Today was the most enjoyable day I have had in the Caribbean. We docked at Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts and Nevis on the island of St Kitts.
We wanted to visit Fort George on Brimstone Hill, so we caught a bus towards Sandy Point. The buses are just 15-seater minivans and there are no numbers - just a sunwise and widdershins route as they take the single main road that circles the island. We hopped in a van and sped through the countryside passing tiny towns. We got off at the entrance to the National Park and enjoyed a forty five minute walk up to the top of Brimstone Hill, which juts up 240 metres in an imposing silhouette over the coast.
The Brimstone Hill Fortress Complex was started in 1690 by the British as part of an effort to recapture Fort Charles from the French.
Over the next 100 years it was continually expanded by African slave labour into a large complex including a citadel, two bastions, a magazine bastion, a barrier redan and the accompanying barracks, canteens and officers quarters. There were multiple water catchments and cisterns, the largest of which could hold 400 000 litres of water to allow them to withstand siege.
In 1782 the French attacked Fort George ad the 8000 soldiers forced the 1000 defenders to surrender on the 12th of February, after a month-long siege. The British regained the fortress in the 1794 Treaty of Versailles, and strengthened it further - making it into "the Gibraltar of the West Indies". The fort was never seriously challenged again and was decommissioned in 1852.
We walked down the hill again, coming across a troop of Vervet Monkeys running across the track, and waited by the side of the road until another mini-van/bus drove past.
This began a pulse-racing chase into Basseterre, as our driver drove at break-neck speed around winding corners and through the towns, flickering onto the other side of the narrow road when cars or people got in his way. When combined with the fast-beat loud calypso music throbbing, and the unpredictable stops as the van filled up, this other-wise white-knuckle journey became exhilarating.
We saw the Independence Square and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, then had a late lunch in Ballahoo overlooking the Circus. We were in Basseterre for Carnival, so the endless Calypso was playing everywhere in the streets as well. Finally we checked out the National Museum before returning for our final night on the Crown Princess.
Overall I have been really happy with the cruise. The ship is an embarrassing indulgence in hedonism and seems to bring out the worst in some people, but it also let us get around cheaply and gave Lydia and I lots of time to spend relaxing together. The US Virgin Islands and Aruba were disappointing, a gorgeous beach (not as novel to Australians) but geared up completely to tourists. On the other hand the diving in Bonaire was amazing, and I really enjoyed exploring Grenada and St Kitts.