My camera was strangely silent on our recent Caribbean travels. For a few days I carried it around and never took pictures so in the end I gave up. Of course the day we visited Hunte's gardens was the wrong day to have left it in the room. I would have to make do with my phone.
A previous visit to Barbados saw us taking a local bus high into the hills and down towards the coastal village of Bathsheba, to visit Andromeda Gardens; a six acre garden, now cared for by the Barbados National Trust, but once the private home and grounds of Iris Bannochie. She had gathered tropical plants from around the Caribbean to plant in her rocky, coral garden. On that day we had no pressure on time so when the local bus overheated part way there, finally chugged up the hill and dropped us off in this seemingly remote part of the island, we had no concerns about our return. We did indeed wait a long time for a return bus but eventually made it back to our hotel.
Hunte's Gardens didn't look too far from Bathsheba so our plan was to take the bus again. After a half hour walk from the ship we arrived at the bus station to find we had just missed the Number 5, 10am bus. The next one would not come until 11am-if then! Being the worry wart that I am I was already worrying about getting back to our ship by 4:30pm. not to mention the possibility of a bus breaking down. We decided to see if we could find a taxi to take us there-$60 was what they wanted because they would have to wait there for 2 hours for the return journey. We walked back to the bus station and I fretted some more as we waited for the bus. Then a couple arrived(tourists) asking if we spoke English! They wanted to go to Andromeda Gardens. When we told them we wanted to go to Hunte's Gardens and suggested we join up and take a taxi together we all went back outside found a taxi who would take all four of us for $50. Split between us this was more manageable.
As soon as we walked through the gates we knew we had arrived somewhere special on this tropical island. Boasting a higher rainfall from any other part of the island that, and underground steams ensure the luxuriant growth of all the plants.
I inquired of a lady sitting by the gate of the naval officer was standing in the corner-Lord Nelson, Of course. I didn't think much about him at the time but this morning found myself going down the rabbit hole of opinion, on Lord Nelson, in Barbados. Clearly, as at the Battle of Copenhagen, he is turning "a blind eye" to all that controversy.
Anthony Hunte, who created the current gardens, had always been a plantsman, and within two years of purchasing a 10 acre parcel of what had been the Castle Grant sugar plantation in 1990, he had created this tropical paradise, rising from the bottom of a sink hole 150' deep and 500'wide. I was reminded instantly of Butchart Gardens, which was created in a old quarry.
Mr Hunte's family came to the island from Britain as indentured servants in the 1600s so he is through and through Bajan. I wonder if he was educated in England. I listed to an interview and caught a slight Irish lilt to his accent.
What made it truly magical was the strains of classical music wafting up through the palm trees. I don't think I have ever heard that before.
We paid our $15 entrance fee and were given some modest direction to follow the steps down to the bottom and to return up to the house where we might meet the owner himself.
I completely failed to capture the steep winding steps, down into the bowl of the sink hole, which Anthony Hunte described the making of as being a learning experience. He originally started to create the steps from the top going down before realizing that you must start at the bottom and work up.
Along the way he had created lot of side pathways leading to small intimate seating areas.
And an eclectic mix of statuary tucked into corners among the plants.
I thought his staggered bowls a wonderful idea.
There were beautiful flowers and orchids at every turn.
We made our way back up to the house, created from what had once been the stables. I'm not sure if he actually uses these rooms or that they are just decorated for the public. Either way in such a humid climate the walls were covered with black mold. It reminded me of life in Hong Kong where it is impossible to keep the mold at bay.
We pretended we were taking tea in one of the rooms.
And then we entered a large covered verandah where there was a small gift shop and where people were sitting having a drink.
Mt Hunte was busy trying to do rather too many things. I told him how wonderful his gardens were and he told me to come on in and sit down and 'let's talk' I really would have liked to have heard more about his endeavors in the making of the gardens.
As we left a young man was just entering with a group of visitors and carrying some coolers. Maybe they were going to have picnic in the grounds. Sometimes the garden is used for weddings with the seating area probably at the bottom and the bride descending into the gully down those steep steps. How magical that must be.
If we ever find ourselves back on the island again I will be sure to catch the early bus and stay a while longer on the terrace-maybe sipping a rum punch with Mr Hunte, and I will take my camera.
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