S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Too Many Monkeys

Thursday, March 8
Charlestown, Nevis

Given that the island of Nevis is only thirty square miles, most of it vertical, we planned to spend very little time here before heading further north. But our guidebook claimed that the hiking is good, and that we could see monkeys (MONKEES!) if we hiked in the vicinity of one of the old sugar plantations that's been turned into a hotel. So, promising Dean a sighting of the latter if we engaged in the former, we took a cab to the Golden Rock Plantation Inn, which invites the public to hike on and around its 96-acre mountainside property.

Cab drivers line the pier in the tiny town of Charlestown like flies line roadkill, asking every passerby, with renewed hope, if he needs a ride or, more profitably, a tour. And though there were four cruise ships of varying sizes anchored off Nevis Thursday, the passengers were either still at their buffets or had contented themselves with ambling up and down the single road that makes up most of Charlestown. Our cab driver told us he'd been waiting on the pier for two hours that morning, and we were his first customers. It lends credence to the rumors we've heard from other islanders that the Caribbean cruise ships sometimes wind up costing the little islands they visit money, as tourists eat and sleep onboard, and only sometimes venture past the first row of shops on the main drag. But SOMEBODY (and we know it's not the tightwad yachties like me) must make it worth the while of these taxi drivers to stand at the pier all day and repeat, ad nauseum, "Taxi today, ma'am? Tour the island?" Even when their question is frequently ignored or sometimes met with a stony glare, as if they were panhandling. The first time I smiled at one such driver in St. John, Antigua and answered pleasantly, "No, thank you," he looked completely shocked, and spent the next thirty seconds wishing me a great day, enjoy the island, and so on.

So you can imagine how thrilled Barry, our cab driver, was when we answered his query, "Yes, please." He was very friendly, so we pumped him with questions about the cruise ships, the town, the island's history, its former sugar industry (all the plantations shut down in the 1950s when the business was no longer profitable), and other agriculture. Unlike most other islands in the area, Nevis does not have many farms. When I expressed surprise, Barry answered, "too many monkeys." Apparently, they eat much food, and destroy what they do not eat. These vervet monkeys that Dean and I were dying to see, and which adorn most Nevis souvenirs, are not indigenous to the island (as David already knew). Some short-sighted Frenchman brought them over several hundred years ago as pets, and now they run wild throughout the island. "They reap, but they do not toil" was how another driver explained to us the farmers' frustration with monkeys.

Our own frustration with the little guys came when we hiked around in the rainforest for three hours and saw nary a one. Having read that they frequently appeared on the inn's grounds in the afternoon, we treated ourselves to lunch in the beautiful mountainside garden. Still no monkeys. We gave up, got in another cab to go back to town, and had just complained to our driver that we had seen no monkeys when he brought the car to a lurching halt. "There!" he said. "Roll down your window and take a picture." Of course, dean had just disassembled the camera and put it away. But the taxi driver spotted about half a dozen monkeys for us. Really, we couldn't have missed them, as they were hanging out by the road, keeping company with the goats, which the taxi driver claims the like to do.


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