Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bicycling and Blitzen!

We biked all over the east end of Provo Wednesday, all the way out to Leeward Going Through and back again. As we couldn't dive (the winds are still whipping up the waves and reducing visibility) it was something to do and a nice way to see more of the island. We made our way along the main road along Grace Bay and down some side roads, eventually getting to the working shipyard area at Heaving Down Rock. (Love the names here!) On our way back, we stopped briefly to take a peek at the Conch Farm, with their numerous conch pens in the water and the hatchling ponds. The farm was hit very hard by the hurricanes Hanna and Ike in 2008, which destroyed a great deal of their facilities, from their dock to their processing house, so it's in the rebuilding stages now. We opted not to take the tour, since we are quite familiar with conch, and have seen enough of them in the wild to know they aren't exactly riveting to watch. Fabulous in a fresh conch salad, though!

Ron at the ferry dock at Leeward
Conch pens as far as the eye can see
Thursday morning, we actually rented a car, with the aim of getting farther afield and doing a bit more sight-seeing off the beaten path. I had to laugh when Ron pulled in with the car,'s a tiny little thing, with the name "Blitzen" across the front bumper. I saw "Prancer" yesterday (also a white car) so will definitely be on the lookout for Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Donner, et al. the next few days. I'll bet Rudolph is a red car....!

"Blitzen", ready to roll!
We went down to the southwestern end of the island and explored a bit around Chalk Sound National Park, a stunningly beautiful shallow lagoon with rocky limestone islands dotting it throughout. The colors are incredible; the sky is reflected off the white sand of the sound, producing an ever-changing array of tones and hues of turquoise water continually transformed by passing clouds and the position of the sun.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on Chalk Sound called Las Brisas, a fabulous little Mediterranean-flair/tapas place with a very extensive menu. The views from here are breath-taking -- not a bad seat in the house! There is seating around its pool, pool bar, along its porches overlooking the water, and along its beach. We were seated out in the porch gazebo, which sits out on a point of land at the edge of Chalk Sound. It was glorious! We indulged ourselves with conch salad and their special lobster pizza, and Ron was delighted with their mojitos, clearly freshly made, with real mint.

One of the 1001 amazing views of Chalk Sound
After lunch we did a little more exploring, driving out along the Chalk Sound Drive and then back, and made our way to Sapodilla Hill. There was one lone sign pointing the way down one of the island's "improved roads", nothing more. Street signs are few here, and other markers are not exactly plentiful, so we weren't exactly sure if we were on on the right path or accidentally trespassing! The road ended in a a scrubby parking lot near the beach where I got out and looked around. Sure enough, at the edge of the lot there was a partially hidden trail leading up the hill. (Also unmarked, of course!) We hiked the steep scree trail to the top, and were rewarded with magnificent views of the Caicos Bank, from The Five Cays to the east to Sapodilla Bay at the base of the hill, and westward to West Caicos. One neat thing at the top were these old carvings scratched into the limestone rocks. Dating from the early to mid-1800s, the guide books ascribe them to shipwrecked sailors or even to marauding pirates, but one local we asked said they were more likely done by merchant seamen who arrived in nearby Sapodilla Bay in the late 1780s and 1800s. (Makes sense, since Sapodilla Bay Beach is known to the locals as "Children's Beach", since the waters are so heavily protected here. It would  be quite a feat to be shipwrecked this far inside the Caicos Bank.) Some of the carvings are quite worn, but others have initials and dates that are still legible. But it's a neat little bit of history, in an unexpected place!

E. Pay from 1821 and W.Wlims (Williams?) 1812, respectively
1832 -- love the script!
N. Eames, also from 1832
Undated initials -- there were lots like these
Date of 1869 but no name visible
No dates, but beautiful script. Like the backwards S,
typical typography of the 1800s.
Views from the top of Sapodilla Hill

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