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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 19

Wildlife wonder- Barbour's tropical racer

A few weeks ago, I saw one of these snakes in a neighbour’s garden and it quickly slithered underneath the dry leaves and disappeared. I also saw one on the way to the beach, when I was in Carriacou. I wondered whether to share this as a ‘wildlife wonder’ in the blog because I know some people don’t like snakes but they are harmless and quickly get out of the way if they sense humans nearby.

They are slim, brown and can grow to about 80cms in length. These snakes were named after an American zoologist who collected snakes and I guess they are called ‘racers’ due to their speed. They are more active during the day and they tend to eat lizards and frogs. At night, they sleep in trees and are usually about 5 metres above the ground, to avoid being attacked by mongooses.

Grenadian Gift- Levera Beach

This beach is about a 45 minute walk from the house and is in the next bay along from Bathway beach, going North. Bathway is sometimes busy at the weekends and as schools begin to end for the Summer, it is getting busier. Walking to Levera is one of my favourite walks and sometimes I also swim there.

It is usually very peaceful and I enjoy sitting on the rocks and watching the waves crash on the coastline as it turns the corner back towards the retreat house. I can also see this point from my balcony and so, at different times, I can see the waves crashing on the same rocks from both directions. At low tide, I often see crabs scuttling around the rocks as well as on the beach. However the most famous creatures here are the turtles, especially at this time of year.

Levera beach is one of the best nesting sites in the Caribbean for the large leatherback turtles as well as other species of turtle. I hope to feature these wildlife wonders in this blog when I get to see them, but it usually involves waiting up late into the night. This is when the females come onto the beach to lay their eggs which they then cover in sand and return to the water. It is strange walking on the beach in daylight, knowing that I am likely to be walking on turtle nests full of eggs, below the surface of the sand.

Reflections from the Retreat

The British love to talk about the weather and as the heat of Summer has hit the UK, it is interesting to experience the difference between ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ here. When I arrived in February the sun rose at the side of the house and now it rises directly in front of the house and the days are slightly longer and more humid. With the rainy season, everything is growing a lot faster. The grass around the house needed four of us for about 4 hours to strim and rake it all up. However, having suffering from hay fever all my life, it was a relief to discover that the Grenadian grass doesn’t affect me.

The rain here is always very intense and I can usually spot it in the distance as a dark cloud and curtain of rain as it moves in from the sea. It reminds me of being in a drive-through car wash because I can see it coming. Then it moves over the house, pounding the roof and windows, and continues past me, as if the house has just visited the local garage for a clean.

However recently we had our first tropical storm, which was at a different level of intensity. We had just been down to the beach to attend the opening of a new playground next to the Blue bar (in the photo above). It was great to see the children’s excitement, rushing on to the equipment after the red ribbon was cut. Sadly the government official, who was due to open it, didn’t show up and the conversation in the bar suggested that there is a North-South divide on the island as well as in the UK in this regards. As the only playground in the Sauteurs area, it will be well used.

Thankfully ‘Storm Bret’ waited until the children had left and the bar was open for the evening but the waves were so high that the bar floor was flooded and the waves spewed seaweed all over the wooden floorboards and surrounding sand. Tropical Storm Bret was the first to be named this year and it began as a tropical wave off the coast of West Africa. It moved across towards the Caribbean and mainly affected Trinidad and Tobago where there was serious flooding and some structural damage to buildings. Official hurricane warnings were given out in the nearby islands of St Lucia and Barbados where there was also damage and flooding but Grenada just got the edges of the storm. Our electricity went off for most of the morning and I also discovered a few more leaks in the roof, due to the intensity of the rain.

Storm Bret was a sobering warning of what the weather can do in this area of the world and with climate change there is the threat of increased hurricanes both in frequency and intensity. With the loss of electricity, I realised my dependency on wifi to keep me connected. I am now in the process of putting together a hurricane emergency bag consisting of a radio, torch, food and water supplies and a list of things I would take if I needed to evacuate at short notice.

However, there was one advantage of Storm Bret. I had a pile of rubbish to burn such as old wardrobes and doors, from the work that had been done on the house. One of the Rasta guys I have got to know, asked if he could have some of the pieces to do up his house in exchange and we had talked about burning the rest. We hadn’t arranged when he was going to come, but I woke at 5.30 that morning to the sound of him moving pieces of wood and then saw smoke, as he started the fire. In his usual laid back way, he then went off to buy himself breakfast, while I watched the flames grow and burn one of my banana plants, singe the garden wall and head towards the house. So I guess I should be grateful that my prayers about fire safety were answered, though I hadn’t expected a near-hurricane. He came back and kept an eye on it but, if it had been a dry day, the outcome could have been quite different. Despite the torrential rain, the fire was still burning in the evening but thankfully it didn’t cause any more damage.

As I write this, I am looking out on the usual calm waters of the sea in front of me but when Storm Bret arrived, it was as if my watery neighbour was having an aggressive rant, throwing herself about in a wild strop and she didn’t feel a pleasant neighbour to be near. I was aware that when I went for a swim a few days afterwards, it was as if I was learning to trust her again and to know that she was safe to be around.

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