Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mudjin Harbour

This is the last  of our little 3 part series on our most recent trip over to Middle Caicos.    The subject is Mudjin Harbour, and we saved these photos for last.  This is probably the most photographed spot in this entire little country. It's one of those special places  that you run across from time to time. Very photogenic, too.   As usual, I'll start the post  with another recent sunrise from  Providenciales. I wish I could take credit for it, but this is some more of La Gringa's work.  She's getting pretty good at this:

I did some online research on Mudjin Harbour for this post.  I like to appear to know at least something about the subject matter. Not so much trying to look smart as it is trying NOT to look stupid. And I found scads of photos of all of the same views as the photos that we took.    I guess the purpose of this post is to let  you know that this place does indeed exist, and that you can find plenty of photos of it online if you know to look for it in the first place.  It might even be the last little bit that convinces you to make a special trip over to Middle Caicos if you ever come down to the Turks and Caicos Islands on a vacation in the first place.  I don't know if all this makes much sense or not, but at least it makes me feel better about posting the same old photos.

There is a unique  component of this place that helps to make it so scenic and photogenic.  That is the  pile of rocks named Dragon Cay that is located just off the beach here .

These rocks are sitting right on top of the reef line, which runs very close to shore all along the coastline in this area.  The deep blue color of the water on the other side of Dragon Cay is because it is, indeed, deep blue water.  Very deep.  That is the open Atlantic Ocean just on the other side.  In times of heavy seas, there are dramatic huge splashes of waves crashing up and over the rocks.  It makes for some spectacular photographic effects. It also produces some interesting variations in the long shore currents that build up the sand spit that connects Dragon Cay to Middle Caicos at low tide.   The seas were relatively calm on the day we visited, and yet the water was still rough enough to make me start wondering about a few things.  This is a common affliction of mine.  For example, I started becoming very curious about the  name of this place.  Why is it called "Mudjin Harbour"?  It's not muddy, and it's not a harbor.  I decided to look into it.

This is a view of the area taken from Google Earth.   Dragon Cay is the rock just at the northern tip of that inverted "Y" shaped section of beach right there in the middle of the image.

  The roads visible just inshore of Dragon Cay are the paths and roadways around the Blue Horizons resort.   The little town to the east is Conch Bar.  This is the major population center of Middle Caicos right here.  It's not a very busy place.   The area labelled "Secret Beach" will make sense a little later in the post.

So... I'm wondering just where did this name come from..  Unless I'm missing something, it's just not  a harbor.  I looked up a number of definitions of both harbor and harbour, and they're all basically the same i.e. "a sheltered port where ships can take on or discharge cargo."   We've been here at least a dozen times. These visits have taken place  over a number of years.  We've been here in the Turks and Caicos versions of winter, spring, summer, and fall.  We've been here in wet season and in dry season. Not once have we seen a boat anchored here.  I looked through a lot of  photos posted on the internet, and I couldn't find a single image of a boat taking on or discharging cargo here.   The water's just way too rough to anchor in for most of the time. The guide books even warn people about snorkeling here with a caution that it's only safe on  calm days.  If you examine that satellite image above, you can see that while the area just to the west of Dragon Cay would be somewhat sheltered from the easterly trade winds, there's no way to get a boat in and out of there.   The reef closes it off from the open ocean.. There are no cuts or openings in the reef.   It's common to find  descriptive place names here.  Some good examples are "Leeward-Going-Through", "Crossing Trail Place", "Blue Hole" "Heaving Down Rock".  "Blue Hills" and "Logwood Beach". Those make sense.  But the use of the term "Harbour" for this place continues to puzzle me.  I'm hoping one of our readers knows more about it.

The name "Mudjin" is actually pretty simple.  That's just the truncated pronunciation of the original name of "Bermudian".    It's pretty easy to imagine a place called "Bermudian Harbour" to get shortened to  " 'Mudian" and then to just the easiest roll off the tongue "Mudjin", which then gets spelled wrong.  If we were to spell it phonetically, it would be more like "Moodjin".  That part all made sense to me immediately after  reading this article while researching  the name.

The day we took these photos was a fairly calm one.  We parked our rental car at a little area that the good folks at Blue Horizons provide and maintain for that very purpose.  we followed the trail down to the beach.   There's a new restaurant/bar being built right here alongside the path.  And yes, that's Dooley the Demented standing there impatiently under the Mudjin sign, waiting for me to stop taking photos and get on with the exploring part.  He's like that.  Dooley is not a disciple of delayed gratification.

We'd heard some  grumbles from people over in Conch Bar about  this restaurant  being built "right in the middle of the view" here, so we wanted to see what that was all about.   I guess they have a point, in that yeah, this bar is going to become part of the view from a lot of places.  But there's no doubt that the view from the bar itself should be pretty spectacular.    I know the local guys who are employed in building the place seem pretty happy about it all.  I would imagine that a steady job is a rare thing here.

The trail down to the beach is an easy one, well worn and safe.   Even for old guys with bad knees.    It follows the natural terrain down in front of a fairly impressive cliff that has been eroded into the island over the centuries.  There are some nice benches installed down under the cliff, a shady place to watch the ocean, the birds, and life on Middle Caicos.

Part of the life one can observe here involves the small sand crabs that haunt the dark edges where the beach sand meets the bottom edge of the limestone cliff.   It's difficult to get a photo of a live crab when Dooley the Detrimental is in the area. He tends to scare smaller critters away, and all we could photograph was their tracks.  The big clumsy tracks are Dooley's.

I walked down to the edge of the rock cliff face where it meets the sea.  There was some pretty impressive surf coming in past the reef and breaking over the sandy bottom.

Dooley the Determined was convinced that he had to go for a swim.  He didn't spend much time in the water, and I think he was surprised at how strong the current was right up against the beach.  This is one of those places where the retreating waves will pull the sand right out from under your feet.  This is the section of beach that connects to Dragon Cay.  It's out of the water at low tide.   We were still a few hours away from low tide on this day, so we didn't go out to the rocks.    We're already planning another excursion trip back to Middle Caicos sometimes in the next few months, and photos of the far side of Dragon Cay are on the list.

Walking out on the sand spit toward Dragon Cay, there's a good view looking back toward the west and across Mudjin Harbour.   Doesn't look like such a great anchorage, from this angle either, does it?

We recorded several little snippets of video while we were wandering around. La Gringa put them together into one.  They are all of the same area.  Try as I might, I just cannot see any place where I would anchor our boat here and feel like we were in a secure harbor.   Does look like some nice potential for body surfing, though.

When the tide and conditions are right, the waves on both sides of the Dragon Cay sand spit cross over each other and collide along the top of the narrow ridge out to the Cay.   The result is a convergence of the waves that makes a nice visual pattern on the water.   We were tempted to wade on out to the rocks, and estimate that the water was just over knee deep at the rocks you can just see there in the distance before Dragon Cay.  Because of the unstable nature of my remaining knee we decided to wait until conditions are more favorable.  Either a lower tide, or a stronger knee  will do it.

You can get an idea of the pattern of the converging waves in this video:

There is another natural feature of Dragon Cay that we thought was pretty slick.  There is a pool formed in a depression on the top of the rocks.  Waves from the Atlantic crash in and over the Cay, and they fill up the pool.  Then the water cascades down the inside of the rocks after the wave has subsided.  It's like a natural hot tub.

The beach has some good possibilities for hard core beach combers, but being so close to Conch Bar and the Blue Horizon resort I suspect the 'good stuff' gets taken  early on.  Still, it would be nice to be staying here and to get out first on the beach after a high tide to see what new treasures Poseidon has deposited for our amusement.   On this day I was interested in some of the sand migration patterns.  This entire area changes with the force of the waves.   I noticed the difference in the size of the sand particles on the outside of this plastic tub as compared to the sand on the inside.    The unprotected sand is much coarser as the force of the water takes the finer sediments away with it, leaving particles of a specific grain size and larger.  But the sand inside the tub is protected from the current, and so the fine sand settles out in there.  It isn't as clear as I could wish in the photograph, but hopefully you can see that there is a noticeable difference in the fineness of the sand inside and outside the plastic barrier.  A sand grading system.

After we walked the beach for a while we decided to climb back up to the path that runs along the top of the cliff.  This is the place with the best views.   Dooley doesn't seem to be very interested in views.  He cares a lot more about smells than he does scenery.  This is a pretty good bird's eye view of the sand spit that goes out to Dragon Cay.   You can see where the sand would be exposed at low tide.

I leaned over the side of the cliff to get a photo of our footprints down on the beach below.   La Gringa was yelling at us to get back away from the edge.  She's got this thing about crumbling unstable cliff edges, I guess.     So to do my part to help preserve family harmony, I limited the number of photos I took from here.   I think this is good enough that you get the idea.

The view from up here is fairly dramatic.   On a stormy day the waves crash against the rocks and throw spray high into the air.  We were happy for a calm day on this trip.

All of the safe paths along the top of the cliffs are well marked and paved.   I wouldn't recommend straying too far from those paths unless you know where you're walking.   The entire area is mined with open holes and treacherous footing.  It would be easy to do some leg damage if you went wandering off through the bush here.   Dooley was overwhelmed by the sheer number of potential rodent hiding places he found.   There are hundreds of holes and caves like this in the limestone.

At the western most end of the small paved path there is a narrow stairway that disappears right down into  one of these holes in the rock itself.

Dooley is normally pretty fearless when it comes to these things.  He's a natural when it comes to digging his way into little caverns and holes.  Part of his breeding as a fox control officer.  But for some strange reason he was not too keen on going down into this stairway. It was very uncharacteristic of him to be reticent about  exploring a cave.   He was the last of us to descend, and even then I had to call him several times before he followed us into the darkness.

La Gringa led the way on point, with me in the middle and Dooley the Distrustful followed up walking drag. this is looking down toward the beach:

And this is the view looking back  toward the upper entrance.  Some of the steps are cut into the rock, and some have been constructed from poured concrete.  All in all, it seems very safe to me.

When you exit at the bottom of the short cave, there is another flight of stairs down to the beach itself.

Bringing up the rear, Mr. Suspicious finally made the trip down.  He didn't waste any time sniffing around inside the little cavern either.  I never figured out what it was that he didn't like about this stairway, but there is definitely something about it that puts him off.
La Gringa sees an optical  ambiguity in this photo.  She says it's difficult to tell whether Dooley  is  going down stairs or  up stairs in this one.   Is he higher or lower than the photographer....?  Hmmm.

Once he was down on the beach and off the stairs he reverted to his normal form, and immediately started digging in the sand.  I suspect he found an ancient aroma of a lunch long gone.

The small beach here is completely blocked off from the rest of the shoreline, and indeed there are only two ways to get to it.  You can go down the stairs through the cave, or you could swim around the rocks in the water.   This is the area I labeled "Secret Beach" on the satellite image up near the beginning of this post.

We hadn't come prepared to swim, so all we could do was watch the waves and look around for a while.   A very nice secluded place to relax and enjoy the ocean.

Since we were not going to try to swim our way out, we had to head back up the stairs once more when it was time to leave.

Once Dooley  determined that we were ready to leave he was the first one up the stairs and out of there.  I intended to get a short video following behind him, but he was so anxious to be out of the cavern that he was gone before I even had time to set the camera to video mode.   A very unusual reaction from him.  He normally likes caves just fine.  Something about this one seemed to make him nervous.

Back up on top of the cliffs we took a break at a very nice spot that is paved and has some benches to rest upon.  There is a statue of  hands in an attitude of prayer.  This would be a great place for a wedding or just to watch the sunrise.  It's easy to imagine sitting here with a good book and relaxing away a big part of a morning.

I'm sure that this area could get crowded at certain times of the year. If the resort was full of guests, perhaps, or if there was a function going on over at Conch Bar or Bambarra.   On this day we saw a total of three other people over the course of several hours of exploring.  A very relaxing place to visit.

We did stop for a rest there at the patio with the praying hand statue.  I was watching the waves in that photo above, and thinking about what this all must have looked like to early sailors approaching this shoreline three and four hundred years ago.    Dooley joined me for a contemplative moment.  I can only imagine at the deep thoughts that must have been running through that active little mind of his.

That's the end of the Middle Caicos trip, and I bet you're glad to see it.   It must seem like "The Weekend That Wouldn't End!" to those who have been reading it. Thanks for bearing with us.  There are reasons for that. 

I'll put just a little bit of DIY stuff in here now, along with an update on what's been going on with us lately. Remember the little camera slide I built in the shop a while back?  I know some of the good people who read this are also into photography, so I want to pass along a modification I just made to it.  

Sliding the camera by pushing it was making for some 'jerky' motions.  I want to eventually come up with some very slow motor modification but in the meantime I thought a hand crank might smooth things out. I wanted to use stuff I already had lying around the garage.  I used Starboard plastic that we found on the beach, a couple of pulleys left over from the alternator wars on Twisted Sheets, and some elastic shock cord.  The photos pretty much tell the basics.  Used a hole saw to make an axle from Starboard:

Used a larger hole saw and thinner starboard to make a large flat washer:

I attached the pulleys to the end blocks that hold the  rails on the camera slide.  The  pulleys are assembled with stainless screws going through the starboard flat washers and axles.   That starboard stuff is real slippery plastic, by the way.  Great stuff for places where there is light friction like Teflon.  I think it would make good drawer slides, too.   

I decided to make a crank handle (which now needs shortening) and strung it all together with shock cord. This seems to give us a lot more control than shoving the camera by hand.

That starboard stuff is pretty amazing to work with. It's giving me some ideas for other applications, which I'll no doubt be sharing with you as  time goes by.   

I'm putting this post together in early December from photos that we took in late October.  Well, there's a reason for this.  I didn't want you to think we've gotten that lazy, or that we would normally go a month without doing anything interesting enough to be worth a photo.  Nope, we have a good excuse.   

We spent almost all of November in Oklahoma and Texas.   I had a knee replaced at McBride Orthopedic Hospital in Oklahoma City.  That  is the most excellent hospital that I have ever encountered. And I  do have some experience with hospitals. Contact us if you need some work done and want contact details. I don't want to gross people out so  I'll just put up  before and  after photos from the back, here in public view. 

There are some more photos showing the front of the knee and me removing staples, if you  just click this link then you can   navigate  back and forth through the images on Picasa.    I found out that there's a bit of a technique involved in removing surgical staples.  It would have been real nice to have an instruction booklet for that before doing it. But you do learn quickly when it's your own staples that you are removing.  Pain makes an excellent negative reinforcement.

So, now you know why we had to stretch a long weekend of Middle Caicos photos into enough posts to cover a month or more. I didn't think you wanted to tune in here during the early winter,  and see photos of Oklahoma City .  And we both liked OKC a lot more than we expected to, but it's never going to be mistaken for the Turks and Caicos Islands no matter how warm the climate gets. The other alternative was to just disappear for a month with no new tropical photos at all.  We thought that would be kind of rude to family and friends who like to keep an eye on us from the comfort of their own homes. 

We plan to dust off the old inflatable Hobie i15t kayak and use that for knee rehabilitation, again.  It did a pretty good job last time.   This means that we should be doing some kayak trips in the not too distant future.  It's been a while since we checked out the Discovery Bay canals.  Those are always interesting and good for some  dog bark footage.    I didn't have another good sunset to close this post with, but have an extra sunrise we can use.


Sabrina and Tom said...

I know medical tourism is catching on but most people travel outside the USA to locations like India, Belgium, England or such. I think you read the brochure wrong as you traveled TO the USA. Hee hee! It must have been a specific doc, part or facility that drew you to OKC. I totally get it. I traveled both times to have my hips resurfaced.

Fair Winds
s/v Honey Ryder Caliber 40 LRC

Anonymous said...

Byron - As usual, another great post. I really hope your up and dancing since the knee replacement. I sent you an email to your flyingfish email.
Lil Provo
New Jersey

Anonymous said...

When will we see some photos of the opening of "Da Bar" at Southside Marina? It must be about ready by now...

Anonymous said...

Just returned from my first visit to Aruba. Most memorable part of the adventure was the off road visit in the park named Arikok where my almost 70 year old knees climbed for some visual rememberances.
Your pics make what I did look like a piece of cake.

Anonymous said...

I can't really describe how much of a difference having even that first stable knee made in my life three years ago. And now I'll have two of them. I wish I had done it years earlier but better late than never. I highly recommend TKRs for bad knees. You get a big part of your life back. The operation itself is not that big of a deal, and I find the rehab to be almost fun. That's why Hobie made Mirage Drives!

Sheila said...

Hi, Gringo! Been following your blog since I discovered it a month or so ago. I started at the beginning and am up to November 2009. But today I couldn't help reading the current post. I live in OKC! You are right; it's better than it sounds; but not much for scenery. We have been to TCI twice; most recently March 2012. On that trip we went to North & Middle; met Daniel and ate his conch fritters. Loved Mudjin. We hope to return in 2013. Glad your knee is better!

Anonymous said...

We were pleasantly surprised by how much we liked OKC. I can't say enough good stuff about McBride Orthopedic,which was a last minute gut decision over Costa Rica. (A 'joint' decision?) A good call.

We hit quite a few places in OKC during the two weeks we spent there.We met a lot of great people. Had unbelievable steaks at the Ranch. Good BBQ at Iron Star. We hit every shop in Quail Springs, and Bass Pro, of course. We even had time to see the new James Bond movie in Imax.

All in all, quite a change from life on Provo.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps that little area looks like a Bermudian Harbor from the oceanside. Those cliffs are similar to what Bermuda looks like.

Be a nice sailing project one day, sail towards that spot take various distance photographs, then head on up to Bermuda and approach their harbors and take snaps, then compare.

Might very well see what sailors saw all those years ago.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gringos...great post on beautiful.
The video La Gringa shot was especially good...very clear..what do u use to shoot it?
Had no idea of a restaurant going up a Blue Horizon...nice to know they'll be a eating / coctail spot over there.
Best of luck with your knee rehab.
As always, thanks for sharing your experiences w. everyone.

Eric said...

Thanks for the post Gringos. I hope to someday bring my family to see what you guys see everyday. I have a thought about why it may be called a harbour. If you go by how scientist predict the ocean levels, the seas should have been a little more than half a meter shallower when European ships began coming to these islands. Judging by the satellite images, they probably could have pulled their ships right up to the shore at that time. That's a guess anyway. Thanks again from a Homesick Texan in Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing this years Xmas tree.

I think you found one several posts back this year, but was inaccessible or you didn't have the skiff at the time or something.

p.s. it's kind of customary to show the end results of the DIY projects no? Meaning a snippet of video of the working slide thing :-)

Anonymous said...

oops,,, how utterly stupid of me. there I'm talking about xmas trees that are inaccessible or only accessible by the skiff, and you're totally laid up with no knee. That's one creepy thought to me, a knee replacement which is why I put it out of my mind. How long does something like that even take to heal brrr.. gives me the willy's thinking about it all.

Anonymous said...

Nah, not stupid at all. I had the other knee replaced three and a half years ago, and am now a month into this second one. In my own experience, it takes about six weeks after the surgery to get back to the point where you feel like dancing again. That's if you work at it. Some people never recover, but that's their own fault. The rehab is about regaining motion and then rebuilding strength There is some discomfort involved, but the results are SO worth it. IF you need a knee replaced, my advice is not to put it off. If you want to discuss it please email; link at the bottom of the blog. I know a good bit about knees for a layman.

Lisa said...

Hello Gringos.I've been following your acventures since 2010 when I first began planning our 1st trip to TCI.Many times I've thought about posting a comment but thought-nah.But after this post I just can't remain silent.Middle Caicos is my favorite place on earth.Our 1st trip,we spent New Years at Blue Horizon. 2nd trip was in July 2012.And we plan to return March 2014 and take our two teenagers.Your pics took me right back there.We have hiked on past that stair well, down the crossing place trail.It is pretty extreme at some points by soooo secluded.You truly feel alone in the world.We snorkeled all along that stretch of shoreline and all around Dragon Cay.Beautiful fish...lion that I have no idea what were but sooo gorgeous and even a baracuda!!1st trip most of the sand was washed away from Dragon cay leaving lots of little tide pools.They were of course filled back in by 7/12.So interesting how the ocean and shore are "alive" and ever-changing.I could go on for hours!Anyway, thank you for your blog and allowing me to be taken back with each and every post.Get your Christmas stump pics up!! God Bless you guys.I love your life!!
Love Lisa

jack said...


CSM Mac said...

I've missed your posting. Are you all well. I hope so. Have a Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Hello Mac,
Happy New Year to you, too! We're getting along fairly well, thank you for asking. We've been innundated with our "kids" as our seasonal holiday visitors and the two of us have been recovering from medical procedures endured in Oklahoma in November. BUT we've been getting out a bit and I am working on cropping and uploading photos for a new blog post. Nothing real exciting, but at least a change of blog scenery should be in the works in the next day or two. Our remaining offspring are going back to their respective homes later this week, and we expect our life here to fall back into it's own loosely defined rhythm at some point thereafter.