadines

After leaving Dominica, we had to come to grips with the fact that our cruising season on Sanitas is almost at an end. Hurricane season is right around the corner, and it’s time to head south to Grenada to get ready. The country of St Vincent and the Grenadines still requires a COVID test and expensive health check fee to enter, so we almost skipped it. But…we had so much fun in SVG last winter, we couldn’t imagine heading south without stopping at our favorite anchorages. So here’s a glimpse of our favorite places south of St Vincent and north of Grenada 😎

We sailed Sanitas past St Lucia, admiring the stunning beauty of the pitons. And we had a salty sail down the coast on St Vincent before dropping anchor in what feels like our winter home of Bequia.

Our favorite things to do in Bequia are to hike to beautiful viewpoints, enjoy the fish chowder at Coco’s, to lime on Princess Margaret beach, and to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  This year, we also had the privilege of participating in the naming ceremony for Popeye and Lisa’s beautiful homemade wooden sailing dinghy Velocette.

We tore ourselves away from bustling, exciting Bequia and headed south to the paradise of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. There’s nothing here but nature, but wow is it beautiful. we snorkeled with turtles and rays, climbed to gorgeous viewpoints, and ate a delicious barbecue on the beach cooked by our friends Romeo and Juliette ❤️ If you’re ever in the area, Tobago Cays can’t be missed!

Our next little downwind hop to Union Island was a short, sweet sail. We nestled Sanitas right into our favorite anchor spot behind the reef in Clifton and went ashore to look around. Clifton looks great! Perhaps the number of tourists who are returning now as COVID restrictions ease is bringing valuable money back to the island. Lots of buildings have had a new coat of bright colored paint, and there are some cute new bars and restaurants. We made the 30-minute trek over the hill to the most beautiful beach on Union and spent the afternoon at Sparrows Beach Club. I warned you that this would be our “best of” reel, didn’t I? Lunch at Sparrows really did feel like a vacation from our vacation.

After another easy downwind sail, we cleared into the country of Grenada on sleepy Carriacou. We hiked with baby goats, got our Pfizer booster shots, and reconnected with a friend we hadn’t seen since Grenada. Every Wednesday afternoon is Paint and Sip at Allison’s Paradise Beach Club. It’s a great chance to meet other sailors, enjoy a delicious cocktail, and eat a wonderful meal. Our boat name sign that we painted in November 2020 is still there – along with a couple hundred newer works of art!

Sanitas will be pointing her bow south again in a few days, enjoying her last sail of the season. Soon, we’ll be back in her summer home in Prickly Bay, and Capt. Mike and I will be working our butts off to get her ready for hurricane season storage. Yikes. Until then, we’ll enjoy every sunset we can experience on the water 🌅

Hiking our little legs off on Bequia

One of our favorite things to do on Bequia is to go on long walks, ending in beautiful vistas. On this trip, it was particularly attractive to get off the boat and go for a walk to escape the sawdust, smell of varnish, and chaos in the cockpit as our big brightwork project progressed. About every other day, we’d eat breakfast, welcome Winfield to the boat and get him all set up for the day’s work, put a couple of Hairoun beers in a cooler for him, and off we’d go!

The easiest hike is a road walk to Fort Hamilton on the northwest side of Admiralty Bay. I can do this one in flip flops with only the tiniest blisters ensuing. But it’s lovely to sit in the shade and the breeze and watch the water from the ruins of the fort. One unique feature of Fort Hamilton shows the strange colonial history of the island. Two of the five cannons in place are French, while the other three are English!

View from Fort Hamilton
Waving goodby to Bequia

Alternatively, you’d better wear comfy shoes and bring a lot of water for the hike to North Head. The daytime temperatures are usually around 85deg Fahrenheit in December, so the first time Capt. Mike and I did this 9-mile walk it felt like a death march. But the views of the big island of St Vincent are so gorgeous, and the final couple of miles of dirt trail through the forest so lovely, we had to try it again a week later. As an added bonus, you get to check out the sea state on the rougher ocean side of the island from a safe distance – it made us really appreciate the protection of Admiralty Bay where Sanitas floated safe and sound. Be warned, the trails turn into a confusing tangle at one point, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for the flip flop in a tree that marks the left turn 😜

St Vincent in the distance
We made it!

I mentioned the walk to Spring View park in my last post about a magical Sunday. The views from the park are almost as good as those from North Head and it’s much shorter. We did this hike three times and highly recommend it for beginners. The walk is mostly on paved road with about a mile of gravel road, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’ll be easy! Island roads aren’t built to contend with snow and ice, so they pretty much build ‘em straight up… and straight down!

I’ve saved the best for last. The climb to Peggy’s Rock is short and sweet with a huge reward at the top. I do this one by myself just for a bit of exercise when the Captain is too busy with boat projects to join me. Even though I did this hike five or six times in the month we stayed on Bequia, I couldn’t resist snapping a pic or two of the majestic rock and the view of the bay each time. It’s fun to assess how crowded the anchorage is from this vantage point. We definitely saw a swell in numbers between Christmas and New Years, and then the crowds thinned a bit as cruisers went their separate ways. Capt. Mike dipped his toe into a second career as a tour guide on this one. A British family wanted to know how to find the trail to Peggy’s Rock so Mike offered to guide them if they’d pay for the taxi. He had to admit, “I don’t know the history of this walk, or the names of any of the trees or cactus you’ll pass, but I’ll get you up and back safely and you’ll love the views.” He received only positive reviews! Next time, I think he should just make stuff up, don’t you?

Our new hiking friends, aged 8 years to 75 years
I didn’t want to bore you with Peggy’s Rock photos, so here’s a collage!

By the way, if you enjoy finding new hikes and walks while on vacation, I highly recommend an app named Wikiloc. It allows you to search for walks, bike rides, and even sails or kayak routes near you. When you find a route you like, you can follow it on your phone. The app vibrates and beeps to let you know when you’ve wandered off the trail, and lets out a celebratory “Ta-Da!” when you’ve retraced your steps and found it again. Also, maps.me is a great compliment to Google maps. It shows many more walking trails and paths than you’ll find on Google maps, and it’s easy to download the maps for the area that you’re visiting so you’ll have access even when you’re off line. I hope you enjoy these tips to help you get outside and explore wherever you travel. Have a nice walk!