We’re BAAACK! Well sort of. We’re really a now-you-see-us-now-you-don’t peripatetic pair. Since we last visited this blog in December 2012, we have been to Europe 2 times, the Caribbean, and Alaska. Some many months ago (forever, it seems now) when we were winding down our 14-month trip by staying in Plettenberg South Africa, we were robbed and among the things taken were both of our laptops on which our text for the blog and some thousands of photos were stored. The laptops were meant to be our back-ups of all of this because we thought that there was a greater chance of having our camera gear stolen. We kept our laptops in our possession at all times. Ironically, we had rented a house on the beach in a 24-7 patrolled community and felt safe enough there to leave the laptops in the house while we went on a walk on the beach. Our house was patrolled by more than rent-a-cops…. We believe that the thieves were watching the house and were in and out in less than 5 minutes. That experience and the hassles that followed took a lot of the steam out of our energy for the blog. Well, so we resume now with the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Maarten, and St. Barts. Then we will move to present time for our current 4-month or so trip around the U.S. of A. We are presently in Austin, Texas…. More about that later. The Caribbean was beautiful, remarkable, and rich in history. Expected aspects included wonderful people, beautiful seas, swimming, snorkeling, and natural resources. Less expected: the history is more interesting than Jimmy Buffett. Not expected: the islands are much less developed than either of us expected. Large areas of each of the islands have been permanently protected for their natural beauty. With one exception, the maximum number of people on the beaches that we saw was five. For the first part of our trips to St. Kitts (our base) we stayed in a circa-1700 stone cottage on a long-abandoned sugar plantation located very near where Thomas Jefferson’s family also had a sugar plantation. Sugar, rum, and its various by-products have long since lost the competition to the new 20th century slave states growing sugar today. Tourism has replaced it as the central economic force today ranging from fly-ins like us to the wide assortment of sailing, yachting, and humongous show-boats from the Cayman Islands’ offshore tax haven holders. Ancient by US standards, the European influences began, of course, with Columbus. But natives had been canoeing up the island chains for hundreds of years before that. In the centuries that followed Columbus the islands have been fought over, sold back and forth to finance wars elsewhere, and of course havens for the pirates whose trade (sanctioned by their home governments like Holland and the UK) focused on relieving the Spanish of the gold and silver that they had plundered from the Indians of the Americas. St. Kitts is quiet. Like the other islands in the West Indies Leeward Islands, the sea is quite rough and relatively cooler on the Atlantic side compared to the more tranquil and warmer waters of the Caribbean side. The personalities and cultures follow with the yachties and beachcombers mainly on the Caribbean side and the quieter former sugar plantations on the ocean side. One day we spent on a wonderful beach on the Caribbean side, one of the many cruise ships had disgorged from a bus a herd of cruisers who were drunk, disorderly, and loud. We did not return to that beach. Weather patterns follow the high volcanic ridges that divide the islands down the middle—the Atlantic blowing rain-laden clouds to the East side (making it better for the sugar industry) cooling the hills every evening. On the Caribbean side, the warmer and drier climate is better suited to the beachcombers. Evenings were action-packed with a variety of local rum punches, pina coladas, rousing discussions with Bunny in full-interview mode of waitresses, local business folks, and tourists from all over but mainly Europe. St Kitts was a strategic location in the islands for the English and the French and they fought over, traded, and sold it back and forth for a couple of centuries. Today it enjoys the independence that it received from the UK in the 1960s. Several forts around the island were intended to threaten the opposition (mainly the French until they took it over in the middle of the US fight for independence). The largest fort, Fort Brimstone Hill, is located on a steep mountain overlooking the sea. It was considered a death sentence to be assigned duty there by soldiers in the 1700s but not because of the combat threat but rather from disease, malaria, scurvy, cholera, or any of the other numerous dangers….. so much for paradise.

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