Our last night in Union Island before leaving for a 2 night stay on Mayreau, was different in that for several hours the whole island had a power cut. For us it meant that we suddenly had silence instead of the constant hum of the power station below us and we were entertained with watching the few engineers try repeatedly to get the generator restarted. It also meant supper being cooked (on gas) with our head torches on! Needless to say an early night ensued and was followed by a 5.15am alarm call for us to catch the 6.30am School Boat to Mayreau arriving just before 7am.
On waking we found a rat or mouse had eaten through the top band / thong of Annie’s brand new flip flops (which incidentally she really loved), this was not only annoying but puzzling as it hadn’t attacked the bag of mainly food rubbish we had by the door ready to take to the dustbin on our walk down to the jetty. However it did explain the mystery that when Richard had killed several cockroaches a few nights before as to why their carcasses weren’t there in the morning.
Mayreau is tiny and supposedly the smallest inhabited island with a population of around 300 people and one tarmac road running its full length of about 1.5 kms from the ferry jetty and beach up a very steep hill to the top where the islands original church is situated and then down an equally steep but even longer hill the other side to a lovely beach and yacht anchorage.
This road had a number of spurs off it which were mainly rough tracks for walking or just about accessible in a 4×4. No surprise that Annie explored most of them either running or walking!
Arriving at our guesthouse around 7.15am (we hadn’t been able to find any Airbnb apartments online) we found it all locked up and no one around. As it was so early we went across the road to a restaurant that was open and had a coffee whilst we waited until the cleaner arrived and she showed us to our room. When chatting with the restaurant owner he mentioned that his other business next door was all self-contained apartments! Somewhat galling to say the least as here they are also suffering a lack of tourists so had plenty of availability. We were quick to suggest he improves his marketing!
We were the only guests staying at Dennis’ Hideaway, a very basic guesthouse but more than adequate for our two night stay in Mayreau. Everyone was very friendly on the island and as most of the visitors arrive and leave by sailing boat there were only a handful of us staying on land. There is little to do in Mayreau except walk and admire the stunning views, visit the beaches to swim in the crystal clear sea and chat to the locals who all seem to take life at a leisurely pace. We enjoyed spending time on the busy but beautifully calm Salt Whistle Bay and took shelter from the sun in a local bar right on the water.
The bay is a haven for the sailing community and on the other, very windy side of the tiny peninsular is a popular kite surfing spot.Another day we were the only people on a long narrow beach on the windward side of the island where a new family run restaurant is situated. We had met one of the owners whilst buying some beers from his wholesale liquor store and by the time we left we had met at least 5 members of his family.
On our walks to the beach we couldn’t fail to notice a large area of ground with a meeting hall and other fairly new buildings beyond a sign at the entrance for YWAM (Youth with a Mission) www.ywamsvg.org. So we called in and met Jess one of the volunteers and she told us all about the work of this Christian Missions Organisation. The only reason the headquarters for St Vincent and the Grenadines are on this tiny island is that they were gifted a 45 acre piece of land here in 2008 and since then they have built a huge sports / meeting hall and accommodation for the volunteers. Their work involves multi-island youth camps, sports camps and a children’s ministry and partnership with the schools in the islands. The reason this struck a chord with us was that Annie remembered her family had connections with YWAM from when she was a child.
Leaving Mayreau on Friday 8th March at 4.30 pm via the school boat once again (£4 each for the crossing) we had a one night stay back in our apartment on Union Island before catching our 08.45am flight to St Vincent. The flight was full this time, we guess that may be due to the ferry we intended to take being in dock. Looking down from the plane we never tire of the awesome beauty of the sea and landscape below us when flying over the islands of the Grenadines.
St Vincent’s buses (read minivan) haven’t changed over the years and an already full bus stopped to pick us up by the airport road and the conductor managed to fit us and our bags in by getting everyone to squash up even more. At every stop as others got on and off Richard, who was sitting by the door and clutching one of our big rucksacks on his lap, had to clamber in and out himself for the entire 50 minute journey. As he got hotter and sweatier this became harder and seemed to both entertain and amuse the other passenger including Annie. The bus drivers are crazy, driving at break-neck speeds and we concluded that as long as you are in a sitting position – never mind if you have a seat or not then the bus will go. We arrived at the ferry terminal with 10 minutes to spare before catching The Bequia Express Ferry across the water arriving at Port Elizabeth just before 1pm.
As we arrived into the bay in Bequia we saw a large TUI Cruise Ship at anchor and our hearts dropped. This has been a bit of a sadness for us on this trip. Almost every island we have visited seems to have a regular invasion of cruise ship passengers, even small islands like Mayreau and whilst this may be good for some local businesses the ship passengers do tend to swamp what are small island communities.
From our point of view this does little to attract the sort of tourists the islands so desperately need e.g. those who stay for a period of time and truly benefit the local economy. The ships that moored off Mayreau actually bought to shore their own food, water and sports equipment so the island didn’t benefit at all.