Leading tourism industry writer lauds local tour operator
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 24TH 2012 (CUOPM) – A former sugar factory employee turned tour operator after the closure of the St. Kitts sugar industry, is getting the spotlight in regional and international tourism.
Thenford Grey, who worked in the sugar industry for 30 years, began taxing in January 2006 and later established Grey’s Island Taxi Excursions with his own website www.thenfordgrey.com
Gay Nagle Myers, who visited St. Kitts and Nevis while in St. Kitts for the recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s State of the Industry Conference in her article, said she traveled the length of St. Kitts yesterday, 23 miles long by eight miles wide with lots of switchback roads in between.
The shape of St. Kitts resembles an upside-down guitar, and I began at the St. Kitts Marriott (on the neck of the guitar) in the south and made my way north.
Thenford Grey, the van driver, enlightened my colleagues and me along the way, sprinkling island history and anecdotes with Kittitian lore and legend not found in any guidebook.
No vervet monkeys were spotted, although they outnumber residents (40,000-plus of those critters to 35,000 people).
We passed by waving fields of sugarcane and remnants of some of the 200 sugar mills that still dot the landscape (“Tourism has replaced sugarcane production as the top industry,” Grey said).
St. Kitts has nine parishes and hundreds of villages with names like Tabernacle and Newton Ground.
The volcano, which last erupted 1,600 years ago, was renamed some years back. “It’s called Mt. Liamuga, which means Fertile Island. It sounds better than what the British called it — Mount Misery,” Grey said. I agreed.
He pointed out a 400-year-old samma tree, with a branch span of half a football (er, cricket) field.
“A crowd of people could stand under it during a rainstorm and never get wet.”
As we passed a couple of cows munching, sheep grazing and goats scampering, he asked if I knew how to tell the difference between goats and sheep.
I figured I did, but he summarized in six words: “Tails up-goats; tails down-sheep.” I won’t forget that.
Kitty, the island’s largest leatherback turtle, was tagged with a GPS-like monitor in 2009, and was spotted this summer grazing the sea grass off Cape Cod, Mass.
“She’ll be back. She’s a typical tourist, likes to travel but always returns home,” Grey said.
He pointed out flamboyant trees, Poinciana flowers and a tree with sticky resin.
“We use that resin for glue. I held my schoolbooks together with that when I was a kid.”
He warned me never to eat green sea grapes. “Wait till they are purple. That means they are ripe and delicious.”
As he dropped off our weary group at the end of the day, he gave us a final piece of advice.
“Don’t tell me worrying doesn’t work. The things I worry about never happen.”
Good thought. We were worried we’d be late for the barbecue and bonfire at Jam Rock beach shack in less than an hour. Grey reminded us he would be our driver. “Nothing to worry about,” her reassured us.
The world needs more Thenford Greys.