A Long Journey and the Healing Power of Ginger
The day after we married in October of 2007, my husband and I traveled to St. Lucia for our honeymoon. Below is the story of our journey from my hometown of Arkansas past Florida and the Bahamas, past Puerto Rico, past the Virgin Islands, all the way down to one of the southernmost islands of the Caribbean. It’s a long and winding road, as the saying goes, and we discovered first hand the healing power of strange and wonderful gingerroot.
We arrived in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, long after the sun had disappeared from the sky, our tiny propeller plane making an abrupt descent and jolted landing. Unbuckling our seat belts, my husband and I let out a sigh of relief. Throughout the day we maintained our excitement, boarding and departing each of the four flights on a journey from Arkansas to the very bottom of the Caribbean. We were all smiles until we encountered a delay in San Juan, Puerto Rico that left us standing in a crowded, sweaty bus parked on the tarmac, while mechanics worked on a problem with the plane. Eventually we boarded this last flight, and settled in for a jarring ride as the aircraft buzzed and hummed, drowning out everything the captain said over the scratchy intercom. I stuffed ear plugs in my ears and tried to pass the time by reading a book. My husband turned on his iPod with noise canceling headphones and went to sleep. No one on the plane even attempted to speak over the buzzing. The window view was nothing but darkness, and I imagined the vast sea below.
Two hours later we arrived in St. Lucia and exited the plane greeted by a cool, salty breeze. I smiled, “We’re here,” I said, trying to recapture that feeling of excitement we had boarding that first flight, fourteen hours ago. Standing in line as we entered customs, there were no friendly faces or welcoming greetings, only serious expressions and gruff voices demanding paperwork and identification. My husband and I made our way through, feeling weary and wondering if our luggage had made it to what seemed like the end of the earth. He spotted our bags out of the corner of his eye, and we were suddenly whisked away by a friendly black man who waved off the serious customs officer and brought us to a busy pick-up area to meet our shuttle. I was shocked to see our driver waiting for us, especially with our flight so delayed.
The driver greeted us with a big, glowing smile, melting away all my worries over being in a strange place so far from home. When we introduced ourselves as “Mr. and Mrs O’Toole” he let out a big, hearty laugh, making several failed attempts to pronounce it, finally settling on “O’Doole.” We weren’t sure why it was so funny, maybe the word meant something in his language, a French Creole dialect. He kindly warned us, “you have heard dat de drive is a bit rough?” and we said yes. I read the traveler reviews reporting the drive as “an experience,” and caught on to what wasn’t being said- this resort was definitely off the beaten path- way off. And with that he turned around, slamming his foot on the accelerator, jump starting the most dangerous ride of our lives.
The roads were narrow, too tight for cars to pass going in opposite directions, so when another car approached we played a game of chicken, waiting to see who would weave off road at the last minute, allowing the other to pass. We headed up the mountain, twisting and turning through hairpins, steep 15% inclines, and fast descents for a thrilling and petrifying ride through the black night. It would take almost two hours to reach our remote resort. We blasted through bustling shack towns, streets full of people who seemed unfazed by the kamikaze drivers, one of many who probably makes the trip several times a day. Large wild dogs fighting in the streets casually moved out of the way, barley noticing honking horns. The manic driver waved at friends and family as we passed through each town.
I looked beside me and noticed my husband, fidgeting in his seat, gripping the belt buckle, and knew there was a problem. Suddenly, he commanded the driver to stop, then jumped out of the van, vomiting on the side of the road. Climbing back into the van, his face was pale and his hair disheveled. “Dis happen all de time,” the driver said, “we must get you some ginger.” He made a hushed phone call on a large, clunky cell phone and resumed the drive. Moments later, we veered off the road into the darkness where a woman stood alone, whites of her eyes shining. I felt nervous, unsure of what was going on. We were at the mercy of our driver. We foreigners- are we going to be kidnapped? Robbed? Left on the side of the road to fend for ourselves in this unfamiliar territory? The woman approached his window, thrusting her hands out with a bottle of water and a broken piece of gingerroot, dirt clinging to the gnarled rhizome. “Eat dis,” the driver commanded, handing the root to my husband who looked at it doubtfully. “It good for car sickness.” He bit off a chunk of the root, reluctantly, and the woman faded into the darkness as we drove away.
To our surprise, the ginger remedy worked and we survived the rest of the drive, arriving in Soufriere, the small town where our resort, Anse Chastanet, was located. With shaking legs we stepped out of the van into the humid jungle air. The staff greeted us with cool, damp, mint-scented towels and a drink called the “Bentley,” which I will never forget. It was pink, fizzy, and tasted like the most refreshing thing I’d ever drank in my life. We were taken to our little bungalo on the beach, where a tray of leftovers from that night’s supper refueled our travel weary bodies. After a shower and a little something to eat we settled into bed, listening as tree frogs chirped their rhythmic song. There was no clock, tv, or radio. The ocean waves lapped the shore a few feet away. I looked over at my husband and smiled, “We’re here.”
Ginger is highly valued as a natural remedy for many ailments, including upset stomach. Each week I write a column for the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder Website, and this week I’ve cooked and photographed a comforting recipe for Poached Chicken with Bok Choy in Ginger Broth from Whole Living Magazine. For more on the recipe, click on the icon below.