Point Arena, CA
When we lived in New England, we would try to get away during the winter to a warm Caribbean island, We visited St. Maarten (Netherlands Antilles), Barbados, Bonaire (where we learned to scuba dive), all three Cayman Islands (many times) and the Bahamian island of San Salvador. Below are just a few of our favorite photos.
|The dive boat was docked at Rum Point at the north west end of the Grand Cayman Island.||Wildlife abounded on the Little Cayman Island||This restaurant in St. Maarten served us the best chicken sandwiches we have ever eaten||We were amused to see cows grazing on the beach on Barbados|
|As we were touring a botanical garden on Barbados, a group of school girls joined us||Orchids blossomed in large numbers at the botanical garden on Barbados||Yet another of the many orchids at the botanical garden on Barbados||We think this is a flowering ginger on Barbados|
|A lizard hunting a meal on Barbados||Hibiscus flower everywhere on Barbados||Bonaire is dry, rocky and hot but the diving is what is called "bathtub diving" with warm calm water
||Most of Bonaire's beaches were difficult to access through the rocky sea cliffs
|Because of the barrier island, there actually was shore diving from the resorts on Bonaire||To see a collection of Jack's dive photos, please click here
Visiting Caribbean islands might seem quiet and simple when compared
with traveling halfway around the world to East Africa. But even
the simple and relatively developed Caribbean islands can provide
excitement and stories for travelers.
Our adventure in St. Maarten occurred on Tuesday night. A line of tropical showers had passed across the island and it was still raining hard. Despite the weather we had made reservations to have dinner in a Viet Namese restaurant across the island on the northern French side. We had been in St. Maarten several days and sort of knew the roads. In the rain, without street lights, it was REALLY DARK. As our car rounded a corner, the water running in the ditch on the side of the road was washing over the pavement and we couldn't tell where the road ended and the ditch began. Suddenly there was a loud CLUNK and another CLUNK as our front and back right tires fell off the pavement and the car rested on its undercarriage. This was before the invention of cell phones and there wasn't a house, store or anything in sight and it was raining - hard. Suddenly, from up ahead, a car came by. It passed us, rounded the corner, stopped and backed up. Out of the car came 4 HUGE young men. Our US city training took over. Jack got out of our car. We were sure we were heading for a very bad time. The four men surrounded our car, picked it up and placed it (with Jan inside) back on the road. They then just left. Jack had to run after them to thank them.
Our adventures usually involve rain for some reason. We were on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas. The island had not yet been highly developed for tourism and we were staying at a resort that was showing signs of its age. Once again, there was a line of tropical showers. It was the summer and the storm system had a lot of thunder and lightening. The rain started coming in through the roof of our cottage onto Jan's bed. Jan joined Jack in his twin bed. In the morning when we looked outside our cottage, there was obvious damage. The large satellite dish next to the main building had been fried by lightening. The staff at the resort told us that we were the only guests who didn't go to the main building to ride out the storm.
We also would visit the Cayman Islands during the summer. The Caymans are far enough north (just below Cuba) that it was too chilly for us to visit in the winter. July 4 was our favorite time until the year that we were chased off the Little Cayman Island by a hurricane. The Little Cayman Island is flat (about 10 feet above sea level). When a hurricane comes, the tourists (and the residents) must be evacuated as a storm surge could easily inundate the entire island. We were lucky that our regular departure date was just as the weather was starting to become a concern. When you go to Little Cayman, you fly into the Grand Cayman airport and then take a tiny airplane and land on the grass airstrip on the Little Cayman. The morning that we left Little Cayman, the wind was coming up and there was rain and thunder in the area. The flight between the islands is usually about 35-45 minutes. About half-way through the flight (that seemed to be taking a LONG time), we encountered an air pocket and our plane dropped, fast and far. The pilot was totally in control but as the plane dropped, one of the passengers instinctively grabbed for the nearest thing she could see. It happened to be the door release handle for the rear hatch. Thankfully she missed the handle. Eventually, after about an hour and a half, we landed in Grand Cayman and connected with our flight to Houston. As we checked in for our US-bound flight, other US-bound flights were already being canceled in anticipation of the hurricane. We were glad to have not been "lost at sea".
At one time, we were visiting the Cayman Islands regularly in the beginning of June. The weather was good and there weren't a lot of tourists, cruise ships etc. The water was warm and clear and the undersea critters didn't much care. We were on a beach on the Cayman Brac (the middle size of the three Cayman Islands). Suddenly, there was a loud roar of a jet plane and fighter jets flew over the beach VERY LOW. The airport was across the street from the resort but we had enough experience to know that military activity was highly unusual. The Cayman Islands are very close to Cuba and we had visions of ending up like the people in the 1960's who were "hijacked to Cuba". At dinner that evening, we found out that the British Air Force was practicing at the airport (and frightening the tourists). They were on the Cayman Islands to celebrate the Queen's Birthday, a national holiday in the British Commonwealth.
We also met the military on Barbados. We were returning from dinner (again, across the island from our resort) and there was a roadblock with men in military fatigues and BIG rifles stopping and searching all the cars. Again, we thought of a military coup and wondered if we would get home. We read in the newspaper the next day that there had been an escape from a local prison and the military were searching for the escapees. This type of thing doesn't even happen to us at home. Why does it happen when we are in a foreign nation?
Our last story involves the creativity and patience you need for air travel. We usually flew down to Bonaire (off Venezuela in the Netherlands Antilles) from either Boston or New York to Aruba and then we would take a smaller plane from Aruba to Bonaire. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao all were part of the Netherlands Antilles. We arrived and deplaned in Aruba and went to check in for the flight to Bonaire. There were flights scheduled every couple of hours and we were in time to get a flight that was earlier than our reservation. When we got to the reservation desk, we were told that Antillean Air "didn't fly there any more". Evidently, the 3 islands of the Netherlands Antilles were becoming independent of the Antilles and independent of each other. The sovereign Aruba government had decided the day before we arrived that without international treaties in place, they would not allow any international travel between Aruba and Bonaire - not by air, not by ship. We tried to arrange a number of possible solutions but no one wanted to help us. Most people just didn't seem to care. That really turned us off to ever visiting Aruba again.
One gentleman, however, who was an agent for a charter airline did come to our rescue. He had 2 seats available on a charter from Caracas, Venezuela at midnight to Curacao. From Curacao, we could fly to Bonaire the next morning. He arranged the seats on the charter, arranged our flight from Curacao to Bonaire and arranged a hotel room near the airport on Curacao. After waiting about 10 hours in Aruba, we boarded our charter with lots of overweight, older women and crates of chickens. When we got to our resort in Bonaire around noon the next day, the hotel front desk personnel were amazed and asked how we had ever gotten there. Nobody had been able to get to the island. By the time we left, the politicians had finished their temper tantrums and international flights had resumed.
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