Friday, March 7, 2014

The Caymans a slice of heaven

Our  flights  were  very easy .  We stepped  out  of the  plane  to 85  degrees, palm trees   and blue skies.  Got  to  the Marriott and had to  wait a  while   for  our room, we went  for  some  lunch where  we  could see the ocean and  relaxed.  The food  was  good and  we  finished the  rum punches   they  had  given us when  we  were in line at  the  front desk.  Grand  Cayman is everything  you  think  of  when you  imagine the  tropics.  With a  nice courtyard  with lots of plants and comfy  seats  scattered  around.  The  bromiliads  come  in all   sorts  of  styles  and  colors.   There's  an  artificial   stream   that  runs  along  the courtyard   with   turtles in it  and   an  ancient  bicycle on  one  side  all fixed  up  with   planters.

After  lunch   I took a nap (surprise),  woke  up  in time  to  walk   the  beach  just after sunset.   The stars  were  starting to come out   and I   could  see  the  lights   all  the   way  up 7  mile  beach.   The   Marriott  is  on the west  side  of  the  island  at  the  south  end  of   7  mile  beach.  Fine   white  sand  and  ocean   seem  to  go  on  forever.  After my  walk  I  made a s'more ,  the  resort  sets up a fire on  the  beach   every  night.   Then   decided  to  get some  provisions in  for breakfast.   The  local grocery  store was   fairly large   with  good selections.   The Cayman dollar  is  worth  about 20% more than   US   and  everything is  expensive.   I  wonder  where all the workers   live and shop.   They people  in the  grocery were   very nice  and called a cab  for me  when I  was done.   Cabs   are  plentiful  but  the  5  minute ride   back  from the  grocery  cost   $10.  US.

The cabs  from   the  airport  are  regulated  and  the  dispatcher  assigns  the  driver  and  sets  the  price.  Our  driver  Eric  was  chatty,  we  commented  on  driving on the left side  and  he  said  he'd  been  doing  it  a  couple  weeks. He was obviously kidding, so I said that it was amazing what you learned in prison these days. (A reference to La Cage).  He said, in fact, he had been in prison for 22 years.  Bazinga. The whole story was that he grew up in a small village outside Belize City and became a police officer.   He came to the Caymans on a one year contract, met a woman, got snagged and married. Had a couple of kids and went from police work to corrections officer.  He retired a few years ago and now drives a cab. This is one of the best parts of travel for me, meeting people and  hearing their stories.

I am thankful that Connie made all the arrangements for us to get here.  I was so crazed with La Cage that I just had enough brain power to grab my passport and a few clothes.  Today I have to find an ATM , get batteries for my camera and a  disposable underwater camera.  I'm learning that doing this stuff on the fly instead of planning for weeks can be liberating.  Expensive, but liberating.

After  the  grocery   I  went to  the  pool,  you've  got  to love the climate  where  you   can   go  to   the  pool  at 10PM.   The  stars  were gorgeous  and a  crescent  moon   was  hanging in the sky  like a  big soup  bowl.  The  water   was  a little  cool but I  got  used to it . I  was  thinking   about  the  hot  tub  but there  were 2 people already   in it and  it  looked  like  they  were getting  a bit  passionate.

Today I want to go see the farm where they raise the sea turtles and schedule my dives.  Then we'll have drinks with Connie's former neighbors who have a condo here.

We went down to the beach for a while,  it's  nice  but with  all the  Marriott guests squeezed onto their  little  patch of  beach, kind of crowded.   They  give  you  terry cloth  covers  for  the  chairs  and beach  towels.   Courtney  used his   big   drill  to  sink  an umbrella  for us  and   Evans  brought  us  drinks.   We  sat  for a while,  then  went out in  the  water.  So  beautiful  and clear.  The  Marriott  has sunk  dozens of  "reef  balls"  out  in the  water  to conserve the sand and  provide  habitats for  sea life.   They  are big, hollow  half balls of concrete  with holes in them like  giant  wiffle balls.   They take  pieces  of  broken  off  coral   and stick  it  on the  balls   and it  starts   to grow.   The coral   is  too  young  to  look   like much, but  there  are  fish all  around.

We  decided to  head out  to  the  Turtle  Farm.   We  stopped   at the   concierge  desk and  she gave  us  a  discount  card  for admission  and told us  how to catch  the  city  bus.  The  buses  are  really mini  vans that  drive  specified routes and  you can flag  them down  at  any point and  get  off  whenever  you  want.   They   only  cost  $2.50  US   one  way.  The Turtle   Farm  breeds,  hatches,  grows  and  releases   sea  turtles.  They  also  farm  a  certain  number for local  cuisine.  They  have  prevented the extinction of  the  turtles and  of course provide  education.  Lately, tho,  they  have  added  a  water park.   It  probably  brings in  revenue to support  the conservation,   but  it  gave  a sort  of   weird  vibe  to  the  place.    Anyhow,  we  went first to  the   breeding   pond,   a  big   area   with  plenty  of room for  the  turtles  to swim and  mingle  with  a  big   sandy   area for  the mommies  to lay  their  eggs.  The  farm   digs  up  the  nests   and   transfers  the eggs   to an  indoor  nursery to  keep   them   safe from predators.   We  saw  some   pretty   big  iguanas   roaming  around.     Then    there  are  tanks   with  the  juveniles,  they  keep   the  males  and  females  separate  till  they   reach   sexual maturity   (I  think  they  said  15 to 20  years). Lastly  we went to a  spot  that  had  young  ones,  about as  big  as  my  hand   that   you  could  touch.  You  could  even  wade in  the  tanks  with them.  I  was in  hog   heaven,  when I  tried to hold  them they  flapped  their  flippers  and were  amazingly  strong.  Reminded me of trying  to hold  a cat  to trim its  nails.

Rode   the  bus   back  and went into   Divers  Down,  talked  to  Spilios  about  a  dive for  tomorrow afternoon.  Got   back to the  room   and  had  a  snack.  I  decided  I'd  rather  rest  than   go   for   a  drink   so  agreed  to  meet  Connie   for   dinner.

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