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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 34

Wildlife wonder- Praying Mantis

I took this photo as this little fellow walked along the top of my balcony. A praying mantis look very much like a green leaf on legs and this one walked with a strange, hesitant swaying manner. They get their name from the prayer position which they form with their front legs. They usually only eat live prey, creeping up and then pouncing on them. This one was about 5cms long and was quite relaxed about being photographed.

These creatures are symbols of good luck, stillness and meditation in many cultures and are valued as a method of pest control to remove unwanted smaller insects from crops.

Grenadian Gift – River Antoine Rum Distillery

There are two main rum distilleries on the island and Rivers, as it is known, is a short drive away from the Retreat house. This is the oldest distillery on the island and still uses the original water wheel and machinery from the 1780’s.

For the equivalent of a few pounds, you can go on a short tour of the distillery and learn how they create rum from sugar cane. This process only takes 2 weeks from field to bottle and they make a thousand bottles a day. The sugar cane is cut in the fields surrounding the distillery and travels up a rickety conveyor belt to the British machinery shown in the photo above. As the large water wheel, beyond the wall, turns, it moves the roller to crush the cane to remove the juice. The juice then travels along pipes to large copper pots (in the photo below). These are heated and large ladles are used to stir the liquid as it boils- a hot job in this climate!

It then moves into different pots where it naturally ferments without any yeast or any other ingredients being added. The natural fermentation process takes about a week. The fermented juice is heated again using local wood and a large burner to evaporate the alcohol. The vapour then moves through pipes running through cold water to condense the vapour back to a liquid, in order to remove any impurities. The cooled rum is stored in a holding tank and bottled by hand. It was impressive to see the process and how they continue to make it in the traditional way from the sugar cane planted in the nearby fields.

The tour ends with rum tasting though Karen and I let Clive do the tasting for the three of us! The distillery produces a 75% alcohol/volume but this is not allowed on planes due to its high alcohol level being so inflammable. However, they do a 69% version for tourists which is quite strong enough! Clive said that it almost evaporated in his mouth due to the high alcohol content and it’s known to be one of the strongest rums in the Caribbean.

Reflections from the Retreat

It has been fantastic having my friends, Clive and Karen here and together we have decorated the living area of the guest apartment, started decorating the ‘Soul Space’ room and varnished these kitchen cupboards and the balcony door of the guest apartment. Clive has worked so hard building these amazing library shelves which I am looking forward to filling with our books. The reflections below are written by Karen and Clive.

Clive and Karen’s trip to Grenada, September 2023

Our first impression of Grenada was the heat! As we walked out of the cool terminal it hit us hard. It was so lovely to see Hilary there, then she told us they were experiencing a heatwave and as the rainy season is in full swing, the humidity was the highest it has been so far this year.

We bundled into a mini bus driven by Hilary’s friend who very graciously stopped at least three times during the long windy journey as poor Clive was so travel sick.

We didn’t really notice much about the house on arrival as it was dark and we were desperate for a shower and bed. But we did notice the sounds of the tree frogs croaking like rusty hinges and the waves crashing upon the shore nearby.

Sunrise however brought a different story. The view from the balcony took our breath away. We gazed over the colourful trees in Hilary’s garden to the sparkling Atlantic Ocean beyond.

The deserted islands in the distance have become our daily focus as the vista constantly changes – like an ever-moving postcard.

After breakfast, Hilary took us on a tour of the house. I must have said ‘wow’ or ‘amazing‘ a hundred times. It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of work that is needed here, but it has been a privilege for us to be a part of making the dream a reality. As she showed us around, Hilary’s beautiful eyes shone as she imparted her and Hosten’s vision for this place.

We have loved our time here, meeting people, going to River Sallee church on Sunday, and simple pleasures like picking limes from the trees in the garden and making juice and curd together. Seeing the beautiful colours of this island both the people and the landscape.

But most of all we have enjoyed our conversations with Hilary. It’s been like peeling back the layers of an onion as we have gotten to know each other better and talked about our past experiences and what has led us to this place in time. We have laughed together, cried together and talked about every emotion in between.

There have been challenges, mostly the heat. Any little physical effort results in perspiration. At one time we said it felt like we were decorating the inside of a sauna that was switched up high! All the time we were working we were a soggy mess – but most days Clive was rewarded with a refreshing swim at the local beach with Hilary while I read in the shade.

We have been very highly motivated to be up at sunrise to get on with jobs, but Hilary has been a wonderful host and has insisted on us having some downtime. So we have enjoyed trips to beautiful deserted beaches and visits to a chocolate factory and a rum distillery. We all enjoyed the chocolate tasting but only Clive was brave enough to try the rum. We could all have got tipsy on the fumes!

We have been fascinated by Hilary’s growing knowledge of Grenada and its history. Especially interesting is that Hosten’s surname Garraway probably came from a coffee or sugar plantation where the slaves would have had to take on the name of their plantation owner. We have loved seeing Grenada through Hilary’s eyes and her love for the Grenadian people.

The Hummingbird retreat will one day be a wonderful place of blessing to its guests, but it is already a place of healing and restoration to us who have been a part of its journey.

We have eaten simply with none of the overindulgence of home. Worked hard rested well and breathed in the fresh air of this corner of paradise. We will be leaving here refreshed in body, mind and spirit.

Back in December 2022 when Hilary spoke at our church about her plans, both Clive and I were stirred by her words to be a part of the vision. My widow’s heart was touched by her strength and courage to go forward on her journey alone. This trip has taken us way out of our comfort zone but what a blessing for us it has turned out to be!

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