Moonhole – A Place Like No Other

We sailed south out of the Bequai harbor in a mild 15 knot ENE trade wind. Looking out to port, we spotted a series of stone buildings nestled on the tree covered rocky hillside.

We had heard of this place: Moonhole.

Back in the 60’s, a couple of New York advertising execs checked out of the rat race and came here to build a community on the desolate and unpopulated hills of southern Bequai, a tranquil and remote island of the Grenadines.

The name Moonhole derived from a huge arch formed from volcanic substrate through which you can sometimes see the moon.

Photo from Wikipedia

Nearly all of their construction materials were locally sourced stone, rock, and some whalebone artifacts.

They collected rainwater, grew vegetables and fruits, and ate from the sea.

All these years later there are still a few residents clinging to a unique and lonely way of life.

Another Walk Across an Island

Union is the southernmost of the group of islands forming Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an independently governed country still part of the British Commonwealth.

Union Island Vibe

The first European settlers were Frenchmen who arrived in 1763 with 350 slaves. The Treaty of Versailles signed 20 years later resulted in Union Island along with the other islands comprising the Grenadines being transferred under the control of England.

Coolest dinghy dock in the Caribbean – the Bougainvillea Hotel and Restaurant converted their saltwater aquarium into a cruiser’s protected landing spot

Ownership of Union Island was held by an Englishman and then a Scotsman and finally a St Vincentian, with all of these families focusing their efforts on growing a very fine strain of cotton called Marie-Gallant.

Even the palm trees are growing weary of the unabated enhanced trade winds.

The double whammy of a bad cotton harvest and a hurricane forced the final owner to sell Union to the British Crown, which then created the Union Island Settlement Scheme. Parcels of 2-4 acres were sold to local residents at favorable credit rates.

Still discovering local fruits we’ve never before seen
Honorary Slow Food members – eating local.
Downtown grocery store
Always enjoy the artwork
Good Vibes One Love!
White Gold! Salt ponds
Solar farm funded and installed by the United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund and related entities
Street scene walking across Union
A sure sign the summit has been reached.
Destination reached – a swim and then lunch on the beach
Lunch on the beach
It must be windy all the time if the kite surfing schools are all based here. Look closely to see the foiling kite surfer.
Amidst the hardship, struggle, and challenges of upward mobility pervasive throughout the Caribbean, the worlds largest ketch (285 feet, 12 crew, $100 million to build) named Aquijo enters the harbor and drops anchor well off the beach as their draft is 33 feet.
Not everyone needs a crew of 12 and $100 mil to have fun.

A Trip Back in Time: Garden of Eden

Leaving the gravel parking lot at the head of the dinghy dock, Sam turned his taxi away from Kingstown and headed up into the lush green hills. Meeting oncoming traffic became a pattern of a gentle swerve toward the edge of the road, a friendly tap on the horn, and for us in the backseat, a quick check to confirm the driver’s outside mirror was still attached to the Toyota minivan.

Quickly the road narrowed, the homes became more basic, the air cooled, and the vegetation became a deep verdant green. After climbing for 20 minutes, we caught our first glimpse of the Mesopotamia Valley, the bread basket of Saint Vincent.

Mesopotamia Valley

Steep hillsides were planted with a variety of root vegetables, many of which were exported to their primary market France. Mechanical farm equipment was nowhere to be seen – this agriculture went from seed to harvest with a long hoe and strong back.

We stopped briefly for road construction; 15 men working hard moving rocks by hand and building a cinder block water catchment gutter. They were aided by a couple of guys driving road leveling equipment.

The homes and people thinned the farther we climbed the winding road, until we rounded a corner and saw the sign for Montreal Gardens.

Started in the 1970s by a keen gardener, it came into the hands of its second and current owner in 1995: a highly accomplished horticulturist from France who has made it his life’s work to design, plant and nurture the abundant variety of all flora that grow in this tropical climate of Saint Vincent.

His full time staff of three were hard at work, yet more than happy to take time to share with us the history of the gardens and what was growing where.

Over the course of a couple of hours, we were the only guests and learned that some days there are no human visitors at all.