Travel: Grenada

The lovely St George's port in Grenada
The lovely St George's port in Grenada
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While our guide Telfor Bedeau hacks a path through the rainforest with a machete in one hand and a big stick in the other,we follow, confident we are in safe hands.

After all, Bedeau has been walking these hills for 50 years, and the scenery tells us why.

The splendour of Grand Etang National Park stretches before us and, about 20 minutes away, the Seven Sisters Waterfall promises cool relief from the hot Grenadian sun. Our hiking path is overlooked by a range of different trees, each growing something delicious and we stop to munch on passion fruit and guava.

Bedeau offers an introductory lecture on Grenada’s spices as we walk. The Caribbean island is famous for its exotic smells and a liberal sprinkling of everything, from cloves to bay leaves.

With our noses pressed against bits of bark, we revel in sniffing fresh nutmeg and cinnamon. But we’re totally stumped when Bedeau points his machete at a dark green vegetable, which looks like spinach but isn’t.

“Callaloo,” he says with a smile, before explaining that this famous leaf - loved across the Caribbean - is used in everything from soup to medicine.

Eating too much of it raw could give you an upset stomach, he tells us. It’s best to have it boiled in soup and taken with a generous dash of salt.

We’re visiting the island of Grenada for the first time and listen intently to his wise words.

Our base for the week is the Mount Cinnamon resort, one of the Peter de Savary chain of boutique residences.

Individual villas cling to the side of a hill and each one is tastefully decorated (think local artwork, mosaic tiling, Smeg fridges), providing a great base for self-catering if you don’t fancy eating in the restaurant every night.

Grenada offers a diverse holiday experience, stretching from stunning, secluded beaches to rainforest tours.

The island’s nicest beach, Grande Anse - just a short stroll across the road and down the path - is a two-mile stretch of fine sand, lapped by sparkling waters, conjuring up every Caribbean cliche you can think of.

We spent one quiet and serenely peaceful day there, only interrupted by the odd visitor stopping to say ‘hello’ or sell us a homemade basket. And when the sun went down, Mount Cinnamon’s beach cabana Savvy’s served up an incredible rum punch (we begged for the recipe but were cheerfully told it’s a secret).

After our substantial sundowners, it was time to enjoy ourselves, and where better than at Caribbean social staple Fish Friday?

In the tiny town of Gouyave in the north of the island, each week tourists and locals dance the night away to reggae while knocking back local rum and Carib beer.

The food is incredible too. We feasted on delicious lobster, freshly cooked in front of our eyes over hot coals, but could have chosen from as many different types of fish and seafood as you can think of. Queues formed for local rum, red snapper and king prawn stir-fry.

While you’re enjoying all that Grenada has to offer, it’s difficult to believe the island was almost completely destroyed only a few years ago.

The most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean region in a decade, Ivan ripped up 90 per cent of Grenada’s homes and destroyed all nutmeg crops (the country’s main export). It also caused structural damage to virtually every major building in the capital of St George’s.

Since then, the locals must have worked practically non-stop to get the island back on track. Homes have been rebuilt and repainted, and St George’s has re-emerged as one of the loveliest ports in the Caribbean.

Winding streets are lined with bright terraced houses and tiny rum bars perfect for relaxing in, or ‘liming’ as it’s known in this part of the world. It’s also home to our favourite restaurant of the trip, BB’s Crabback, where we feasted on slow-cooked goat curry and oven-baked crab cakes.

BB’s is right on the water and the horseshoe-shaped harbour makes it the perfect place for dinner. Next door sits the Ocean Grill bar, which serves up the strongest G&Ts we’ve ever tasted.

The next day, we opted for an island tour with the aim of learning a little more about Grenada’s history.

While Bedeau’s hike into the jungle showed us how spices actually look when growing on trees, this was our chance to discover how they are processed.

At Dougaldston Estate, just outside Gouyave, we sampled a variety of spices, all dried in the traditional way.

Huge drying trays sit on rails outside to ensure the spices get the best of the sunshine. If the rain falls, the trays are simply pushed under the wooden building for protection.

Next stop was the River Antoine Rum Distillery, the oldest in the Caribbean, to enjoy another intriguing glimpse of Grenada’s traditions. Established in 1785 and owned by three local men, the factory produces Rivers rum, which is only sold within the country and, at over 70 per cent proof, is guaranteed to blow your head off.

The production method of this Caribbean tipple has scarcely changed since the 18th century: sugar cane from adjacent fields is crushed by a huge wooden water wheel.

We watched perspiring in the heat, as the men around us made light work of heaving sugar cane up an old conveyor belt.

Of course we had to taste the product of their labours at the end of the tour. There’s no need to worry about germs - the drink is so strong that no bacteria stands a chance of surviving.