Traveling the Uncommon Caribbean way is always fun, sometimes sexy and quite often thrilling, but there can be a few drawbacks. One of the big ones: bites. The wayward angry shark or over-sauced harlot aside, I’m talking here about insect bites. Mosquitoes are the most notorious offenders, of course, but gnats, no-see-ums, sand flies, or anything else you want to call these miniature menaces from Hell, are WAY worse in my book. Red ants can be a problem too, as my wife was reminded on our trip to Nevis last summer.
It was our first full day on the island. A bright, shining sun lay overhead, its heat tempered lovingly by a gentle seabreeze. We had just finished a fantastic breakfast at the equally fantastic Nisbet Plantation and were heading back to our bungalow in advance of striking out to tour the island. Being a bit wayward ourselves, we stumbled off the main path to check out some exotic-looking wild flowers. No sooner had we stepped off the main path than my wife started hopping, ouching and crying over the vicious attack perpetrated by a couple of red ants.
That’s right, there were only two or three of ’em, but they definitely had a serious axe to grind with mankind. A red ant bite is not a pleasant thing to receive anywhere on your person, but when they go for your feet, you know they’re just plain mean. Crazed, even!
Thankfully, the ants only got her in a handful of spots, but the discomfort was plainly evident throughout our island tour. At varying stops she applied aloe, took Advil, and even poured rum on the bites; nothing worked.
Then, we arrived at the odd little shelters pictured above. Beneath the roof is a super steaming-hot, nicely tiled pool of spring water warmed by the island’s volcano. Our guide, Calvin Klein (seriously, that’s his name!) told us that locals bathe at the pools regularly as they say the ultra-warm waters have therapeutic healing powers. History shows they’re not the only ones who’ve felt this way.
The pools are part of a larger estate known as the Bath Hotel and Spring House. Originally built in 1778, the Bath Hotel is reputed to be the first hotel ever built in the Caribbean. There’s no vacancy at the Bath Hotel these days (it stopped welcoming guests in 1940), but in its heyday it was among the world’s most prominent playgrounds for the rich and famous. The thing that drew such a distinguished crowd: the hot spring baths.
The spring water, which gets up to 108°F, is said to contain minerals of medicinal value with some claiming that bathing here cured them of rheumatism, gout, and other chronic illnesses. Aristocrats, noblemen and other dignitaries would sail to Nevis from other islands, America and even as far away as Europe to avail themselves of these very same magical waters.
As Calvin Klein noted, these days you mostly encounter locals here. He also had a warning: this place is not for the squeamish.
It’s not uncommon for folks to bathe here completely buck-naked. Never mind that the main road passes a few yards away and it’s quite an open and public place, local people do their thing here every day as they’ve done for centuries.
So, of course, we did too.
That is to say, we went and tried to enter one of the pools while keeping most of our clothes on. True to Calvin’s word, though, full frontal nudity was observed, but that’s not what kept us from entering the pool fully. Instead, the main deterrent was heat. That water was too damn hot for us to enter beyond our knees! Meanwhile, the locals splashed around in it like it was a lukewarm bathtub.
Everyone professed to the healing power of the hot springs with one elderly lady saying that she bathes there twice each day and has never been sick. I might not have believed her except that immediately upon exiting the water my wife noted that her painfully itchy red ant bites weren’t bothering her anymore. The redness, itching and swelling that defied all other treatments that day were no match for the volcano.
If you’ve got an ailment that nothing seems to solve, a trip to the Bath Hotel and Spring House might be worth a shot. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be in Nevis, which in and of itself provides a great deal of solace.