Spring Break on the Sister Islands
22.04.2014 - 24.04.2014 85 °F
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An Easter family visit fell through, so Nadine and I looked for flights anywhere off island. I found flights back to the States . . . for Nadine and the two kids.
It would serve as the perfect pick up for a 7 months pregnant Nadine and chance for the kids to see their best friends in Omaha. Sophie and Dominic learned of the surprise trip via a home Scavenger Hunt.
I had simple goals for my time alone: a bit of solitude, sleep past 6:30, watch a movie or two, and exercise. But in the back of my mind, I still had the itch to go somewhere, anywhere. Prices on flights to Honduras and Cuba were prohibitive, so I decided to visit the Sisters. Those sisters just happen to go by the names of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
On a previous trip to the Brac, we learned that for the same price one could fly to both islands for the same price as visiting just one.
The Brac is familiar after one visit. The plane touched down on the warm, early evening tarmac. I quickly crossed the uncut grass field next to the fire station, picked up a rental car for 21 hours, bought some snacks from the same friendly Honduran lady at the supermarket, and made the short drive to the other side of the airport and back to my student's grandma's guest house.
In 21 hours, I slept. Drove to the West End and pondered why why there aren't ferries between the two Sister islands. Walked through the Parrot Reserve and not seeing a single Cayman Brac Parrot. Walked the southeast shore climbing over iron shore rock past massive blowholes.
By all means, it was spring break, and yes, I saw some boobies. Brown boobies. White boobies. And even red-footed boobies. They were all sitting perched on the edge of the bluffs. When a brown booby is born, they are actually born with a white plumage. The adult brown boobies guard their baby white boobies from predators. I wasn't much of a predator. I was just shooting photos. Staring into the horizon, one adult brown booby performed fly bys in the gentle warm updraft of the Caribbean.
The flight between the Brac and Little Cayman lasted seven minutes. At the end of the runway, our prop plane crossed the single road circling the island and pulled up to Gate #1 in Terminal A. Gate #1 is clearly painted in white paint on a single piece of plywood hanging from Terminal A. The island's only Fire Station consists the other half of the terminal.
Seat just outside of Terminal A/Fire Station, I asked the fire fighter on duty when was the last time there was a fire on Little Cayman. He looked quizzically into the air and responded with, "hmmm, maybe six months ago. Oh wait, we had one in January, so five months ago. If we're lucky, we may have five a year."
As the fireman stated it without explicitly stating it, Little Cayman is small without many pyrotechnics. Of the 100 residents, only 25 are Caymanian. Of that 25, only 1 was actually born on Little Cayman.
The elementary/primary school currently has three students with a teacher and one teaching assistant. A school district couldn't ask for a better teacher to student ratio, unless that teacher happened to be from New Mexico.
You wouldn't know Little Cayman was a world renowned dive site if judged by the infrastructure on the surface. It has some of the best wall diving in the world. A mere 150 meters from shore, the sea floor plunges four miles down to the Cayman Trough. Visualize being at the edge of a cliff. From the edge is a four mile drop off, and hey, for shits and giggles, let's explore what's down there. That is what Jackson's Point and Bloody Bay Wall represent . . . divers in water.
I dropped my bags in a room 200 yards from the the island road/airport runway/fire department, and set out on a beach cruiser to explore. Cutting north through the middle of the island, my paved road abruptly ended with only a short sandy trail ahead. It led into brush. A short trail lay in the brush and the snorkeler's jumping off point to Jackson's Point. At dusk, it was hard to imagine that this spot, without a single hotel or restaurant was only 150 meters from the best diving spot in the entire Caribbean. It must be the way people longingly remember 7 Mile Beach before it was dotted with global hotel chains, restaurants, and tourists. I could say I was there before it was built up. My snorkeling adventure would have to wait until the next morning.
At first sunlight, I struggled to adequately slap an even layer of sunscreen on my back. I then mounted my ol' trusty red beach cruiser and peddled off. The interior of Little Cayman brings a sense of isolation, yet that dissipates once you hit Jackson's Point beach. I realized that anyone living or visiting Little Cayman is not actually on terra firma. All the people were below diving boats attached to a single white buoy. The white buoys marked a specific dive spot and divers were busy scouring the sea walls. Every hour or so, dive boats moved to the next white buoy.
That leaves me. I approached the sandy shore hesitant, but reassured with the newfound backup of having a half dozen dive boats bobbing around. To give a bit of perspective, I was just a little G.I. Joe floating over the first step of a pool that then plunged into a four mile deep end pool. Passing that initial apprehension, I swam the shallow waters towards Jackson's Point. Fifty yards out I reached the first steep and deeper water. On the surface of the water, rays of sunlight shot past me piercing the aqua blue waters. From my floating perspective, I observed stingrays gliding over coral. Schools of scuba divers littered the sea floor leaving a trail nitrogen bubbles floating to the surface past my being. Soon after, the 15 foot floor slowly graded deeper. Another 100 feet out from the beach, I arrived to what I thought was the "wall". This is where the island plunges to the Caribbean sea floor. Swimming out over the wall was surreal.
With a few remaining hours before a flight back to Grand Cayman, I finished by kayaking around picturesque South Hole Sound. I glided under the midday sun in turquoise waters chasing a pair of stingrays. I approached just close enough to the reef's edge to watch the waves crash over the natural island barrier.
South Hole Sound left just enough time to ride back to my room, pack my backpack, and make the 100 meter walk to Gate 1 in Terminal A and my flight back to the big island.