Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines:  June 1 - June 3, 2009

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Just a scant 21 miles south of Bequia lies Canouan ("can-no-wan"), a small boot-shaped island with plenty of hills and panoramic views (cf. pics, below) just right for hiking.   The waters are crystal clear; anchored in 20 feet we could see perfectly the starfish on the bottom.   We were anchored in Charlestown Bay, out in front a bit from the Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club.   Enjoying a beer at their beach bar after one of our hikes, we asked Peter, the barkeep, about how the resort was faring during this period of world-wide economic downturn. 

"Not very well", he replied.  "Last year at this time we had 75% to 80% occupancy in our 40 units.   Today, we have 0%".

We could see for ourselves another indicator:  The Moorings company has a base in the bay for their charter vessels;  it is not a good sign when most of the moorings are filled with un-rented boats.

Fortunately for the island, there is a massive resort area that occupies the entire northern half of the island, and that employs some 600 people.   Created by the Canouan Resort Development Company (CRD), and now run as a Raffles Resort, the development features a golf course, tennis courts, villas, 180 rooms, a casino, a church, a beach-side restaurant and bar with a swimming pool, and a fancy spa.  It is a gated community with guards at the entry points, and everyone must seek permission to enter.   As we did, since the development also surrounds the highest peak on the island:  877-foot Mt. Royal.   CRD has pledged to keep the peak and its immediate surroundings free from development.   It took some doing for us to get in.  They wanted us to purchase a day pass, which would include lunch and transportation to/from our anchorage and the trailhead of the path up the mountain.   A mere $125 (US) per person.   We didn't really need transportation, we responded, since we were on the hike for exercise and were already at the resort.  We had really hoped to be able to hike to the top, since we were on a mission to climb the highest peak on each of the islands, we explained.   The guard called a supervisor, who repeated the offer of a day pass, and we repeated the somewhat-exaggerated but hopefully compelling story.  The supervisor consulted a higher-ranked supervisor.   He repeated.   We repeated.   It worked!   We were given permission to walk the concrete road through the development up past the casino to the dirt road which lead to the well-marked and apparently-fresh path that zigzagged sharply up the forested slope.

(An aside:  all of the personnel we dealt with were extremely cordial and friendly.  $125 per person may seem like the policy of cold money-grubbing automatons, but the real-live people we came in contact with were genuinely warm.   Indeed, a construction worker noticed us pausing to consult a map, and took the time to jump in a pickup and show us the way to the dirt road leading to the path.)

The trees/bushes on the slope were fruiting small dark red berries, and as we climbed we repeatedly flushed heavy dark-bodied pigeons away from their feasting.   The summit itself is a pinnacle of sharp-edged boulders that appear to be rather precariously balanced.  Nearby, and just slightly lower, is a flatter, larger area called the "base camp".  There, we found a waterproof bag that we at first thought had been forgotten by a careless hiker, but soon realized contained a guest book.

It was a very nice hike.   Compared to climbing Mt. Pelee, very easy indeed.   Times:  45 minutes from anchorage to entrance gate.   100 minutes from gate to summit.   Your Mileage May Vary.


Barb on dirt road that leads to the path up Mt. Royal

Sign on concrete road that indicates turnoff onto dirt road

Canouan mean island of turtles in the Carib language. We saw many of these guys in our ascent of Mt. Royal

On the summit

At the base camp

Casino as seen from base camp

Signing the guest book at the base camp

Panorama taken at the summit

There are two roads up to the development.   We took the most direct on our Mt. Royal adventure, and then on the next day used the eastern road to again go north.   Our objective was to enjoy the spectacular vistas of Windward Bay behind the impressive Grand Cois Reef.   After walking for a spell on the road along the eastern ridge, we found a spot to get down to the shore.   Down we went, expecting to later find another way back up.   Oops.   Soon we ran out of beach, and had to clamber over the rocks along the shore.   No problem, that is fun too.   But then we rounded a corner and there was the Raffles Resort.   Oh oh.   Do we go all the way back or do we enter the resort from the sea and just apologize when we are challenged?   Going back didn't sound very adventurous.   When we climbed over a wooden rail to access a tasteful building overhanging the shore, we discovered there were no stairs going up the cliff back to the road.   Just a venicula, with the car at the top, and us at the bottom.  No operator.   Barb entered the building, and encountered a young woman of Asian heritage who said that the building, and the two outliers, were part of the Raffles Spa.   We asked about getting out to the main gate, and she immediately called the security.   All very graciously, of course.   Well, maybe not "of course".   No frowns.  No scolds.   Just gracious eye-meeting hospitality.  Not really the kind of treatment one can ever expect.   So there was nothing "of course" about it.   A security officer would soon be there to give us a ride to the gate, we were told.   So we waited a spell, and learned that a massage runs about $gazillion.  And that the outlying units cost more, since they are used for folks who want an extended treatment, and privacy.   The floors of those units are glass so guests can watch the fish swimming below while having a massage.  The officer showed up and took us in a golf cart to the east gate, and was, of course, extremely friendly and cordial.

Along the eastern road -- note Mt. Royal of left rear and the casino on the right rear

High on a ridge is this plateau which is the site of a very old fort

Barb on the beach just after we went down -- note the rocky point in the background

Raffles Spa as we discovered it when we rounded the bend

Outlying units of the spa -- for extended treatments

Gate that closed behind us as we left the exclusive resort

Panorama of the eastern shore behind Grand Cois Reef