Published on Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cricket tour, Caribbean style

Graham McKenzie headed to Barbados for a short tour with the Mole Cricket Club. Despite defeat on the field, he was bowled over by the destination. His itinerary was organised by the local tourist board, BTMI, and could be adopted by any group or individual.

Day 1
The squad met at the Virgin check-in and, having deposited cricketing gear, proceeded to the No.1 lounge for breakfast organised by Holiday Extras. After a trouble free flight - involving lots of japes, making full use of the seat-to-seat communications - we arrived at our home for the next five nights, Sugar Bay Barbados, and tucked into their famous buffet dinner.

Day 2
Up early and breakfast on the beach. For us athletes cereal and fruit, and for others a full English. Our first port of call was one of the most celebrated test grounds in the world, The Kensington Oval, where we were told about the history, the development and the immediate future - a test match against Pakistan in just three days' time. Walking on the hallowed turf we were reminded of all the local cricketing legends that have played here, including of course Sir Garry Sobers. A museum dedicated to WINDIES (as they are now known) cricket was closely followed by a tour of the island's famous Mount Gay Rum. History, sourcing and of course tasting are all part of the attraction plus an unexpected bonus of a tasty and substantial lunch. The serious business of net practice at the UWI sports facility was post lunch, organised by one of our squad members, former England player Owais Shah.

Dinner was at the Harbour Lights Extravaganza, which for a set price includes food, drink, dancing, singing and entertainment. I was expecting it to be a totally holidaymaker dominated occasion but at least 50% of the audience were locals, which made for a much more authentic and lively atmosphere.

Day 3
The squad went on a Cool Runnings catamaran cruise, which was full of music, laughter, turtles, flying fish, swimming, lunch, beer and sightseeing. We even spotted where the Four Seasons hotel may be built. If you have never done one of these cat trips in Barbados, add it to your bucket list.

Dinner was at the upmarket (no short trousers here) Cin Cin by the Sea. Just at the top of a low cliff overlooking the Caribbean, with fabulous fresh local food, it really was a special occasion venue.

Day 4
Match day. Again, Sugar Bay did the squad proud with a hearty breakfast and a mixture of good wishes and mickey taking. Unfortunately, post-game the latter became even greater when we were offered a second fixture against the water sports personnel. Yes, we lost against a Barbados Travel Industry XI but we looked good in our resplendent playing shirts sponsored by Excite Holidays. The game at the Desmond Haynes Oval was not a close-run thing but post-match refreshments were provided and camaraderie broke out in all corners.

Given that it was a Friday the choice of evening venue looked after itself - Oistins Fish Fry. A weekly ritual known throughout the Caribbean, Oistins is a melee of food and fun based around music of all sorts, dancing and generally relaxed, sometimes irreverent behaviour. It's fabulous.

Day 5
More fun as the squad split into groups of three for a treasure hunt across the island, called in these parts a FunFari. Each team is given a small mini-moke type vehicle and a set of clues and questions that it needs to answer. Massive fun, massive laughs and massively educational as you find out about the history and culture of the island in ways you never thought possible. Most rewarding of all was the interaction with the locals, which if you want to pass go and collect your $200 is essential. Driving there we got hopelessly lost. When we ask a passerby for directions, he drove all the way to our lunch venue just to make sure we got there in one piece. East Point Grill is an outdoor restaurant with a very cool vibe and excellent food plus fantastic views. Highly recommended.

Food figures highly on any trip and here in Barbados it is worth savouring every mouthful. Our last supper was at the marvellous and relaxed Champers Wine Bar and Restaurant.

Day 6
For some this was a day to relax and maximise the facilities at Sugar Bay - water sports, eating (more) food, drinking at the very sociable bar or just relaxing. For others, such as myself, it was an opportunity to take in the first mornings play at the second test back at The Kensington Oval in Bridgetown. The cricket was good but the crowd and their antics were better. You get to know the real cricket supporters at a test match against Pakistan in Barbados.

Then, sadly, it was off to the airport and home. We left with heavy hearts, not because of our cricket defeat, but because we were having to leave Barbados.


Graham and his team stayed at Sugar Bay Barbados

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