This post should get some more tropical-like photos up for our readers in the far north. For us that's anything north of Mexico and the Bahamas. We still shudder when we remember those years of daily commutes in the frozen dark to spend all day inside under fluorescent lights. I used to get what I called a sixty cycle headache from staring at white paper all day in the flicker. We don't much miss any of that. I do believe that some people are born attuned to four distinct seasons and they happily embrace the ice and snow for half of their lives. And I know for sure that some of us just need more sunlight. We've tried both extremes and are 100% sure that we're tropically bent. It still feels strange to think of us 'going up north to Texas' on a visit. That's one of those little things that tend to reset the realization that we do indeed live in a foreign country. But then... do we, really? Is any place that you've come to consider home still foreign? I know that we miss this little island when we're away. I suspect that's some kind of psychological litmus test. If you don't miss some place, it's probably not home by those definitions. Or not going to be for long.
Well, whether it's foreign to you or not, it's still pretty comfortable here in January. I want to tell you about a new restaurant that's recently opened up on Providenciales. We've been there three times in the past month. We don't normally flog commercial establishments, and have no incentive or stake in this financially. I do think they should advertise on this blog, but then I feel that way about everyplace in the Turks and Caicos.
Doesn't this look like the kind of place where you could stretch out with a cold one and just chill for a while?
That's the beach in front of Bugaloo's Conch Crawl. We took some of these photos on our first visit, which was near high tide. We liked the place. We went back a couple weeks later at low tide, too. There are photos from each of those lunches mixed in here. I just gathered up the best photos of the lot and posted them. The major difference is that there is a whole lot more beach at low tide. So if you notice the big discrepancy in how much beach is exposed, now you know why.
I think this structure is a band stand type of thing. Could also serve as a speaker's or awards rostrum. Looks like a Corona Beer advertising location. That distant view is also of some interest to us. Those are familiar waters and very familiar hills and islands.
Did you notice the guy with a rake in his hand patrolling the beach in those photos? Different days. We saw him constantly patrolling, picking up little bits of seaweed and trash. He doesn't set any land speed records, to be sure, but This has to be one of the cleanest beaches in Provo. It's certainly clean for a beach restaurant, no bones about it. Yuk yuk. I think the owner is making some statements, throwing down the gauntlet, and looking for ways to make his place better than the competition. If you know of the history of Bugaloo and 'da Conch Shack', it's understandable that there is some competition here. You know we're big fans of the Conch Shack. Steady customers for seven years. We've come to know the staff there and they don't need to bring us menus. And we love the place. We were still very keen to check out Bugaloo's new restaurant in Five Cays. It's good. Most of the people in our party would say that, so far, it's better.
A lot of visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands will never get to the Providenciales neighborhood of Five Cays. That's because a lot of the yearly vacationers who come here come by cruise ship. They dock over on Grand Turk at a cruise terminal that looks like something from downtown Orlando. Now, I have nothing against Orlando. We have friends there. We've flown up there from Provo just to play touron. We are way past the Disney stage of parenthood, but we love Universal Studios. You could probably guess that I'm a roller coaster freak. We've heard from perfectly good people from time to time who tell us that they've "visited the Turks and Caicos Islands on a cruise". While that may be technically correct, if you read much of this blog from the past few years I bet you'll understand our eyebrows. We don't feel that having a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Margaritaville on Grand Turk is really very representative of a good local restaurant. In fact it's got nothing to do with life here.
This is what you'll see from the road in front of "Bugaloo's Conch Crawl". It's the view after we passed the restaurant, drove down to Marty Mason's former fish operation at the end of the road, and then turned around and drove back. I guess I shouldn't call the fish pier "former". It's still there. Just not currently in business.
A lot of the visitors who do make it here to Providenciales won't get to this part of the island unless they make a special effort to do so. Five Cays is on the other side of the airport from most of the normal sightseeing spots. Some might say that it's also on the other side of the tracks.... in a country where the only railroads are ghosts.
Railroads aren't the only ghosts here, either. This part of town reminds me of some of the other islands, like North or Middle Caicos. Where you sometimes find someone's business dream coming true next to the ghost of one that didn't.
Now this is island flavor you won't see inside the cruise terminals of the world. I suspect this might be another victim of our 2008 hurricane season. The same thing happened to Marty's commercial fishing business down at the dead end of this road. It's never yet recovered from Hurricane Hannah. A lot of small business owners here are self-insured. This is a high stakes game in the Hurricane Zone of life. I'm going to write my own version of some local background here, so if you want to continue reading about Bugaloo's jump down to the next photo.
Most of the people who read this are not as familiar with Five Cays as they are with the Grace Bay and Leeward neighborhoods. You really need to rent a car to get out to places like Blue Hills and Five Cays. I might not make any local friends among the local cab drivers by saying this, but the big van taxis that you'll get from the airport or the Grace Bay hotels will charge you more for one round trip to the Conch Shack in Blue Hills than it would cost you to rent one of those Daihatsu Charades for two days. My advice is to rent the car for two days, which will be enough to let you see the entire island without rushing around. Get out to South Dock, and Sapodilla Hill, and try dinner at La Brisas, too, while you've got the car. Try to catch the sunset over Chalk Sound. One simple rule: Don't be stupid about leaving valuables in plain view in the car. Oh, and another rule, fasten your seat belt. The police here won't give your passengers any grief about having rum punches in their hand, but they will come down on you for the seat belt. Don't you love it? Drive on the left. Driving styles vary widely on this island. Don't hit anything and you'll do fine. You probably won't even see a policeman unless you create a problem. Do I sound like your mother? That's scary. If you've got a mother like me, I mean.
Provo's Five Cays settlement is one of the largest residential neighborhoods in the Turks and Caicos. Near the nuts and bolts commercial part of Provo, where a lot of manual labor creates jobs for immigrants. There are not really too many tourism-oriented businesses visible in Five Cays. It's near the South Dock port of entry, customs, immigration, and all the shipping and courier businesses. It's the island version of a working class neighborhood, complete with untidy gardens, children and dogs. There's usually some fresh graffiti spray painted somewhere. If one were the type that mentally accumulates crime statistics, the name of Five Cays crops up in the local newspapers more often than anyplace else on the island. Maybe in the entire country. It doesn't help that image when the Five Cays police station looks like Fort Apache with concertina wire topped fences protecting it. There is something vaguely worrying about a fortified police outpost. This is a very distinctive local neighborhood. You will definitely know that you're not in Leeward or Grace Bay.
But then when one really digs into the violent crime stories (as a lot of us expats do) they find that in almost all cases victim A knew perpetrator B and in many cases were either neighbors or related. Maybe by marriage. What you don't see are reports of holiday visitors having problems in Five Cays on a regular basis. Maybe those petty criminals are all over watching the beaches at Grace Bay for unattended beach bags and unlocked rental cars. Naive strangers carrying obvious wealth create a potential opportunity for a certain mindset. It's the same everywhere. Your town, too. Just
And now we'll return to our irregularly scheduled lack of an identifiable program.
This is the entrance to Bugaloo's. That's a rabbit hutch in front, with a hand dug 'lagoon" alongside. This is one section of a large parking area. You can see a vehicle parked in the other secion, which is closer to the beach and tables, but then you totally miss the rabbit hutch. We did that on our first trip. This time I walked over to take a look. While the rest of my party has stormed the outside dining area, claimed a table, and ordered a pitcher of rum punch. They pretty much had the procedure down by this second visit. The waitress remembered them. I can't understand why.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. The Blog Doobie is taking photos of the rabbit hutch. Talk about feeling like a tourist. And I grew up mostly rural. I think the hutch is cool construction. It's a conglomeration of local sticks. The rabbit seemed pretty mellow. I told it that I'd check the menu for it. Find out if there was anything on there besides seafood. I mean, if there's just ONE rabbit, it's a pet, right? As in, two's a population explosion and three or more rabbits is starting to look more like a steady supply?
Somehow reminded me of that old saying that sometimes it's better to actually be alone than to wish you were. I told him that, but he wasn't impressed. Must have been my delivery. Upstaged by a hunk of carrot.
I found Bugaloo's sea water pond to be pretty interesting. It runs alongside the building. I saw several large fish and a couple of sea turtles in there. The fish are to the left just at the end of the piling reflection. I was pretty curious when I saw this. It was low tide at the time I took this photo. The shoreline had receded off away from the beach. The ocean is very shallow water here. And yet this turtle still had plenty of water to swim in, slightly above sea level. I wonder if turtles notice when the tide stops moving. They must feel part of that rhythm. I'm no expert on marine biology, but I don't think you find sea turtles in places without tides.
"But I didn't ponder the question too long, I was hungry and went out for a bite" (to quote Jimmy Buffet) and I stuck my lens in one of the open windows as I walked by the inside bar. Looks pretty comfy, but I knew my crew freshly down from the north country would be outside in the sun if it were possible. And here that's usually possible.
I think the ubiquitous cable-drum-conch-table has become a standard here. Kind of like the steel drum entertainment in some countries. There were two guys out there working away cleaning conch. I noticed they were tenderizing the conch out at their cable spool table, too. That's a good idea. This stuff has to be bashed with something hard to tenderize it. Little bits of conch typically get splashed and flung all over the vicinity whenever I do it. I end up with some pretty messy vicinities. Doing it out over the water makes a lot of sense. I wonder that these guys haven't put some lines out in the water. All those thousands of bits of splashed conch must lure in some larger fishies. The restaurant was almost empty when we got there for lunch half an hour before noon. And these guys were already stocking up for the lunch crowd. That struck me as a good way to minimize wait time, and also showed a confidence in the clientele. Open the conch, and they will come? We see that Bugaloo has also included an outside bar. He seems well set up for hosting entertainment and crowds. I was pretty impressed with the place all around. And this was before the food got to us.
This is the same area as the early photos in this post, but from near where we parked. A shortcut from the car to the nearest table without going through the bar. yeah, that guy is still raking sand. Slow and steady. I guess you don't want to wrap up a sweet job like that too quickly.
As mentioned, the place was sparse just a few minutes before noon. But it fills up fast, even on week days. By the time we left, there were only a couple of empty tables. And no, we did not stay until dinner. Although this could be a very pleasant place to while away a peaceful afternoon with good company.
Thinking of my incarcerated buddy Harvey in the hutch up front, I tentatively looked at the menu. Whew. No rabbit. I was relieved. (Don't you just hate it when you find a hare on your plate?) I guess he knew he was safe. Had that smug look in his beadly pink little eyes.
I know I'm starting to sound like some food critic, but we do like the decor here. This is La Gringa's lunch of coconut cracked conch, cole slaw and fries. She wanted the Mac & Cheese, but they did not have any on either of our first two visits. Lost a couple points there with La Gringa. We got the feeling they are still up shifting to their full potential, and haven't quite reached the stabilized operating mode of a smoothly managed and experienced operation. (How was that for some euphemistic soft shoe?) Anyhow that's all small stuff. The food is outstanding. I'm sure they'll have the macaroni and cheese issues sorted out in good time. Or we'll just have to keep asking until they do. (note: on our third visit, they had it.)
The service was good. The prices are within the local ' brackets' for similar fare. The view over Five Cays Bay is great. The decor is Tropical Warm. I looked at the chart, and this body of water is labelled "Bermudian Harbour (Mudjon Harbour)" Gosh. Where have we seen THAT name before?
Why do I get this mental image of some terrified 16th century navigator frantically trying to convince his captain that he had indeed finally found Bermuda and the harbour on the chart must be around there somewhere? Someone sure seemed desperate to find a Bermudian Harbour here. They kept stating that they had done so. I wonder if that navigator ever saw Bermuda again....
These guys hated every bit of the Bugaloo's experience. The conch fritters, the pitchers of rum punch, the sun, the sand, the clear warm water, the beach. They would rather be in New England and Colorado in early January. See their miserable faces? This is just one version of me doing sarcasm.
As things got busier, more and more people showed up for lunch. Not only obvious visitors, but locals. Some interesting looking characters around here.
At least he had his hair tied up behind him, in a 'frony-tail'. (which character did you think I was talking about??)
Seriously, if they don't already have a Captain Conch, I think they should consider tailoring the position. I have a candidate in mind.
I was trying to get a good photo of the rum punch pitcher with the dark rum "floater" on top. I discovered that there was a brief window of opportunity with the first pitcher before it got stirred up, which I missed. It seemed that subsequent scuttles spent scant seconds in a state of stratification. Silly me.
Bugaloo's has a very interesting location from our perspective. Five Cays is near our favorite small boat sailing ground. Big boat sailing ground too, come to think of it. Here's the coastal radar station tower from the back side. I wonder if they blank the radar transmitter when it's sweeping over populated areas nearby? We talk to these guys on the radio sometimes. Maybe I'll remember to ask them.
I don't know exactly what this lady ordered, or in what language, but I know they brought her beer in a bamboo mug. Without taking it out of the bottle. I don't know if that's the regular way to serve it here. I could imagine some potential problems at around 1:00 in the morning, but that's just me. I wonder why they would serve it like that. I just had a thought. Does anyone know if radar transmissions make beer go flat? And does bamboo block microwave radiation? Inquiring minds want to know. Well, one of them does, anyhow.
We took a closer look at the sea water lagoon on the way by. It's built with native stone and masonry sides. I recognize the handiwork of another inveterate sand castle and moat builder....who's managed to snag a budget. I didn't notice any conch in there. Just the turtles and those fish so far. I don't know if the fence is to keep the turtles in, or children and dogs out. Dooley, for example, would be very interested in that turtle. I think he was a big game hunter in a previous life. Looking at the water level, I was reminded of my earlier questions about the tide.
They've buried a couple of PVC pipes in the bottom of the pond/lagoon. These are what allow the sea water to be exchanged as the tide rises and falls. Someone has put caps on the pipes while the tide was high, preserving the water level during the low tide. Someone has a pretty responsible job here. If they forget to cap those pipes just once during a low tide, they're going to have a problem with their creatures.
Looking at this, I had an idea for a flapper valve that might do the same thing. I need to talk to Bugaloo about this. I think we might be kindred spirits when it comes to playing with beach sand.
Bugaloo obviously cares about this lagoon. I think that grass in there is the stuff that conch like to vacuum for their daily bread. I wonder if he's thought about where the nearest gasoline powered pump is located. I mean, if those pipes were uncapped all the water would flow out with the tide. It would be good to be able to fill it back up without having to wait for three or four hours. I'm not sure about turtles, but fish can't handle that. A Honda powered 'trash pump' would do it, with a few hundred feet of intake hose.
Of course as soon as I started thinking about these things I had to go check out the intake for the pond. I can't help it. It's an affliction. Kind of like a hyper kid in slow motion because he's older. I don't think hyper kids ever discover older unless they discover slow motion first. This was during our low tide visit to Bugaloos. We had ulterior motives, which I'll talk about in a minute. But the black hose is the intake that allows the pipes to admit the water that nourishes the sea life inside the lagoon that Bugaloo built. The low tide shoreline is quite an appreciable distance from the lagoon intake. If someone were to take the PVC caps off the ends of those pipes in the lagoon right now, this would look like an artesian spring as the water drained out. For a little while.
Someone has to keep an eye on the tide and the lagoon water and the PVC caps, day and night, year round. It's not all fritters and Corona commercials, being Captain Conch. You don't make that rank without showing some long-term reliability. Oh yes indeed. This is more than just a spiffy uniform on a sunny day.
Before I forget, I wanted to point out the little bitty dot of an island off in the distance just to the right of the far land mass in middle of that photo. That's the little cay called Cooper Jack Rock. It's the first little island we get to when we sail out of South Side Marina. So... this beach and restaurant is a little over a three mile sail for us in the Hobie. This is one of the reasons we were interested in what this was like during low tide. The water is deep enough for the boat, and there are some rocks just offshore there in deeper water to the right that we could anchor behind. We might have to try this out. A rising tide would be best for us. It would be fun to sail up, drop the anchor, and wade ashore for some conch fritters and refreshments. It would take us something like fifteen minutes to get here on the Hobie. And over an hour or so to get back. Typically.
Speaking of sailboats (notice how smoothly I moved to a subject closer to our hearts than even conch?) we've been visiting the S/V Twisted Sheets over in the boatyard on a regular basis. We are planning to have the basic electrical mess caused by the lightning strike sorted out by professionals. That project is underway now. And after that, we hope to have them go through the engines thoroughly and rectify whatever needs rectifying. We hope to be launching her again after that, with some sailing plans already in the works. Future plans include replacing the hard top and dinghy davits entirely with a custom built top that incorporates it all into one structure. It has to support the solar panels, extend out far enough to hang the dinghy, and accommodate two hammocks. We've got some other ideas, too. An arch with steps up the sides would help when tied to fixed docks at low tide. We want to think about this one. I've been doodling around a lot with ideas. Any help greatly accepted on this. I need a clean design that looks right, and uses a minimum of welding. Basically replace everything in this photo from the fiberglass up.
Other than recovering from the holidays and surgery, we've been taking it fairly easy. The longest trips we've made lately are the 10.2 road miles from the house out to the boatyard to check on the catamaran. On one of these last week we noticed on the way to the marina that there are a number of "speed bumps" installed. I've seen these called "Sleeping Policemen" elsewhere in the world. Anyhow, to return to the subject, notice the sign going this way says Speed Bump Ahead. And so it is. There in the near distance with the usual ruts around each end where people who don't want to go over them go around them.
For some reason we noticed that on the way back the sign said Speed Hump Ahead. Not Bump, but Hump. So then we started paying attention. Why are they bumps when heading in one direction, and humps going the other way? And it's not consistent. I think it was something like Bump Hump Bump Hump Bump Bump Bump. Has kind of a nice rhythm to it, when you look at it that way. I'm not sure we agree that a bump is the same as a hump. Obviously, if they were the same, we wouldn't need two different signs, now would we. I'm confused.
As you know I'm putting some knee rehab efforts in. La Gringa and I have been walking a lot more than usual. I take a camera along in case we see something newsworthy or photogenic. So far, it's just been the normal kind of things. I still take photos, though. Lifelong affliction.
We've been looking at some of the native vegetation. It constantly amazes me how some of this stuff can survive on the rocks facing into the almost constant trade wind here. These are tough little plants. I don't have a clue what the name of them might be, but they remind me of dwarf trees. A kind of natural Bonsai. And they literally grow right out of the limestone rocks, just a few meters from the ocean, and no source of fresh water other than seasonal rain. Where do these things get their nutrients? Amazing. I think we want to start seeing what we can come up with by giving more water to life that's already thriving here on just what it can find on its own. If we suddenly disappear please tell the investigators that I only gave it nitrogen and some water.
We never get tired of walking the beach. These are not the best beaches for finding lots of floating debris. This area is tucked up into the southern shore of the island, is very shallow, and protected from the wind and long shore current. So it's not a good place for driftwood or flotsam. But it's not bad for a winter's afternoon stroll.
I liked the look of those sand ripples, and wondered if they might be a good background change on my computer desktop. I thought it came out a little bland.
So I used the software to generate a bunch of suspended clear droplets. Well, not really. But you get the idea. Voila. Gringo Wallpaper.
I haven't mentioned Dooley yet in this post, but rest assured he's going along with us on these long walks. Just a few days ago we were walking along the beach when I spotted some unusual rocks scattered under a tree on the beach. These rocks sure resemble the blue slate ballast stones we recovered from an ancient shipwreck site we found out on the reef. These are blue. They are not native limestone. They were probably brought here as ballast in a sailboat from the Azores. That's based upon what Dr. Don Keith told us. He's pretty knowledgeable in these early shipwreck things. I believe him. But the question here, is how the heck did blue slate get out here on this beach by itself? Another mystery. And of course Dooley the Distracted was no help at all. That's the blue rock fragments that he's standing in the middle of.
He's actually quite a challenge to take on a walk. He has an uncanny nose for the least molecule of edible garbage. And people do fling chicken bones out of automobile windows. And he finds them. And eats them. And this causes us all digestive problems later. He gets one whiff of rotten two week old chicken bone and he's on it like a duck on a June bug. So lately I've been walking him using this leash I made from some of the black nylon coated shock cord I bought for the Hobie Tandem Island. This has been an interesting experimental leash. It stretches out quite a bit when he pulls hard. This takes the constant shock out of the leash as he charges madly from one side of the road to the other in his version of taking a walk. If we walk four miles, he trots for twelve. And where it really gets interesting is when he stretches it out directly away from me as far as he can. He is like shifted down into four wheel low, and his little legs quiver with the strain as he tries to get his nose one millimeter closer to whatever has his attention. In this photo, we are going down a steep slope in the hill in which the road is cut. I am standing about six or seven feet above the road bed. Dooley is headed down on this springy leash like a combination of rappelling and bungy-jumping.
I had to traverse down that diagonal cut to get to road level. Makes for some interesting knee rehab with an excited Jack Russell on a big elastic band. This will indeed test one's knee stability and strength. This physical therapy stuff doesn't have to be a drag. Does anyone make offroad inline skates?
Sometimes when he gets the leash stretched out all the way to the end on level ground it gets humorous. He will put everything he's got into pulling it straight ahead. The resistance is along the center line of his body, and his thrust. He starts looking like a badger in a pulling contest. He'll pull until he starts choking himself. Then he gets tired of holding the strain, and turns to one side or the other. The first few times he did this, as soon as he turned off center line, the stretched shock cord yanked him into a fast 180 degree turn in the blink of an eye. He's since learned that he needs to back down in a straight line before turning. Or hold position stubbornly clamped to the earth with his teeth gritted and his muscles quivering until I give in and walk toward him. It spins him dizzy to try to turn under tension. I was afraid it was going to give him whiplash.
This is just a photo of the road we walk near the dead end. These rocks are embedded in the road, right in the tire track. They would be great for stubbing a toe in the dark. And a man would have to be a natural born fool to be driving around here fast with bald tires. And we do have some of that variety here. We definitely do. Vehicle inspections here are largely subjective.
I still haven't located and repaired the leak in the inflatable kayak. This has been limiting our boating, considerably. I am avoiding pulling the skiff on it's trailer with the Defender. The rear cross-members of the Land Rovers are crumbling to rusty hunks. The trailer tow hitches are bolted to these cross members. It's a problem for us, boating wise. We may be making some vehicular changes in the near future.
Twisted Sheets is in rehab, we don't trust the rusty truck bumpers to pull the skiff, and the inflatable has a leak.
Thank goodness we planned ahead and have the Tandem Island. It's on a trailer, but it only weighs a fraction of the skiff. 300 lbs vs about 2,000. We took the Hobie out last week when we had about 20 knots of wind. It was a nice winter sail, although a bit wet at times. Just another cold winter's day in the Turks and Caicos. Makes one want to reach for the mukluks, doesn't it?
I haven't been very diligent about documenting my DIY stuff lately. There's just too much of it going on, especially after all the time we spent away in the past three months. You can't just walk away and leave things here and expect them to be the same when you get back. A few days ago I was working away at the bench when La Gringa asked me what I was working on. I told her it was open heart surgery on a croc flip flop. She told me to take a photo. This qualifies as DIY. I cannot just trot down to the store to buy a new set of flip flops. That would be an international flight to Miami. So in the meantime, I play tropical cobbler. That pad will get tucked back inside the shoe where the big nail is holding it open and glued with Goop. Sometimes it works. Bought me some time, anyhow.
That's pretty much it for this post. We really didn't have much in the way of new adventure, but this is supposed to be about day to day life here, too. I wanted to change the scenery on the blog and move away from the holidays. Also wanted to get the word out about Bugaloo's early in the season. It's worth checking out. Conch Shack has competition, no doubt about it. Hopefully they'll just improve to match it. They better. Bugaloo means business.
We didn't take any outstanding sunset photos in the past week or so. La Gringa has been experimenting with her new tripod, and what she can finally get with her longer lenses. This is a photo she took of the boatyard some 900 meters away, at dusk. I think it's pretty good for an image taken with low light in the wind. I think she's hoping to get some good full moon on the water images now, too. One of those masts is Twisted Sheets. It's the short one with the fried radar.