I can’t believe the amount of stuff I am carting around the Caribbean on this little jaunt. We are into week 3 and our third destination and I have just really realised that I have yet to unpack my suitcase and wear most of this clobber. Time to think about serious downsizing for the next trip. It would be so easy to offload the clothes I haven’t worn and make things lighter but I know I will need them when I get back. I have already started to check out Amazon for a new case which is smaller than the one I have but still has four wheels which I love and is necessary at my time of life. It will also have to be reinforced against baggage handlers. Last year it came home which a huge dent in one corner (Cuba) and so far this year I have had to retrieve my brightly coloured luggage strap twice, which helps me identify my bag on the carousel, it has also come off elsewhere and been tied to the handle of my case and it has suffered a crack in one of the wheels which I am hoping will last until the end of this trip.
So we have arrived in Grand Cayman which although only an hour away by plane from Jamaica – Cayman Airways has to have one of the prettiest decals on its planes, it is a million miles away in terms of culture and lifestyle. One of the first things to hit us was the lack of noise – music, there are signs which say no loud music, no honking car horns and no shouting people – they are softly spoken and not in a rush. Frustrating at the car hire place where all four ladies were too busy playing games on their phones to serve us and the least friendly so far. Apparently this particular place has a bad reputation – I feel a trip advisor review coming on so we can warn everyone. Our very small car has seen better days – but was the cost of a luxury car in Florida as it is pretty battered and has dents all over it, apparently the Americans have a problem with driving on the left and often crash them. The money is simple to understand as there is a standard conversion with the US dollar so you don’t feel as though you are being ripped off and the prices in the shops aren’t too bad considering this is an island where everything is imported.
Day one we set off to explore the island in our battered little car (we replaced it later on) with a ride down to Kaibo which is the end of the road and you then have to turn around and go back. We decided to return via the Queens Highway (opened by HM in 1986) and got excited when we saw the signs warning of iguanas on the road. So Iguana spotting we went. I love lizards and think Iguanas are pretty special too. We later found out that there is a cull of grey and green Iguanas going on at the moment as they have a detrimental impact on the blue iguana ( a bit like grey and red squirrels) and each one is worth $5 if you take it to the collecting place. But we didn’t know that till later. We were thrilled to spot them roadside and tried to take a picture or two but they ran like crazy when we stopped the car. We took a few side turns onto beaches on our journey down the road. On one of them we spotted iguanas again. We stopped the car and got out to take some pictures. All was going well until there was a very loud splash as something big threw itself into the water from the undergrowth – not sure what it was or whether there is anything large and dangerous here (such as crocodiles) so we exited pretty sharp back to the safety of the car. We wont be getting the intrepid explorer badge.
Love it or hate it social media really can make good things happen. I posted a silly picture of a chicken (which are absolutely everywhere on this island) and tagged a friend, this prompted a response from another friend who said ‘I have a friend who is the head botanist at Queen Elizabeth Botanical Gardens you could look him up’. It was on our to do list so with the wonders of social media we found ourselves having a personal guided tour of the gardens with the lovely Nick Johnson who was the lead at Kew gardens for tropical plants. It makes all the difference to have things explained by an expert. A behind the scenes tour and we came across ‘Zena’ one of the parks oldest blue iguanas who has a whole shipping container to call home. As she and her home are protected she can’t be evicted and will continue to live in luxury for the foreseeable future. Blue iguanas are being overtaken by green iguanas and slowly becoming wiped out – a bit like red and grey squirrels. There is a cull of green iguanas taking place at present in the hope that the blue population can be increased.
On the other hand we looked at trip advisor as we were heading down to starfish point. So many people complained that they didn’t see any starfish and it was a waste of time. We chose to ignore the comments and went anyway. Just as well really. Snorkel masks in hand we went past the boats carrying all the day trippers and found a quiet spot. Starfish galore – and so many small tropical fish in amongst the corals – it was like swimming in an aquarium. We even witnessed a feeding frenzy but not sure what the predator fish could have been. I think our trip advisor moaners may have been expecting something like performing fish and starfish like you find in a theme park rather than the natural environment. And before anyone mentions it, I know I don’t like fish (to eat) but I really like to see them in their natural habitat, not performing in a theme park.
National Heroes day found us up the north end of the island (it is really simple here) North, south east and west and being nosey wondered why so many people were crossing the road. Turtle farm!!!!! They breed and release green turtles and the cost of admission for this day only was but $5.50 each, a saving of $45 dollars each. It was amazing to go snorkelling and interact with the turtles and other fish in the pool. We had previously spotted some turtles in the ocean further down the coast but wasn’t able to get any photos. The breeding programmes ensure that the turtles are no longer fished for food and so are fairly protected in the ocean.
No trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a visit to a rum distillery. So off we trotted to sample a selection of about 10 rums and other spirits. Allegedly this rum is matured at 7 fathoms which is the optimum depth for gently rolling the barrels. Not sure if it is true however. But the tour was good fun and the tastings not too bad for a non rum drinker.
This has been a fairly lazy week with swimming and chilling and iguana chasing. Cayman is a lovely island with a relaxed way of life. It may be a little more expensive to purchase groceries but we have managed to buy Heinz baked beans at a cost of just £2 a tin (so worth it) but you only spend as much as you want to spend. Beach days are free and the wildlife is fantastic. You just need to remember that the wildlife don’t perform for an audience and if the weather isn’t to their liking then they won’t come out to play.
We have been to Hell and back (real place) and seen natural blowholes in the fossilised coral. Been bitten by mosquitos again – no change there but these bites were really painful. And I wasn’t looking for sympathy as a friend suggested when I mentioned this on Facebook.
I have to mention again that Cayman Airways has to have one of the best coloured logos in the world on its tail – so bright. And we get to ride it again tomorrow when we take to the skies and head off to Cuba.