St Kitts (officially named Saint Christopher), was first settled by the British in 1623 but the French also landed settlers a year later. When they had exterminated the native Caribs who refused to work in the fields, the French and the British imported slaves to work their plantations. Then they started to fight for the control of the island which changed hands several times before the 1783 Treaty of Paris gave it to the British.
When Britain'a attempt to regroup all its Caribbean colonies into a grand West Indies Federation failed in 1962, it tried to merge St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla into a single State and that failed as well leaving St Kitts and Nevis in a single federated state within the Commonwealth.
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After saying goodbye to José and Joanna in Philipsburg Annika and I took a taxi to the airport. She left for Sweden and I took a 20 minute flight to Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts.
By walking 200 metres to the highway in front of the airport, you can catch a bus that will take you to Basseterre for the equivalent of 50 US cents instead of a 10 dollar taxi ride.
Food is cheap but lodgings are expensive on St-Kitts. Low budget travel in the Caribbean requires some searching, negotiation and compromise. The cheapest places recommended by Lonely planet were asking 45 $US but I finally found this guesthouse where the owner Mavis let me have a basic room for 20 $US.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral dominates Independence Square but Catholics are a minority on St Kitts.
St Kitts suffered from earthquakes, hurricanes and a disastrous fire that destroyed most of it in 1876. Consequently few old buildings remain. This one, the Georgian House facing Independence Square now shelters a fine restaurant and bar.
Other attractive houses surround Independence Square.
The St George's Anglican Church on Canyon Street was rebuilt after the 1876 fire.
The colourful market near the ferry dock on the waterfront is definitely worth a visit.
This is Basseterre's waterfront looking west towards the Fort Thomas Hotel built on the site of an old fort.
Here is a view of the Marina.
And here is another with a sloop moving out and a luxurious private yacht behind. On the left, in the background, can be seen the old market building that is now a museum. The buildings on the right are part of the new shopping complex in front of the cruise ship dock that was under construction when I was there.
The Grand Market Museum is well located at the foot of Fort street, directly in between the cruise ship terminal and mall behind it and the "The Circus" in front.
The Circus, at the intersection of Fort and Bank streets is the real centre of Basseterre. Here is the Palms Hotel on the north-west corner.
And here, the Ballyhoo Restaurant on the north-east corner.
I can imagine what this area will be like with two or three cruise ships in port and a new herd of tourists swarming all over every day of the year!
I saw everything there was to see in Basseterre in two days and took a minibus to Old Road Town on the west coast and another one to Dieppe Bay at the north end of the island.
The people in Old Road Town seemed friendlier and easier to chat with than those I had met in Basseterre. They could not understand why I was travelling all over the world but they were interested in finding out what had brought me there. Most "servants of tourists" I have met were not the least interested in who I was or why I was there.
The volcano in the background of this cane field in northern St Kitts, is The Quill on the island of St Eustatius almost 20 kms distant.
Cane is still grown profitably in the Caribbean but work in the cane fields is deprecated as "work fit for slaves" accepted as a last resort when nothing else is available.
I gathered from my conversations that the most desirable jobs are those that involve direct individual contacts like taxi driver, barman or guide that can be extremely profitable with naive tourists.
At Dieppe Bay, I walked down to the beach where I met a couple of fishermen who testified that tourism had indeed changed everyone's lives including their own. For example, they used to catch lots of lobster all the time for the local population but now they set only enough traps to satisfy the tourist hotel market because lobster has become too expensive for ordinary people to eat.
I had the feeling that traditional values and customs in the islands had all been swept away by the overwhelming presence and example of swarms of idle visitors and by the high profitability of dealing with them.
I did not have the impression that the new ethos was more advantageous for the island people than the traditional one.