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The Grenadines & Barbados – day one. Getting there.

Rod picked us up at 7am sharp and the traffic was heavy to Gatwick. North Terminal itself was very busy with hoards of pre-Easter travellers. The Virgin check-in was friendly and efficient and security was working well so we were through to departure by just after 8am.

We bought $400 which cost £340. Next to try and find the Number One lounge which we did on the second circumnavigation of the terminal and only after some hints from information.

Busy there too but a bowl of fruit and yoghurt and a glass or two of Prosecco (well we are on holiday) saw us ready for boarding.

We then sat in our two together format near the rear of the 747 for an hour and a half, with the plane delayed by an hour due to congestion and the redistribution of hold baggage to even out the payload.

We were off! Light rain and cloud made for a slightly lumpy start and we wondered given the hour delay how that would work out with our 75 minute transfer window at Barbados later. Nothing we could do but enjoy Paddington 2 with a meal and a Gu (dark chocolate and salted caramel pudding), along with a few glasses of wine (well we are on holiday).

We made up a little time on the 8 hour en route but landed at 3.05 and although we were scurried to the exit by the aircrew to enable us to be the first off the plane it was still 3.20 or so and we hadn’t got through immigration or got our baggage yet, let alone checked in etc for the next flight to Bequia. It was going to be tight

We split up, which in hindsight may have been a mistake although at the time it seemed to make sense, as Heather waited for our luggage and I went ahead to alert the airline to our impending check in.

I got through customs and immigration only to find there was no SVG desk and no one seemed to know where they would check us in although I was directed to the end of the row of cubicles where I found an irate man and his wife and son, waiting for an SVG representative as they had been for the last two hours. He was going ballistic on the phone to someone – I assume his travel agent.

I went and drew some local currency, which I thought was ECD but later realised was Barbadian dollars. Oh well, we can use them the following week. By this time a tall local woman has arrived and had assumed responsibility for SCG check in and was taking a torrent of abuse from the disgruntled passenger, which SE didn’t appreciate, eventually laughing it off which further incensed him. He then apologised to me as he could see his wife and son were embarrassed by his behaviour although it didn’t bother me.

The SVG lady explained to the family that they (and we) should have met a representative just after disembarking and they would have escorted us to the departure gate with no need to clear anything and our luggage would be transferred for us. That would have been brilliant, if only we had known. I had seen people’s names on signs on arriving but didn’t see ours. Mind you, I didn’t look carefully at every one, being in a of a rush at the time. So now we had mucked the system up. The one we didn’t know existed. Apparently 13 other people were on the same Gatwick flight and were also connecting to Bequia like we were. How did they know what to do and we didn’t?

I wasn’t allowed back flight side to collect Heather. She was waiting for baggage that would never arrive. The SCG lady wasn’t sure what to do but explained that the plane was going to take off at 4pm. It was now 3.45pm. The family had received their bags by this time and were directed to gate 9. I didn’t have bags. Or Heather. Or a clue what to do. I started remonstrating with the SVG lady which didn’t go down well with her and we agreed an uneasy truce. She gave me immigration papers for Barbados and St Vincent which I felt was a bit senseless as I didn’t have either my wife or my luggage. At this point I felt we were likely to be here for the night. Try again tomorrow. If we could reunite of course.

I phoned Heathers mobile. On the fifth attempt we connected. She didn’t have the bags yet although others were starting to appear. Her phone was about to die, despite having been charged fully and left switched off all flight to preserve the pathetic battery life. Ah, the joys of iPhones…

By this time the SVG lady had spoken to her manager and it was agreed that they would fetch her from flyside and I should join her at gate 9. I went through Barbados emigration filling in the form while walking at high speed. My bottle of gin bought duty free at Gatwick was of course confiscated with a look of glee at security. Oh well, worse things happen at sea, and if we could find each other and get on the next plane for the short flight to Bequia, all was not lost. Just the gin.

I arrived at gate 9. It was now 4.15pm. No one I recognised. And no one knew whether the flight to Bequia had gone or not. The LIAT lady couldn’t help. Oh joy.

So I tried Heathers phone again noticing I had tried to call both Paul and Pierre from my pocket by mistake. I deleted them from my favourites list. No response from Heather – her phone was probably dead by now.

I stomped up and down. Eventually deciding that the plane had gone and we were definitely here for the night. I should try and find Heather. I left gate 9 to head back to arrivals only to be stopped by a lady who asked where I was off to. I explained. She said she thought the Bequia plane hadn’t yet gone as she hasn’t heard any announcements and I should go back to gate 9 and wait. She said she had also seen someone matching Heathers description being escorted around the terminals. I did as she suggested and went back. This time there was someone from SVG and they confirmed the plane hasn’t yet gone. It was 4.30. I spotted Heather coming towards the gate.

The Bequia flight was announced by calling individual passengers names. Not us. The flight now leaving ended in 6. Ours ended in 4. It was the later flight. Presumably the 5pm.

We then saw the family I had met earlier. They were on our flight and still waiting.

At 4.50 after an expensive couple of sprite lights to ease the dehydration our flight was announced and our names called. Joy! Until Heather saw the size of the tiny DC9 and gave it a stare Paddington would have been proud of.

We boarded. Heather raced across the tarmac elbowing small children and old ladies out the way to claim an aisle seat. I chatted to other passengers asking them how they had known about the transfer system. They all admitted that it was only because they had been here before that they knew the ropes.

I squeezed in to the window seat next to Heather. The plane was almost identical to the one we had taken going to Lukla back in October. One of the other passengers had been on the same flight to Lukla back in 2007 and the previous plane to theirs has crashed and killed everyone. Thanks for that.

The atmosphere was both humid and yet chilly at the same time. Mopping my brow we took off with both pilot having a hand on the same throttle – strange- and 40 minutes later we did the 180 degree turn to land on Bequia.

It was raining lightly. We jumped down the last little bit off the steps from the plane. Heather had done really well on the flight mostly fanning her closed eyes with the safety pamphlet. I expected her to kiss the ground popishly on arrival but she had regained her composure.

The bags were hand bored across the tarmac. Eventually.

We cleared customs which was a large man asking us what else we had in our bags other than shoes, smalls and clothes. Nothing we said, although I nearly mentioned the missing gin but thought better of that. Welcome to Bequia.

It was now after 6pm and our taxi driver took us to the Sweet Retreat in 20 minutes cutting across the island to the other side from the airport and eventually along a sandy path and up a steep drive. Sweet. I tried to pay with what I thought were EC dollars but I was told were Bajian. $20 US it is then.

Shelby welcomed us and our room has a beautiful view of the bay. It is still warm enough to sit out. We showered and wandered down to a nearby restuarant on the edge of the beach to enjoy grilled Mahi Mahi and a bottle of Beringer californian Chardonnay. Sweet.

By this time it was after 1pm in UK time although only 9 pm local. We retired back to the hotel and set up the mosquito net. Bed. Very tired but my skin itches everywhere. Badly. All the time. I scratched and scratched. And wriggled. And listened to the whines of the mosquito. And barking of the dogs. And the deep base booming of the local music. Which went on for hours. As did the scratching. Heat rash or were we being eaten? It was very hot. The mangoes fell on to the tin room from time to time, waking the dogs. Large bats flitted across the window. I got up. I sat outside as fodder for the bugs. I went to bed again. I scratched. I got up. Repeat.

Eventually I dozed off at sometime between 2 and 3. The music stopped and under covers as it was cooler my itching was manageable.

It was still a relief to jump up at 6am, having had very little sleep but the view was compensation.

We could smell the first spliff of the day being lit and smoked nearby. And then the second. The cockerels added to the cacophony of the dogs barking, drowning the white noise of the waves breaking gently on the white sandy beach. A quiet island? Not where we were staying. Time for breakfast at 8am.

Breakfast was mango from the local trees and banana with yoghurt. Followed by a roll with bacon egg, tomato and mayo. Coffee and carrot cake.

We met a nice couple also staying. Retired. He is from St Vincent, she is from Germany. He was in the British Army for 27 years. They have 12 grandchildren together. We talked island life, brexit and trump, before we went off to walk the beach and have a swim. Margaret Beach was nice, but Lower Bay near where we were staying was nicer. I swam and it showered briefly and Heather sheltered in a beach bar.

Lovely to catch up with my mum briefly and she sounds stronger all the time.