Tuesday, April 29, 2008
OK, back to the promised trip review. Pete gets full credit for this trip. I was less than gung ho about the whole idea of the
We set out from home Thursday around midnight, had breakfast in
Saturday we started our day down at the beach. There was a sand castle building “competition” going on when we made it down. The kids didn’t want to participate as we had missed the first hour or so but the organizers encouraged us to join. We basically went with lots of coral decorations as our stand out feature. Turns out all the teams were “winners” and there were prizes for all (nicely they gave each team a prize for something different – I think ours was best decorated rock wall or something) and the kids got “ruler of the sea” rulers and a glass turtle from their glass blowers. We took a very short drive to an old plantation named Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins. The National Park Service had a nicely paved walkway and good signage to explain what the buildings were and how the sugar had been processed (and rum made). We also saw our first wild donkey of the island. Saturday night the kids were worried that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t find them and it would be “the worst Easter ever” (normally they get eggs at home and eggs and brunch at Thomas’ house and sometimes additional eggs somewhere else and dinner at the Eggerth’s house). Fortunately the bunny found them and left them a few eggs around the cabin and a few small presents (book for Aidan and dot-to-dot for Q). Phew! There was even supposed to be an egg hunt down at the beach but we arrived about 3 minutes too late (eggs were gone). We hightailed it back to the cabin, packed up and headed off for the day. First stop – the famous (in Pete’s family)
After we had finished up (late afternoon) we hopped back in our car and trekked across the island to our next lodging. Concordia Eco-lodge was created by the same people but it is in a more remote location and is a much smaller (and more isolated) property over all (at least in terms of # of cabins). It seemed a big step up however. The cabin had its own bathroom! Complete with solar heated shower! Cool. All the electricity was provided by solar panels so we couldn’t actually plug anything in (it was direct current not alternating) but there were lights, small fans and best yet, a frig/freezer. I have to say that they did a really good job in trying to make everything “eco” and lowest impact possible on the environment in addition to some clever details in how they constructed the cabin. We manually flushed the toilet with a foot pedal to minimize water usage. The shower water was heated by hanging out in a black barrel over head – and you got the water up there by manually pumping it (think old fashioned water spigot outside) and much of the water was collected from rain water off the roof (and additional was trucked in – this was a pretty dry island after all). They were definitely trying to educate you a bit – with some signage about the cabin etc. but it was all stuff you could envision incorporating elsewhere with minimal effort. Nice. We made use of the property’s restaurant – a lovely view again but much smaller. This time they had 2 people taking orders and getting drinks – but only one chef. We waited quite a while for our salmon and my bean dish but they were worth the wait. This place had a lovely pool for us to use too. The cabin itself was bigger and much nicer in construction although building materials were still wood, canvas and screen. There was a mezzanine area that the kids slept in and our own private deck for breakfast. Full dishes etc were provided. All good. Not as many stairs to navigate either. It was immediately the kids’ favorite place. Did I mention the GIANT hermit crabs? Bigger than Aidan’s fist.
Monday we headed down to the local beach – a short drive then short walk. It wasn’t as beautiful – a bit scrubby on the sand and foliage, but excellent snorkeling. Pete and I saw a spotted eagle ray – absolutely beautiful. I can’t say for sure how big he was as everything actually looks smaller than it really is – or at least further away – under water. He looked to have a wing span as big as my arms reach and a stinger behind that was easily 7’ or so. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to locate my underwater protection thing for my camera. Bummer. There was a short walk past Salt Pond over to the other side of the spit of land – the side that the ocean lashed against unhindered by any reefs or coves. Wow what a difference! Very windy and high waves. Tons of rocks and beach debris including a lot of coral. Someone quite a while ago started a tradition of creating “people” sculptures out of the coral and drift wood. Really really cool. We made our own of course. Just above the beach was a bluff with great views back toward our cabin. Interestingly this island is so dry that cactus are a permanent feature. We saw lost of organ pipe cactus and also Turk’s cactus (barrel type with little pink flowers) and a few prickly pear trees. We ate in the nearby town for dinner that night. Not amazing but fine. Tuesday we had pack up and head out relatively early to drive back across the island and onto the ferry – I think we were the last car to scoot on and then off they went – excellent. Then a short stop in
Friday we had a fairly early flight off the island. We had arranged for our driver from the tour place to take us to the airport “Almond” was his name. We liked him quite a bit. He also apparently arranges tours himself – everyone seemed to jump on the tour bandwagon. Enough of us tourists to go around! He also said that
The hotel doesn’t have their own restaurant but there is a very serviceable one next door – The Wharf. I ordered the “chicken roti” which I really enjoyed (mild chicken & potato curry in sort of a tortilla packet) and it was only $6 or so. Pete set out one day and walked to the nearby “mall” (which also has a grocery store). It wasn’t the most pleasant walk as it is along a busy street but he did it and came back with a few things for our refrigerator. We had paid something like $15 for a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Now I think I could pretty easily WALK the distance (granted I wouldn’t want to do it lugging my luggage) so that seemed a bit steep to me. Our guide book talked about the local buses. The hotel pushed the taxi option but we ignored them – especially since there was a bus stop in front of the hotel – and a person there told us that they bus came every two minutes (it did indeed). So for dinner, armed with the pages I had copied from the library guide book before leaving home (I no longer feel justified in buying guide books for all our trips – something I enjoyed doing – SF library has too good a collection to justify that!), we set off. The “bus” is just a minivan. There are “stops” very frequently – you shout out to the driver when you want to stop. I don’t think it is typically used by tourists but it was sort of nice as we got a better sense of the locals – and heard the local language/accents in full force. The island was traded back and forth (wrestled is better term perhaps) between
On Saturday after the rain gave up (we had passed the time playing chess and the game “Mastermind” on the porch) we rented the hotel’s two kayaks and went for a little paddle.
On Sunday since our boat trip was cancelled due to poor weather (on a beautiful day) we decided to follow Collin’s suggestion of a car rental and drive out to
After lunch we decided to try our hands at snorkeling in the adjacent cove. Well I did. It wasn’t amazing but it was decent and I was seeing some nice fish although there was a fair bit of sand in the water.
Since we had a car we decided to drive it back to
Monday was our last day and we anxiously awaited departure time for our boat trip. We really wanted to go boating! Phew, the trip was on! John’s wife picked us up and took us to the boat. The boat was painted gold with the name “Orgasm” on the side as well as “water taxi”. The boat was a similar size to my dad’s boat although it had higher sides so seemed a bit more ocean going worthy (but I could see how the “skipper” would have not wanted to go out if the wind had been up and waves had been high!) and there was a canopy of sorts that could be stood up for sun or rain protection. We had a very nice motor up the coast – maybe an hour and a half total. John did a great job of telling us info about the landscape, the people, the fish etc. The nice thing about being on such a small boat was that (by necessity?) we hugged the shore so were able to really enjoy the vistas. The “pirate ship” we had wanted to go on always seemed quite a bit further out to sea when we saw it pass by. We did have a few rain squalls pass through but more sun. We took a brief detour into what some say is one of the nicest bays in the world – and where the original Dr Doolittle was filmed. One side is only accessible by water taxi. Hotels but no cars… Our driver dropped us off on one dock and picked us up a bit further along allowing us bathroom and nick nack hunting time. When we got very close to docking in