Friday, June 14, 2013

Sunday Drive through Blue Hills

There's a  lumpy little two lane road running like an old crooked backbone through the communities of Blue Hills and Wheeland here.  It continues on along the north shore of Providenciales before  reconnecting with the dirt road that goes out toward NW point.  I wonder how many people know that the Blue Hills road was originally built by hand, without any machinery at all.   I've seen an old faded photo of  a few TCIslander ladies sitting in a shady spot in Blue Hills.  It was evident that they had dressed for the photographer, even in the cracked, creased, and faded sepia shades typical of ancient black and white film.  On the ground was a waist high pile of limestone rocks that were each about the size of a large coconut. No bigger. A size that could be hefted in one strong hand.   The ladies each had a  rock in one hand and a mason's hammer in the other. There was a pile of much smaller stone chips around their feet. They were chipping gravel  piece by piece by hand to turn the Blue Hills foot path into the Blue Hills Road.  One hammer blow at a time.  This place has come a long way in sixty years, but some scenes are almost timeless.   This one, for example.  A couple of Caicos Sloops sitting near a shady picnic table, seen from the Blue Hill Road in a place that has been used to build wooden sloops before the small population here had ever seen a paved road.    Or indeed, anything resembling a road at all.

There was no need for paved roads here for many generations of Islanders.  There was nothing here to drive that was wider than a wheelbarrow.   Preacher Stubbs has told us about the various footpaths he remembers as a boy.  He remembers seeing the first bicycle careening along, with people  leaping out of the path in astonishment as the island's first cyclists went clattering by on two-wheeled metal contraptions that had just been offloaded off the mail boat from the Bahamas.  This was before the airstrip, too. Everything came by boat, and was unloaded at Heaving Down Rock in Leeward Going Through. I have to smile thinking about full grown men  careening down hills without training, or training wheels, on the first bicycle rides of their lives.  This was in the 1960's when many of  us were still being amazed by the  Beatles on Ed Sullivan's television show, or considering what Sputnik meant to mankind.  On Providenciales, the new technology was a one speed bicycle rolling out of control down an old path worn smooth by the soles of feet that had never worn shoes.  Those must have been some exciting times here. Ten miles per hour must have seemed pretty fast compared to the 6 or so miles per hour sailing speed of a wooden sloop.  The sloops haven't changed  very much over the years.  The road has changed.  And every time we ride down it I think of those small stone chips underneath us, buried beneath layers of pavement.  Chips that were each made by hand.

We've been trying to rack up a quick 1200 driving miles on an island fifteen miles long and a mile and a half wide.   Thirty eight square miles. 1200 miles on the clock is the manufacturer's break-in specification on our new vehicle before we hook a boat trailer to it.   We were only averaging 4,000 miles a year with the Land Rovers.   That's less than 80 miles a week. So at our normal pace, it would take us almost four months to reach the number that the KIA manual says we need before we tow anything.   That's probably not going to work for us.  No no no no no.  We've been  unable to use our boats for three months already, and waiting four more months to put one of our trailered boats in the water is not part of the plan.  I'm waiting for some boat trailer wheel bearings to arrive from up north, because mine froze up from sitting immobile for 90 days.  That happens here. Often.  If something's not moving, it's rusting. In the meantime, we've been riding around the island trying to rack up some miles, and taking photos.   This past weekend we cruised out the Blue Hills road past da Conch Shack, and kept going.  It's not a long trip.  In fact, it's way  too short of a trip for someone with a thousand miles yet to go.  We're running out of places to drive to.

In 2005 and '06 I was hanging out with some of the guys who were building and sailing these native craft.  Up  until the early 70s', boats like this were the main form of transportation in the islands.  Preacher Stubbs tells us he remembers seeing the first outboard motor on Providenciales when he was a teenager, too. That would also probably have been in the late 60's.

We didn't really have a destination in mind on this trip.  We were just 'Sunday driving'.   We've seen all of these sights so often that we may be getting a bit jaded about it.  I try to remember that there are plenty of people out there who would consider this somewhat exotic.  We try to look at it through fresh eyes.  We ask ourselves "Which of these views would people be interested in?"  or "If we were here on vacation, what would we want to photograph to show our friends back home what this island looks like?"   Hopefully we  are picking some good stuff for you.  Blue Hills is good for local color, and we always seem to find something here more interesting than another multi-story condominium complex.

Unlike the  restaurants and  bars spackling the verandas around the resorts on Grace Bay, restaurants in the Blue  Hills and Wheeland neighborhoods tend to lean more toward  local ownership, and local tastes.    We  love the colors and hand painted 'graphics' of the  Lee Bay Side Restaurant and Bar.  We had already consumed a large Sunday breakfast, so we didn't stop for the Conch Fritters or Fry Chicken they advertised.   Despite the whining from a certain small dog in the back seat.  I do admit that we were tempted after seeing the colorful  decor.  We weren't sure if the restaurant was even open....

Until we spotted one of the neighborhood  residents pulling out of the trot-through with a take-out order.   He made a left turn without signaling, upshifted and cruised on back up the road before we could ask him anything about the cuisine.  He seemed to be on a schedule, or perhaps late for an appointment.  Or he heard Dooley.

Dooley the Desirous went ballistic when he saw this.  He was ready to bail out the window for an order of whatever was in that plastic bag.  We tried to talk him out of it.  "That dog right there is a  certified, practicing Potcake," we told him  "raised on fried chicken and conch.  He's probably never even had a meal with a  smiling dog's photo on the label. YOU, on the other hand, are an imported American dog that needs the balanced vitamins and minerals and fiber and all that good stuff listed in that expensive canned dog food from the supermarket.  You need sterile dog food with expiration dates." He wasn't going for it. We tried telling him that a steady diet of fried food would be unhealthy for him.  We even drove him by a few places  to make him think about the long-term ramifications of  suddenly going to a grease and bone diet at his age.

And just when he finally started nodding his head and chanting the new mantras I taught him (Kibbles and Bits won't give me the fits. Alpo don't hurt and won't cause a squirt.) we  passed downwind of another conch restaurant and he suffered a momentary relapse. This one wasn't yet open for business, so we were able to keep going without much too disruption. Dooley calmed down and admitted he wasn't really all that much of a conch salad fan, anyhow. He doesn't like the habanero peppers, either coming or going.  Remember the mantra.

By the time we reached  the Lucayan Indian Village Burger Kids' place, his stomach was growling like a 61 Monza in Ralph Nader's nightmares. It didn't help the situation that they have both Haitian Food and Kids Burgers on the take-out menu.  

Driving past all these restaurants was causing us a lot of grief with the hungry dog situation. And we can't use those words in his presence, by the way.  He knows exactly what the phrase Hungry Dog means.    We've taken to referring to the Hotel Delta, but I think he's starting to catch on to that, too. Of course he's been listening to La Gringa's airplane radio transmissions a lot lately. 

We did offer to run him into the B&J Sport Bar for a Salty Dog, but he didn't see the humor in that.  I wouldn't mind coming back some day to check this one out myself.  I do love a tropical paint job and any bar that highlights the stairs for the patrons gets a plus for good management in my book.

Finally, we were almost out of town and past the stretch of restaurants with their overly enticing odors.   We passed the last gasoline station  at this end of the island,  which is GrantsTexaco in the village of Wheeland.    You can get gasoline here, I think.  Although we've never had to stop and try. We've been running on diesel for five years.  And  obviously, you can get Cold Drinks.   Just don't expect much of a response if you ask for credit.   

I think if I was out of fuel and they wouldn't take my credit card, we'd be in trouble.  That would really get my goat to be stranded out here. But I don't think we'd be alone. These guys didn't have any petrol or cold drinks, either. I can't tell you if they did or did not have gas. I wonder if they have baaaaad credit...

We continued on to the road called the Millennium Highway.  I'm not 100% certain whether that that refers  to the year it was started, or the year it was completed.   And now that I think about it, I don't think any road here is really what we'd consider completed.  Pavement seems to be one of those things that the tropical environment seems delighted to devour.  We did make it out toward NW Point as far as the divided highway before turning around and headed back to town.

I know I keep saying I'm going to try making shorter posts more often.  This one is as close as I've gotten, yet.   It's short, and less than a week after the last one. And we've got more than enough material for the next few installments of our tropical island life here. 

I suppose I should head off any questions about our hungry dog.  We headed home for a late lunch. Here he is in his position on the kitchen floor, just under where I stand when making sandwiches.  He's patient.  He knows he'll get a tidbit or two. A fleck of cheddar as a minimum. But it's still a bit un-nerving to suspect that man's best friend is fervently praying for me to fail at this, again..

Not only is that particular section of rug HIS spot, he's also got HIS own chair underneath the desk in our  office. After lunch he retired to his chair for his traditional mid afternoon nap before supper. The last thing we heard him whisper before his eyes rolled back into his head sounded something like..... 'cabrito'.  Then he started snoring, and he feet twitched as he licked his lips in dreams. This is a contented dog.

I've now installed a trailer towing hitch on the rear of the new little KIA, and will (hopefully) be replacing four frozen wheel bearings on the Hobie boat trailer.  We are very much looking forward to getting back on the water again, this time with our kites and cameras. There are a lot of places we want to return to for some aerial photos to flesh out earlier descriptions.  And the idea of the nine foot kite tied to a small boat is somewhat interesting in itself.  I'm curious as to whether the kite will pull the kayak to a speed where the relative wind  drops, causing a similar reaction from the kite. Oh well.  It's all water proof.  It  has to be if it's going to survive with us.

We've seen how useful an aerial photo of the approach to a marina can be. We're thinking of documenting  more those where we can. The entrance to Turtle Cove, for example, would be of a lot of interest to us.   And all the little cays and islets around here should be fun to view from above.

We're also still playing around with time lapse.  This sunset was taken on an afternoon when some of our more sociable neighbors were having a party.   At the very end, we caught two of the guests leaving in their automobiles.  It was after dark when the lights of Provo were on in the background, after a fairly colorful sunset. The different speeds of the two vehicles is obvious. See if you can figure out which one is accustomed to driving this road in the dark.


Anonymous said...

Great post as usual. I have been following and reading your blog for some time now and really enjoy it.
As far as content goes, you are doing great. Just the right mix and I do like the diy pieces.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Road trip! Love it!

Anonymous said...

We are on Provo now and discovered your blog while waiting out the stormy weather today. Thanks for sharing your story and some great information about the island life. Seems to me that to live here would be a dream. We will continue to follow along once we return to the rat race.

Anonymous said...

We measured 42 knots in that big squall this morning. I had a GoPro sitting outside taking time lapse.

And while not Olympic Class by any means, this place does have some pretty quick rodents of it's own.

Anonymous said...

Hi there - thanks for the road trip!

And see you on FB too now! - Chris

Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster said...

Love the photos! I'm writing an online spy novel series named "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean". It that takes place throughout the Caribbean Islands. One of the agents is a beautiful woman from T&C. I plan to learn much about T&C from you. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

does your book need a crusty old expat Gringo character with a beautiful wife and obnoxious little dog?

Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster said...

Yes, Corey Pearson interacts with all types of people in the Caribbean. That's what makes it enjoyable. Would the three of you like a place in the online spy series? Maybe we could work something out. I was looking for a laid-back place with a safe house for Corey to unwind in-between operations. Your photos really got to me. Wish I could use them.

Anonymous said...

Company safe house, or just a safe place?

Look into Meridian Club, Pine Cay as a laid back setting with a private airstrip and marina. could be owned by old operative.

for non-sanctioned house, How about a shady relationship with a semi-crooked security guard at one of the private islands. Half those homes are empty at any given time. Could hide out there in easy luxury if you had the security guy helping.

You can email us here too, by the way.

Unknown said...

Great Photos! May I ask you what type of breed your dog is, that is sleeping on the pillow?