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  • Writer's pictureAdam Hlasny

Lost and Found in Grenada (Family Adventure, Part II)

Updated: May 12


On a map, Grenada looks minuscule - and let's be honest, at 135 square miles, it is. It's the second smallest independent nation in the Caribbean (after St Kitts and Nevis) and 11th smallest in the world. (If you were wondering, it would fit inside New Hampshire approximately 65 times). However, when it comes time to traverse the island, one might think its petite length would take well under an hour. Wrong. Roads are narrow, winding, and brutally slow. All things considered, average speeds probably top out around 20 miles per hour.


Pensive seaside moment


Our circuitous route would take us northeasterly through the mountainous heart of the Isle of Spice and include several wide-ranging stops. We had budgeted the better part of the day before arriving at our second lodging in the northern town of Sauteurs (pronounced saw-TEZ in the local-speak approximation of its French origin).



Annandale Falls was perhaps the most touristy attraction we'd visit all week. The falls themselves were moderately impressive despite dry local conditions. However, the area had been fully tack-ified, and we were surrounded by more pale Americans than at a NASCAR race. Tour buses arrived in quick succession and disgorged cruise ship day trippers, having miraculously arrived on astoundingly narrow roads. I felt bad for the falls and lush surroundings, which were beautiful. Otherwise, the whole circus-like scene was cringeworthy.



Stop number two, also touristy but with much more room to spread out, was called Grand Étang National Park, and focused around a volcanic crater lake 1,740' above sea level. The panoramic scene spread before us, pure and primitive. Unspeakably lush hills backed up the shallow lake. It appeared as if a dinosaur could emerge at any second. Apparently, there were Mona monkeys in the vicinity, but regrettably we did not see any.

While tour buses abounded here too, most of their human contents remained at the visitor center and didn't venture down to the lake itself, where we were. What a relief.


Grand Etang, Grenada
The Hlasnys at Grand Étang

Despite the busyness of the visitor center area, one of the only restaurant options (really more of a food shack) was absurdly empty. After the typical 45-minute wait, we ended up consuming basic burgers and fried fish on its tiny front porch, facing the potpourri of bustling passersby out front. 70-year-old Americans in tucked-in cotton t-shirts and denim shorts milled about awkwardly, passed by the occasional fume-belching truck, locals sitting astride crops in back (an American safety agency would shut down 90% of this country's transportation system within a day).


Just some abandoned Soviet-era planes at Pearls Airport. Nothing to see here.


Our final stop was Belmont Estate, an organic farm dating back to the 17th century. We had an incredibly interesting tour led by Jay, an intelligent and engaging guide.


Belmont Estate, Grenada
Jay enlightens us on the cocoa harvesting process


Belmont Estate, Grenada
Belmont Estate scene

We learned about crops ranging from cashews to yams, but the tour focused on cocoa processing. It was the perfect way to end what would be the fullest day of the entire trip.


Catnap, Grenada
Not a bad place for a catnap

We pulled into Sauteurs around 4:30, but due to miscommunication with our lodging's host, needed to wait about an hour to get in. The setting was extraordinary, with delightful surf 'n turf views that included some of Grenada's smaller islands. We happened upon a restaurant, perhaps 1/2 mile from our place, that offered an extensive menu at surprisingly reasonable prices, accompanied by the best view I've ever seen from a dining establishment.


Petit Anse, Grenada
Petite Anse Restaurant, we salute thee!

Despite these successes, we were by this point missing the comforts of home. Sauteurs itself was a shabby, underwhelming town with the narrowest main street I'd ever seen. The road was perhaps 18 feet wide, and cars parked on one side made it one claustrophobic travel lane shared by everyone else. If another vehicle came flying toward you, the stressfulness of either backing up or finding a teensy pull-off was legit.


Sauteurs, Grenada
Sauteurs scene

One day we went into town for lunch and entered a place that appeared on Google Maps as a restaurant. Upon walking in to a plain, stifling room, loud music was playing and 3-4 people just stared at us. No acknowledgment of our existence, let alone any kind of welcoming greeting or concern for our obvious lostness. Mentally worn down by days of poor communication and disorganization, we awkwardly departed and returned to the one fabulous restaurant we had found. We'd end up patronizing it four separate times while in the area.


Sauteurs, Grenada
View from above Sauteurs Bay

Sauteurs grew on me slightly a couple days later when we were forced to return to make an ATM withdrawal (which, amazingly enough, worked). Schoolchildren were exercising on a local basketball court and we were actually greeted rather than being ignored. We climbed up to a historic church for commanding views of the harbor and distant hills, contemplating how to reconcile the area's immense beauty with the 'meh' impressions of many of our human interactions.


 

One of our final activities was perhaps most unique of the lot: a nighttime tour of a pristine beach on which - we hoped - we'd see a leatherback turtle laying her eggs. Unclear directions to find the meetup point had us frazzled for the umpteenth time. As I struggled to keep my composure amid days' worth of nagging frustrations, we heard a voice in the near darkness: "Excuse me, I recognize you". Say what?!


Levera Beach, Grenada
Killing time before turtle viewing (Bathway Beach)

Turns out our guide from Belmont Estate also happened to be a leatherback turtle expert. By night he went by Jason, and he remembered the three of us from the previous day's tour. My mood instantly improved, as I'd genuinely enjoyed his personability the other day, and was thrilled that he'd be our guide again. I told you it was a small island.


Leatherback turtle (red light used by researchers so as not to disrupt the egg-laying process)

In any case, our turtle trek turned out remarkably well - we saw not just one, but three giant leatherbacks in different stages of their process: "ascending", or emerging from the sea, laying eggs, and "descending". Witnessing these gentle giants do something they'd done for millions of years was captivating enough, but the late-night beach vibes were marvelous. It was still around 80 degrees but the breeze was strong, constant, and refreshing.



To top it all off, a full moon shone on the endless waves, illuminating the breakers with a tranquil silver glow. We thanked Jason and contentedly made our way back, another tropical evening in the books.


David Beach, Grenada
"Lost Watch Beach"

On our final full day, we decided to take it easy and explore another nearby beach. We splashed and swam, grateful for the opportunity to be here. Toward the end of our time on the sand, I had realized my Fitbit watch was missing - I had removed it before entering the surf and put it down... somewhere.


Witnessing my fruitless search from 20 yards away, a local - who said he was seeking crabs, probably to sell - came over and asked what I'd lost. His face was disfigured, and his right ankle was badly swollen. As we eventually gave up searching the area, my spirits had sunk from what was otherwise a wonderful day. "You will find it" he reassured in his colorful island accent.

David Beach, Grenada
Sailing under late afternoon light

I knew he was just being polite, but some part of me actually believed him. Offering a sad "thanks", we got back in our dusty Suzuki and left. It was fitting that the lost item was one that tethered me to my uptight tendencies, keeping me from fully embracing the joyous disarray of island life.

 

I groggily peeled my head from the pillow, our last morning's fresh light trickling in. I was surprised to find Alyse up before me, something that almost never happens. It was 5:30am. She and I decided to walk down to the beach to catch a final Caribbean sunrise.


We carefully tiptoed down the rickety wooden steps and, unbeknownst to us, into the ethereal. The scene possessed an extraordinary, primal beauty. The sun gradually appeared on the eastern horizon, its glow simultaneously graceful and powerful.


Sunrise, Grenada
These photos do NOT do this sunrise justice

Waves thundering and pleasant breezes caressing our skin, it was so much more than a sunrise. It became almost heavenly, imbuing my entire being with magnificent wonder. The splendor wasn't just before me, but completely surrounded me. Permeated me. Of the hundreds of sunrises I'd seen before, it was undoubtedly the very best. Upon quieting my restless mind, deep truths revealed themselves and reverberated within.



I had lost my watch, but for this moment - both fleeting and eternal - I didn't even care. The humble crab fisherman had possessed great wisdom: maybe the "it" he referred to was far more than an object on my wrist, but the glory of this indescribable sunrise, the overwhelming blessings of family, faith, life, and love. The God-given ability to appreciate it all.


Brimming with gratitude, we finally made our way back, exceptionally richer for what we'd just experienced. The week that had oscillated from perfection to frustration had ended on the highest note possible. I'd found so much more than I'd lost.



 

Back in New Hampshire the following day, I began unpacking my luggage from a trip that defied concise descriptions. I contemplated what to say when folks would ask "how was it"? "Very good", I'd likely reply, the simplicity of this answer failing miserably to describe the nuanced, kaleidoscopic range of experiences.


Then, from below, a slight buzz. Dumbfounded, I eagerly pawed through the backpack that we'd scrutinized multiple times and had traveled several thousand miles with us. There, in a previously unsearched corner, was my watch. What I sought had been with me all along.

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