A winter in the West INdies
Including Bermuda, the Windward Island, the Spanish Main, Jamaic, Cuba and Nassau.
Travelers who wish to spend a month in the West Indies had best avail themselves of one of the numerous cruise steamers from New York, which visit all the chief islands; but those who have the entire winter at their disposal will find good steamer connection over the following route. At the present time there is no direct communication between Barbados and Jamaica, and the traveler is obliged to go around via South America ports, entailing a voyage of ten days. The best islands at which to make lengthy sojourns, on account of good hotel accommodation, are Bermuda, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Cuba and Nassau.
Hamilton, Bermuda Islands, is less than forty-eight hours from New York, across the Gulf Stream, and is an ideal spot for those in search of a temperate and even climate. The islands are of coral formation, and, like the Isle of Wight, have that agreeable combination of white cliffs, green foliage and blue ocean. Hamilton is a British military and naval station, a coaling depot, and has a floating dry-dock. There is generally a man- of-war in the harbor, to add to the social attractions of the islands, to say nothing of yachting and fishing. There is a regular monthly steamer to the Windward Islands and to Halifax, N.S.
The Windward Islands.
ST. THOMAS (PoRTo Rico), ST. KITTS, DOMINICA, MARTINIQUE, ST. LUCIA, BARBADOS (GRENADA) AND TRINIDAD.
Steamers of the Quebec Steamship Company leave New York about every week, touching at the various ports of the Windward Islands. The voyage is a charming one, and requires the delicate tints of the water-color painter rather than the author's pen to describe it, although Lafcadio Hearn has portrayed the islands in wonderful word-pictures. The steamers usually arrive at the different ports early in the morning and leave in the afternoon, thus affording ample time for a run ashore. The first stop is usually made at St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, about eight days' sail from New York. The town of Charlotte Amalia is situated in a landlocked harbor surrounded by high hills, on one of which is the famous Bluebeard Castle. Sometimes St. Croix is substituted for St. Thomas as the first stopping place on the trip. Although this island is picturesque, there is not much of special interest to see; but the traveler will have an opportunity to sample a Santa Cruz rum punch at the club, where it is served in " schooners."
Porto Rico, recently acquired by the United States, is reached by two first-class steamer lines from New York, but there is no regular connection between it and the Windward Islands. Columbus discovered it in 1493. It is 1 08 miles long by 40 miles wide, and quite thickly populated. A railroad circling the island is in course of construction, and there are highways in every direction, the principal one being across the island, between San Juan and Ponce, a distance of 84 miles. It is a fertile country, largely given over to agriculture, and is watered by no less than 1,300 flowing streams. San Juan, the capital, is a clean, picturesque city of 35,000 inhabitants, while Ponce, situated on the southern coast, has 50,000. Besides a local line from New York, the steamers to Venezuela stop here.
St. Kitts, a British possession, is a picturesque island, its principal mountain, Mount Misery, 4,300 feet high, being an extinct volcano. The chief town, Basse-Terre, is very popular with the men-of-war's men, on account of its fine cricket ground. Ten miles from the town is Brimstone Hill, once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies.
Dominica is French, and the most picturesque of all the Windward Islands, as the mountains are quite high. An excursion to Mountain Lake can usually be taken while the vessel is in the port of Roseau.
Fort de France, Martinique, is the principal French possession among the islands, and the traveler has an opportunity of seeing what a French tropical colony looks like, — and very agreeable he will find it, with the pretty mulattoes decked out in their unique gay headgear. Josephine, wife of Napoleon, was born here, and there is a monument erected to her. Formerly the steamers called at St. Pierre, a most picturesque little town which, together with its 30,000 inhabitants, was utterly destroyed by the eruption of Mount Pelee, May 8, 1902.
St. Lucia is British, and lying at the end of a deep harbor is Castries, the chief town. St. Lucia's chief attractions are the "Pi tons," two symmetrical peaks rising out of the sea. There is also Sulphur Mountain; and an easy excursion from the town is over Saddleback Mountain.
Barbados, besides the lines from New York, can be reached in eleven days from Southampton by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's regular steamer. The area of this island, which is a British possession, is 162 square miles, and the population 190,000, of which 150,000 are negroes, so it is needless to say that it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Bridgetown, the capital, is a busy place, and the Marine Hotel is at Hastings, a short ride by tram-car. There is excellent sea bathing, sailing and good driving, although the country is flat compared with the other islands.
The harbor of St. George, Grenada (British), is very picturesque, being only 800 yards to the head and 400 yards across, and surrounded by high mountains. The governor of the Windward Islands has his mansion on the slope of Richmond Heights.
The island of Trinidad, also British, is situated off the coast of Venezuela, about a day's sail from Barbados. It is of a peculiar shape, being oblong with two peninsulas, each of which reaches nearly over to the mainland, thus bounding easterly the Gulf of Paria, whose northern entrance, between the mountains of Trinidad and Venezuela, is called the Boca del Drago, or Dragon's Mouth. The island was discovered by Columbus in 1498, has passed through Spanish and French hands, and is now British. Port of Spain is the chief town, and here is located the comfortable Queen's Park Hotel, one of the best in the West Indies. Thirty miles south of the town is the famous Pitch Lake. Every week there is a steamer to the island of Tobago, where, it is assumed, Defoe laid the scene of his immortal story, " Robinson Crusoe." At Trinidad the traveler meets the East Indian coolie in considerable numbers. About 200,000 coolies have been imported to the West Indies from India, to labor in the various plantations.
The scenery of Trinidad is magnificent, and there are many delightful excursions to beautiful valleys and waterfalls. Every week a steamer leaves Port of Spain for a trip up the Macareo and Orinoco Rivers to Ciudad Bolivar, the capital of Bolivar, better known as Angostura, of "bitters" fame. On this trip the traveler has a chance of seeing something of wild South American life, including Carib Indians. This is the Eldorado country on account of which Sir Walter Raleigh lost his head. The country was there when Raleigh went out on his quest, but the mines of inexhaustible gold could not be located, and so — covetous and disappointed King James and jealous countrymen put him to death. An- other trip is to the great Bermudez Pitch Lake in Venezuela, which is being worked with American capital, and supplies the whole world with asphalt.
The traveler who does not care, or has not the time, to include all the Windward Islands in detail, can take the Trinidad Line of steamers from New York, making one stop at St. George, Grenada, and affording glimpses of many of the West Indies Islands en route. The voyage of 1,936 miles from New York to Trinidad takes about eight days.
The Spanish Main.
From Trinidad the traveler had best take the Royal Mail Line to Jamaica via South American ports, the first port of call being at La Guayra, the port of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, which can also be reached by the Red D Line direct from New York via Porto Rico and Curacao, the voyage taking nine days.
The port of La Guayra is one of great beauty, and Mount Silla (the Saddle) towers up precipitously almost directly from the sea. The railroad across this mountain to Caracas is one of the most remarkable in the world. The air-line distance between the two cities is only six miles, yet the railroad has to traverse a distance of not less than twenty -three miles, ascending 4,000 feet, then descending 1,000 feet to the city of Caracas, which lies in a pocket surrounded by mountains from 6,000 to 9,000 feet high. It is a well-laid-out Spanish city with a population of 70,000, and enjoys a delightful climate. A fine prospect of the valley is to be obtained from El Calvario, the popular resort of the city. From Caracas there is a railroad to Valencia, the second city of the republic, a distance of eighty miles.
Puerto Colombia is about a day's sail from La Guayra, and is the port for the city of Barranquilla, which is reached by rail in a little over an hour. The traveler lands at the great pier, four thousand feet long.
Cartagena, U. S. of Colombia, is a sail of a few hours from Puerto Colombia. Historically the city is very interesting, the forts having been built by the Spaniards in 1533 as a protection against the pirates and buccaneers who infested the Spanish Main. Cartagena was captured and laid under ransom by Sir Francis Drake in 1586. In 1741 it was besieged by a British fleet commanded by Admiral Vernon. Serving with the military forces accompanying the fleet were five companies from Massachusetts. George Washington's half-brother, Lawrence, was a lieutenant in this action, and Mount Vernon, Washington's home on the Potomac, was named after the admiral under whom Lawrence had served. An interesting excursion is by rail to Calomar on the Mag- dalena River, from which point steamers can be taken six hundred miles to Las Yegues; thence by rail to Arranca Plumas and mule to Bogota, the capital of the republic of Colombia, with a population of 120,000.
The island of Curacao is a picturesque bit of old Holland, set down in the tropics, and its harbor has been the scene of many a battle. Curacao gives its name to a well-known liquor, made from a species of orange grown here and in other West India Islands.
Colon, Panama, a short sail across the Gulf of Darien from Cartagena, is a city of considerable importance, being the Atlantic terminal of the Panama Railroad and the northern entrance to the. canal, which when completed will be about forty-four miles long.
Port Limon, Costa Rica, Central America, is the last port touched at before reaching Jamaica, and is a very modern town. The first house was built in 1871. The railroad runs from Port Limon to Alajuela, a distance of 117 miles, and affords magnificent views. San Jose is the capital, and boasts the most beautiful opera-house in the Western Hemisphere, — completed in 1897 at a cost of $1,200,000, gold. It possesses also a most interesting national museum.
Kingston, Jamaica, is two days' sail from Port Limon, four days from New York and five days, via Port Antonio, from Boston. The island is the "pearl of the Antilles" from a tourist standpoint, as not only is the scenery very fine, but the island is intersected by excellent roads for driving or autoing, and good hotel accommodation is to be found, with tariff established by the government at all the attractive points, most of which can be reached by a railroad, which is 185 miles in length. The island was discovered by Columbus in 1494, on his second voyage, and he left it in 1504, to return to Spain and to die a broken-hearted man.
The city of Kingston replaced the ancient capital of Port Royal, which was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1692. It, in its turn, has been nearly destroyed by the earthquake which occurred January 14, 1907, when at least five hundred lives were lost, besides great damage being done to the harbor, — now considerably deeper. Kingston is the center of many delightful excursions, the most popular being to the government botanical gardens at Castleton; the British white camp at Newcastle; a two days' trip to Blue Mountain Peak (7,595 feet) ; or to Spanish Town and the celebrated Bog Walk. At Spanish Town there is a fine statue of Admiral Rodney, who saved the island for the British by his defeat of the French Admiral de Grasse, fresh from his victory at Yorktown. There are many other places to visit, and the traveler can either sail direct from Kingston to New York, or he can cross the island by rail to Port Antonio, thence taking steamer to Boston or Philadelphia, or the local steamer from Kingston to Santiago de Cuba, which is a new service, inaugurated since the disappearance of yellow fever from Cuba.