We unabashedly take tours when we are in a new place. But a great tour guide can make all the difference. We’ve had some good guides and some duds. Ronnie Carrington on Barbados was a great one.
Good tour guides must like what they are doing. Like teachers, preachers and politicians, they like to inform people.
A good tour guide needs to know what they are talking about and needs to be well rehearsed.
But a great tour guide needs to love their subject.
Mr. Carrington’s tour is called The Barbados Photo-Adventure Tour. My fellow participants had everything from very sophisticated cameras to cell phones, and their photographic experience reflected the same disparity.
I would call myself an advanced amateur; I know a little about composition, less about shutter speeds and aperture, and nothing about white balance. I fit right in. With all the inexperienced people in the group he had to help, the tour was not one for someone looking for sophisticated pointers.
But it was clear he loved Barbados.
Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island. Discovered in the 15th century by the Spanish, it remained uninhabited until the British took control in the early 17th century. It has been British ever since.
Barbados is an independent country within the British Commonwealth. The Barbados Parliament is the 3rd oldest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world.
The country provides free education and health care. University education was free to those who qualified until 2014 when it became too expensive. Now students pay 20% of the cost. As a result, Barbados has a very high literacy rate and the second highest percentage of centenarians in the world [Japan is first.].
There is also strong land use control; a plantation owner is likely to wait a couple of years to convert his property from agricultural use, and his non-agriculture uses still will be limited. For example, lot sizes may be restricted.
The country has 166 square miles. It is not volcanic like its neighbors to the northwest. Six-sevenths of the island is relatively flat coral and limestone; the eastern seventh is a ridge of sandstone and clay pushed up at the meeting of tectonic plates. Reminded of the original countryside, settlers called the eastern portion Scotland.
Five Hundred sugar plantations once produced over 300,000 tons a year. Now, just 40 produce around 12,000 tons, mostly to make Barbados rum.
Until slavery was abolished in 1834, slaves lived in little villages around the plantations. Later, they could own their houses but not the land, so they built movable houses on stone foundations. The houses were wood buildings with steep roofs. The style came to be known as “chattel houses.” In English common law, chattel means movable property. Eventually, government assistance enabled people to buy the land under their homes.
There is a strong tradition to avoid debt, so often a house is not painted [paint is expensive]. A house may remain unfinished for years until the owner gets sufficient funds to complete it.
Pride, in self and country, would seem to be the watchword. Pleasant people living in a lovely patchwork of fields and tree-lined gorges interspersed with small villages all on an island graced by balmy tree winds — it justifies their pride.
Click on photos to enlarge.
For more about Ronnie Carrington go to http://ronniecarrington.com