Ron and I went out to dive this morning, as conditions looked very promising: light winds, sunshine, fairly calm seas with just some northeasterly swells undulating in slowly. We picked one of the Grace Bay dive mooring buoys and descended, only to find visibility extremely limited once again, barely 30 feet. The coral in Grace Bay has suffered from all the development and dredging the past few years, as much of the reef is compromised. It looks almost like a lunar landscape, heavily dusted with fine silt and sand, which has choked and killed much of the reef. Small coral patches remain, but it isn't the vibrant reef we once knew here. We returned to the boat after just ten minutes; the lack of visibility and the sadly barren reef wasn't worth the air fill.
Diving being a bust, we focused on exploring a bit. We decided we'd head over to "Da Conch Shack" for lunch, where we had the pleasure of some of the best conch salad we've had. It's made slightly differently than in the Bahamas: larger chunks of conch, less salt, but more hot spices, still mixed in with tomatoes, green peppers, onions and lime juice. The conch are literally fetched from the sea, cleaned and cooked while you wait. It was hard to decide which was better, the scenery or the food! Atoll, our gregarious and humorous server, was a delight, making sure our food and drink was made with a "lotta love"! Ron really liked his conch creole, and the cracked conch was as tender as I've ever had it. Yum!! Ron even bought a "conch horn" from one of the shell vendors on the beach, so now he can announce when it is sunset!
|Ron's new conch shell horn
|The outdoor seating at Da Conch Shack is just stunning. We loved it here!
|Atoll displaying his famous rum punch,on the porch where we dined.
|Walkway to the front porch of Da Conch Shack
|More picnic benches and gorgeous beach view
|The RumBar at Da Conch Shack
After lunch, we bicycled along the beachfront in the Blue Hills area of northwestern Providenciales. Blue Hills is one of the oldest residential area on the island, overlooking some of the most gorgeous views of Grace Bay. In the 1800s, Blue Hills was the wrecking capital of these islands and a fleet of small sloops were stationed here to attend to the many unfortunate vessels which frequently foundered on the treacherous Northwest Reef. Their cargos of timber, flour, wine, salt and other provisions were salvaged and auctioned off. Today, Blue Hills is dotted with local homes and small businesses, churches, schools and cemeteries, away from the hustle and bustle of the luxury resorts. While not picture-postcard pretty, its sand dunes, palm trees, Caicos pines, beach-side cemeteries and pastel-colored homes have a peaceful charm.
|The lone pier at Blue Hills, with Grace Bay in the background
|A small beachside bar and restaurant in Blue Hills
|Tiny cemetery overlooking the waters. Still in use, as the
most recent headstone on the right was for a 87-year old
woman who passed away in July 2010
|One of the numerous centuries-old gravesites and headstones,
some totally overgrown with vegetation, others still neatly tended.