Day trip to the far side
Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 27 Mar 2013 20:35
Now at 19:21.053N, 081:22.327W
We still have Grand Cayman as our host country as we wait for a suitable weather window to get west to the end of Cuba then eastwards and northwards towards the Bahamas or USA. Or we could simply return to Isla Mujeres in Mexico and wait there, in which case we could leave virtually anytime as the prevailing winds blow generally in that direction. If we believed in miracles we could wait for an opportunity to sail eastwards to Jamaica and then through the windward passage to the Bahamas - but we don't!
With some more time to spare we couldn't leave this island without at least escaping George Town, which is situated on the west coast, to sample the delights of the more desolate beaches on the east side. Apart from the former capital Bodden Town on the south coast and one or two settlements and resorts at the eastern end the windward eastern side is far less developed. Studying the bus routes it didn't look like we would have any trouble getting there or indeed getting back. We were correct on the first assumption but far too optimistic on the 'getting back'.
We found the local bus station without too much bother and sat waiting for the driver in an air conditioned minibus travelling on the No 4 route to East End and beyond. Alone on the bus we read the various notices adorning the interior many relating to the dutiful worship of the Great Man upstairs. So we were in safe hands. There was to be no booming Reggae or Rap music assaulting the ears as we have experienced on other Caribbean public transport - just the gentle sounds of religious hymns from one of the island's many radio stations. Soothing background music as we drove through town picking up an amazing number of passengers before leaving the bustle of George Town behind for the quieter roads further east. This journey illustrated to us a very different side of Grand Cayman. It was noticeable that we had left the more exotic Jaguars, Bentleys and 4 x 4's behind and were now into the land of the knackered old heaps (Clunkers as Americans call them) that many of the locals can just about afford to run.
Views from the bus along the way.....
We asked to be dropped off at a suitable public beach where we could walk along for a few miles, enjoy some beach-combing and for 'Skip' to undertake some snorkelling antics before jumping on the next bus going back to George Town. The beaches quite understandably have a fair amount of rubbish on this windward side although a barrier reef does stop some of it getting through and some stretches have been cleaned up to a certain extent. Phil did manage to get his swim in whilst the 'Admiral' beach combed looking for anything of interest that wasn't made of plastic.
Our drop-off point - good choice by the driver.........just a shame we didn't take a picnic
Every public beach has shelter and seats........shoe tree beach art - 'Skip' inspects a Croc but only one of his size!
Onwards we plod for miles past a resort ....the sign reads - "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us" Hhmmm - that take some thinking about!
By 4 pm we were ready to move on, the idea being to catch a bus back to George Town via the loop road taking in the north coast. There aren't that many options due to the geography of the island. As we regained the road a bus travelling in the direction from which we had already come beeped as it passed by - they all do, as they pick up anybody anywhere. We let it go as we walked back to Morritts, a resort we had walked past on the beach a few hours earlier. There we waited for a bus which, according to the islands free guide book, would be running every 15-20 minutes. Over an hour later we were still waiting and it was now late afternoon. Any bus would now do, whatever direction it may happen to be travelling in as all roads lead to the Capital. Phil enquired at one of the shops near the resort if they knew when the next bus would be due. Half an hour was the answer with enough hesitation to plant doubt in the mind that this timescale was probably plucked out of thin air as an educated guess from a bored shopkeeper.
Desperation was now creeping in. We were 22 miles out of George Town, it was getting dark, we did not have enough money for a taxi (not that we'd seen any of those either) and walking was definitely not an option. Fate then lent us a helping hand in the shape of one of those 'clunkers' containing a local driver. Or so we thought, he was actually a Jamaican working in Cayman. Seeing our plight ,i.e two badly dressed & depressed looking souls standing by the roadside, offered to take us to Bodden Town where he lived and where he knew buses would be running - "coz you ain't gon' get one here Mon - dey stop runnin' dis time o'day out ere" or words to that effect.
We clambered into the elderly vehicle, having first ascertained that this was an offer 'from his heart' as opposed to a gilt-edged opportunity to top-up his wallet. We even got to see the north side of the island. Apparently it was quicker than the reverse route that we had taken on the bus. He even kept driving until he caught up with one heading in the direction of George Town and flagged it down to wait for us. As we climbed out of the car and bundled into the bus, the 'Admiral' thrusted $10 into his hand as we left him to drive 'home' to his temporary residence in Bodden Town.
So pleased to get back 'home' ourselves we celebrated with fish 'n' chips at Rackhams Restaurant which is on the shore immediately opposite to where we moored. We could view the boat from our table - always a nice touch. We even made it 5 minutes before Happy Hour finished so ordered 4 beers at the so called special price to wash the meal down with. With tip that little lot came to $60 USA £40 UK so there was a little ouch! factor as the credit card was produced, but we didn't care - we were just grateful to be back from our little excursion! A small bonus event which happens at Rackhams every night is the feeding of the Tarpon, huge saltwater fish 5-6 ft long (unfortunately not good eating) that are voracious predators and lurk around the rocks in town. We guess they all congregate at Rackhams for their nightly free fish - sin fries. Next time we'll dress up in Tarpon costumes (with snorkels) and forego the beers!
$60 view of the boat!....... and those Tarpon with the glinty eyes, courtesy of a very strong arch light shining onto them
As a footnote to the story, we did e-mail the free guide publishers the following day to explain that their published bus timings were not quite accurate whilst detailing our ordeal. We received a very nice response saying they had looked into it and apparently a lot of the drivers were terminating their journeys at Bodden Town and not completing the route (naughty naughty). This we assume was for financial considerations as we were probably the only customers they would have had that far out of town.
We have now moved into North Sound to escape the next strong cold front which is winging its way eastwards towards us.