John had a few days off from teaching, so we finally decided to get off Saint Maarten and take a short flight to Nevis, the quiet sister island to St. Kitts. Nevis largely escaped Hurricane Irma’s wrath and a few friends recommended it as a tranquil getaway. Even though we waited to the last minute, the flight was affordable, and we hustled and booked everything within 24 hours.
At nine in the morning, we landed at the tiny Nevis airport. The baggage handler opened the plane’s gang plank and yelled “This is Nevis- Welcome to Paradise!”
We were the only passengers to disembark as the other 5 people on our plane were traveling on to St. Kitt’s. There was no line at immigration, and our luggage was simply brought in from the tarmac and placed near the customs official. After a few questions about guns, drugs, and other contraband, we headed out to pick up our rental car. We were off the plane and through the airport in less than 10 minutes.
Claude (an independent entrepreneur) had told us he would meet us with the rental car, but we didn’t see anyone waiting outside the only building. After a few minutes, the airport supervisor asked “Who are you renting from? Claude? I’ll give him a call.” She had him on speed dial.
When Claude appeared, he had a dirty 2006 Honda CRV. He said it was an upgrade from the other cars he had available, plus we could take it off road. I guess we look like off road people. The car was just missing one door handle on the passenger side. After signing papers and exchanging phone numbers, Claude packed up his office (put everything in a bag) and left.
We buckled up, tried the ignition and … nothing. Not even a starter noise. Several tries later, we decided to give Claude a call to come back when the baggage handler appeared. He figured out how to pop the hood (it really was not obvious), messed with the battery connections, and the car started. In retrospect, the baggage handler seemed to know the car.
We were on our way. Our hotel was 5 minutes from the airport, so we dropped bags at the front desk and headed out to explore. Aside from an occasional chicken and some goats in remote hiking spots, we rarely see wandering farm animals on St. Maarten. Nevis not only has chickens, but free range goats- lots of them, everywhere. The goats enjoy cruising the one main road, crossing at random and eating the grass closest to traffic. The island also boasts a healthy population of burros, no doubt brought to the island by early European settlers. The free range burros also like to wander the roads, as well as the beaches, leaving behind treasures mixed in with the seashells.
Dodging goats and burros, we bumped down the one road that circles the island on the way to the only town. John began sharing what little knowledge he knew about Nevis. I had not bothered to look anything up, so I was eager to hear.
“There are more monkeys on this island than people, ” he claimed. This seemed like a typical “John” comment and I thought there was a high probability of untruth. I gave him a withering look, certain he was just saying random stuff to mess with me.
“There are no monkeys on this island.” No sooner did the words come out of my mouth, then a rather large monkey ran out in front of our car and into the overgrown vegetation. Apparently, Caribbean monkeys are a thing on some of the islands.
We had planned to hike on the island, as it is mountainous and it seemed like a good, free activity, but those monkeys live up in the hills. We thought it best to ask a few local people about them. The island residents consider them pests when it comes to their orchards and gardens, and were clear the monkeys were on the large side and not afraid of humans. The receptionist at the botanical gardens told us one jumped right up on her shoulder and tried to steal her earphones, and she had to fight him off. (Must have been expensive earphones.) We decided we could hike on St. Maarten.
We checked out some beaches on the island, and snorkeled at Pinney’s Beach. John saw a lobster, and there were huge schools of tangs, yellow jacks and sargent majors. We had a good time and then the afternoon turned rainy, so we headed back to our car. It only took five tries for the starter to catch. Every time we parked, we crossed our fingers and kicked the car a few times. Eventually, John would get it to start.
Our last night on the island, we arrived at the restaurant and the car died for good. Fortunately, people were available and the hostess let us use her phone to call Claude. As we ordered a drink, the manager assured us Claude would show up because he lived right down the road. Sometime during dinner, Claude switched out the car and this time we got a true upgrade- a clean car with a full tank of gas, although the GPS was in Chinese. Well, there is just one road.
Despite earphone stealing monkeys, pooping burros, and unruly goats, Nevis was lovely. The primary activity on the island is beaching. Lots of people reading, relaxing, and enjoying the diving sea gulls and the local fishermen. The botanical gardens were very zen, with Asian sculpture, parrots and exotic plants. And the food was great.
But the best part of Nevis? The local people. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and called us John and Mary. And everyone was so relaxed. Their attitude was infectious.
I would recommend Nevis as a relaxing side-trip if you are on another island and want to escape crowds and nightlife. Just be sure to ask Claude for the upgrade.