Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Krazy Bargains

We had to run some errands today. Just typical stuff people have to do. Had to pay some bills, get a blood test and copy of Police Records for our Residence Permit renewal. Pick up a Registration sticker for the Land Rover because the Department of Road Stuff had run out of them (again) back when it was actually inspected. The usual.

Had to run by the ABM at the bank. This is our preferred entrance:

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We think Land Rover was a good choice for these roads. Something with steel treads and armor plating would be even better. These roads can be tough on tires if you drive them every day:

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I had to go back to one of the local department stores to pick up some pieces missing from a bed frame we bought from them. Now, I gotta tell you about this store. It's about the closest thing to a complete Department Store we have here on Provo.The name of this establishment is "Krazy Bargains". It's truly the kind of store that has something for everyone.

When you first pass the gate in the chain link fence, you start to realize that this is a serious store. It's run by Pakistani's, and they truly do their best to offer some sampling of anything a person could want. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

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The sign under the ladders says "Tiles-Grocery, Paint-Furnitures, Varnish, Appliances, Doors". And for sure they have ALL of that, and more. I mean, when was the last time you could pick up tiles, Spam,cookies, flowers and varnish all in one place? Not recently, I bet. Well, we can do all that and more at "Krazy Bargains". Don't think for a moment that choices are limited to tiles, groceries, paint, varnish, furniture, appliances and doors. No way, man. Not at Krazy Bargains.

The external magnificence of this Tropical Taj Mahal is but a gilded wrapping for the limitless treasures inside. And even before you enter, you are presented with merchandise. There are septic tanks, and racks of PVC outside. ...but that's only the beginning... That architectural marvel of an exterior is just fancy trappings for an incredible shopping experience once you get inside. It is a veritable cornucopia of, well...stuff:

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Amazing stuff they've packed inside in all their nooks and crannies. Their inventory's deep and wide, these wily Pakistanis.
There are five or six aisles running the length of the store, all very similar to this one. Each of them stocked to the tin rafters with an assortment of merchandise that truly covers all the basics and then some. What a mixture. Perfume, cotton, household glues. Pup tents, cements, and running shoes. There's mixing bowls and drills for holes, and drawers just like your granny's. I tell you, son, it's lot of fun to deal with Pakistani's.

We can choose from exotic imported footwear from as far away as Miami and Taiwan in the cozy shoe department:

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We can add a shower stall or toilet to the top of our grocery cart in the plumbing fixtures corner:

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Rails for stairs, outdoor chairs, bathroom and kitchen sinks. Toys for boys and joys for goys and fans for stuff that stinks.

I know the sign mentioned appliances, but we ain't just talking coffeemakers and mixers here. Although there are literally stacks of those along with the usual toasters, blenders, tubing benders, popcorn poppers , bathtub stoppers... exotic names, way off brands, pressure cookers from foreign lands, these guys have gone all the way. There is a comprehensive selection of fridges, washers, electric dryers, coolers, compactors, needle nose pliers, anything you could want. And some things you probably don't.

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I did not see many brand names I recognized. Well, one, actually, and that was DaeWoo. But they make good stuff. The names of the others were in languages that bring to mind exotic places far from here. Written in Asian characters from a land beyond the reach of UL or OSHA regulations. Free-range appliances.

And Electronics? Man, they got cameras, boom boxes, flat screen tv's, amps, speakers, stacks of CD's cameras, televisions, DVD players, with insect foggers and shoes for joggers. From the far corners of the earth. You name it, and Krazy Bargains most likely has something that resembles it closely.

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Now, I DID recognize some names here. Panasonic and Toshiba for example. I confess I cannot give an opinion on JWIN, Coby, or Gamma.

Once you get to the end of the electronics and appliance aisle, you can choose something from the small but well-stocked boutique:

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I was not in a clothes-buying mode today, but if I were I know exactly what to expect here. And today there was a special price, 30% discounts on all clothing. I can only assume the fall and winter fashions are nearing the shore on their way from Paris and Milan, and the heavily stocked shelves must be thinned in preparation.

I know I mentioned groceries...so I won't dwell on all the combinations of beans, rice, curry, canned tuna and juice. And they stock Spam, you just can't beat it (The moslems stock it though they won't eat it)..but just let me assure you, a man's palate need never want for variety at Krazy Bargains.

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By this point my mind was reeling with all the possibilities. I wanted to see more, but they had located the parts to the bed-frame, and I had promises to keep. Otherwise I would have taken photos of all of the other treasures within these walls. Diesel generators, and gasoline motors, specialized tools for removing brake rotors. Power tools, toothpaste, drill bits and sockets. Blue hair ribbons and fake gold lockets. Cake pans, toilet scrubbers, brass door stops. School supplies, traps for flies, and pink flip-flops. Batteries, ladies foundation garments, cellular phones. Salve for hives, carving knives, and saws just made for bones. Drinking glasses, writing squibs, Fancy rugs, and baby cribs...

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Bedding, toys, games for boys,computer desks and cookies. Stuff for schools, mechanics tools, and card games made for rookies.
An entire section dedicated to the artist working in artificial floral arrangements:

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Ah, I thought, they advertise tiles, and I do not see any tiles...I thought I might have caught those scamps making false promises. Not so. I was directed outside to a colorful and complete selection of ceramics. A potter's mile of stylish tile, an outside aisle to spend a while:

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"Yeah," says I,"but what if I wanted, for example, 2,000 square feet of that squiggly looking thing there...?" No problem. The man was ready to drive me down to their BIG warehouse where he assured me they had stacks of pallets of the stuff. And I believed him.

Well, with my mind still reeling from the sensory overload of finding a treasure trove of this magnitude right here on the island, I took my bed frame parts and staggered away.
But I feel a lot better now, knowing that if I somehow suddenly need a bench vise, water pump, bug sprayer, or some stainless steel deck screws, I know exactly where to go. It may look rough, theres lots of stuff, in all their nooks and crannies. If you ask nice, about the price, they'll smile, these Pakistani's. They like to deal, and that's for real, their tongues were made to waggle. It's not the fight, they don't feel right, if you won't stop to haggle.

It's just.....Krazy.

Weather easing off?

I haven't been able to get much in the way of tropical photos the past few days. TS Noel has had us pinned down, and the boat is due to be hauled out for fuel tank repairs this week. The weather in general has been borderline violent.


Last night there were classic electrical storms, (there were several times when we could see open space between the dog's feet and the floor) and the wind is still howling at dawn today. I have to run some errands this morning. Stop by "Krazy Bargains" the Pakistani department store. Pick up some Immigration renewal forms...things like that. I will get some "around town" type photos as a stop gap measure until we can get back in the ocean. Hopefully soon, but even if the boat was fixed we would not be out in these winds in it. We need a bigger boat. But ain't that always the way?

Here's another photo showing that line of rocks that were broken off and thrown up on the shoreline by the last major hurricane to come through here.



That silent line of broken rocks speak volumes to me of the fury and destruction this normally calm and shallow Caicos Bank is capable of when things go South.

Oh, and that's our future new neighbors-to-be's new 5,000 sq. foot waterfront house. It's right across the "street" from us, and they should be moving in within a few months, also.

For those of us who enjoy keeping up with the weather, I have a link to a great weather site. The TV guys give you a short form version of what the weather is doing with their own spin on it. Of course they are competing for ratings. But if you like to see all the data that they distill down into a few minutes, so you can make your own predictions, it's all there at http://www.bearpawsweather.com/ including links to the latest sat images and all the computer models the TV guys just briefly mention. Some fascinating stuff.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle...

Monday, October 29, 2007

TS Noel passes West

Tropical Storm Noel is currently 150 miles SW of us, and will be about 75 miles W of here at it's closest point sometimes tonight. So we are getting some heavy weather, and expect it to get worse later this evening. La Gringa ventured out onto the porch this morning for some shots...it was raining hard:



And blowing, hard. We decided to take a drive out to our house site this afternoon to see how it looks out there during gale conditions. The decision to leave the snug house during a storm and load up into a Land Rover with the sides rolled up was NOT unanimous:



But I went down to check on the boat first, and by the time I got back the rain had let up between squalls. I think this was during the time the storm was passing over Hispaniola just to our South. That tends to knock the winds down a little, and it dumps a lot of the rain on Haiti and the Dominican Republic. So we had a weather window to go do a little quick sightseeing, and we took it. The main road on Provo (Leeward Highway) was not busy. That's a good thing, because there are spots where it gets real congested during rain like we have been experiencing:



People plow into these puddles at 40 mph. They learn about hydroplaning, and what happens when ignition wires get wet. Sometimes the sheet of water suddenly covering the windshield actually startles them enough to momentarily stop their conversations on their cell phones. (Those have GOT to be the number one cause of traffic accidents in the TCI.) On the road to the house we pass over one of the inlets to the Juba Salina. We were not the only ones taking advantage of the break in the storm:



We have been seeing this guy around here for over a year now. Sometimes on his bicycle, sometimes fishing. Sometimes, like today, catching bait. We always smile and exchange greetings, but we have yet to stop and talk to him at any length. I am sure that will happen, as we are going to be neighbors. Passing by the unfinished marina we noticed the tide was high enough that the protected water was well over the top of the retaining walls:



Of course when I saw how calm and protected this water was it made me really wish that they would work out whatever difficulties are preventing them from finishing this marina. This is how it looks with the wind blowing 40 mph out of the East!



It's just a few hundred yards from the new house, and it would be perfect to keep our boat there. It would save us so much bad road driving, and we could see the boat from the deck on top of the garage. Maybe someday. When we got to the house, nobody was working. Of course not. Its a public holiday, and it's not exactly the best day to be on the roof. About all we noticed in the way of progress was that all of the sliding glass doors are now in:



I guess we can now officially say we have been in the house during a tropical storm. It was very different with the windows and doors closed. For the first time since the day we first saw this property, we were on the hilltop completely out of the wind. Nice. It was not so calm down on the ironshore in front of us. With the high tide and wind, the waves were splashing up over the top of the ironstone ledge:



That was taken from the edge of the road, maybe sixty yards from the shore line. We could feel the spray blowing onto us there, but did not feel it up at the patio area of the house. That little bit of extra distance and height seems to make the difference. Well, I had said I would try to get some stormy photos today, but the storm was taking a break. So, despite La Gringa's raised eyebrows and my own misgivings, I worked my way down the rocks to the shore line. It looks a little different from the bottom of the hill:

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That looked pretty cool, so far,and emboldened by the fact that I had not yet been blown over or fallen in, yet, I eased on down a little closer:



Since I was already soaked to the skin before I got within ten feet of the shoreline. I decided to get right to the edge:



It was close enough to start worrying about footing. Also close enough to know I did not want to go for a swim.
I sort of considered this one nature's way of telling me I was standing too close to the edge..
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And despite what it might have looked like to the untrained eye, I was just startled by the sudden soaking and my feet washing out from under me, and the camera was wet and my finger slipped over the lens..Yeah,that's about enough of that...yep yep yep..

And the weather window was starting to close, with more clouds moving in and the wind picking back up.



I remembered the little camera has a movie mode, so I did about a half dozen of these:





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I think La Gringa edited out any swear words....but I got a face full of water, and was dripping wet, so decided that was enough. I shot a lot of photos.

To get back up the hill you have to climb over this continuous line of boulders. These were the overhanging edges of the ironshore back when Hurricane Donna hit these islands in 1960. The storm not only broke off these thousand pound hunks of rock, it threw them back this far from the shoreline:


Preacher told us about it. He was about 12 or 13 and remembers it well. He said the waves were crashing up to where the road is now. That would be where La Gringa and dog were sitting in the Land Rover nice and dry and comfy watching me get soaked all this time.

It definitely has not been a day for filming a tropical beer commercial, but better days are ahead

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Waiting out Noel

The weather has continued to get worse since that last post. Two days ago the dawn here looked pretty typical:



Then I looked the other direction, toward the West. I hope this comes out in the posted photo, but there were these bands forming, and the early morning sun was illuminating them:



So we started watching the weather sites. You have seen what the tide was doing when we drove down to Five Cays yesterday. Well, its gotten progressively worse since then. This place does NOT look like those photos today. Its ugly out there. Wind and rain and trees whipping all around. I expect to see a witch on a bicycle come blowing by and scaring the dog any minute now. He's already half catatonic with all the thunder, lightning, wind and rain squalls.

A tropical wave became tropical depression 16 became Tropical Storm Noel over the past 24 hours. And it's just south of us. We are in alternating bands of intense wind and rains. Or in scientific terms...its REAL snotty out.

So, we have spent the day mostly hunkered down watching the horizontal rain and wind gusting up over 40 mph. Tonight the passing bands started including intense thunderstorms. We just heard the storm is now hitting Haiti, 140 miles away, with 60 mph winds. Tomorrow should be the worst day for us here, depending on which way this storm goes. It's a holiday tomorrow, so traffic will be light. That's good, because the streets are already flooded too deep in places for small cars.

We'll try to find some decent ocean storm images to post. Promise.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just an average Saturday morning in the Trade Wind Belt

This morning we had some errands to run. Drop off the Land Rover at the dealer, buy a bed, and look for a gas grill. We had a couple hours to kill, and decided to drive down to the Five Cays area. This is what a road there looks like when it's being flooded by the sea:


The muddy area is the dirt road and the clear area is just the land alongside the road. Notice the seawater is clear even when it's over the land.

We went to Five Cays because we had been hearing that there were two good fish markets there. Our friend Evan also is now working at a Yamaha shop there and we thought we might as well find out where these places are. When we finally got there, the high tides ( full moon) and 25 mph winds across the Bank had driven the sea up over the road:



I don't think the 20 mph speed limit is really going to be a problem. It's kinda self-limiting unless you have a shallow-draft boat with an outboard.

But today, there wasn't much traffic of any kind. Everything was closed, and we assume it's because most of the people here won't drive their cars through this salt water. There were plenty of local boats around, though.


I think that may be the first time I ever pulled out to pass a boat on the right while driving a little Samurai. Actually, it's the first time I have passed a boat on either side while driving a 4x4.

There are loads of locally made boats down here. Some of them might need a repair here and there..

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The winds have been blowing for two days now, a good 25 mph with higher gusts. Combined with a very high tide, the water is over the low shorelines even on this, the protected shallow side of the islands.



This is borderline qualifying as windy and rough. Made us glad we did not have to go anywhere in the boat , although we did take it up to Pine Cay yesterday in the same conditions La Gringa shot a very brief video of us headed out of the marina. It's brief because she needed to hang on. Its shaky for the very same reason:

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you see, it starts out smooth, like so many things in life that will turn on you given half a chance...

While thinking about the locals being too pansy to drive their cars on a road just because it's got a little ocean on it, it occurred to me that I had no idea what was under that water. For example, sharp objects one might easily avoid if one could see them. It would not be unreasonable to expect broken beer bottles, for example, on a road frequented for the past twenty years by fishermen who just got paid and the kind of people who visit Yamaha dealers. . Potholes are another unwelcome surprise when under water. I was reminded that while boats just care about the surface, automobiles are very much coupled to the bottom. Maybe the line between being pansy and being prudent is closer than I originally thought.

So, then I started thinking about the state of my right rear tire. It had a tread pattern similar to my head ( Basically bald with stubby remnants around the edges.) I contemplated having to stop and jack up a vehicle while standing in the incoming tide. Well, that would be bad (I said to myself) but at least we have a spare. And I turned to look at my trusty spare, and somehow since the last time I had pumped it up, it had gone totally flat again. This is like the third time in a row. I began to see a pattern here, while there was still none on my right rear tire. Since we still had time to kill waiting for the Land Rover dealer to call, we decided it was stupid to keep driving around these roads with a bald tire and no spare. So we went down to the local tire place, called "K's Tires". The Pakistani gentleman who owns K's Tires was more than happy to sell me a new tire. This is the third time he has done this for me in the past year. TCI is real hard on tires. He said he would rotate the other three while he was at it. No hydraulic lift? No problem. Three portable jacks will pick a truck up off the ground just fine, I found out.

No part of the truck was touching the ground. No jack stands. It moved back and forth several inches when he torqued down on the lug nuts with that air wrench, moving wheels around all over the place.
Maybe it's like making sausage and knee surgery, nervous people really shouldn't watch the process.




The Pakistani's run quite a few thriving businesses here. K's tire business, Kishco's growing little chain of department, liquor, appliance and furniture stores, and another group where we just bought a bed named Krazy Bargains.
We have noticed many of their business names start with the letter "K". Maybe it's just good Karma. (sometimes I just kill myself...)

So, with a new tire on the ground and my former right rear now a spare, we drove out to the house site to see if anything was going on out there. Our builder was there, as was the sub-contractor who is now running almost a month late getting the tin roof on. Hate to say it, but it's not looking good for being in there by Christmas. We would settle for New Year's eve at this point. As long as it's this New Years.
While at the house, we watched the chop smashing on the ironshore, throwing spray up into the air where the wind would blow it ashore over the rock:





Doesn't look like much in the photo, does it. But I was standing on the patio edge taking the photo, and that shoreline is 110 yards away. Some of the spray was going up 20-30 feet or so into the air. And that's a good four foot chop.

When we went down to the side of the road we could feel some sea spray on our faces. That's still about 75 yards from the shoreline, and only about 20 feet lower than the patio. And this isn't a storm, just a windy morning. Not unusual. On days like this we don't second guess if we shouldn't have built closer to the water. A real storm should make for some great photos, for those of us sitting up on the hill, anyhow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Canal homes

People have asked for more info on where these places are. I am going to try to do better in that respect. So, this post, like the last one, is about an area of Providenciales called Leeward-Going-Through. It's known as just "Leeward" here:



This is a "Google Earth" image. Since it is very hard to find a decent map of these islands (let alone a chart) I will use their images from time to time. Provo is the island at the bottom of that image, the tip of Water Cay is at the top.

We have posted a lot of photos of shorefront and hilltop homes here. There are some other homes that we think are also pretty cool, and those are the ones on the canals. If you look closely at the GE image above, you can just see the canals. They are visually divided, although they all connect. The ones on the left are an older neighborhood, almost completely developed now. The water in those canals is darker, due to normal sea life growning on the rocks on the bottom of it. This is called the Columbus canal area. The banks of the canals are lined with very nice homes:



Hope you guys don't mind the 'panorama' photos. We were in a hurry this morning because the dog was AWOL. This is from three photos I took from the bridge that divides the old Columbus Canal from the new Leeward Gardens Canal areas.

I expanded the GE view, and rotated it CCW a little, so you could get a better view of the canals themselves:



You should see the road that crosses a bridge right about in the middle, and divides the established canals to the left from the new ones under construction to the right. I was standing on that little bridge when I took the photos for the pano above, and also this one:



Obviously the developers are filling in the connection between the old and new canals. I don't know if they intend for it to be permanent, but I doubt it. They are probably going to draw down the new canals to build some bridges or something.
But, quite frankly, at this point nothing would surprise me, either.

This is looking down the new canal from the same bridge:



Its easy to see that this whole area is still under development, big time. Compare that to the view of the homes alongside the same bridge just fifty yards away.

The sat images from GE are actually about two years old. I count about one home on the new canal image from space. There are actually about two dozen built or under construction now. And they are nice homes, for sure:



There are still lots available for sale on both the older, and the new canal. We looked long and hard at the idea of buying one and building a home here. I loved the idea of having our boat tied right up to our own dock, with easy access to the ocean. And it's only seven miles to Pine Cay. There's a great school for younger kids within an easy walk. Logistically, it's a great spot. When we were looking at land in the spring of '05, we could have bought a .75 acre lot on this canal for around $ 200K. The lot on the right in that photo above, with the small Casurinas tree, is being listed right now for $ 470K. It's .58 acre. That's the least expensive one I saw listed today after a brief search.

We decided to build elsewhere. I tend to over-analyze things to the smallest details, and we are very happy with our choice. But living on a canal would have been okay too. We looked long and hard at canal lots in Florida before deciding to move to the TCI.

The next little canal "spur" to the east is more developed, although there are still at least two lots available there, too. Our former neighbors built the house on the right, and moved in a couple months ago.

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The lots closest to the ocean access went first. The Premier himself lives in the house right where the canal meets Leeward-Going-Through. Nice neighborhood.

Leeward-Going-Through, update.

Wow. We just took a trip down to our "old stomping grounds" at Leeward. Things continue to change, as things are wont to do, but the rate of change at Leeward is suddenly seeming pretty severe.

Here's Gilley's at Leeward almost exactly one month ago:



See the palm tree on the left, the edge of the Big Blue sign, and the little sidewalk walkway light? Well, those are all still there. Nothing else is:



It's as though it never existed. Nineteen years eradicated. Smashed to rubble and hauled away.

The floating docks where the small drama of the capsized cat played out...



(for newcomers to this blog, that's a previous post)

And where we and many, many others tied up for the past 20 years:



all gone.



The Leeward Fuel dock, a part of many lives in this small island nation, and meeting spot for generations, the only reliable fuel pump with regular hours for many miles and several islands...



Now history.



I know it's progress. There will be new restaurants, t-shirt shops, fees for tying up, dock attendents wearing matching shirts....probably a bus service from the airport..lots more white faces roaming around. Probably a dress code. But I am kinda glad we took the time to take all those photos over the past couple years. Someday, people are not going to believe it when we show them images of Leeward then:



and, for the moment at least, Leeward right now:

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