May 15, 2009
On Driving in Grenada…
Driving in Grenada is a unique experience that is not for the faint of heart. The “Main” roads here are barely (and many times NOT) wide enough for two cars. None of the roads have names and signs are an oddity. All of the roads are steep and winding with perilous hairpin turns and switch-backs. There are no shoulders on either side, unless you count the four foot deep culvert drain that holds rainwater and sewage on one side. On the other side is usually a 400 foot cliff edge with no railing to give you even the illusion of protection from a steep fall should you veer too much to that side.
And if the topography and condition of the roads are not enough to make you weak in the knees, you must add to that the confounding species of the “Grenadian Driver”. Their rules of the road and drivers’ etiquette seem to be taken from the School of Stunt Driving and Circus Performance. All Grenadians drive very fast, too fast for the severe turns of the road. In driving so fast, they inevitably take up more than their share of the road, especially around the turns. The bigger the vehicle, the more they veer across the imaginary center line (the roads are not painted of course). Grenadian drivers also see the car horn as an instrument of socializing and communicating to everyone. The horn is not used sparingly like in the US to alert another driver to some important circumstance. Nope- in Grenada it is used by everyone for everything- to say hello, to say nice to meet you, to say move over, to say I am passing you up, to say speed up or just to honk it if there is no one around to make sure it works when someone does come by. It is not uncommon for every car you pass to honk at you for some reason or another.
Once you take all of these things into account, you must also understand that you will encounter at least one or all of the following every 50 feet or so:
- Many Grenadians standing or walking on the narrow road do not move over for you.
- Minivan taxis and larger buses parked in the road (taking up an entire side) to have a conversation with someone, a drink at the rum shop, or a leisurely roadside nap.
- Grenadian dogs that madly chase your car and try to bite your tires
- A pothole the size of a Jacuzzi tub
Inevitably, while focusing on staying on the road and not hitting a Grenadian, it is hard to read a map (not that it would be helpful anyway as there are no signs) and find where you are going. Luckily there are Grenadians walking on the road every 50 feet or so that you can ask. And all you have to do is stop in the middle of the road to ask them, that is accepted road etiquette here. However, understanding the directions they give you is another matter entirely. Here is a sample of what we got in our last few days of driving:
– “ oh, you want to go dere huh.. den you shouldn’t be here den”
– “jus continue straight until you have to turn and den you turn and den you dere”
– “you take a left at the rum shop and a right at the other rum shop” (there are thousands of rum shops!)
– “look for de big mango tree, the one that isn’t quite ripe, and turn right”
Despite all of those obstacles, the Cajun and the Pirate have been actually enjoying driving all over Grenada and have seen some amazing places only accessible by a small car. We even are getting used to honking the horn every two minutes and playing chicken with road hogs who are invading our space. It is via car that we have been able to visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls, plantations, rum distilleries (sampling the rum takes the edge off the drive home), and rainforests that we have ever seen. Every trip is an adventure, as you never know what lies behind each hairpin turn.