Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bushwhacking for Boat Ramps

In which our Recovering Recluses Return to Fun Stuff and Exploring.
Some basic DIY projects with Salvaged Wood,
and Dooley Glares at Duct Tape.

This post is about what we were doing right before that little 3-post storm detour we just experienced. This one has no boats in it or nice turquoise kissed photos of gin clear water, colorful fishies and coral. We're skipping the standard boat trip complete with its random squall clobbering us briefly before we blithely coast back home along powdered sugar beaches under tranquil cerulean skies. Nah... Not THIS post. This post is about bush.

I probably should define the term 'the bush'. Bush is that part of the environment that has not yet been plowed under, paved over, developed or otherwise recently 'improved' by man. I mean recently because old improvements become part of the bush in many cases. And when we are not playing in the ocean we sometimes go explore some of it here. Of course the ocean is never very far away. This is an island, after all.

This adventure started because I was studying Google Earth's satellite images looking specifically for places to go check out. There are still large parts of the north west portion of Providenciales that we haven't looked at in any detail. This is where to find most of the still undeveloped land on this island.

See the little spot on the left side, circled, that says "Good place to launch boat?"? Well, that's what started this all. I saw this nice little road on this image and it appeared to me that this might just be a great beach launching spot for the Hobie Tandem Island. If we could trailer the boat to this spot, we could then use it to explore all the way up around the tip and extensive reefs off this side of the island. Sounded like a plan.

We took the Defender 110 on the first pass at this. I refer to it as the 'first pass' because it took us two days to find this spot. No kidding. If you read the other notes on that map, you can see where we went on that Saturday afternoon. We came in from the right side of the image. We made that hairpin turn to the south and drove completely by the spot marked "missed turn the 1st time". Well, to be accurate, we missed it the second time, too. After we turned around at the Amanyara Resort, and headed back. We drove back to the Malcolm Beach road, and then down to Malcolm Beach itself. Then we turned around and went home.

Here's a "quick" video of that trip, and you can tell from the 'bonnet' this is the Defender 110, without the aluminum plate. Correction, I should have said 'aluminium' plate. There's an extra "i" in the British stuff.

This is like a mini tour of part of the island. The last part of it is after we got back onto the pavement and drove through the Blue Hills section of Providenciales. We thought that perhaps you might enjoy seeing what it's like cruising around here as an alternative to watching on a sailboat.

Music is 'Suburbia' by Trombone Shorty

And yes, we do drive on the left here.

We went home frustrated that we had missed the turn and I booted up Google Earth again, and took a closer look. And this road looks good on Google Earth. I could see the image of a vehicle parked right on the beach, at the end of it. We wanted to go there. Then I noticed the date the image was taken, down in the bottom left corner of the photo. 10/4/2008. Boy, a lot has changed here in three and a half years. Obviously whatever project was planned for this property never got off the ground.

We decided not to give up. Realizing that the road really must be overgrown in order for us not to even spot it, we went back the following day with the shorter, beefier, Defender 90. We found the turnoff this time. And it was not what we expected. It took another half hour to get to the ocean. This road is not nearly as good as the one to Amanyara and Malcolm Beach.

This is the spot where we finally came to a halt:

We didn't drive the last forty or fifty yards to the actual beach. It was turning into soft sand. And we could see that the beach no longer looked like it did in '08. None of this road looks like it does in that Google Earth image. All of the loose soil that the bulldozers had leveled to make the roads has been washed away. There have now been three hurricanes and a number of tropical storms and depressions dumping huge amounts of rain here since those satellite images were taken. Dozens of serious thunderstorms with flooding.

The speeded up videos don't really portray how bad this road is. We decided to post a short, real-time clip of part of this journey, with the original audio instead of music. Most of the road was something like this. Except this is the level part as we near the beach and there were also steeper parts with looser rocks. And little gullies. Stuff like that. It makes for cautious driving in a land without AAA. This would not be a fun place to be stuck with two flats, for example.

And one could pretty much forget calling a taxi, tow truck, or pizza delivery. We are in the land beyond street addresses, again. Like our neighborhood was last year.

If you look at that last satellite image above you can see a large salina, or inland tidal pool, just to the south of where we parked. This is what that looks like:

And it's probably a good thing I can't accurately show you what it smells like at low tide. If I could adequately explain it, I suspect you would stop reading at that point. It's ugly. All I can suggest on this subject is that if you ever go here, either go at high tide or do what we did. Hold your breath and move out of the downwind side of this as soon as possible. Unless you're like Dooley the Degenerate. I suspect he actually likes these rotten marine low-tide kind of odors.

After the long sweaty trek to get here, Dooley was more than happy to be the first one in the water. As always. It's a matter of tradition with him, I think.

There really wasn't much to see in that short section between where we parked and the beach. Some old fishing or marker buoy washed up in some storm. I appreciated how it was made. Some steel rebar bent and welded and then a buoy inflated within the cage. Simple and effective.

I know I have mentioned this before, but there are two things we can pretty much count on seeing on any beach here these days. And those are empty plastic water bottles and shoes. Always, always there are shoes. Don't count the ones with feet still in them as trash. Not yet, anyhow. Those are my hiking boots.

Looking off to the south, you can see it's a pretty rough shoreline. Nothing like what it appeared to be in 2008.

The water is the typically clean and clear Turks and Caicos Islands water, though. It just looks a lot different when it's over dark rocks than it does over clean white sand or colorful coral.

This is looking up toward the north from where we intersected the beach. It's austere looking, isn't it. Rugged. No place for a tenderfoot, that's for sure.

One of the things I noticed here on the rocky shore was how many little "kettle holes" there are. Kettle is a geological term, but I think it's proper use is for depressions caused by melting chunks of glacial ice. There is nothing glacial about these, but I don't know what else to call them. Every few steps along the shore are these depressions where chunks of stone get trapped. The water rushes in and out with the tides with enough force to move the rocks around in the hole and eventually they get worn smooth.

I tried to get a photo of the process in action, but of course all you can see is a swirl of water. Underneath that frothy reflective surface there are some stones being moved around and around.

The result of this is that the stones get worn smaller and smaller, and smoother and smoother, and all the stuff that gets worn off of them eventually gets ground down into sand.

And when the tide runs out these little rivers of new finely ground sand are washed out of the kettle holes into the ocean . And this, friends and neighbors, is how beaches and sand bars are still being made the old fashioned way. Just like Mom has been making them for four billion years.

And if that's too much to think about, maybe you could just relax and watch some kettle holes in action. This is a soothing video. Nothing like those jittery fast motion versions:

Music is 'Triste' by Mythos

It's not all smooth stone around here, though. This is a great place to test out how tough your feet are.

As usually seems to happen on these trip, a series of squalls started headed our way. We were looking around to see where the nearest rain shelter might be when La Gringa saw the entrance of what looks to be someone's old camp site there in the bush.

I went in a few yards and wandered around. It's a very nice place to have a camp. Clean sand, plenty of shade. Open enough to let the breeze through.

It does look as though the site hasn't been visited much recently, though. After our drive in here I can see why. I found an old 'duck foot' style swim fin here. I don't see many of these any more. This one was rotten from UV exposure.

Of course there are shoes here, too. There are always shoes on the beaches. I suspect this is becoming a truism. I doubt we could walk a hundred yards on any south or east facing beach without seeing a shoe. There was also a few pieces of plywood lying about so we knew we had the basics for a temporary shelter if a squall caught us before we could get back to the truck.

While peering around in the bush looking for anything of interest I spotted a familiar sight from my past, almost hidden back in the thicker stuff.

I should have let the dog stand here for scale. This tube is roughly a meter long. These are used to store and transport air dropped sonar buoys used in anti-submarine warfare. This isn't the first one I've seen washed up here. I wish I could think of something useful to do with them.

Back on the beach there really wasn't much in the way of trash compared to some beaches. It's nice to find the clean beaches mixed in with the trashy ones. We like them both, of course. For different reasons. And this one has plenty of natural features mixed in with the man-made flotsam. I though about moving this bizarre brain shaped piece of coral.....

...over next to what looked like the entire list of components for a cellular phone. I could be sticking my neck out here, but I am willing to bet this one is not economically repairable. Still, it might be fun to gather up all the corroded pieces and see if I could get a warranty claim in on it. I was thinking of the word games I could play with the brain coral and disintegrating cell phone, and never thought to see if it still had a usable SIM card in it. Those things are sealed up pretty well, right?

The clouds were threatening us, and we were beginning to see flashes of lightning and distant but rapidly approaching rain squalls. So this is the maximum extent of our excursions to the north along the beach. Off in the distance here you can see one of the bigger local live-aboard dive boats. The reef drops off very quickly and close to shore here, and there are a number of good dive spots nearby. And that resort in the middle of the photo is the Amanyara.

I used the telephoto zoom to try to get a better photo of Amanyara, but it's difficult to do from this angle. The resort is very low impact, and blends in with the surrounding landscape very nicely. I've explained to a number of people who write us asking for recommendations that we have never stayed in a resort on Providenciales. I also would say that if we had the opportunity to stay in one of them, and had our choice out of all available options, we would definitely choose the Amanyara over any other local resort we can think of. It's got some class.

I was trying to show you how the shoreline changes here. There are a series of small coves, starting at the point of land where we were standing. As you move to the north, the coves get progressively larger, and eventually they're big enough to have their own little soft sand beaches. And these private, rocky coves with soft sand beaches are one of the main attractions at Amanyara. Maybe one of these days we'll figure out a way to get you some photos from within the resort itself. We'd love to sail the Hobie by here and get some photos from the water, too.

We wandered back down the beach on our way home just looking for anything vaguely interesting to take photos of. We were in a photo-snapping mood that day. We found plenty of uniquely shaped and eroded limestone along the shore. I think if I were a crab I would love this place:

The kettle holes produce some excellent skipping stones. I think I managed to get a dozen skips on the water with this one. Nice.

There is a huge difference in the shore here, from sharp, broken limestone 'iron shore', to this smooth worn limestone. I'm not sure why it's different, but there must be some geological reason some of the stones are so very smooth and others are too jagged to even stand or walk on. I imagine wave and water action is the shaping force here, but why does some of it wear smooth while other stones erode into jagged points?

The white stuff in the middle of this photo is evaporated sea salt. There is no shortage of salt in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Harvesting sea salt was the only real industry here for many many years. Generations of Turks Islanders were salt rakers on some islands here. I think it's a lot more fun selling coconut tanning oil than it was pushing salt.

La Gringa was on the lookout for additions to her shell collection. She found a few nice ones here. This beach is largely untouched for shell collectors. It's too difficult to get to for most people.

Eventually the squalls caught up with us and we had to make our way back to pavement. Not such a simple task. Here's a still photo from a little ridge we had to cross. Raindrops are beginning to fall. You might be able to vaguely make out the dive boat anchored off in the distance, though the rain.

We've made several boat trips since the last pre- Hurricane Irene post and I'll be uploading those photos in the next few installments. I thought you might appreciate a break from our boat photos, and that's why this post doesn't have any.

And in case you were wondering, the answer to our original question here is "No. We will not be attempting to tow our Hobie kayak trailer down to this beach behind the Land Rover. No way."

So far, I can't think of a reason we would drive back to that beach, either. There are a lot of prettier places a lot easier to get to. The terrain here sure does help in keeping the Amanyara Resort remote and private, though.

I also haven't posted any DIY photos in a while, but I assume anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis well knows that the DIY never stops here. Never. I just get so caught up in it, and it changes so much from day to day, that I no longer bother to snap photos of 90% of it. Between the house, the vehicles, and the boats... it's almost a full time job to keep it all going.

One of our readers had asked specifically for a photo of the tortilla squisher I made from wood scraps. La Gringa took a lot of photos of it during the initial process of actually using it to make corn tortillas. This started when we couldn't find any corn tortillas big enough at the grocery store. We could only find these stale little six inch diameter things. Not big enough for a proper wrap. So I figured out I could probably make a tortilla press that could handle say, a 10" diameter tortilla. And so I did. And so it does.

The red oak handle pieces came from the decorative trim from the front of the old Gilley's bar in Leeward, long gone now. The light wood around the edges is Casuarinas wood I had laying around here seasoning. It seasoned so much that fungus grew on it, and when I sawed it up into little planks, it now has what's called a 'spalted' finish. That's the dark streaks through it.

The dark wood on the top (and bottom) is from that 4x4 mahogany beam we picked up on our previous beachcombing trip to West Caicos. It was too split and worm holed for structural use, but I thought it looked cool enough to use for appearance.

I've discovered that if you design stuff to look rustic and beat up from the beginning, it saves a lot of time in sanding and finishing. I was trying for the look of an old tortilladora picked up at a yard sale in Mexico. How did I do?

We've got more photos of it open and in action if anyone is interested. You can Google up 'tortilla presses' and find out whatever you might want to know. You won't see one exactly like this, because I kind of made it up after looking at some other ones online. It's a a fun way to make really fresh corn tortillas. They taste completely different from the things we find in plastic bags in the grocery store. And we can make them as big as we want. This is a monster of a press, as those things go. Typical Gringo overkill, I suppose... you know how that thinking goes. 'If a little tingle feels good..... a hundred and twenty volts should be awesome, right?' Hey, I'm learning.

Now just for grins I want to show you another, typical, daily DIY project. This is the type of thing that falls in my lap unplanned. Necessity, I suppose. In fact, this is the one I was working on when we got interrupted by that last hurricane whistling through the slats of the crate containing our existence.

We had this house built about three and a half years ago. Not long after we moved in, La Gringa asked me to put up some curtain rods in the bedrooms. We went down to the local store that supplies these things, bought some curtain rods, and I installed them. Back in a previous life I would have expected curtain rods to last until someone either broke them or got tired of looking at them. That's always been my experience. Curtain rods don't wear out. Usually.

Well that's not the case here. After three years, La Gringa asked me "Isn't there something we can do about these curtain rods? They are rusting away and staining the curtains." And I took a look at what she meant, and she wasn't joking. These curtain rods should not have been left unattended, I guess, but what are you going to do, spray oil on them? Nah. You just end up with oily rust. Or rusty oil. Either way it doesn't work well with white curtains.

We went back to the local stores, and looked through all the options we could find for replacement curtain rods. And all of them were either plastic of a quality that gives plastic curtain rods a bad name...... or they were steel. Like that one above. Well let me tell you, in the three years since I put that brand new curtain rod up, I have learned a few things about steel. And aluminum. And brass, bronze, and zinc. There's no way I would just put up more metal curtain rods. So what to do.

I had an additional factor to consider in that I had already drilled holes in the concrete wall for the metal curtain rods. I mean why not? I figured they were good for twenty years. Ha.

So the obvious solution was to just make some non-corroding curtain rods and curtain rod brackets, and make them to use the same screw hole spacing. I had all these red-oak scraps still left over from Gilley's bar. And we bought some bamboo for cheap. How's it look? I think it's kinda tropical.

At least I am reasonably sure it won't corrode. I would be willing to bet it would last 20 years, too. Unless of course someone tears it down or gets tired of looking at it. You know, the normal life span of a curtain rod.

I was just finishing up three slightly different brackets for the next bedroom on the list when Irene came. Now I have to do a little archaeological dig on my workbench to see if I can get back down to that specific layer of DIY project. There is debris and tools from at least three other Irene related projects overlaying that little period of local history. I need to do it, though. I haven't actually seen my bench top in weeks.

I don't mean to sound like it's all DIY work here. I've left out the skiff steering issues, the dead fuel gauge, the failed brake line on the 90, or the damage to the house appliances caused by our lousy, substandard generator (Honeywell) and faulty house wiring installed by the irrigation people. I am leaving out the hole in the exhaust pipe, the defunct clothes dryer, the stopped up dishwasher, the hurricane smashed vegetation. I didn't say a word about the four flat tires I have dealt with in the past week.

Now there's a point. Let me stop my diatribe for a second just to mention this. I mean this blog is supposedly about what it's like to actually LIVE here, right? Okay, think about this one.

Think back to the last time you had a flat tire on a vehicle. For most of you, I bet that's years ago. Oh ,yeah, some of you will have had a recent flat, but I bet 90% of you haven't had one in years. Right?

Now think about the last time you had TWO flat tires in one week. Pretty rare, eh? Well, to put it into perspective, I've had to deal with four unrelated flat tires this week. And while four in one week is unusual, it's not totally unheard of.

The roads are strewn with sharp stuff. Especially after a storm. Roof shingles blow onto the roads, and many of them take those roofing nails with them. Even the lovely bougainvillea plants have thorns on them that can puncture a tire if you run over a large branch on the road. I can guarantee you a bougainvillea thorn will penetrate a Croc shoe with no problem whatsoever. I've lost count of how many flat tires we have faced in the six years we have been here. I would guess somewhere around thirty or so. And there will be more. This is part of the experience living here.

I was going to tell you about how many vehicles we see here with a front wheel completely torn off.... but will save that discussion for some other time. I'll collect a few photos first. It probably falls under the heading of "Things that once frightened and amazed us that we now take for granted".

But it's not all work. Oh no. In addition to all the boating and DIY we do fit in some fun. For example, I have a good time messing with the dog. Dooley is manic about lizards. He spots one on a wall and will dedicate the afternoon to keeping his eye on it. He whines, barks, and whispers outrageous promises and dirty threats to them. Of course they totally ignore him for the most part, unless they make the mistake of crawling to some place where he can reach them. Then they can no longer ignore him. And he's usually furious at being ignored by that time, but never mind. I don't want to go there.

But knowing the dog gets totally fixated on lizards, I took a razor and cut out some little lizard outlines in a roll of duct tape.

I stuck one of these on a sliding glass door. Another one high on a wall. Dooley went all goofy. I think he was totally astonished that lizards would have the unmitigated gall to invade his very fortress. Lizards running wild in Dooley's stronghold? Outrageous and unacceptable. He spent hours staring up at the duct tape lizards. Making threats. Promising treats and friendship one minute, and howling promises to shred them into giblets the next. You see why I worry about this dog? I stuck one of my fake lizards up on a piece of driftwood we pegged to the wall, and put the GoPro camera up above it to try to see if the video would be any fun.

The video isn't much good. The GoPro likes a lot of light and doesn't do well in low light conditions. I guess inside the house qualifies as low light. But to show you what a lizard might see if he deigned to look down, I did take one still frame from the video. Here's Dooley the Destroyer doing his Hannibal Lecter imitation for an audience of fake lizard...

Any lizard that could miss his intentions...... well... sayonara. He means what he says.

I just realized that this post has stretched out into one of the long ones. I'm not going to cut it up into two posts, because I want the next one to be nice blue water and fun stuff again.

That is, if Tropical Storm Maria doesn't come through here Monday and change our priorities for us. In the meantime, here's a recent sunset. One with gentle clouds, for a change.


Bunny said...

Hello, we met at the Tiki Hut. We really should get together. We always seem to be on the same adventures. Love your blog.

elizabeth and larry

Denise said...

I've been following your blog for only a short while, but you are providing enough of a dose of T&C to tide me over until our upcoming visit in May '12. We were last there in June '10. I enjoy reading your stories and appreciate that a story gem is found in the good, the bad, the challenging, and the weird. BTW--I love your tortilla squisher. Being from the desert Southwest, we can buy raw tortillas at the supermarket. I wish I could figure out a way to bring you some. Looking forward to your next post!

Amy Caicos said...

Hey there-Middle Caicos Amy here - check out A History of The Turks & Caicos Islands Dr. Carlton Mills. Available at Salt Mills Plaza and likely Unicorn Bookstore. It will answer all of your rock and kettle hole formation questions, and then some. Great source of info! And be mindful in the bush. A recent helicopter tour I took revealed many a shanty in the bush on the NW side. Here's a Middle Caicos kettle hole for you:

Dakotarose said...

Don't be afraid to do more roadtrips. I've been on some of those roads and that is how I'll have to do future exploring, so I really enjoyed your driving trip.

Anonymous said...

Like Dooley, our two Westies love to stalk, chase, and catch the anoles in Provo. They never give up. Prime time is a couple of hours before dusk. Must be a terrior thing.

Love reading your blog and forward it on to many friends. Thank you for all your hard work putting the blog together.

Anonymous said...

this is a banner year for the little anoles. I've never seen so many. I hope they're eating bugs.

They're sure bugging the dog.

Ashworth said...

Damn, when I saw northwest point I thought you would have at least snorkeled to the sphere right off Malcolm Beach. That is if anything is left of it after the hurricane.

We survived the hurricane and TS Lee with some basement flooding and work flooding. It also took its toll on the bilge pump which left me with a cabin full of water.

Keep the blogs coming.
New Jersey
Lil Provo

Caitlyn said...

Very interesting post! Love the backroads. The tortilla squisher is lovely too. I FINALLY managed to make homemade tortillas successfully this week, after many failed attempts. Gave up on corn ones and went to flour. Much easier! Wish I knew how to make the masa harina ones though... :( Not that I'd have anything quite so lovely to squish them in...

jeeperman said...

Duct tape lizards?
I think you are suffering from some sort of Island Fever.
The press is very impressive. pun intended.
But really, good use of what ever woods you have and it came out very colorful too.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

As someone with a family member of the canine persuasion, the duct tape lizard cracked me up. Ours goes nuts over the laser pointer...will chase it back and forth from one end of the lawn to the other for what seems like hours to those of us who can tell time (probably mere minutes to our furry friend).

Keep up the good work on the blog!

Anonymous said...

Another good one....

A question about trucks there...
Given the challenges w. fuel, tires, & roads there what would be the ideal truck for your life there??
What suspension, tires, h.p. etc.???
And what advise can u give for someone thinking about importing a vehicle there??

Anonymous said...

Google Earth's got some kind of realtime GPS tracking something in the tools section. Not sure how it works, if you can trace a path and it records it and you can then put it into your GPS or what. There tutorials in the help section. As for missing that turn, couldn't you have noted the intersections coordinates via google earth and used your GPS while driving to find the entrance?

That Amanyara looks totally isolated on the map. Also the most expensive there? Seen a unit for sale for $16 millon. YIKES! Do they at least off rolls royce chauffer driven rides into town for dinners at the resturants?

More importantly what's the topogrophy of the inland land there? If the winds constantly blowing North to South are the beaches there totally sheltered? Could you note that on the beach you guys were exploring? Or is it so flat there's zero protection from the wind anywhere there?

Based on the weird washed up things there, shoes cell phones, would you be surprised to find a corpse or skeleton? LOL. Man, Dooley comes bounding back with a femur in his jaws. That's some creepy flotsam and jetsam. How do cell phones washup on a beach exactly? Everyone screams blue murder when they drop it over the side of a boat, but there's proof they float? ashore?

Anonymous said...

As far as recommending vehicles here, I can't come up with one that would be good for everyplace. There are plenty of luxury cars tooling around here, but they stay on the pavement. Once you get off the pavement, it gets real harsh on steel. There are no good dealers here by US standards. No Ford dealer, for example. No Chevy, Toyota,Honda, dealers, per se. There is a Land Rover/Jaguar dealer. With all that this suggests.

Lately I have been fantasizing about a VW dune buggy. Something with a fiberglass body and completely open, accessible frame that I could inspect and catch rust as it developed. But vehicles with steel frames and bodies driven on our road.....well...most of the neighbors go through a car every two years. We've got two '05 models still going, but not for much longer. Sad thing is that the Defenders only have something like 20,000 miles on them. Motors are like new. Turbo diesels.

Hmm. Is there such a thing as a dune or beach buggy kit that uses a four cylinder turbo diesel motor?

Anonymous said...

thanks.......something to thing about.

Anonymous said...

If you really needed a truck, I would think the best bet is to import one of the two year old lease vehicles from florida and plan to get another one every couple of years.

If you just needed transportation, maybe a Jeep Wrangler. The big cushy SUVs are nice on the bad roads, but the suspensions are shot within a year from what I've seen.

It's not an easy place on steel vehicles.