To achieve any sort of reward in this life you must first sacrifice. Flying
over in a plane chartered by a certain Russian airline I was to spend the
next nine hours or so being accosted by big women offering me “TEA? COFFEE?” and generally trying not to shout at the two kids sitting to my front who had decided that this plane was their big playground in the sky.
Some time passed.
Eventually I felt the plane dip downward and I could see little blinking lights below me signaling that we had at last left sea and found civilisation. The captain confirmed that we were due to land in Barbados. I was finally getting out of the plane and would welcome any inconvenience be it no hotel rooms or the loss of my luggage.
Upon landing I couldn’t see any kind of recognisable airport, we appeared to be on a runway. Finally getting out of the plane was harder work than I thought it would be, the first thing I noticed was that I found it immensely hard to breathe. One thing you may not know is that there is 80% humidity in the air throughout the Caribbean particularly during the months of July and August. I honestly foresaw myself suffocating for the entire time I would be there.
The airport itself was a few metres away and everyone walked into the mediocre sized terminal to await their luggage which gave me some time to get used to the air. Some more time passed. Slowly.
With my luggage finally in hand I set off to find the nearest hotel eventually finding one near the beach. Getting out of the cab I felt renewed excitement surging through me as a couple of lizards scurried up the wall. Getting a room, I bolted the door, turned on the fan and listened to the sea roll around outside. Magical.
The next day I had gotten used to the air and decided to take a walk around the island, if only for a brief period – it was hot. The sunshine brought a whole new dimension to the nightscape that had greeted me previously, it was a beautiful island with palm trees standing completely still, traffic passing through the roads only intermittently, people lazing around and all right in front of a green and blue sea which begged to be dived into. I was finally in paradise.
Getting around the island is a mystifying process at first but eventually quite funny and resourceful. The taxi that had brought me to the hotel the night before was a red herring. I stood at the ‘bus stop’ and was soon engaged in conversation by locals enquiring as to where I was from. Barbadians talk to you all the time and generally mean well. All the while these brightly coloured vans kept pulling up and a side door would open with all these faces peering out. I peered back most of the time. The doors would close and the van would pull off again.
After awhile my new Barbadian friend with a confused expression on his face asked me, “Where are you going?!”
“To town,” I replied sheepishly, he then pointed to a van coming our way which was not dissimilar to the one which had pulled up previously.
“You mean I get into a van?” I asked.
This is the principle transport system around Barbados and at first seems like a risky prospect to people used to big city buses and trains, but all these drivers take you into the town centre and generally charge you no more than $2 for the trouble. The vans to watch out for are very gaudy and brightly coloured and generally have a name painted on them, just get into them at a designated bus stop and try to squeeze in with the rest. It’s not the most comfortable ride though.
The island itself has many attractions many of which are its natural beauties, firstly the beaches. The beaches are, without doubt, the main centres of activity throughout the island and justifiably so. It is a great pleasure to walk up and down the golden sands and take a brief dip in the kind of sea you have only seen pictures of before (just watch out for rogue jellyfish! and if you get bitten by one, use a generous amount of aloe vera).
One thing I should also mention about the beaches has a lot to do with the friendliness of the Barbadians, if you are young and alone and drifting around the beach, many young males will approach you asking you if “you smoke?”. Bottom line – they aren’t trying to sell you tobacco and for those people out there who may want to satisfy their ‘inner Rasta’ the law doesn’t look too kindly on foreigners buying drugs even though marijuana is readily available throughout the Caribbean. Often there will be a policeman watching. My advice, just say no.
If you are not a sand or sea person there is an abundance of bars alongside the seaside, many of which however appear to be designed for couples on honeymoon. But never mind.
If you are not a beach person at ALL (and what then are you doing in Barbados?) there is plenty to see elsewhere. The coloured vans will take you inland where you can visit a colonial house, a fascinating set of underground caves and ‘rural’ Barbados where you can drive deep into the out of town regions. Try and do this on a Sunday where you can witness loud and emotional sermons which bellow out of each little makeshift church like the sky is falling down. Barbadians are generally quite religious and it’s pretty to see all the little children dressed up in their Sunday best.
All in all, I enjoyed Barbados immensely but the best way, as per usual, to enjoy the island is NOT to take the tour routes and instead travel around yourself. The island is small enough to do so and quite safe, which is a testament to the people of Barbados who are usually eager to make their home your home. The violence against tourists one may hear about happens more in Jamaica which is not so much of a tourist haven as Barbados is. I found the accommodation quite cheap and eating out equally as cheap. The nightlife I can’t really comment on as I was a bit too young at the time but I would direct you toward the beach. It’s a trip you won’t forget too quickly.