Sunday, November 03, 2013

Grand Vacation in Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands are a British territory in the Caribbean, just southwest of Cuba, about one hour flight from Miami.  They have one of the highest standards of living in the world, as evidenced by the many multi-million dollar mansions we saw on our small stretch of beach alone.  The local people are very helpful, handworking and friendly. 

As usual, we chose to rent a home/condo, instead of living in a room in a hotel.  We also chose to stay on the northside of the island, Caiman Kai, over the heavily populated and commercial Seven Mile Beach area, with its hundreds of restaurants and shops.  Being British, driving is on the left side of the street with the steering wheel on the right.  It was a tense adjustment at first for Georg, with my reminding him "drive on the left" every few minutes at first.  I was navigating with instructions from the condo owner and a map and we drive around in circles for some time before getting on the correct road to the north shore.  To complicate matters, there were roundabouts every few streets, resulting in my pointing vigorously in which direction Georg should go.

The drive took around one and a half hours, interrupted by a stop at a liquor store.  Like most countries associated with Great Britain, liquor can only be purchased at a dedicated store for that purpose, not in grocery stores like in the States.  We also made a stop for some basic breakfast items to get us through the next morning.  Food prices are very high for some items, a porterhouse steak costing as much as $27.  We planned to eat our big meal out and just keep light food items in the house.

Once at our detached condo, located in the Gardens of the Kai complex, we discovered we were the only ones there, due to its being off season.  The beach, ground and pool were ours to use alone.  Starfish Point, famous because large, red starfish, or sea stars would congregate there was a short walk to the left.  Rum Point, named after the pirates who frequented the area years ago, was a two minute drive to the right.  Kaibo Yacht Club, a resort and restaurant, was literally a two minute walk away.  I felt we had made all the right choices.  The price was right: $1100 for the seven night stay and we lucked out with the weather.  That's why the price was lower, because it was the hurricane season.  We were told it had rained for two solid weeks before we arrived.  While we were there we had blue skies and no rain until the last two days, when the rainy weather returned, just in time for us to go home!

The highlight of the trip for me was a catamaran trip to Stingray Sandbar.  We took the boat from Rum Point.  Apparently, fishermen had made a habit of dumping their chum buckets at a certain point, attracting stingrays, and they have been coming back ever since.  They are so tame, they seem to crave contact with humans.  Perhaps that is because the tour operators get in the water and feed them.  Georg got right in the water with his snorkel.  It took me a bit longer to get over my initial fear.  But when I did, I didn't want to leave.  They would rest on your arms and let you hold them.  You could run your hand over and under them and pet them.  The boat captain explained that these stingrays were a different kind than the one that killed Steve Irwin.  The barb on those were lower toward the tip of their tail, whereas the ones we interacted with had the barb on the base of their body and it is to protect them from predators coming up behind them.

I felt in more danger from a young chicken than I did the stingrays.  Let me explain.  We visited the Cayman Turtle Farm, where you can observe the large turtles and interact with the smaller ones by picking them up and handling them.  Also on the grounds were numerous huge iguanas and families of hens and their offspring, which were nearing maturity.  I was talking to the young chickens and being friendly toward them.  At one point I turned my back and, to my dismay, I felt something fly up and attach itself to my t-shirt in the middle of my back.  I had no idea what it was, except that it had claws of some kind, because it was scratching me.  I started screaming "Get it off, get it off!", running around and flailing my arms wildly.  I was pulling at my shirt trying to shake it off.  People ran toward me, responding to my call for help.  In the meantime, Georg was sitting in a rocking chair, faintly bemused by my predicament.  Finally it released its claws and flew off of me.  By this time I realized it had been one of the young chickens.  From now on, I will not be turning my back to any chickens!