Turks & Caicos Trip - May 2007

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

JFK, Queens, New York

I'm sitting in the waiting area waiting for my flight. This is late for me to be heading to the islands, but with renovations taking place at home, and indecision between Turks & Caicos and Trinidad & Tobago, I didn't get around to booking until the end of March. The trip is entirely in May, as American Airlines considers this off-season for fares. Being off-season turned out to be to my advantage. I'm hitting six islands in 11 days, and some places have minimum stays, which they waive in the off-season. Though one place I wanted to stay at wouldn't budge. This was on an island that Lonely Planet says you can see everything in three hours (with a car).

This is my first trip where I'm bringing my own folding bicycle (a Dahon Glide P8). It was bought for this trip and only arrived two days before my departure. I spent the evening before learning how to fold the bicycle, so that it would fit in its bag. It was a struggle.

Checking luggage is a new thing for me. I've always made do with carry on. So I left earlier for the airport than I usually would. At the check in counter the agent said there was an $80 charge for "sports equipment." But as it was within the 50 pound weight limit, and it was my only checked bag, she let it go. But she warned me they might charge at the other end.

I find my seat. The woman next to me doesn't quite fit. Under the arm rest she sticks into my seat very slightly. I notice a bunch of people that wore baseball caps for the entire flight. Why?

Providenciales

It is three hours flying time. There is only one runway in Provo. There is a gusty crosswind. It was made worse as the plane comes over the hills as it is slowing down. But the pilot has handled this before.

I'm waiting in the immigration line. I look around at the women. This is very much a makeup and gum chewing crowd. Immigration is slow. It didn't matter. My bicycle wasn't out yet.

A fellow says it is okay to open the bicycle in the luggage area and wheel it out. So I did. I was the last out. The taxi drivers kidded me about not needing a ride.

I wanted to stop by the Sky King check in counter to ask about my flight to and from South Caicos. I wheeled the bicycle in. I dropped the kick stand. And the bicycle falls over! A fellow that works there grabbed it on the fall, but the luggage fell off the back. I didn't have the luggage balanced, and it wasn't strapped on tight enough. I did a better job on my second try.

I find the Airport Inn [now Airport Hotel] and check in. The room is large, but there are no chairs and no towel hooks. I can't understand why places don't have towel hooks or bars. They aren't that expensive.

I bicycle out and head for downtown and the Unicorn Bookstore. I want a better map. I did get lost once. The little map I have isn't very good.

I stopped at a gas station for directions and water. The fellows liked my bicycle, but were a little stunned at the expense. But eight internal gears, dynamo generator, lights, fenders, rack, and kickstand add up.

On my way to the Unicorn I pass the turn off to Turtle Cove. I had planned to stay at the Turtle Cove Inn, but all the cheaper rooms were taken. I knew there would be food down there. I head down.

While bicycling around I stop to see what is rubbing on my front wheel. It is the brake. I then spy the second magnetic latch. At the airport I found the one on the back. But the one of the front was on the other side. I find the front wheel turns around 180°! And no doubt it will fold much better this way. It was a struggle to get it folded into a compact package the night before. Now I see why. And maybe I wouldn't have gotten the big gash on both forks where they rubbed together. (The bicycle does come with touch up paint.)

I find the Aqua Restaurant [became the Anchorage Bar and Grill, now closed]. I have a nice burger (cooked on a grill) and salad.

I bicycled out past Turtle Cove to see the houses out on Long Point.

I continue bicycling along the road that is along Grace Bay. But it is not near the water. It is a rather drab ride. I pass Sandals Beaches, a rather grand place. But the guard wouldn't let me in. At a couple places I bicycle over to the water and get a picture of the beach.

I see a sign for Hemingway's. I could use some caffeine. I should have gotten an ice tea for lunch. I bicycle in. Yes, the iced tea is brewed. I have a seat by the water and drink up. I get up to leave and pay. I chat a little about having caffeine withdrawal, as I usually drink tea at work and this was my first day of vacation. She replied, with a bunch of other staff present, that the tea was on the house. I was flabbergasted!

I continue on. I stop in a place that sells teak furniture. They design it all and then have it made in Indonesia. I see that it is 4:10. I figure that if I don't get distracted I can make it to the Conch Farm before 5:00. I head on. I did stop for a few minutes in Art Provo, a shop that displays the wares of many local artists. I continue on. I bicycle a little faster. I get to the conch farm at 4:40. But they close at 4:00! I looked in through the fence. I don't know if I'll make it back.

I return along the Leeward Highway. This cuts through the middle of the island. The road is even drabber than the other road. The scenery is boring. There is construction everywhere. To the north they are cutting new dirt roads through the brush. I took some. No houses on any of them yet. No views anyplace. I tried to get out without backtracking. One road that would let me out had a large puddle covering the road at the bottom of a hill. I figured I could carry the bicycle walking on the side embankments. But they were loose dirt. I slipped into the puddle and into the dirt. I scraped up one of my knees. Oh well.

I bicycle towards the Airport Inn. I find the Unicorn Bookstore. They are still open, but the only maps they sell are old ones that are sold as artwork. I pass Cheshire Hall Historic Site, but the chain is up.

I get back to my room. I lock the bicycle up outside. I'm beat. I shower and rest for a while listening to the news. I want to eat at Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills, but I decide instead I'll check out the downstairs restaurant. Just as I go out it starts to rain. I quickly bring the bicycle into my room. It is pouring by the time I do.

In the restaurant the menu is limited. It is really a bar. My problem is all of the staff speak Spanish and very little English. Two fellows drinking beer try to help. I determine that the peas and rice has no butter. But the steamed chicken comes out with gravy on it. It is a thin gravy, but I can't take a chance. The woman has no idea what wheat is. I ask that she take me to the kitchen and show me the ingredients. It just had flavoring spice mixes. I check the ingredients and find no wheat. I went ahead and ate it.

I sat next to the two guys. They sell airplanes. They are based near Orlando. They were on the way to Culebra, but it got dark and so they stopped in Provo for the night. We chatted and chatted. They drank beer after beer. The mosquitoes were feasting on my legs. Outside it was raining hard. Da Conch Shack would not have been a good option. We exchange cards and I head upstairs at 10:00.

Friday, May 4, 2007

I wake up early, but I don't get out of bed. I've given so many days to Provo I don't see a rush to get going. At 8:00 I go down to look for breakfast. The restaurant is supposed to be serving breakfast, but they aren't.

I get ready for the day and head off to find breakfast. The guide book lists Go Fish as serving breakfast. I go look for them. I ask for directions a couple times. I had not seen the place the day before. Now I know why. It is now called Bernie's Roadside Café, but no breakfast. It opens at 11:00. So while it isn't the way I want to go, I head down to Turtle Cove and Aqua. Everything is cooked in its own pan.

The breakfast was fine, but by piecing it together and giving me only the things I can eat it came to $16.23 before tip.

I bicycled towards Blue Hills. I followed the sign, but I ended up bicycling down an inland road. After a while I turned down, but I missed many things. I'll get them on my way back.

I bicycle along the water. When the paved road ends I'm at an intersection. I follow the road closest to the water. I pass places where illegal dumping takes place. Then I pass the sand quarry. The road turns into an overgrown single track road. I see a hotel in the distance, plus I can see the poles along a road paralleling the one I'm on, but it is a ways inland. I figure if I push the bicycle along this road I can come back along the other. It is a long ways. The road I'm on sort of ends. I push the bicycle along the beach. I get to the building. There are no people! It is the Northwest Point Resort (or Condominiums), a.k.a. The Canterbury. [I later learn that they are about 10 years old. They were originally called Crystal Cove. The reason I saw no people is they haven't been selling.] I see a couple of fellows maintaining the grounds. I then bicycle out to the northwest point along a single track sand road. Then I head back towards Blue Hills. I first pick up some juice in Wheeland. I'm thirsty. I then look for a restaurant. I find the Three Queens Bar & Restaurant. I learn it is the oldest bar on the island; built in 1974. This was back in the days when one had to run a generator if one wanted electricity. A baked chicken lunch is fine.

While not on the map, people say there is a hotel out the other dirt road. So off I go. The road is rocky. It is not fun to bicycle. So part way out I decide to hitchhike. The first car to pass is a Jeep. It stops. I fold up the bicycle and he stuffs it in. They had been jewelry shopping at Royal Jewels and the store had suggested they eat lunch at the Amanyara Resort. They had first driven out to the Northwest Point Resort. I knew there was some hotel out the road we were on, but it wasn't on either of my maps. An unmarked road turns to the left. We go straight. The wide road turns into a really rough single track. Some fellows working say it leads to Malcolm Roads Beach. I want to go down for a picture. So he drives down. The road ends at a mound of rocks. We can see the hotel. Some people on the beach say yes, it is the Amanyara. So we walked along the beach to their bar. It was very stunning. The Asian help says only guests can eat/drink at this bar, but non-guests can eat in the main restaurant. So off we go. We get a little ways and a security guard stops us. Food is by reservations only. As for drinks you can't enter from the beach. You have to enter from the main entrance and go through security. We leave. Because of their rather unwelcoming stance the couple no longer wants to eat there.

We head back to Wheeland. They had come out the inland road, the one I also started on, and they didn't know about the waterfront one. I sent them down the waterfront road and suggested they eat at Da Conch Shack. I stopped for a bottle of water and ate a pemmican muffin. Then I stopped for an orange juice. When passing Da Conch Shack I see their car. I went in and said hi. They asked that I pull up a chair for a drink. But after a pint of water and a pint of orange juice I passed.

I decided I would find just what is at Thompson's Cove. I went to where I saw the sign. I went in. I learn that it is a private community. A canal was dug through it. I bicycle around. The only way out is the way in. But I can hear the highway. I find a small road leading to it. There is a mound of dirt at the end to stop motor vehicles. But it doesn't stop a bicycle! Back on pavement I decide I will go visit Cheshire Hall. It is now earlier than when I tried the day before. It is a little difficult to find. This is a confusing area of roads. The map detail of downtown is hard to relate to the main map. Roads marked as major on the main map become minor on the detail. But I do find it on Leeward Highway, just across from the entrance to Thompson Cove!

The chain is down. So they are open; but not really. They close at 4:30, and they had headed out, but came back. As they were closing for the weekend, and I was leaving the next day, they agreed to let me in. So for $5.00 I got a private tour.

On my way back to my room I consider going down to South Dock, but it is more than a short trip. I leave it for the next day. I head back to my room. There are still a couple hours of light left, but I've had enough.

I shower and get ready for a dinner trip. I haven't seen my Frommer's guide book. I look for it. I can't find it. Did I leave it on the plane?

On my way to Da Conch Shack I stopped by the front office to see what I could do with my bags between 12:00 and 3:00. He said maybe I could leave them in my room.

We discussed my day. He said Amanyara charges $10 for a beer and $4-8,000 per night! [Research while editing this finds it more like $2,000 a night.] He recommended the Hole In The Wall as an alternative dinner choice, and closer. I figure I could go there on my last night, when I'm back on Provo.

I head to Da Conch Shack. It is still daylight. I will have only one ride in the dark. Apparently all the fish is fried in the oil that has wheat in it. My choices were jerk chicken or jerk pork. I had a combo with both. It was spicy!

The lights on my bicycle are automatic. I take off. Neither of them was on. I stop again at the front office. I want to find if the Hole In The Wall has breakfast. It is not mentioned in my Lonely Planet, but the name is familiar. I learn that it does. And it is in the direction that I plan to go the next day. We play with my lights. Both have switches. And both do work.

Back in my room I realize that my Frommer's may be in a side pocket. And there it is. They highly recommend the Hole In The Wall. I head to bed early. But as I'm getting ready for bed the walls and door are vibrating. There is a car outside with loud speakers. He had been by earlier. And my room doesn't even face the parking lot.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

My plans are to get to the Hole In The Wall at 8:00 when they open. As I spent time packing it didn't happen. Then when there I find they don't have bacon & eggs. Instead they have foods that I don't know the ingredients of. I head back to Aqua at Turtle Cove. I'm ordering my food at 8:45. Not as early as I had hoped.

It is a different waitress. I explain what I had the day before. I hope it is the same cook and he/she remembers. Out comes the food. Instead of a regular plate with the toast swapped for fruit there is a separate fruit plate. We argue a bit over whose mistake this is, with both of us knowing that the fruit plate is $6.95. I ask to see the bill. It is $18.65. She assembled it differently. I accept it as is. A fellow is nearby. He says I did explain it the way I wanted. He comes over and asks if he can join me. His name is Simon. He's a civil engineer and is here for the resort they are building on West Caicos. He explains how they will ferry the guests over. I ask about visiting. He could get me on their boats, but I really don't have a way of fitting their times into my schedule. I show him my bicycle.

At 9:30 I head out. I see the sign to Cooper Jack Bay. Since I have plenty of time I head down and bicycle around. Like much of the island it is new roads carved through the brush with a scattering of new houses. Some canals are cut through. At least in contrast to the new roads on my first day these curve around and aren't in a grid.

It is now 10:30. I decide this was a good time to return to my room to move my bags to the front office. Plus I can get some water and cool off a bit.

After getting cool and dry I head out. On my way down to Chalk Sound I bicycle through Five Cays. I see a beach behind the Community Center and get some pictures. I then bicycle out to a fishery by Stubbs Creek and get some more pictures. I get down to South Dock and find a convenience store. I'm dying of thirst. I settle for an orange/carrot drink. I bicycle out Chalk Sound Drive. I make a couple of side trips. Out past where the roads end on the map I find a whole network of new roads and canals winding around the hills. These are so new there are no houses yet. I see the Silly Creek Estates & Marina. I don't feel I have the time to bicycle out there. I settle for a picture of the mansion at the end.

I've been hungry for a while. The meals I eat when traveling are never as satiating as the meals I make at home, or I assemble in my employer's cafeteria.

There is no food down here. I stop for another beverage. I decide I'll eat a pemmican muffin and Larabar and make that lunch. There is a convenient bench in front of the convenience store. I sit down next to a couple. They are from Texas and are living off a 40 foot sailboat with their five young kids. They left the oldest in charge of the others while they are off on a "date." They have been here a year and he has only had a work permit for the past month. The problem is the season is winding down. I didn't ask what sort of education the kids are getting.

I head back to get my bags. My target was to get there at 3:00, and then to the airport at 3:15 for my 4:00 flight on Air Turks & Caicos [now InterCaribbean Airways]. I'm a little late. But it doesn't matter. My flight has been delayed until 5:30. Apparently they are short on equipment and we have to wait for a plane to become free. But I have already folded up and checked my bicycle!

I change my ticket that returns me to Provo from the middle of the day to the end of the day. I've seen all I want to see on Provo, and I want to add more time to Middle Caicos. There are lots of hiking and walking trails there.

I don't usually read on my vacations, but I do have some old Science Times (a Tuesday New York Times section) to read. Newsprint is lightweight!

We leave at 5:20. The ride is pretty. Down below it is all turquoise, as it is very shallow.

Salt Cay

We arrive in Salt Cay. It is the cutest airport I have ever arrived at. I unpack the bicycle. But I have a problem. Because I had tightened up the handle bar clamp the aluminum lever got stuck on the washer underneath. So a big burr developed. I could clamp the handlebar loose, and then tighten the nut below, but the handlebar remained loose.

I find Netty's and she takes me across the street to the Purple Conch Cottage. The cottage comes with four bicycles. They could suffice for here. But on Grand Turk, my next island, I have a two mile bicycle ride into town.

Netty takes me over to the Island Thyme Bistro [now closed] to make reservations. It happens that the fish he's cooking that night will be gluten and dairy free.

I take a shower and wander out and start asking around for a file. People have grinders, but not files. One fellow at the dock says he has sandpaper. He'll leave some in the morning at Netty's. I then meet a couple that will also be eating at Island Thyme. Then I hear a grinder! Turns out it was a circular saw. One saw has a carbide blade and it is rough. He grinds off the burr. He takes out a bit too much. I go back and try it. To get it tight I create another burr!

I go across the way to Island Thyme for dinner. It isn't really ready yet. So I sit at the bar and have a couple drinks with the locals. Of course we chat. My dinner is ready. I eat and return to the bar. One fellow is retired. He's younger than I, but after 31 years of government service it was enough to retire. Another is the island cop. He's from St. Vincent. So we chat about that island. I point out that there is a correlation between island friendliness and lower population. They had not realized this.

I don't want to stay out late. I try to settle up my bill. I learn it doesn't work that way. When I'm leaving the island I'm to settle up for all. And I'm to remember what I had!

I return to the cottage. There is no air conditioning, but it is getting cooler and there is a fan.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I have a fitful sleep. I get up early. While trying to sleep I figure there is an easy way to fix my bicycle. All I have to do is stop using the washer that is gouging the aluminum. I try it and it sort of works. It would have worked perfectly had I not ground one side lower then the other. Without the washer it doesn't catch and a burr doesn't matter.

I head out. It is too early for Island Thyme. I bicycle down to the south district (the Purple Conch, et al, is in the north district). I return. As I'm hungry and it still isn't 8:00 yet, I eat a pemmican muffin and a Larabar. I then go out and the cook is just arriving at Island Thyme.

I get an omelet, bacon, and watermelon. I chat with Porter, the owner, for a while. There is no one else there. The other two couples were supposed to be leaving that day. I had not heard a plane come in.

Because Taylor Hill was to the east I wanted to go there first to have the sun in the best direction for a panorama of the island. One can only bicycle to the base of the hill. And one has to be careful of the Acacia thorns.

I do not see a path leading up the front. So I follow a path that winds around to the ocean side. This was good, as had I gone up the front I may not have made it to the ocean. I got my panorama and found my way down the front. I wasn't sure I was following a path, but I made my way through the brush.

I see that when applying suntan lotion I have been missing some parts of my foot near my sandals. I head back to my cottage to be sure it is well covered. And for a drink of water!

My next tour is #1 on the Salt Cay Visitors Guide: Self Guided Tours (a free handout from the Island Thyme Bistro). This takes me up to the top of Little Bluff Lookout. But I don't see the main path. Instead I follow one that peters out after a ways. So from then on I was just walking among the scrub brush. I scratched up my legs. I did get panoramas form both sides of the ridge. After I got back down I found the correct path. So I went up it to find the canon and light. The viewpoints from where I went first were better. The tour mentions two graves in the bushes. I looked and could not find them.

I then started tour #4. This takes one down Victoria Street paralleling the water. At St. Johns Anglican Church the minister is closing up. Seeing me taking pictures he asks if I want one inside. So he opens up and turns on the lights for me. Maybe it came out okay. At the Brown House it was being extensively renovated. [When finding that link for here I discover that this project was done by the architect that I sat with on a later flight.] The workmen say I can go in. It is quite grand. The woman owning it is spending a million to restore it. It will then be rentable.

I thought I finished tour #4, so I headed to Island Thyme for lunch. A fellow named Tim is there. His family once owned 90% of the salt production on the island. He brought over a couple (now eating lunch at the Windmills Plantation [closed in 2008 after Hurricane Ike completely destroyed it]) that wanted to see the White House. This is Salt Cay's largest home. It is still in Tim's family, and while he now lives on Grand Turk he comes over to stay at times. We (including Porter the owner) all have burgers and fries for lunch. Tim leaves to open up the house. Porter says Tim likes to give tours. I head off to join them. He shows me a little while we wait for the couple to arrive. I decide I'll spend the time finding the bird viewing stand on South Creek. I head off. I find it; but no birds at all. I bicycle more south and I do find one bird.

I return to the White House. The couple had just arrived. We get some of the history of salt making on Salt Cay, and then a formal tour.

I head off to do tour #2. This takes me out to North Beach, where I beach walk for a while. I then bicycle to Grey Salina.

I then realize that tour #4 in on three pages. All the others are just one. So I go complete it. With some effort I find all the things. One thing on tour #1 that I did not find is the two old graves in the bushes. I stop at Splash Boutique. We chat a while. She says the graves are just past the new waterfront house being built. I go look again. I wander all around and do not find them.

I head back to my room to shower. I go out for a sunset picture, but I was too late. And before the shower I was too early.

At 7:30 I go over to Island Thyme. There is no sign of them opening. After hanging around for a while I rouse Porter and ask. He didn't know I was coming for dinner, so he gave the cook the night off. He says on Sunday people eat the barbecue at Debbie's, a.k.a. Coral Reef Bar & grill and he thought I was eating there. I go to Debbie's. The place is closed. I go back and tell Porter.

This leaves Pat's Place. I sort of get directions. I know it is near One Down One To Go, which I know how to find. I find it (it is closed) and across the street is a sign for Pat's Place; but no entrance. It was simply a sign at an intersection. I bicycle around until I find a couple. They try to give me directions. But I keep thinking about the confusing sign. So they walk me there.

This is Pat's home. She opens up and serves me my best meal on the island. I asked about the confusing sign. It had been around the corner with an arrow. But it fell down and someone just propped it up (without any arrow). Pat comes to chat. I'm not the first to be confused by that sign. She didn't think that there were any guests on the island. Finally at 9:30 I leave to head back to my cottage.

Monday, May 7, 2007

I sleep a little better. I'm up early. I pack. I go for a walk to look for the graves again. I still can't find them. I go over to Island Thyme. Porter cooks up a better breakfast than the day before. I settle my bill. We chat and I head to the airport. At the airport I mention that I couldn't find the graves. She explains that they are in front of the new high house, and the concrete fence goes around them. I fold up my bicycle and wait. I then learn that the plane will be late. They are only allowed to bring in nine passengers (there is no fire engine at the airport), so they had to drop people off in Grand Turk first. Had I realized this I would have—before folding my bicycle—hopped on it and gone to find the graves.

Grand Turk

On Grand Turk I unfold my bicycle and strap on my luggage. I'm getting better at this. I now get everything on the bicycle, now that I hang the carrying case from the handlebars.

I have no problem bicycling into Cockburn Town and finding the Manta House. But no one is there! I leave my luggage inside the front door and head out. I stop at the tourist office and pick up a map. The problem is it is huge, but the map itself is small. (The map itself is surrounded by ads.)

I then go to the Turks and Caicos National Museum. This is something I definitely want to do and I might as well get it done. It is a lovely museum. They have the walking tour map that I didn't find at the tourism office. Next to the museum is the arboretum. I get one of the women to unlock the gate. I have a flyer on it, but I can't find any numbers on the plants. They do have some island cotton with cotton. There was no cotton on the plants at Cheshire Hall. I presume the tour guide pulled it off to show how the seeds can be removed by hand.

It is now noon and of course I'm hungry. I bicycle around to get towards The Water's Edge Bar & Restaurant. Passing the Manta House I see one of the women out front watering. I go in and get my room. She offers an upgrade to a suite for $20 a night, but I have no need for all the space. And I have no problem sharing the bath with a couple of guys in another room.

The Sandbar is their restaurant. I look at its menu. The place is filled with people. I go over to The Water's Edge. There were no people, but two waitresses! I look at the menu. It is a fancily printed multi-page thing. Many menu items are fried. I ask about breakfast. Despite what the guide book says they are not open for breakfast. They suggest the Salt Raker Inn across the street. I decide I'll go back to the Sandbar and have a burger with rice & peas.

The burger comes out with a bun. I had specified that I did not want one. I tell them they have to make a new one and can't simply take it off. It comes right out and he says it is new. But it is cold. Do they precook them? Indications are I did have a wheat contamination from this lunch.

I head off to bicycle up to Colonel Murray's Hill to check out the views and the old tracking station. I go for a ways. I'm not sure what way I'm headed. The sun is shining on my wrists. I had missed them when putting on the suntan lotion the day before. I wanted to go back for a second coat of lotion. Just about when I was going to turn around I realized I was re-entering town. I had been going around in a loop. Now I do have a compass on my handlebars. And yes I have looked at it. But unless it is level it isn't accurate. I had assumed it was level and had not stopped to level it.

I put a second coat of lotion on. This time by starting from the house, and seeing what I did wrong, I bicycled right up to Colonel Murray's Hill. But the brush around it was heavy. And it overlooked the island dump! I got a panorama anyway.

I bicycle along Ridgeline Road towards the lighthouse. This road is where the house construction action is.

I get to the Grand Turk Lighthouse. It is closed. Normally there is an admission charge, but one can move the fence and walk in. I wander around, plus I start both of the two towards the beach walks. I walk until I could get a decent beach picture. From the east walk I see the Horseback Ride 'N' Swim. [I later learn that even when open for the cruise ship crowd one can never go up the lighthouse.]

I see from the Lonely Planet map that there are a couple of beaches I can go down to. But I can't find the roads! I do find a decaying sign to the Coral Reef. I go down. The place was once a hotel/resort, but is now decaying and overgrown. I get a few beach pictures. It was a wonderful stop.

I bicycle back towards town. I find a new park. Is this another thing created for the cruise ship people?

In town I get some water and orange juice. I get a good picture of the Methodist Church reflecting on the Salina. I stop back at my room.

Things are closing. I decide I'll walk along the Waterfront Street taking pictures. I first stop at the Salt Raker to find out about breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is at 7:30, and they are closed on Wednesday. I get pictures of any building that has an historical plaque on the front. I pass a couple of guys walking. I ask if they are the other guests at the Manta House. They are.

I find the old H.M.S. Prison. It is closed, and now like the lighthouse charges admission and is only open when a cruise ship is in.

I get another picture of the Methodist Church. The reflection may be better, but there are no longer clouds behind.

Walking back to my room I run into Tim. He had said that I would see him! I ask him about breakfast. He suggests Michael's Atrium Restaurant. I stop by to check it out. They serve local food, i.e. stews, curries, and jerks.

I shower and make it to Sandbar to watch the sunset. It wasn't very photogenic. I start to write my notes. I learn the Coral Reef story. One day the owner simply locked up and walked away. I meet Danny, the fellow that runs the prison and lighthouse. He says ask for him on Wednesday and he'll let me in free.

I head to Michael's for dinner. The two children of the woman running the place are fascinated by my camera. I let them play with it. (My only concern is they don't drop it.) She decides the best meal for me is beef stew. I have no problem eating everything set down in front of me. I get her e-mail address to send her the pictures I took of her kids.

I walk back to the Sandbar. I have a drink at the bar. I chat with the fellows next to me. Then Tanya closes the bar and I move to a table. Most of the people are not from the island, but have adopted the place. A few are natives, called Belongers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I had the air conditioning on again. And the bed was nice. But my ankle itches big time. Something stung my ankle Sunday morning when coming down from Taylor Hill. I didn't see it. It stung for a while. Now it is really itchy.

Michael's starts serving breakfast at 7:00. It is a nice time goal. I go out and see that the surf is up. Seeing surf on the leeward side of a Caribbean island is unusual. There is some storm around. I get down to Michael's around 7:30. Instead of bacon I get salted cod. And a hash brown, which turned out to be a manufactured patty and possibly a mistake. Plus my usual four eggs, orange juice, but no fruit. The total? $18.70 before tip! Breakfast at the same restaurant was 50% more expensive than dinner. Breakfast is definitely my most expensive meal!

I return to my room for suntan lotion. I thought I'd enjoy the first part of the day without it.

The continental breakfast at Manta House is supposed to be from 8:30-9:30. I was expecting fruit and juice. At 8:45, not finding anything, I gave up and head off for the south part of the island.

My first stop is down a road to the beach just north of the Governor's House. I walked along the beach to the Governor's House and Governor's Beach. I then bicycle to Governor's Beach. It is totally empty, except for a couple men building a new pavilion.

I bicycle to the cruise ship dock. Again it was totally empty and closed, save for some men cleaning up. With no people I was able to bicycle all around. I then bicycled to Booby Rock Point and White Sands Beach. Then I bicycled around Hawkes Nest Salina. I then found Gun Hill. This is not on all maps. But it is the second tallest spot on the island (so it says) and was good for a picture. I continued to bicycle the dirt roads. I saw Hawkes Pond Salina. I then stopped back at Governor's Beach for a pemmican and Larabar. I chose it as it had places to sit down, but a fringe benefit was a vending machine for water.

I stopped at the Governor's House to see if it is ever open to the public. It isn't. I then bicycled to the Great Salina, but did not go across.

I wanted more to drink. The first warehouse store I know has Tropicana orange juice. But they didn't have the liters of water. They only had packs of small bottles. So I drink the OJ and head for the other store. I had given two of my $1 bills to pay for the OJ. So all I had was $1.30 in small change, then a $5 bill. The cashier has no $1 bills for change. So the woman behind me pays for my water and I give her $1.30 (which isn't the full amount).

I head to the post office to see the philatelic stamps. The sea is rougher than before. It is splashing over the sea wall and onto the road. A fellow says a cold front is coming.

There are some stamps to see. The guide book says there are scores to see. Well, it is less than a hundred.

I put my water in the Manta House refrigerator and look for lunch. I want to try the Secret Garden at the Salt Raker Inn. I tell the waitress about being gluten and dairy free. She checks on the ingredients of the steamed conch. Out it comes with butter on the steamed vegetables. She takes it back and corrects it.

I head out towards the north. My first stop is West Road Beach. As I pull in there is a car on the road blowing its horn. I think it is for the fellow hanging out on the beach. No, he says it is for me. I walk over. It is the Salt Cay police officer from lunch a couple days before. He had also seen me earlier and blown the horn, but I had ignored him. (I couldn't imagine someone would be trying to get my attention.) He was over for a court case and wanted to see how I was doing.

I bicycle towards Pillory Beach. I don't actually get there, but I get a picture of it in the distance. I bicycle around trying to stay as close to the West Coast as I can. I get to Corktree Beach. I try to get further, but the road ends. I return to trying to get east. Eventually I can get over to North Creek. I then bicycle along North Creek until I get to the north tip of the land. [Looking at the map as I write this I see I may have been able to get to Little Bluff Point.] I wander around at the tip. I then bicycle a little to the east and then south, thinking the road will loop around. But instead I'm bicycling down a spit of land sticking into North Creek. After a ways I have to walk and I end up in the middle of the creek.

I bicycle out and back to town. I stop at one of the grocers that I know has Ting. I want one. At $1.25 for a small bottle they are the same price as in Brooklyn. I then bicycle out to and around the island within an island. I did not try to get into the center to find any ruins. I then go to Mr. Cee's for an orange juice. I try to get some water bottles, but they only sell by the case. This is more than I need or can carry on my bicycle.

I return to my room. Over at the Sandbar I get a bottle of water. The fellows do say it is hotter and muggier than usual. At 5:00 I go take a shower and nap until sunset. I go out looking for a sunset, but the cloud cover is so great it is even worse than the day before. After a while I give up and look at my dinner options. At the Sandbar it is the same short order menu as lunch. For me that pretty much means a burger. I read the specials at Water's Edge. I've never warmed up to this restaurant. I don't go down to Michael's. I guess I'm still resentful at the $21 breakfast (with tip). I return to The Secret Garden. The problem with this place is the mosquitoes. I do have long pants and socks on. I sit under a fan. I keep my arms on the table where I can see them. But the fan is not strong enough for mosquito control.

I ask the waitress which option gets me the most food. She's not sure. I was hoping the garlic chicken would be a half chicken. She says it is two pieces. About the only menu item I can't have is the pork chop, as it is breaded. I order the chicken anyhow. It arrives. It turns out to be boneless and the portion is generous. I kill my second mosquito. This one is bloody. No doubt it is my blood. I finish and get out of there quickly! As I pay they offer me mosquito repellant at the bar. But it was too late. They do say that the mosquitoes will be real bad on Middle and North Caicos, especially Middle. I head back to my room to call it an early night.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The night started off with a thunderstorm. I ended up with diarrhea all night long. Did I drink too much orange juice? Or was it one of the meals I was served? I only know it wasn't gluten or dairy. Then before dawn there was more rain. As I've done all that I planned to do I'm in no rush to get going.

I start with breakfast at Michael's. I try to see how low I can get it. I have extra water, so I bring it. I order four fried eggs and bacon; nothing else. Out it comes with two strips of bacon. The price? $12 plus the 10% tax. Amazing. The lunches at Michael's are only $10.

I walk back to the Manta House. This time I find them serving breakfast out back. I have a glass of orange juice and two oranges. (I was hoping for a banana.) One was a red orange. I don't think I've had one before. I ask if there is anything to explore on the island within an island. No one knows, but then none of these people are Belongers. It begins to lightly rain.

I'm not going to have enough cash. Plus I think the fees are lower for cash than for a credit card charge. I stop at First Caribbean Bank. My card does not work. Their network is not one of the ones that Chase uses. I go to ScotiaBank and take out some money. I then head to the prison. I ask at the gate for Danny. The fellow lets me in. I say hi to Danny and go back to thank Kevin at the gate. It only takes a few minutes to see everything.

I decide I'll go see if there are ruins on the island within an island. On my way there a horse drawn carriage filled with tourists passes. But it is a moving target and headed away from me.

On the island I walk in some, but I do not find anything. I then head to my room. I get there about 10:50. I figure if I leave at 11:00 I'll get to the airport at 11:15. That will be 45 minutes before my flight. I find Tanya and ask to settle up my bill. I then pull out my itinerary. My flight is 11:15! I don't know what to do. I quickly strap things on my bicycle and head off. I tell Tanya I'll settle up later. I bicycle as fast as I can. There is a strong headwind. I pull into the terminal some 3-5 minutes before 11:15. But the plane is already taxiing down the runway. I learn the next flight is 2:45, but the computer is down. So I rest for a half hour and dry up. I then check my large bag and get my boarding pass. I head back into town.

This gives me an opportunity to bicycle the short cut on Close Haul Road. Then when I get to James Street there is one of the horse drawn carriages with some locals hanging around. I get a picture with the fellows posing. I then chat with one of the fellows about my missing the flight. We figure I can get up at sunrise and still see all of South Caicos. He says you can't bicycle between Middle and North Caicos, but there is a ferry. He says it is too long to bicycle between them. He says it is a few miles. That doesn't seem far.

Back at the Manta House I find Katya. She says when the booking is for two or less nights they go ahead and charge the card. But I also ran up some charges at the Sandbar which I haven't paid for.

I order a burger with rice & peas, and sit down to write my notes. The sea is still rough. SCUBA dives are being cancelled. With the storm visibility under the water is poor.

While waiting I overhear a conversation. Apparently there is a tropical depression and on the cruise ship it was rough. The fellow was saying he has never been on an airplane and this is his first time outside of the US.

I settle up the food and bar tab I've been running. I bicycle to the airport very slowly. My digestive system is still a mess. I go check in the bicycle at Skyways. She asks if I've taken the air out of the tires. No I haven't. I didn't for American Airlines or Air Turks & Caicos. But she insists. She says that is what she is taught. Now this is a small plane on a 10 minute flight. We will not be getting very high. I plead. She insists. So I took out some air. They do say I will be able to get some air on South Caicos.

I proceed to the waiting area. I sit near an older white fellow. We start chatting and continue our conversation on the plane. A couple of fellows in handcuffs with two cops are first put in the back of the plane. For some reason they are taking them to South Caicos.

I learn that the fellow I'm sitting with used to be a company exec, but then in 1996 he just quit. He now sells coatings to refineries in the Caribbean and equipment to airports. So he comes down often.

South Caicos

At the airport on South Caicos the people send me over to a hanger for air. It is some sort of large vehicle repair shop. They happily help me. I go back for my luggage and I'm on my way.

As I approach town I ask for Tina's. I have gone a block past it. Good thing I ask then and don't bicycle into town. I drop off my bags. There is no air conditioning, just a couple of fans. Some of the windows have screens, but not all.

I head into Cockburn Harbour and bicycle around. I ask to find Muriel's, but it isn't open. I find the Anglican Church; I then try to bicycle around the salinas. But the roads are flooded. I bicycle through 6", which is probably a bit much salt water for my bicycle.

I then find the road that leads around the salinas on the east side towards Sail Rock Hills. But you can't see the road at all. Only the telephone poles show the way. I return to my room. I pull out my Lonely Planet page. There were some sights in town that I missed. But I decide I can do those in the morning. For the couple of hours left I decide I'll bicycle the west side to Sail Rock Hills. But alas it is also flooded. I bicycle into town and find the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but no tall steeple as the guide book says. I see the steeple alongside the church. I find some of the old buildings in the neighborhood around it. I then make it up to the old Commissioner's House. It is now a ruin, but the views are good from the top of the hill. I pass Muriel's again. It is now 6:15. It is still closed.

I return to my room. I open the windows that have screens. I decide I'll eat dinner now and shower as I go to bed. Tina had pointed out the Love's Restaurant that is two doors away. I walk over and meet Rose. The only food she has is steamed conch. It is fine. A SCUBA group comes in. This is their last night after a week of diving. The place they are staying, Ocean Haven, is still being renovated and has no kitchen yet. [A check in 2009 finds it is no longer in business.] I take group pictures for them. I go back and take a cold water shower and get to bed early.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sleep was fitful. I have a very itchy rash on my legs. Only one mosquito made it around the screens. And I got her. My digestive system is still a mess. It certainly wasn't from drinking too much orange juice. I have only been drinking bottled water since Grand Turk. So it must be from the food fed to me.

I get over to breakfast around 7:00. I want to hire a driver and truck to take me to Sail Rock Hills for pictures. She calls her son. People are afraid they will get stuck. She says there are no poisonous plants on the island, but I may be allergic to one.

The other two guests join me for breakfast. They are the two police officers that were on the plane. The two fellows in handcuffs go to court this morning. They are from South Caicos, and South Caicos has a court, but they hold them on Grand Turk. They will be returning this afternoon, alone or with the two fellows, depending on the court case. They are Jamaican. We chat for a while.

I return to my room. The only thing I want to do before I leave is to return to the old Commissioner's House and get some pictures of Cockburn Harbour. It is overcast. Maybe it can be a day without suntan lotion?

At 8:30 the maid comes to clean for the people coming that night. Can't she come back later? She wants to change the bed now.

I head into town for a town picture from the Old Commissioner's House. I pass Tina's son. I tell him I'd like to find someone to drive me to Sail Rock Hills. He says he will try. I return to my room. I stop over to see Tina and I call Adolphus on Middle Caicos telling him what plane I will be on.

A little sun is coming out. I put on a little lotion. The son does not find anyone willing to drive to the hills. They know they will get stuck.

I slowly bicycle to the airport. A fellow wants to buy my bicycle. He'll pay $500. In the Caribbean people often want to buy the bicycle I'm riding. I don't know why they think someone would sell the one they are riding.

At the check in she does not have me on the flight. They have me flying from Grand Turk to South Caicos twice the day before. They have me on the flight I missed, plus the one I was on. It appears that they changed the wrong flight. She gets on the phone with headquarters and they get it straightened out.

I stop by their men's room. (I'm still making hourly visits.) There are no paper towels, but there are two baskets of condoms.

The plane arrives late. It left late from Grand Turk. This is the same flight that left early the day before and I missed. The plane is full. I'm glad they didn't go and sell my seat! I sit in the back row next to an architect that is taking his son to Miami for medical treatment. Apparently it is some ongoing problem. I get a few pictures, but it is too cloudy. I mention that I could go for a bicycle ride as I wait for my next flight. I have three hours. He says there are some good views of Chalk Sound past the airport.

Providenciales

The baggage comes out. There is no bicycle. I ask. There was no room on the plane for it. They say it will be there by 1:45. I go check on for my next flight. I check my carry on bag. Instead of 3:00 it is now 4:00. They consolidated flights. It seems that Air Turks & Caicos isn't very reliable.

I go to the restaurant to see if there is anything I can eat. The baked chicken has flour. Everything else is on the griddle with the sandwiches. I see a couple eating chicken soup. I learn that it has corn starch and I can have it. I supplement it with a pemmican muffin and a Larabar.

It is now 1:00. I go check on my bicycle. They are sending it to Grand Turk and then to Provo. 1:40 is the scheduled arrival. So I hang out. I find the wall with molds taken from the Sapodilla Hill rock carvings. This is something I missed when I was down at South Dock. It says they are on private land, but my Lonely Planet describes how to get to them.

My luggage arrives, along with a lot of other people's luggage that did not fit. She says to be back at 3:45.

I head off on my bicycle. I make a left turn which I think is going to take me to Chalk Sound. But instead it loops around the airport and is probably going to connect to South Dock Road. I turn around and get back to the road going straight out. I wasted 20 minutes. I pass the rock quarry. Dump trucks are coming and going. I continue on. I do get lovely views of Chalk Sound. I continue on. It is going away from Chalk. I think I might end up at the sea. After a while it intersects with another road. I'm thinking this might be a road to Malcolm Roads Beach. It is getting late. I turn around. I'm now bicycling east and I have a headwind. I bicycle fast. I get back at 3:30, dripping with sweat. I check my bicycle and get an orange juice for refreshment. I wait until the plane leaves.

Middle Caicos

We get to Middle Caicos. Someone on the plane points out Adolphus Arthur. He first takes me to a small grocery store for breakfast food. All they have are eggs. I buy a dozen, the smallest quantity. Then at another store I find orange juice, but still no bacon. He drives me to my house. The roads are horrible. These will be the worst I have ever bicycled on. He says they are going to pave them all. They started on North and are working their way east.

We drop my things off at Crosswinds Villa, the house he has put me in. The house is closed up. It is hot. The screens are off. He's not going to put them in for a two day rental. He starts the air conditioning. He shows me Murray's house: Sundial Villas. It is just a short walk away. (Murray also rents his house. When I inquired I learned they are down for May and they invited me to stop by.) We drive to the Passion Bar & Restaurant. Norma, the owner, is not there. Adolphus calls her. He talks her into preparing a meal for me. It is to be at her house at 7:30. He shows me where that is. He offers to drop me off. No. (I need to make a pit stop first.)

I unfold the bicycle. The mosquitoes are out in force. I find the mosquito repellant and put it on. I bicycle the short distance to Murray's. It isn't easy going. The road is often deep sand. I join him and his wife Linda on the porch. I tell them about the two days of diarrhea. She gives me some Imodium AD (Loperamide Hydrochloride). They invite me for dinner the next night. Murray says I was stung by a scorpion back on Salt Cay. Linda shows me a picture of a plant that is poisonous to touch.

It is time to head to Norma's. I first return to Crosswinds for a pit stop and an Imodium AD.

I get to Norma's. She has my food (conch, etc.) in a take out. This is not what I expected, but it is fine. She says the next day, a Friday (a weekend), she will serve meals at the restaurant.

I return to eat the meal. It is fine, but the coleslaw mixed in with it (it got all jumbled on the bicycle ride back) is a taste bummer. Just after I finish the meal and get ready to write these notes the electricity goes out. The air conditioning got the house partly cool, but not yet all the way. I did not know where to find a flashlight. On South Caicos it was right next to the bed. I put on my shoes and head to Murray's. They loan me a small flashlight, a couple candles, and some matches. They say that outages last from 30 minutes to two hours. And they point out that I have lost my water. (It is catchment and stored in a cistern under the house.)

Back at Crosswinds I look around. I find candles and matches, but no flashlight. The place is well stocked. It must be someplace, but I don't really need it now.

I sit down and write these notes by candlelight. The candles are attracting the bugs. They are getting all sorts of different types. There are about two dozen so far. If they don't fly into the hot wax themselves I help them. Only one is a mosquito. I know one got into the house when we were coming in. I hope that is the one. It is now 10:00. It has been close to two hours. I have water pressure, but I don't know if it will last long enough for a shower. I gamble. I use the water sparingly. I succeed! After I dry off the electricity comes on briefly, then goes off again. My collection of bugs keeps growing.

It is now 10:30. I put out the candles and go to bed. The electricity comes back on sometime around 1 AM.

Friday, May 11, 2007

While I awoke early I was slow getting going. My digestive system still hasn't been drugged into submission. I can't find any cooking oil in the house. It is well stocked with dry goods, spices, canned fruit, and soups. But the closest to oil was mayonnaise in the refrigerator. I scrambled the eggs.

At 9:30 or so I made it over to Murray's. I got some pictures of the beach in front of their house. Then I spot Murray sitting on the porch. I ask him about photo opportunities. He suggests the Blue Horizon Resort at Madjen Harbour. And he says they may hire Adolphus to drive them to North Caicos early in the morning. If they do I can come along and we can split the fare. We discuss which road I should bicycle. We figure the coast road may be too sandy.

I head off. In the middle there is a crossover. I try the coast road. It sure is prettier, but is like bicycling on a rough washboard. Fortunately there is another crossover a little ways down and I get off it. In Conch Bar the roads connect again. I again try the coast road. It is too sandy. I go back to the main road. I pass the Indian Caves. This one is not much more than an overhang. I find the Blue Horizon Resort. I park my bicycle and walk to the beach. I walk up to the top. I get my first 360° panorama of the trip. I find the stairs that takes you down to another cave. I walk to Mudjen Harbour Beach. There is a couple there eating lunch from a cooler in the natural amphitheater. They were just finishing up two weeks on Prove. They had taken trips to visit the other islands. This day they took a boat to Middle Caicos where they were met by a fellow with a truck that took them to Conch Bar Caves and now here to the beach. I ask where Conch Bar Caves are. I told them to be sure to go up to the top and take the stairs to the other cave. They offered me a root beer, but there was none left in this cooler. Their driver said he'd leave one on my bicycle. I take off down the beach. I see them up at the top. When I get back to my bicycle there is a root beer on the rack. I drink it. Yeech! I don't like sweet things.

I bicycle out the road further, but it is just more of the same. I had learned that the only place in Conch Bar for food is at the airport. I head there. All the local cuisine lunch dishes are finished for the day. She can cook me a burger. I tell her I have to avoid wheat. She says no bread is cooked where they cook the burgers. She has fries. She says nothing else is cooked in the same oil. I sit down and wait. I strike up a conversation with Dwight. He was the captain of the ferry that went between Middle and North. With the new causeway it is no longer running. But it will run again for a short time when they cut the causeway and put in some bridges to let the water flow across. A fellow comes in. He asks if I've been to the caves. I say no, but that I'd like to go, He's a guide. I ask how much. He says $10. I say we have a deal and we can go after I finish lunch. I learn from Dwight that his name is Rasta and he is one of the guides.

The food comes out. The burger is on a bun. But I said no wheat. But it isn't wheat she says. Wheat to her is whole wheat. She had no idea that refined flour was also wheat. (Unfortunately this is not uncommon in the Caribbean.) She takes it back and makes another. Rasta reappears. The new burger and fries appear. Just before I finish it Rasta disappears. So now I am ready to go to the caves and there is no Rasta. I tell the woman at the restaurant that I'll bicycle to the caves (they are just down the road) and if he returns send him that way.

I bicycle to the caves. There is a fellow cutting back the brush. No one else is around. I return to the restaurant. Dwight appears in a vehicle. He says he'll go get Rasta. I sit down to start writing my notes. Rasta appears. He gets someone to drive us to the caves. Rasta has two flashlights, but gives one to the driver. It doesn't work. He asks the driver to be back in 30 minutes.

The one flashlight he has isn't very bright. It makes it difficult. Because of this we can't go to the bridge. He tells me a little about the cave. The problem is his accent is so thick that it is hard to understand him. When we come out of the caves there is no driver. We end up walking all the way back to the airport.

Before going in the caves we see a storm up north. Along the way I see some lightening. The wind is from the east. Maybe we won't get it?

I get my bicycle. The airport is now crowded. An airplane is due soon. A fellow in the terminal (where I put my bicycle in case it rained) says he saw me fold it in Provo. He was amazed.

I head for my house. It starts to rain just a little. I have a headwind now. As I get about halfway I see that it has rained a lot on the east end of the island. For me the sprinkles have stopped.

I get back to the house around 5:00. This is just enough time to write my notes for the day and make it to Murray's for a 6:00 dinner.

I made it over to Linda and Murray's house a little after 6:00. We had a nice chat and dinner on the screened porch. Outside we could hear the mosquitoes buzzing and they were stuck all over the screens. They loaned me back the flashlight, so I could get home. I ran. The mosquitoes did not follow.

They are not getting driven to North this week. They suggested seeing a beachcomber's yard in Lorimers. So in the morning I'll bicycle there, and then bicycle to North Caicos. If I'm lucky I'll be able to hitch part of the way.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

At 2 AM I'm awakened by intense sheet lightening and some thunder. Then more thunder and driving rain. My bicycle is under the house, but not as far under as it could be. Before the rain started I briefly considered moving it. Of course a little rain won't hurt it. As it turned out the bicycle was on the leeward side, so it may not have gotten more than mist. But all this rain is going to increase road flooding. Anyway I watch the storm. It wouldn't be easy to sleep through it anyway.

I brought too many pemmican muffins. So I eat one while waiting for the storm to subside.

At 3:30 I go back to bed. At sunrise (6:00) I awake. In the distance is some thunder. I go back to sleep. By 7:30 I'm in the middle of another thunderstorm.

At 8:00 it clears up. Now I should have been all ready to go when it did. But I wasn't.

I am getting low on suntan lotion. I only brought a new tube of 3 oz, the maximum size allowed in carry on luggage. I use some from the house, plus I put on a layer of the house's mosquito repellant.

I head to Lorimers. The road is completely flooded in places. I have to just bicycle through.

In Lorimers I find the beachcombers house. The yard is a bit overgrown, so it is difficult to see all his collected stuff. A lot of it is buoys that came loose. I try to get a good picture.

I head back towards my house. When I reach Bamberra a pickup truck passes. It is the Senior Conservation Officer for the National Trust. He has to make a stop in the Bamberra office, but then he can drive me to Conch Bar. They have a group tour of the Conch Bar Caves that he has to get ready for.

It was good that I packed a head of time. We stopped at Crosswinds and I simply grabbed my bags.

During the drive he tells me that JoAnne (my host on North Caicos) has been down for 30 years and is married to a Belonger. He says she can be difficult and people have asked him to rescue them from her.

He drops me off. As I was now out of water he filled my 1/2 liter bottle with hot water to get me started.

I head off to North Caicos. I stop for a look at the Middle Caicos ferry landing.

North Caicos

As I'm crossing the causeway a fellow stops me. He knows I'm heading to Jo Anne's! It turned out that he is her husband.

I continue on. When the construction cranes of the causeway are in the far distance I realize that I could have given him my luggage! But it doesn't look like I have that far to go on the map. I do not go back. (I later realize that the scale in the Lonely Planet map is off by about 10 times!)

I continue on. No trucks are passing me. At one point I park my bicycle and walk off the road for a picture. A pickup truck passes, but I am too far away to stop it.

In Bottle Creek I am out of water. I stop at the Bottle Creek Lodge to see about lunch. There is no lunch, but she fills my water bottle. I drink some and she tops it off. Then back on my bicycle I drink some more. I should have done that back in the kitchen before she topped it off.

She told me to look for Frank's Café for lunch. I bicycle along until I find it. I have a nice lunch of barbecued chicken, and of course rice. It has been extremely hot. They point two floor fans at me to cool me off.

I bicycle on. Before I reach the airport I get a pickup truck to stop. He is driving around looking for his cell phone. He tells me JoAnne's husband is named Prince. He drops me off at Whitby Plaza at JoAnne's Bed & Breakfast [now appears to be closed]. On my own I could have missed it! Plaza makes it sound like more than it is. There is nothing there but the two white buildings of JoAnne's.

I drop off my luggage in the room she left unlocked for me. It is an inferno. There is a ceiling fan, not really over the bed; that just blows the hot air from the ceiling down. For cross ventilation there is less than two square feet of screen in the back. There is more in the front in the screen door.

I bicycle over to the supermarket for water. I bicycle down to look at the beach, but take no pictures.

I head off to Kew and the Wade's Green Plantation. Kew is three miles from Whitby. I was able to hitch for part of the way. In Kew I buy another bottle of water, telling her I'll stop again on my way out.

The fellow I hitchhiked from said to make a right after the variety store, and then another right. When I got to the second right I find it is a five way intersection. So there are two rights. A couple of boys are hanging out. I ask which road. They tell me the middle one and then ask for a dollar. I say no and head out. They jump on a bicycle and follow. I bicycle fast and lose them. But then I stop to drink water and they catch up. So I befriend them.

We find the sign to Wade's Green and bicycle the road to it. The mosquitoes are bad. The repellant on my arms has worn off. I am swatting them left and right.

When we reach the start of the stone walls I give each of them a dollar. We wander around the site together. They are skeptical that I was stung by a scorpion. Finally I have had enough mosquitoes and I insist we get out of there.

We bicycle back to Kew together and I treat each of them to a bottle of water. I head out, but not before giving them my card with my web site.

As the road to Sandy Point is closer to Kew than Whitby it makes sense to go to that now. After I make the turn I am able to get a ride from a fellow from Tallahassee that is working on the causeway. He remembers me passing in the morning. He tells me there is a new place, St. Charles, which is an option for a place to stay. He says it is between Whitby and the airport. On the drive to Sandy Point I see a sign for Cottage Pond. I'll be sure to stop on my way back.

In Sandy Point I see they are developing North Caicos Yacht Club and Marina [153 acres into canals and home sites]. Right now it is just canals and cleared land. [The 2007 web site died in 2009.] There are a group of fellows hanging out at the dock. I go over to chat. They are waiting for some boats from Provo. It seems the locals pile into motorboats to get to Provo for the day. I'm sure it is cheaper than flying. [There is now regular ferry service.]

I bicycle back towards Whitby looking for Cottage Pond. I only remembered that the sign is buried in the bushes and is facing what is in now the opposite direction. So I keep looking backwards. It doesn't help that Lonely Planet has Cottage Pond placed in the wrong spot on the map.

I find it and go in. This is a 150' deep fresh water hole. And I learn later that underwater caves radiate out from it.

I bicycle towards Whitby. I pass a park, but I don't go in. At the turn to Whitby I see Joshua's, a bar with activity. I ask a fellow about food. Yes, they serve barbecue in the back. I go back and get another bottle of water.

At my room is a note asking me to stop in the office before 7:00. So I do. Prince and JoAnne are there. I ask about a floor fan. She says they have to be imported from the states and are too expensive. I ask about the non-working refrigerator. She says for $90 you just get a room. She says no one provides air conditioning as electricity is expensive. All in all I have never received so little for so much. She says for dinner I can bicycle several miles towards the airport for food, or go to Joshua's. For flamingos she says they will be in Flamingo Pond at high tide, which is right now. As this is almost across the street I quickly bicycle over. There are no flamingos, but there is Siggy's Café. I talk to her. She does not serve breakfast on Sundays. My only option is at the airport.

I go back to JoAnne's office. She could make me coffee for breakfast. I pass. She says I should be able to get on the 12:15 flight and to go over at 11:30.

I get rid of my camera and head to Joshua's. I start with three ribs. There is a fellow peeling conch. I ask. He will be making conch salad. I wait and until he's finished and have one. It was a very nice meal and the same $12 as lunch. I bicycle back, picking up another bottle of water on the way. I learn that on Sunday the store will only be open from 8 AM to 10 AM.

Back in my room it is hot. I decide to go right to bed. In the heat I don't feel like writing my notes.

There is at least one mosquito inside. As I am on top of the sheets I put socks on to protect my feet. I do get bitten. Plus my legs still itch from the rash.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It is not a good sleep. I think the sand fleas are also getting me. I can't imagine that the guide books recommending this place have actually stayed here. If so, they would have to list this place as a last resort.

I get up at 6:00. I write my notes. At exactly 8:00 I go out for water and juice that I can use to wash down some pemmican. It is overcast in one direction. I get to the supermarket at 8:00. It is closed with three cars out front waiting. A fellow says sometimes it is late. I go back to my room to finish these notes. As I return I hear thunder.

To kill some time to be sure the store is open I use some paper towels to clean some of the sand caked to my bicycle. A hose would be better! If I don't, when it is in its bag the sand becomes loose and ends up as a dust on everything. But I can't clean the tines.

The mosquitoes are already out. My last few hours on this island will not be pleasant.

I go again to the supermarket. I try some peach nectar. But it is sweet. That is the problem with all fruit juices. The sun isn't out. Thunder and lightening are in the distance. But one still works up a sweat in the humidity. I can't imagine why people would ever retire to a place like this. For that matter I don't understand why people move at all when they retire, unless they can't afford to stay where they are, or they want to be closer to their children.

I head out to get some beach pictures. It is lightly raining. (It lightly rains the entire morning.) My first stop is the Ocean Beach Hotel. This is where I wanted to stay, but the place insisted on a three night minimum. [When editing this in 2009 I find they are no longer offering hotel accommodations. Now a condo under the name Caicos Beach Condominiums.]

My next stop was the Prospect of Whitby. This place is now closed, getting overgrown, and being vandalized. Then I go to another spot on the water. Then I go to the beach down the road across from the supermarket. Then I go back to Flamingo Pond for another picture. There is a fellow there that was inside Siggy's. He says Siggy will come after church to start the food. We discuss JoAnne's and the St. Charles Condominiums. He points it out in the distance. I had figured that was it. He suggests going to check it out, and he tells me how to get there. So off I go.

The St. Charles shares a beach with the North Caicos Community Center, which is rather extensive and includes a pier. I get some beach pictures. The center is totally deserted of people. I'm sure the light rain has something to do with it. Plus it may be more for scheduled events.

I bicycle back to my room. I strap my luggage on my bicycle and head to the airport. The agent there says no problem getting on the flight. He is a bit surprised when I say I have a bicycle. But then after I pull out its case he says he saw it on Middle Caicos. He and another fellow nearby; are like everybody amazed when they see me fold it up.

In the terminal is the Super 'D' Café. This is where I was expecting to get some food. I smell food as I walk in. But I learn that they don't serve food on Sunday. I buy a bottle of water and sit at a table to catch up on this journal.

After my journal I wander out of the restaurant for a walk around. This was a big mistake. Within minutes I was bitten all over. I go back to the safety of the screened restaurant.

I investigate what I can do in Provo. I want to find the blue hole that the architect on the Grand Turk to Provo flight suggested. This is in the direction of the Conch Farm. I check on the Conch Farm. It is not open on Sunday. The blue hole is not on any of my maps. A fellow I ask does not know.

The plane comes. We take off. I get pictures of Kew, then Parrot Cay, Pine Cay, and Water Cay.

Providenciales

After we land I walk to the terminal with one of the pilots. I ask him how many landings he has logged. He doesn't know. He has been flying for 27 years. But he does know that the plane we just flew in has 85,000 landings.

In the terminal I realize that I left my carry on bag on the place. I also did this several years before on Saba. So I run out to get it.

As I'm unfolding my bicycle a security guard says I have to do it outside. I ignore her, as I'm almost finished.

I bicycle to the Airport Inn and check in. The fellow there is a Belonger, but he hates the word. He says there is no such word in the English language. He calls himself a Turks & Caicos islander. I ask him to show me where the blue hole is. He can't tell from the map, so he gets on Google Earth and shows me there. He suggests the Conch Farm. He says they have to feed them every day and they will be there until 3:00. But definitely there are no tours. And he can't guarantee that I can get in. Plus it isn't the season for the young.

I drop off my bags in the room and head out looking for lunch. My first stop is Hole In The Wall. I find they don't have lunch on Sundays. My next is the old Go Fish, now called Bernie's. It was not open on Sunday, so I head to Aqua again, which I know will be open.

I order a burger with peas & rice. It was good and filling. There is an American group there discussing construction projects. Now I know why The Turtle Cove has no inexpensive rooms. They are all rented to outside construction workers.

I bicycle along the Lower Bight Road until I reach Sandals Beaches, then I switch to the Leeward Highway. As I turn into Long Bay Highway I meet up with a couple on bicycles. They make only the 6th and 7th bicyclists I've seen on Provo. I ask him if he's been to The Hole. He has. He asks the woman. She hasn't. So we go there together. He hasn't been in a while, but he believes he knows the way. We find it. There is a sign pointing to it. The place is mosquito infested. It is different from the one on North Caicos. There it was a pond. Here the water starts 100 feet down. I try to get some pictures and we all run out. I'm bicycling away when I realize my camera is still set to manual focus and infinity from the flight. I go back, take some more pictures, and get bitten some more.

I bicycle back along the Leeward Highway. I stop for an orange-carrot juice. I have time to go to the rock carvings now. I know there is a shortcut to the South Dock Road, but it is not marked.

South Dock Road is up and down hills. At one place only the road goes up a hill, as both sides go straight down to level ground. On the side I'm on the hill was quarried away.

At South Dock I buy some water. I decide I do not want to bicycle back. I ask a group of people and get directions to the carvings. Before climbing up I check out the temporary dock to West Caicos. A boat is just coming in and a bunch of workers file off the boat and get into their cars.

I climb the hill. The views are better than the carvings. The replicas on the airport wall with their descriptions are more interesting. I take pictures of the ones I can readily find.

I position myself to hitchhike. The first vehicle to pass was a pickup truck, but it already has four men in the back. The second was also a pickup truck and he stopped. He had a passenger, so I climbed in the back with the bicycle. He was fast. In a few minutes I was back at the airport roundabout.

When at my room one of the Inn employees was going into a room near mine. I ask him about a Philips screwdriver. He says there is one in the office. My chain has been rubbing against the chain guard ever since I got the bicycle. The chain guard has elongated slots, and it was pushed in when the bicycle was assembled. With effort I loosen the screws and fix the problem.

I decide to eat at Da Conch Bar. I want to go early, so I can bicycle while light. I head off. I don't plan on taking any pictures, so I leave my camera behind.

The place is jumping. And even more jumping is the Café Mingos across the street. The sky has cleared some. I'm sitting there and realizing I don't have a picture of Da Conch Shack. Oh well, there won't be one now.

The waiter says I can have the pork. He makes the food and says the waitress the time before was wrong. So I have the jerk combo. It was a nice dinner eaten on a breezy beach. I bicycle back just as dusk falls.

Back in my room I jump in the shower. I've been looking forward to this moment. Then I catch up on my journal and watch Fox News. This as it was the first news channel I found and I remembered the number. But most of it isn't really what I call news. More like staged news. And lots of staged debates that are designed to get the debaters worked up. I'm more interested in knowing what is happening in the world, but I guess not much on a Sunday night. Then the right wing bias of Fox News is quite evident!

Monday, May 14, 2007

I get up at 6:30. The sleep was decent. I was back in civilization. I turn on the news. It is real news at this time of day. But Fox! It must be their style to have the commentators to all talk simultaneously. How annoying. Weather will be lovely when I get home. A high of 70°. It will be great to get out of this humid heat.

I still itch; my legs, my arms. This will be known as my itchy diarrhea vacation.

I head out for breakfast and I'll go get a picture of Da Conch Bar. My plans are to head to Aqua again. But as I bicycle through downtown I see Danny's Express. I go in and check it out.

At Danny's they have a variety of local and regular breakfast fare. I settle for four hard boiled eggs, a pile of bacon, and a bottle of apple juice. It came to $8.00! I then get another apple juice for $3.00. That must mean $1/egg and $1 for the pile of bacon. It was a reasonable and satisfying meal. And it saved me the long ride to Turtle Cove.

I head to Da Conch Shack for the belated picture. I get it, but all the tables and umbrellas are put away. I return to the Airport Inn.

I had seen a hose at the Inn. I ask if I can borrow it. The first guy says no and disappears. A woman I then ask says ask in the office. I do. The yard guy has to hook the hose up, and he's away for 5-8 minutes. I wait, and I wait. Finally after 30 minutes the woman at the desk calls him and he appears. I didn't want to lose this time, as I wanted to give the bicycle a chance to dry before I bagged it. I'm also having a problem with the kickstand coming loose and then falling off. I've tightened it by hand, but it doesn't stay. I just hope that the threads in the bicycle frame aren't stripped. [They are, and Dahon replaced this bike.]

I dry the bicycle some with paper towels. It remained wet in the chain guard and inside some joints. I pack up and head to the airport. As I get in the terminal the kickstand falls off again. I pack it up inside the side pouch. I get in line and wait.

I check the bicycle. I don't say what it is. The woman doesn't ask.

The plane has a few empty seats, but not many.

I packed my camera in the overhead bin. As we leave it is raining on the windows. We take off a little late. We soon get above the rain, and we have lovely views of the keys between Provo and North Caicos. I could have taken some lovely pictures.

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