Do you drive in the islands? By that I mean, do you brave sometimes narrow roads, occasional sinkhole-sized potholes, and possibly driving on a different side of the road, all in the name of island exploration? Maybe...yes? No? Granted, it's not fair to generalize, but Caribbean island driving can feel like you've been inserted into a daring video game (if that game included wandering goats and random chickens).
(A steep section of street in Grenada. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)
I (Laura) have to confess that especially when we visit isles with British heritage, where they drive on the left, I let my better half, Zickie, get behind the wheel. Not only did he grow up driving the sometimes-perilous roads of Kingston, Jamaica, he also mastered the art of ascending into the Blue Mountains in a 4 wheel drive Land Rover...on roads that might not be paved at all. In other words, he's an island driving expert.
(An interestingly patched and narrow road, Grenada. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
On our recent trip to Grenada and Carriacou, once again I left the driving to him. The nice lady from the rental car company told us, "Roads aren't signed very well in Grenada." We nodded cheerfully, not imagining that she meant: most streets truly have no signs. Even with a GPS, we got ourselves lost on Grenada several times. In fact, I finally dubbed driving in Grenada "NFCN" (Not for Caribbean Novices).
(Road near Petite Calivigny, Grenada. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
If I were on Grenada without my Jamaican husband, I think I would definitely need to hire a driver. And it would be worth the expense, because Grenada truly has so much beauty to see well away from the main beaches Grande Anse and Morne Rouge. You can take buses or mini buses, but either way, wheels are required in order to do the Spice Island justice. If, on the other hand, you feel confident enough to get behind the wheel, you'll soon learn that some tehnically two-lane roads, like the one pictured above, have only enough width for only one or one-and-a-half cars. That makes for an exciting experience, if the approaching vehicle does not feel like slowing down or edging over.
(Aha! Blind corner coming up. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Then there's the exhilarating experience of heading into a blind corner -- again, on a very narrow street. My suggestion is to use Zickie's method: tap your horn a few times to give warning to any oncoming cars. This seems to work effectively.
Eventually, we started remembering landmarks that helped us find our way back to our hotel, Le Phare Bleu, on Petite Calivigny Bay. "There's the lime green house!" I might exclaim.
(The helpful lime green house. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Or, Zickie would spot "the yellow wall," and know more or less where we were.
(The yellow wall! Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Driving in Grenada was certainly an adventure, but one we wouldn't have traded for the world. And to be fair, many sections of road were in relatively good condition, and we did discover at least three intersections or traffic circles with road signs. By the end of our stay, we got lost...less!
All Caribbean islands are obviously not alike. In Guadeloupe and Martinique, the roads reflect the islands' French government (and government funding); they are generally well-marked and in excellent condition, and for Americans driving on the right will feel blissfully familiar. In the Dominican Republic, we drove on a beautifully paved four lane highway on the way from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana.
The best part about driving in the islands? Sometimes you head down a lane, start to cross a narrow bridge, and discover something like this:
(What a view. Egmont, Grenada. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)
Views like that make a little extra vigilance to avoid stray goats, street dogs, and speeding pickup trucks worth the effort. When we turned back in our rental car before we took the ferry from St. George's to Carriacou, we gave it an affectionate pat. It had carried us safely through Grenada and helped us see so many lovely sights. We thanked the rental lady, who met us at the harbor to get the keys. "You were right," we told her laughingly. "The roads in Grenada aren't very well signed." No, but sometimes the views will literally take your breath away.
Do you drive in the islands? Have you had any "interesting" experiences? Let us know...by Facebook or on our Guest Island Experts page. Cheers, fellow island lovers.