Last Thursday, Ms Herbert and her parents explained the heritage and history of Nevis to Azamara Journey Cruise ship passengers who signed up for an excursion to Peak Haven located in Rawlins, Gingerland. The visitors were impressed by how Ms Herbert’s family has preserved and conserved the simplicity of past Nevisian life in unspoiled natural surroundings.
Through the collaboration of Peak Haven, Azamara Journey and Azamara Journey agents Kantours, a cross-section of cruise ship passengers were able to see the lush mountain fauna, flora, and panoramic views of neighboring islands Antigua, Redonda and Montserrat.
Peak Haven is the brainchild of Edward Herbert, his wife Claristine and their children who strongly believe that the environment, good traditions and history should be preserved. “I want local people and visitors to come here and view the beauty of our island as I tell them about our traditions and our history,” Herbert said in an interview last week.
The visitors were driven to the historic village of Rawlins, elevated 1200 ft above sea-level. Two families used the 4.9 acres, affectionately called Peak Haven, for agriculture for 100's of years.
Visitors were able to see the preserved village, which includes a large picnic area, Eddie’s Tree House, a tri-level playground and The Monkey House where several of the "green monkeys" live in natural and spacious surroundings. Then there was the Heritage House where visitors were educated about the history from the 17th century to the present, and "The Ginger Lily Massage Spot" for massages in a serene and tranquil chattel house.
Kathleen Herbert, dressed in traditional attire told the story of her village.
“My father grew up here as a boy. He would bathe his skin in that pond (pointing at the pond). Rawlins was the breadbasket of Nevis. A lot of provisions were grown here and sold in St. Kitts. My grandmother was very hard working. She would place her farm produce in a basket and place the basket on her head and as soon as she got to the market and put her basket down, she would chant “Dem a Done, Dem a Done.” This meant come and get your provisions quickly. “The land was fertile and still is,” Herbert told visitors.
Visitors were shown the traditional foods that kept people healthy and strong and kept off lifestyle diseases. Ms Herbert let the visitors have a feel of the pumpkin, breadfruit, sweet potatoes and bananas which were also displayed. All these, she said, would be cooked in a coal pot. “My grandmother would go to the field and before she goes to work she would put the provisions in the coal pot which operates like a slow cooker and when she would come back from tilling the land, the food would be ready. Nevisians made the pots. Nevisians are innovative and resourceful.”
She told the visitors about the traditional stone oven. “Although individual families owned stone ovens, they were also communal. Everybody had to get along. All cooking was done outside. There was community life. Logs would be cut and put into the oven and it would be lit for at least an hour. The burnt logs and the twigs would be brushed out and the remaining coal moved to the rear end of the oven. Bread would be placed on a galvanized baking sheet lined with banana leaves to prevent the bread from burning.”
Philicia Morton, the Peak Heaven chef demonstrated to the visitors how the bread was prepared prior to being baked in a traditional oven. “ I can remember my parents and my grandparents used to make and give us hot bread. They would wake up early morning and bake the bread. Everybody would enjoy the bread.”
Kathleen also spoke of the miracle soursop fruit that grows on Nevis that science is now discovering has cancer healing properties allegedly more effective than chemotherapy. “The leaves of the soursop make a wonderful tea. If you have grandchildren who cannot sleep, give them a cup of this tea and they will sleep,” she said.
She told the visitors that after the Second World War breadfruit could only be found in Rawlins village. Ginger was also a preserve of Rawlins and hence the origin of the name, Gingerland.
Also displayed for visitors to see was the Nevisian traditional “China” - the calabash. Visitors were shown how to scrape out calabash flesh and turn the calabashes into all kinds of utensils.
Shortly before the visitors left to get back to the cruise ship, they sampled traditional oven baked bread at the Peak Haven Coal Pot Restaurant as they watched a Nevisian woman weave traditional baskets. It was a real Nevisian experience.