St. Kitts, THE ISLAND TOURISTS FORGOT UNTIL NOW
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In Basseterre there are no traffic lights. No neon lights. No condominiums (although they're coming). No chic boutiques. No night shows.No chemically treated water (what you get is pure mountain spring water). No vulgar commercial billboards. Commercial signs are small, unobtrusive, and -- frequently when you're looking for them -- practically invisible. One American visitor, after spending a frustrating half-hour in Basseterre, said half in disgust, half in despair, "There is absolutely nothing to buy here."Skip to next paragraph
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Yet tourists are not ignored. A rudimentary sign attached to a wooden lamp pole says: "Give the tourists a clean smile." Another says: "A clean island to the tourist says come again soon."
A taxi fleet owner with the splendid name of Astor Coker says, "When you come here, everything goes backward. The hustle and bustle is over."
The only person who appeared to be bustling on the island was Anita richter from New York, guide and hostess for a charter group, who was trying to sort out her recently airborne charges.
She tries to speak into the microphone at a local hotel. It doesn't work and she decides instead to raise here voice that carries over the palm-fringed swimming pool."I'm here to welcome you to St. Kitts. St. Kitts the beautiful island. St. Kitts the fertile island. Relax. Slow down to the pace here.
"Tomorrow," she goes on scarcely taking a breath, "the traffic commissioner will come for all those who want to rent cars and drive around the island. to do that you must have a St. Kitts driver's license. Costs you four EC dollars [ East Caribbean dollars are worth about 38 cents]. And remember to drive on the left-hand side of the road.
"Now the traffic commissioner will come at 9 a.m. Usually. It may be 9:10. It may be even be 9:40. Just relax. Time is not important here. If you can remember that you'll be very Kittitian and you'll have a great time."
A car is rented for the island -- which is 33 miles long and five miles wide -- from Sunshine Car Rentals on Dieppe Bay Road. It's nothing fancy, and while the rented cars are reliable they look decidedly used. Across the street from the agency, bright-faced children in school uniform with satchels strapped to their backs enter the Salvation Army school. Soon the sound of treble voices singing "Jesus, Sweet Jesus" wafts out of the wide-open doors and over the bright red hibiscus hedge.
A sign along the road proclaims, "Ye Must be Born again." A van roars past. "King Jesus loves you," it says. All over the island small churches dot the landscape.
Apart from the magenta bougainvillea and red hibiscus, most of the landscape is green: deep green for the lush vegetation that hugs the steep mountainside that protects the water-saturated rain forests; lighter green for the palms; and pale green for the miles upon miles of sugar cane that stampedes the sides of the roads and towers above the roof of the car.Suddenly the car rounds a bend -- goats scatter, roadside children giggle -- and the soft green of sugar cane rolls down to a sea of unbelievable blue.
In the National Georgraphic's book on the Caribbean, "Isles of the Caribbees, " author Carleton Mitchell says of St. Kitts: "Nowhere did the sea seem a deeper blue or the clouds a purer white."
Catching a speedboat to the neighboring island of Nevis, which reputable guide books say has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, you look back on an island luxuriant with vegetation, sparse in population.