How to Get Lost in Barbados

If getting lost is easy in Barbados, it's also an adventure

Illustration by Christopher CozierIllustration by Christopher Cozier

So you’re breezing along in your rented mini-moke, sunfried, sightseeing among the sugarcane countryside of gentle undulating Barbados. A mini-moke is not exactly a car, it’s more like a glorified golf-buggy, an open tray with wheels, a steering wheel and maybe two gadgets on the dashboard. But the mini-moke is the preferred way to sightsee.

You have to understand that Barbados is said to have twelve hundred miles of “roads”, and most of them are unmarked and unnamed. The only map you’ll get may come with the moke, and shows a maze of lines branching out from the capital, Bridgetown, then criss-crossing each other like the veins of a sea-fan. Following that map is a great way to get lost.

I told you so.

So now you’re trying to find the underground Harrison’s Cave which is a major attraction of the island, and you stop and  ask a Bajan (Barbadian) waiting at a bus stop. “Excuse me, can you please tell me how to get to Harrison’s Cave!”

Another thing you have to understand is that islanders, and particularly Barbadians, love to give directions. In England, a native gives directions by pubs, and in America by highway and road numbers, but the Bajans tell you by genealogy, social history, and gossip.  “Harrison Cave! Since oi was a small-boy oi did know dat cave yuh know, but in dem days it din’t got no name, and me an’ some frens uses to go dung dere pun uh Sunday morning after church, but we cudn’t leh we fadders or mudders know or dey wud cut we tail wid a broad belt, an’ it wuz dark dark dung dere so we all had to carry a torchlight wrap-up in uh see-thru plastic so dat de water down dere don’t get in, an’ yuh know wat! Oi did know Mr Harrison wen he did marry a whoite Canadian gurl and dey get t’ree red-skin funny-face boys dat we didn’t have nutten to do wid for dey did baaad in trut’, anyway yuh’ave to back back yuh cyar an’ go dung dat road behin’ yuh to yuh lef, yuh will go dung a hill til yuh bounce up wid a big big casuarina tree, yuh wil see a gap goin off to yuh roight, well a gap is a lit narruh road dat does branch off de main road an’ doesn’ guh nuh where in particular, at de en’ o’ dat gap dey have a lady name Miss Maisie dat does mek de besesst floing fish and cou-cou – dat is we national dish  — in de whole woide worl’, man she shud get a medal, an’ she ent even a true true Bajan, she born in St Lucia, she got a big mango tree at de back o’ she yard dat does have de sweetes mangoes yuh ever see in yuh life, and we uses to tief dem  mangoes and get into a lotta lotta truble, anyway yuh don’ tek  dat gap yuh keep on straight straight until yuh get to a out-o’-tung bus-stop, in my granny days she say she uses to pay foive cents to tung but nowadays is one dollar and fifty cents yuh believe dat eh? It must be since de Americans put a man pun de moon dat de price gone up so high yuh know, now one o’ yuh shud tek dat bus and de res’ o’ you follow in dis ring – well luk at what moto-cyar  come to dese days eh! — yuh mus’ ask de conductor to put yuh off at de distric’ “A” police  station, and get out and go an’ ask fuh Corporal Braffit, tell ‘im oi sen’ yuh, and ask him how to get to Harrison Cave, because to tel yuh de God trut, oi really don’ really know yuh know.”