Thankful to be Here

Island tour! The Pauls' pickup turned into our own private hop-on-hop-off tour bus as we hit the road mid-morning on Friday to see the sights. 

Stop #1: A beach near where Heidi's cousin and her husband live to collect some of the conch shells the island is known for. I brought home a cute little one that fit in my palm and a sea fan, which somehow didn't disintegrate in my backpack on the plane. 

Stop #2: The Blowholes - a rocky outcropping that's been completely eroded away from underneath in spots such that when the surf crashes against it, water explodes upward like a geyser. 

Wait for it...

Stop #3: Wreck of the Ten Sail - the site of the infamous wreck of 10 ships in February 1794. Nine disobeyed orders and left their port in Jamaica bound for Europe (wrong turn, anybody?) in the middle of the night and one, the Convert, had been assigned to watch over the fleet and went down in pursuit of the errant vessels. Locals did everything they could to save the crewmembers. Legend has it there are no taxes in the Cayman Islands to this day because the King's son was one of the passengers whose lives were spared. 

This propeller near the parking lot was from a modern (1960s) wreck in the same spot. Picture for scale!

If you look closely, you can still spot the wreckage along the line of whitecapped waves breaking along the offshore reef. 

Stop #4: Lunch (Over the Edge CafĂ©). 

Brilliant. I wonder if they accept contributions from patrons?

I ate turtle, in the form of a slider. It had the texture of falafel, and was honestly really tasty. I'm still a little wary of the Caymans' ubiquitous turtle soup, but I'd try it. 

Stop #5: Rum Point - a former tourist destination that COVID did in, but it still boasts a stunning view across the bay of West Bay and even some of the taller structures along Seven Mile Beach on the far side. 

Stop #6: Starfish Point - a secluded beach known for the galaxy of starfish that inhabits its shallows. 

Heidi showed me how to safely and humanely touch them. After a few moments, they start to suction onto your hand. The sensation was unforgettable, like they were giving my palm a little hug. 

Stop #7Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park. Sightings of the endemic blue iguana and Caymanian parrot are common; we didn't even have to leave the parking lot to see the former, but we only heard the latter (we'd seen one near the parsonage earlier in our visit). 

I'm totally stealing the palm bark reindeer idea. 

My mom: "It's like the Climatron [at the Missouri Botanical Garden], but outdoors."

I think we were walking through the aptly named "Color Garden" at this point. 

Heidi and I got distracted taking photos of beautiful flora and ran across this lovely spot. 

Some other tourists also pointed out a second one one of these guys. 

Heidi said we had to go in the Children's Garden if only for the birds' nests, which did not disappoint. 

Stop #8: Kitesurf Cayman. No, we didn't take lessons, just watched the adventure seekers for a few minutes, jaws dropping when they went airborne.

Stop #9: Hell - a tourist trap featuring white limestone that's been eroded into craggy, sharp-edged formations - and tinged black - by algae. You can buy souvenirs with all manner of hokey slogans and even mail a postcard from Hell's very own post office. 

Stop #10: Dinner (Macabuca).

I'm a sucker for signs like this one right next to where we parked. 

Yeah, we ate there. 

I promise we're all in there. Heidi took this not long after Gerald freed a pelican that made a failed attempt to alight on the railing and wedged itself into a corner. 

Drawing on what I know, Grand Cayman reminded me of Jamaica. I spotted several chains I'm familiar with from Kingston (Devon House, Tastee Patties, Flow, Digicel) and heard people speaking with what sounded to me like Jamaican accents. I learned that Jamaica and the Caymans were historically one territory, so this makes sense. Closer to home, it's as if the entire island were Punta Cana. There's not so much as a beer bottle on the shoulder of the highway (if you can call it that when the speed limit is 50 mph) or a tangle of seaweed on the beach, because you're never far from a hotel where you can get all-you-can-eat brunch for $165 or a picturesque private property that could be on the next episode of House Hunters International

Evidently this post's title is a Caymanian refrain? In any case, it ran through my head so many times in my short time there. Always when I explore somewhere yet unexplored in a particular place, I feel more connected to it. While there are definitely still attractions I'd like to visit on future trips, I felt like I'd seen the whole of the island by the time we got back to the parsonage around 7 pm. I'm confident I could capably host a team, if and when that opportunity arises, but I'm also plotting a return trip sometime in my LAC career that I'm pretty sure will not involve volunteers in any way, since it's over December 24. Safe Harbour has a Christmas Eve service on the BEACH, people!

Until next time, blessings in Christ!