To Hell and back

Of all the wordplays one might like to make on a travel blog, this is right up there. Or down there.

There is a very tiny village in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman called Hell. And we went there. On a very hot day. We arrived at the same time as a horde of tour buses that had downloaded crowds of truly hot, truly sweaty tourists from four cruise ships that had docked in Georgetown. And what better place for all of us on a hot, humid day than a quick trip to Hell?

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We found chickens. No surprise there. And stores full of corny postcards, T-shirts and other bric-a-brac with pithy sorts of statements about our location. I popped into a store (named Hell Store #1) and was greeted by a lovely lady behind the counter. She asked if she could help me and I said I was looking for hubby. She said, “Well you better find him, dear, as you wouldn’t want to leave him in Hell, would you?” Just for a moment, I pondered how many times she has said that.

This does not need any explanation.
This does not need any explanation.

So the reason for the name is black rock formations that look like they were designed in the depths of the earth and were shot to the surface. I did not get a pic because of the angle of the sun, but saw a large lizard run across the path just before taking a peek at the Mordor-like scene. Nothing like a reptile on the path to get you in the mood during a visit to Hell. Just remember, there are lots of chickens in Hell.

These signs cover the range of spiritual options available to visitors.
These signs cover the range of spiritual options available to visitors.
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The ubitquitous chicken

The tourism brochures don’t crow about it, but this island is overrun by chickens. Chickens in Georgetown, chickens in Bodden Town, chickens clucking around tables in uptown outdoor restaurants. Chickens on the roads and chickens in the trees. Chickens in Hell (I’ll get to that in my next post). You can hardly turn around without a chicken in view.

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Chickens in Hell (really, I’m not kidding)

This morning I took a bag of trash to the dumpster. On the way, Simon said “Be careful – there’s a rooster living in the dumpster and he gets annoyed when you throw garbage on his head.” Oh ha, ha, I thought – a rooster in the dumpster – sure, sure. So I chuckled all the way over there. As I lifted the bag to toss it in, a large and energetic-looking rooster emerged from the depths of the bin and gave me a filthy stare. He leapt onto the top of the trash with a grumbling “BAWK!” and for a moment I thought I was going to do morning battle with this feathery protector of all that has been tossed. And I knew who would win … not me. Best of luck, he did a good impression of a roadrunner, dashing across the trash and away into the bushes.

Chickens in the parking lots - all of them.
Chickens in the parking lots – all of them.

We saw a lot of stray chickens in Hawaii, too, but I think for sheer numbers per square mile, Cayman would win, hands down. Or beaks down. The roosters here also have no sense of time. They crow most of the night. So if there were to be a midnight crowing contest, these birds would be champions.

This guy was on the move through a very uptown outdoor café.
This guy was on the move through a very uptown outdoor café.

The things the glossy brochures don’t tell you…

Every sculpture tells a story … or two

My brother-in-law, Simon Morris, is a sculptor, which is why we are in the Caribbean this week. We traveled to the Cayman Islands – to the largest of three islands, Grand Cayman – to see the installation of Simon’s third bronze sculpture. In the twists and turns of life’s adventure, the paperwork for the sculpture was not complete so the sculpture, Guardian of the Reef, will need to wait just a bit longer to settle into its new home just off the shore of Grand Cayman. To see this majestic sculpture and many of Simon’s other unusual pieces, go to http://www.sculptorsimonmorris.com.

Simon has two other pieces on Grand Cayman so we decided to visit them. We first went to the capital city of Georgetown, where we saw Tradition, a commemorative sculpture honoring the maritime history of these islands and their seafaring people. It features a mariner father and son looking out to sea over the wheel of a ship. It is located in Heroes Square in the middle of town, along with other sculptures.

Tradition
Tradition

When we arrived, we found preparations for an event were underway. Turns out the following day was National Heroes Day – a big celebration with the premier and governor in attendance. We ran into one of the organizers of the event, and when he found out that Simon was the sculptor of Tradition, he begged us all to attend. So off we went the next day to watch the celebrations, including marching honor guards, cadets, military and police in dress uniform. Some pics are posted here. Much pageantry, color and speechifying! Many people were honored with recognition for various types of heroism, including cultural leadership, which is so important to this tiny nation.

National Heroes Day celebration
National Heroes Day celebration
The governor inspecting the troops - she is in center of photo
The governor inspecting the troops – she is in center of photo

Later that day our group went snorkeling and diving to visit Simon’s other sculpture – a nine-foot mermaid sunk in 50 feet of water off the shores of Sunset House, one of the dive resorts on Grand Cayman. Hubby and I snorkeled, while Simon and his sister and brother-in-law dove. It was amazing to snorkel out and look down to see Amphitrite below, reaching up so gracefully. Simon slowly descended to her, then swam around her, touching her face and arms as if greeting an old friend. I realized that he leaves a part of his spirit in each piece he creates. A treasured moment.

The water was beautifully clear. When returning to shore, we saw varieties of fish, some squid and coral of different stripes. The colors were striking – blues, greens, every shade of brown, beige and cream in every imaginable pattern – my favorites were dots, spots and squares. The water is warmer than Hawaii and at least as interesting – probably more fish here. I reflected back on my previous time in Cayman – 35 years ago – and remembered many more fish and more vibrant color. But still, the snorkeling is superb and we are relaxing more as each day goes by.

A Caribbean moment

View from our Cayman condo - West Bay area
View from our Cayman condo – West Bay area

Gentle breezes, blue sky with wandering clouds reaching toward bluer water with translucent green highlights… we have arrived in the Cayman Islands. We’ve only been here two days but already I’ve removed my watch and when someone asks me what time it is, I proclaim that I don’t know – with a smile.

The biggest decision we need to make each day is where to snorkel and how many times to get in the pool. Tough vacation. The weather is nudging up to perfect. We were told a norwester storm was on its way and that we should expect cloudy days and rain. So far, no rain. No storm. Sun, sun, sun. So much that we stay out of the sun at midday.

We are staying a a condo community with access to the water and we’ve been for several snorkels and dives, depending on who is in the water. Speaking of the water, it is the temperature of a cool bath. Absolutely lovely.

Today we drove around the island. For being very small – about 22 miles by 9 miles – it takes us quite some time to travel the full scope. We visited Rum Point, which looks like a postcard. We saw hilarious signs – funny to us – advertising all kinds of things. The best one was “Two jerks for the price of one.” Only those in the know would understand this is referencing a dish, Jerk Chicken. We all had a big laugh.

We went to see one of my brother-in-law’s sculptures later today and discovered that there is a big local celebration happening tomorrow, Monday. Heroes Day. And lo and behold, we ran into the coordinator of the entire day, who insisted that Simon attend the morning kickoff, which comes complete with the governor of the Cayman Islands. So we are all tagging along as his “artiste entourage” in the morning. Should be fun!

Postcard view at Rum Point
Postcard view at Rum Point

 

 

Typical Caribbean humor about hurricanes.
Typical Caribbean humor about hurricanes.