Barbados in 8 hours

As the only non-volcanic island in the Caribbean, Barbados is rather flat, so the mountainous roads of St. Thomas and St. John were non-existent here.  Upon our arrival, we rented a car and made our way to Harrison Caves.  Though we've visited a number of substantially larger cave sites through the U.S., this is considered one of the highlights of the island, so we wanted to include it in our visit.

Unlike caves we have explored previously, the temperature in this cave was a humid, 80+ degrees, so
my decision to wear jeans and a long-sleeved shirt was soon regretted.  The caves were first discovered in 1647, though evidence shows that the native Indian tribe, the Arawak's, had found them hundreds of years before that.  Serious exploration of the caves first began in 1970, and the caves opened to the public in 1981.  Rainfall peculating down through the limestone has  created stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave, and stalagmites formations that emerge from the ground, and streams of crystal-clear running water.  Visitors are loaded into an electrically operated tram which travels down through the extensive system of caves and at the lowest level point in the cave, at a depth of 180 feet, visitors are invited to leave the tram and walk alongside the formations, and a deep pool and waterfall.

Confused about how to get to the coast, a  taxi driver went several miles out of his way to lead us out to a main road.  We then found our way to the Flokestone Marine Reserve, north of Holetown on the Caribbean side of the island.  While the reserve is known for hawks bill and green turtles, as we snorkeled, we only saw a few types of  coral and a variety of fish, but nothing exotic.

After receiving a recommendation from a local, we drove north, along the coast, to Speightown to have cou-cou (an okra, pepper and corn meal
concoction) and flying fish, the national dish.  The eatery we visited prepared the fish as fritters, so I couldn't indulge, but Alan wasn't overly impressed with the dish, too much dough, and not enough fish, was his assessment.

Due to slave raids and trading, the island became uninhabited by the 1500's, but in 1625 the island was claimed by England, and 2 years later British settlers came to the island.  The Brits ruled the island until it's full independence in 1966.  Barbados culture reflects two distinct influences; one is English and the other is African from the days of the slave trade. The African influence is demonstrated in the music, dance and food, while the British influence is seen in the churches, architecture and sports (cricket is the most popular).

Cotton, then tobacco, and finally sugar cane became the primary crop and most profitable under the large plantation/slave labor model of the time (slavery was abolished in 1834).   Rum was first created on this island.  Mount Gay Rum Distilleries has been making rum on the island since 1703.  It is said to be the oldest existing brand of rum in the world.  They maintain a visitor center in Bridgetown, where our ship was docked, but the distillery is located at the far north end of the island. With our limited time we were unable to visit, but 5-star rum was available at the port shops (duty-free), for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S., and that found it's way into our possession.  After our purchase, we  worked our way back to the ship, and we're ready to move on to our next destination, St. Lucia.

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