Imagine walking hand-in-hand along miles and miles of white beaches, sand as fluffy and soft as baking flour massaging your bare toes with every step. Above you are blue-gray skies. Beside you, the most pristine shades of blue you’ve ever seen slowly change colors before your eyes as the ocean waves sound off of Grace Bay Beach, beckoning you to relax inside them for a cool dip as they interrupt your romantic stroll.
The Perfect Honeymoon Destination!
As we walked from our one bedroom condo at Ocean Club West to the shores of Provodenciles in the British West Indies for the first time, we weren’t sure what we were going to see. Our plane had landed around 10:35 p.m. the night before, affording us no opportunity to share a sneak peak of the beauty before sunup the next morning.
The taxi-van ride to the hotel was fairly uneventful. We met a young man in his late 20s here on business. His job? A distributor for Coors Light. Based out of Miami now, he was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. He jokes he’s only been with the company about a year, after leaving his job at Campbell’s. “My mom said selling beer in the Caribbean should be much less difficult than selling soup,” he says, with a grin, his Spanish-English accent ever present. I think to myself yet again, “Tina, you really should’ve tried harder to learn to speak Spanish. His job could be yours. You could be spending three to four days a week in a different island in the Caribbean. Though you’d probably have more luck selling the soup.”
Check-in at the hotel goes smoothly. Brandon is ill at his stomach though. At first we think it’s from the sushi we ate while killing time at the Miami airport. After almost 14 hours of illness, we later realize it was the hotdog at Nathan’s in the airport that attempted to ruin the start of our romantic week in this paradise!
In all the last minute packing and craziness that surrounds a wedding, neither of us had thought to pack medications. About 2:30 a.m. Brandon is on the phone with security, the only hope we have for him at the moment, and they tell us there’s nothing they can do – no medications they can share.
By 7:30 a.m. I am on my way by myself to try and find Graceway Grocery. I’ve read about it many times on TripAdvisor, and I know it’s only a short walk from our hotel. In fact, our resort’s proximity to everything is why we booked it. But what I don’t currently know is where I am at on the property and which direction I need to head. It doesn’t help that since before the wedding I haven’t had more than four hours of sleep on any given night. And given the events of our first night in Turks & Caicos thanks to Nathan’s Hotdogs, I am super exhausted. I truck on, my new husband needs medication – or a doctor, but right now, medication is my only option).
I find a gardener tending to the grounds. “How do I get to the check-in desk?” I question him. He stares at me, the way a friendly dog stares at you, trying desperately to understand and wanting to please you, but clueless. I rephrase my question, this time using “front desk”.
“Holy Hell,” I think to myself. “I thought they spoke English here. I am screwed.”
Just then, I hear a sound from his mouth. He appears to be saying “front desk”. Maybe he is mocking me. I don’t really know. But I grasp at hope, nod my head, and repeat twice, “Yes, front desk, fro-nt de-sk!”
He points a bit, says something I don’t really understand, and I head in the direction of his finger. I see the tennis courts. We passed those on the way in I remember. But where were they in relation to the front desk?? If only we’d walked instead of taking the golf cart ride from the Phillippeano man last night. Or if only I had spent more time watching where we were going instead of being so inquisitive of how our escort ended up living on the islands of Turks and Caicos.
A Quick Trip to the Grocery
Finally, I find the front desk, get directions to the store, and off I go. I am so frustrated by this point that my adrenaline has overtaken me. This is probably a good thing, as venturing off hotel property by myself is forcing me way outside my comfort zone, thanks to our trip to Jamaica last year, where it was instilled in our head by the resort that leaving the hotel was not safe. Poor Brandon, back at the resort sick, and me, growing as a person without him – proud of my new sense of independence!
The walk to the grocery is refreshing. There are only a few cars on the road this early Tuesday morning, and the town is so clean. It actually feels more like a huge resort than a town it’s so well kept. As I reach the Seven Stars Resort Round About, I see Scotia Bank, the landmark the receptionist at the hotel told me to look for. I turn left and head towards it, knowing Graceway Gourmet is next door.
As I walk into the grocery store, I am greeted by a handsome security guard, who could easily pass as Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s much younger brother. He directs me to Gatorade, just around the corner. I get 3 bottles, 2 bottles of water, and I decide some breakfast might be worth purchasing too. I head down the cereal aisle. I pick up a $14.95 priced box of Kellog’s strawberry protein bars. Perhaps Brandon would eat one of them. Then I notice Fruity Pebbles. Brandon and I only days earlier had discussed them being his favorite cereal from childhood. I decide to surprise him with them. Even if he can’t eat them now, he’ll enjoy them later in the week. I scoff at the $6.95 price tag on this small box of cereal as I put it in my hand basket.
Next stop, eggs and cheese. Much like the $0.49 bottled water, the eggs are also reasonably priced. I put a dozen in the basket. Cheese on the other hand, there goes my “Holy Hell” thought again. $8.95 for a 24 pack of processed Kraft American Cheese. If it wasn’t a necessity for a great egg sandwich, I wouldn’t purchase the cheese. But Brandon and I both love the oooeey-gooey deliciousness of melted processed cheese on our eggs, so in the basket it goes.
Then comes milk, a tomato, and bread. “Quickly,” I think to myself. “Brandon is dying in the hotel room, and you’re shopping for breakfast. Get the medicine and get back.”
One problem, I can’t find the medicine. Urg!! I ask for help. This time, the lady speaks English – perfectly!! “Yes, I am going to be just fine in Turks & Caicos after all.”
I load up. Andrews Salt – it saved me on our trip to Jamaica last summer. But one of its side effects seems to also be a problem I need to solve. So in goes Imodium. Then I see Pepto Max, and it too joins the collection of medications in the hand basket before I am off to the registers to checkout. I place my handcart on the belt and wait for the cashier to start scanning the items. She stares at me again, and I have that thought cross my mind, “Perhaps they’re all staring at me because I have something on my face.”
Then she opens her mouth, and with an attitude I am not found of says, “Take everything out of the basket.” I deduce my skills as a cashier at Walmart in college shall not go in vain. And then I chuckle inside, “Perhaps Walmart cashiers are teaching customer service here, too.”
When I finally arrive back at the hotel room, Brandon opts for the Pepto and Gatorade. I get out a blueberry muffin and poor me a yummy glass of Bolthouse Vanilla Chi Protein Shake. On the way to checkout I had added both things to my basket, thinking perhaps Brandon would desire one of them for breakfast instead. I take my breakfast to the screened patio of our third story room, pull out my phone, and write a letter to our moms. Then I check my addiction, Facebook! There’s not much else to do, as I want to share the magical moment of seeing the beach for the first time with him.
Brandon spends most of the day recouping from his illness. I spend mine writing thank yous on the Facebook walls of many who helped make our wedding successful. I wish I had packed our thank you cards, so I wouldn’t have to do it again when I get home. But I suppose to myself, you can’t share gratitude enough for all people did to make sure the wedding was so perfect.
Mid-afternoon I make another trek to the grocery store. Brandon is feeling brave enough to eat, and I am hungry, too. I pick up a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and think back to the salesman on the bus. Perhaps selling Campbell’s Soup to islanders really wouldn’t be all that difficult, eh?
For dinner, we enjoy an egg sandwich. Finally, we decide to head to see the sea for the first time.
Beautiful Beaches Ahead
As we walk past the pool, I feel like a schoolgirl again. I am giddy because I know soon my feet will touch sand and my eyes will behold what so many have described as “the most beautiful beach on earth”.
The beach lives up to its expectations. As we walk into the water, we are instantly refreshed by its cool temperature. The clarity is amazing, too. For the first of many times I pause and wonder if this is really just the largest most natural saltwater pool ever built by man. As far as I can see, my eyes are amazed by beautiful hues of blue. Crayola has yet to capture each of these shades – they are that beautiful.
The Grand Bike Adventure
Wednesday morning arrives and Brandon is feeling better. He’s still physically exhausted, but he’s ready to go. Two locals we’d met in Miami had recommended we snorkel at Smith’s Reef. Fewer people visit it, and it’s just as beautiful as Coral Reef. Since Steve is also a professional photographer on the island, we trust his tip on the beautiful part. We pick up a map at the front desk and borrow two bikes. The lady at the front desk has assured us it’s only about a 20 minute bike ride, and after learning the cab fare would be $14 one way, the bikes are that much more exciting. Everything is so expensive here.
I am thankful Brandon can read a map. I have come to rely on my GPS so much that I am not the best with paper maps until after I have been somewhere. He, however, quickly leads the way. We bike thru town and head towards Turtle Cove.
The bike ride is much longer than the 20 minutes, but perhaps that’s simply because we’re a tad bit out of shape. None of the ride is really along the coastline, but there are several beach access points along the way. We stop at none of them, simply eager to make it to the reef.
As we bike thru the towns, we pass a gas station. $5.99 a gallon for gas!!! All of a sudden complaining about $3.49 back home seems crazy. Later we learn this was the cheapest in town, as other places are selling gas for as much as $6.47 a gallon.
We also pass a school where some sort of program is taking place. We can’t see anything really, but we can hear it all over the loudspeaker. We bike on.
We drive thru a more run down part of the island, and we’re reminded that even this country is a country of extremes. Houses just miles from the resort areas where the tourists stay are run down and housing many people. Perhaps they’re just visiting for the afternoon?
When we arrive in Turtle Cove there are no signs directing us to Smith’s Reef, and while it’s noted out in the ocean on our map with a little snorkel icon, it’s difficult to figure out which road to go down to get there. Brandon pulls up to a truck and a lady and her son give him directions. I am a bit skeptical because from what I can hear from afar, she doesn’t really appear to have a clue. Brandon confirms my suspicions, but he assures me the son appeared to know where the reef was.
We turn the bikes around and make a left by the restaurant/shopping center in town before heading over a beautiful bridge. Actually, the bridge is quite plain, but the rocks and blue water it is protecting us from below are beautiful. As we enter an upscale residential neighborhood, we follow the curve in the road to the left. The road dead ends at the entrance to the beach harboring Smith’s Reef.
Snorkeling the Beauty of Smith’s Reef
Our snorkel gear in tow, we proceed to behold the beauty of the reef and all its colorful inhabitants. We test out our new underwater camera and attempt to become marine photographers. The views are so beautiful, the fish so unique. A lot of the coral looks like little brains popping out of the ocean. Other coral, especially the purple coral, waves at us with each passing of an ocean wave.
I love to snorkel. It’s so relaxing; floating on the top of crystal blue waters, exploring the underwater world below, listening only to the sound of your breathing. It’s amazing how many unique life forms call this planet home, and as I snorkel I take a moment to be grateful for this amazing opportunity.
After a brief break and a second snorkel trip, a storm blows in. Since there is no place on this beach to get out of the rain, we opt to depart early. The other 12 or so people snorkeling in the area seem to share our idea, too. Quickly the ocean is empty of human life, and Brandon and I head to retrieve our bikes that he’s hidden in some bushes beside a beach house.
Off we ride in the rain. We mention how much fun it is to play in the rain again. I can’t remember the last time I rode a bike surrounded by water droplets as they fall from the sky. I feel like a kid again. Carefree. Just me, my best friend, and our trusty bikes, off in the rain on another adventure! Perhaps that’s why I have fallen in love with this island; it continues to make me feel youthful.
We opt to eat lunch at a local restaurant called The Sharkbite. The only thing on the menu for me is salad. I am less than impressed with it when it arrives. It was fresh, but it just wasn’t delicious. Brandon opts for the daily special, Fish & Chips. When it arrives he nibbles at it, but the fried food isn’t appetizing as his first real meal since feeling good again. So we feed some of the fish to a seagull as it flies by. After paying almost $50 for lunch (the average price of a basic meal for two at any restaurant on the island), Brandon asks if we can take a cab home. He’s exhausted. We price it. The price to go back is almost double, $26. We decide to save the money and bike back to the resort.
On the way, it rains several more times. The rain is refreshing, as it cools the temperature and shades us from the warm sun that has been shining off and on most of the day. The bike ride back is uneventful.
Back at the resort we opt to swim in the pool a bit before BBQing the vegetarian “sausages” I had purchased for dinner. Brandon cooks them on the resort’s gas grill and we turn them into sandwiches. I am so hungry that I eat my first one quickly. Midway into my second one I stop. I feel a bit queasy. I opt not to eat more.
We head down to the beach strolling hand-in-hand. I have the most romantic husband on earth. We watch as the sun begins to set. It’s July 4th, and later this evening a fireworks show is planned over Grace Bay. I have eagerly been anticipating it since I saw the poster in the hotel lobby on Monday night at check in. The resort next to us is hosting a $49 per person BBQ & Bonfire to celebrate America’s Independence from Britain. It’s semi-ironic, as the islands are owned by Britain. We walk past it to the pier and witness the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
Below the pier Brandon notices something in the water. It appears to be a starfish, but the depth, low light from the sun setting, and the splashing waves make it hard to tell for sure.
As we head back to our resort, music is playing at the BBQ Beach Party. I stop Brandon, and we dance on the beach to Eric Clapton singing “Wonderful Tonight”. In that moment, it is our beech, and the song plays just for us. I am so thankful I have found a husband who is my very best friend.
When we get back to our resort we decide to sit by the ocean, watch for stars between the overcast night sky, and wait for fireworks to start at 9:45. My body, however, has other plans. We head back to the room early. I am asleep by 9:00 and by 11:30 p.m., it is my turn to be sick from poor food choices. Luckily, I have medicine quickly available and by 3:30 a.m., I am able to go to sleep. My last thought, “Please let me feel better before the Adventure Cruise at 9:30 tomorrow morning.”
I’m On A Boat!
The sun awakens me much too early. I decide to brave sitting up and start reading a book I had been given as a wedding present. When Brandon awakens 45 minutes later, he joins me on the patio for breakfast. We dine on the box of Fruity Pebbles and talk about how funny it is the box has a discount coupon on it to Six Flags. I decide if I hold the cereal down, I will go on the cruise.
At 9 a.m. we head to Silver Deep in The Plaza directly in front of the hotel. We check in and then head to the grocery once more, this time for more sun-cream and Gatorade. I feel weak in the store, but I refuse to let that stop me from the day’s planned adventure. I do, however, feel a slight bit of guilt for being too cheap to hire the taxi for Brandon the day before. His persistence thru his exhaustion on the bike now really impresses me. There’s no way I could’ve biked, in the rain, feeling the way I do in this moment.
The walk back to Silver Deep from the store is peaceful. The wait at the store for the bus to arrive, however, is a bit chaotic. Brandon has already checked us in, but Paula, the lady who owns the shop and is working the register today, is stressed and not a lot of help. In fact, I feel as though we’ve irritated her by being early. The oriental lady who works in the shop with her isn’t much help either, refusing to answer our question and directing us back to Paula.
Brandon and I head outside to wait on the concrete steps. The other shops in The Plaza aren’t open yet, so all we have to do is sit and wait. I am fine with that, as I need to figure out how to recharge before we get on the boat.
When the bus finally arrives, an energetic driver gets off, along with several passengers. Several other cruise-goers have also arrived and the bus appears too full already to fit us all. Darren, the driver, finds us and gives us our admission tickets for Iguana Island. Paula, in her stressed out state, tells him we’re from the Beach’s Resort and we’re riding with him. We’re, of course, not from Beach’s, but we don’t argue. We board the bus. Darren comes on about five minutes later and asks if all the kids can sit on the lap of someone so there is room to fit the adults.
“Great!” I think to myself. “We’re going to be crammed on a boat like sardines for the afternoon.”
Darren shares it’s only a 7 minute drive to the marina, and he’s right. Once the bus starts moving and I feel the breeze, everything is okay. When we get to the marina, we board a large “glass bottom” party barge type boat with the other adventure seekers. It turns out, there’s plenty of room for all of us. Darren boards, too. He’s the first mate for the adventure.
Our boat captain is a man named Pringles. He’s lighthearted and shares he’s been doing this for over 20 years. He announces the other two deckhands, points out they’re there to help us with water, soft drinks, and punch. We’ve been told by others all boat trips like this include the traditional rum punch, but neither Brandon nor I feel up to trying it. Instead, I sip on my Gatorade.
Our first stop on the open sea is a snorkel trip for conch. I want to conserve my energy for the reef and fish snorkel, so I opt not to get in the water. Brandon, however, dons the complimentary yellow flippers they’ve provided and pulls his snorkel gear out of our bag. He’s off to find conch. I stay to visit with the nice family we’ve met from the Sherman, Texas area.
Before long, Brandon pops up with a small conch. I am proud of him and his find, but Pringles tells him it’s too small. Down the conch shell goes, and Brandon is off in search of an even bigger one. Before the end of the 15 minute adventure, Brandon has succeeded. His conch is put into a small pile to be cleaned, served later as a snack, and the shell returned as his souvenir!
Once all the passengers have re-boarded the vessel, we’re off. The ocean breeze is refreshing across my face and its intensity increases the faster the boat goes. Watching the pristine blue waters as they lapse against the coastline from the boat ensures me that even if I am not able to snorkel later, at least the views were worth it.
Searching for Iguanas
Our next stop is Little Water Cay, but most people now call it Iguana Island because of the Iguana sanctuary built there. This part of the trip is too rushed for me. We quickly walk down a wooden deck path like a herd of cattle. Along the way we spot 3 iguanas. We are told one is the oldest on the island and is called “Grandpa”. We also learn they are vegetarians, eating only fruit from trees that grow on the island. The one tree they point out actually grows fruit year round. At the end of the 5 minute walk we hit the beach, but we are quickly ushered back to the boat. We are told we’ll have more time on Shell Island to enjoy a beach.
The Not So Tough Snorkel Decision
As the boat backs up, Pringles tells us we are headed towards our next snorkel spot. As we approach it, we are given the choice to snorkel on the front or back side of the reef. The front side, he explains, is much shallower with lots of brain coral and not as many fish. The back side has more fish and caves to explore. To me it’s a no-brainer; I just hope my fellow passengers agree. They do!! The back side it is.
I opt to wear a life vest around my belly. I don’t want to miss this opportunity, but I am still physically exhausted. Brandon promises to stay beside me. He dons his fins again, but they’re out of fins in my size. No worries, Brandon holds onto me and kicks for the both of us once we’re in the water.
The ocean below us is beautiful. Just as Pringles promised, there are caves and lots of fish. We snorkel around, the two of us, just enjoying the live open aquarium below us. It is both beautiful and romantic.
After snorkeling we re-board the party barge bound for Shell Island. A short ride later our feet are back on land, our toes sifting through the flour like sand that is covered in shells as far as you can see. Pringles has told us it’s not uncommon to find sand dollars but the area has been pretty picked over. I am still hopeful, but not nearly as hopeful as the 10 year old girl from Texas. I keep my eyes out and walk along the coast. Brandon opts to snorkel again. I am just enjoying every minute of the sand. I have, after all, contemplated on more than one occasion putting a mini-sandbox below my office desk. Life is just so stress free when you’re in sand. Maybe that’s Paula’s problem, she spends too much time behind the register and not enough time in the sand.
I find several pretty shells and about a quarter of a sand dollar. I call it my sand quarter, but after getting back on the boat, I give it to the young girl. She’s so excited. I remember being a child at the beach in Matagorda Bay, picking up sand dollars, and I know, this sand dollar piece needs the pride of a child when it leaves the islands.
As we board, Pringles is just finishing “cooking” the conch salad in a pan on the boat. As he finishes the last of the dicing, he explains to Brandon the citrus juice from the oranges and limes cooks the conch. Brandon takes a bowl and quite enjoys it. Being a vegetarian, I just take his word that I would enjoy it too and continue to sip on my Gatorade.
The highlight of the trip back to the marina comes in the form of two large creatures spotted out in the ocean. Pringles drives us closer so we can see the baby and adult dolphins as they swim. For a bit they disappear, but Pringles’ trained eye doesn’t lose them. Soon, they appear once more, and you can see smiles all around the boat as the dolphins gracefully entertain us bobbing in and out of the ocean waves.
It’s after 3:00 when we get back to the resort. I am so tired that we opt to take a nap. I sleep until almost 7:00. Brandon wakes up a bit before me. He’s already returned the movies we’d borrowed, but didn’t really watch, to the front desk. He cooks us two egg sandwiches for dinner. We take a stroll along the beach but are back in the room and asleep before 10:00.
Exploring the Town of Provo (Providenciales)
Friday morning we wake, and for the first time, we both feel healthy and rested. The only thing on our agenda today is the Glow Worm tour at 6:45 p.m. We decide to do breakfast at the Caicos Bakery. It’s just up from the resort and has been highly recommended. It does not disappoint. The sweet lady behind the bakery has the cutest French accent. Brandon asks her what she recommends, but she has no one favorite item. She proudly declares, “They are all from this morning. It simply depends on your tastes.”
In the end, I opt for the cheese and tomato croissant and also the almond croissant. Brandon gets the ham and cheese croissant and a mini-chocolate croissant. We add two Tropicana orange juices, pay the $18 for our breakfast, and head outside to dine on the patio lawn. Yummy yummy! The pastries are worth every penny. How I wish we still had true bakeries back home. I am not a fan of the food found in American bakeries in 2012. So this truly is a treat.
Following breakfast we decide to shop for three things:
1. A tie-dye t-shirt for Aunt Sharon.
She’s done so much for our wedding, and we want to get it as a small thank you. Brandon ensures me it must be tie-dye. We go into every t-shirt shop between the resort and the main shopping center on Grace Bay. While we come close, we never locate a t-shirt for Aunt Sharon
2. Floats or noodles to help us as we snorkel.
Again, we search every shop to no avail!
3. A Christmas ornament.
I read an article a few months back about a family who collected them every trip. It was simply a marvelous idea. Instead of bringing home cheap trinkets that end up tossed or cluttering up our home, Christmas ornaments can be packed away. And once a year, as we decorate the tree, we can remember all our fun adventures together. I have decided our honeymoon is the perfect time to start this tradition. But while we find a few shops with ornaments, none scream out, “I will look good on your tree.”
So, at the end of our shopping adventure, we come up with nothing. Aunt Sharon will have to appreciate a sea shell. Noodles really weren’t a necessity, and we can always make our own ornament.
We head back and grab lunch at the Patty Place. Owned by Jamaicans, it gives Brandon the chance to enjoy a meat patty again. He opts for two beef and cheese patties. I select a vegetable patty and a soy patty. The soy patty is über bland, but my taste buds are delighted at the flavors in the vegetable patty. We wash lunch down with a unique Jamaican cherry juice, all for a little over $20.
Stars Dancing in the Ocean
Back at the resort we get ready to go snorkel around the pier. Brandon is really curious to see if what he thought was a starfish the other evening really is a starfish. Ok, I am curious, too!
There are a lot of people jumping off the pier. I am too chicken to jump, afraid my lack of depth perception will result in a concussion. Let’s face it, health and luck haven’t really been on our side this trip.
When we get out towards the end of the pier we find a whole family of starfish. From where I am gazing down at them, they look like giant fluffy pastries drizzled in chocolate. They appear so fluffy they could almost be a pillow. Brandon dives down and plucks one from the sea. He truly has no fear or reservations.
He lets me hold it. It’s not fluffy at all. It’s hard with lots of dull spikes all over it. The bottom is closed, but when Brandon pulls another one up in shallower water, he shows me all the suction cups the first starfish was hiding. As he points them out, the second starfish becomes shy, and it quickly begins to hide its suction cups, too. Holding the live starfish is amazing. I have touched the small dead ones sold in shops before. But I had no clue they could get this big.
As the people jumping off the pier leave, Brandon motions for me to swim near him. While he’s been carefully placing the starfish back like he found them, they had just dropped theirs to the bottom. One poor little starfish is now attempting to turn itself over. It is such a neat sight to behold. Slowly, yet quickly, the starfish appears to fold itself in half, wrap a point around, and begin to turn.
Another starfish we swim over blows several bubbles at us as we pass from the little hole in its top. I think it was flirting with me, but shhhh, we don’t want Brandon to get jealous! 😉
Sharing a Giggle in a Cone
After snorkeling we head off the resort for ice cream at Giggles. I love the name of the little parlor, and we both think ice cream sounds delicious. The store is similar to Marble Slab. My favorite thing on their menu is the “Giggler”, what we call a “Blast” or “Blizzard” back home. The name just makes me happy. But I opt for a waffle cone instead. We sample a few unique flavors, including an ice cream made with Grapenut Cereal, before deciding on our flavors. Brandon enjoys a coconut flavor, while I select a Kahlua ice cream with chocolate and almonds. Lick your lips devine!
Next to Giggles we find another gift shop, Azul Mar Bazaar. We pop inside and find hand crafted Christmas ornaments. I select one for our tree and a dragon fly one for my aunt & uncle’s tree. We also pick out a dolphin one for Brandon’s parents tree. No tie-dye t-shirts, but the shopping trip is still a success!!
Searching for the Ocean’s Secret Glow
After another quick trip to Graceway Grocery, where we find the noodles and something for breakfast tomorrow, we head to get ready for our cruise. I am eager because I have heard so much about it. We head back to Silver Deep, and Paula is just as stressed and confused this evening as she was yesterday morning. It must just be her personality. She really needs a chill pill, some rum punch, or just a simple reminder that she’s on island time! Darren is our driver again, and he’s his usual carefree self. This time the bus isn’t overcrowded.
A man on the bus tells us about the pot cake dogs. He and his wife have been to a shelter, where they are trying to adopt them out to Americans. There are a lot of stray dogs on the islands. They earned their name because the islanders used to cook food in pots. What was left in the bottom of the pots formed a cake like substance, which was fed to the dogs; hence the name, “Pot Cakes”. They really are cute dogs. He attempts to talk us into adopting one. But I already think Meg will be upset she hasn’t had true time with us in two weeks. She’ll hate us if we bring home another dog. At least that’s the story I tell myself to avoid the guilt trip my self conscience is playing on me.
The cruise out to see the glow worms is refreshing. This time we try the rum punch. We also eat some of the fresh fruit and pizza provided. But mostly, I just enjoy the natural beauty surrounding me, the ocean breeze in my hair, and the stories from our new boat captain, whose name I didn’t catch. He’s much more jovial than Pringles, and as the night goes on, I am impressed at how well he not only captains the party barge through the darkness, but he also entertains us. He was born and raised on the TCI. “One of the few,” he says, alluding to the fact that most islanders have relocated there within the last 20 years from other parts of the world.
We spend about an hour just cruising around, waiting for the sun to completely set. The glow worms will only appear right as the sun goes completely down; their monthly mating ritual lasting only an hour or less afterwards.
The captain has explained to us the glow worms only appear within the first six days after a full moon. We are there on Day 3, and he says that means it should be one of the best nights. He explains that soon we’ll see glowing green balls in the water below, as the females release their eggs. The little worms are under an inch in size, but they are easy to spot once they appear. The ocean appears to twinkle in green. When the male connects with a female, it is two inches of glowing spectacular. Someone on the boat likens the size to a firefly, but underwater, it appears much larger.
The moment really is magical. Even though the glowing flashes in the ocean, now pitch black and illuminated only by the few stars able to peak out from behind the clouds, surround us, our cameras are unable to record the beauty. It is truly amazing how many different forms of life exist that most people will never see. I am reminded of a sign I saw while boarding our plane, “80% of life on earth lives in the ocean.”
Boogieing Around the Island in a Buggy
Saturday morning begins with a bowl of Apple Jacks. We have picked it because it was one of my favorite cereals as a kid. I quickly deduce that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is better now, but I am content with my selection.
Today’s adventures involve renting a car. Brandon really wants to drive on the left side of the road, and he can’t wait to do it in a beach buggy. We head to Bayside Car Rental. Their power is out, but that doesn’t slow us down a lot. It takes about 20 minutes to get all the paperwork done. Then we get our helmets and head out to our ride.
It doesn’t take long to realize the $120 investment in fun is the “ghetto buggy”. But it’s the only one they have left, and the guy showing us how to use it doesn’t speak English. He doesn’t seem as worried as I am that our seatbelts don’t buckle, and given the “car” tops out at 40 mph, the fastest speed limit allowed on the island, I decide not to protest too much.
Before we are able to pull out, the buggy dies. It won’t start. At this moment I am glad we have paid the additional $10 for roadside assistance. While we originally did it in case we popped a tire on back roads, it appears our jalopy buggy may need it just to get back to the shop before the rental time expires. The man quickly shows Brandon how to hit the wires on the back, while I crank the key, and it starts again. Bravely, we head off on our Provo Island Adventure.
There is no wind in our hair, only frustration, as we are holding up traffic. The buggy doesn’t even appear to go 15 mph. At this rate, we will not see anything on the island. We decide to take it back, but just blocks from the rental place, our jalopy picks up speed, and we return towards our original path.
We head to the north point of the island, where Brandon takes us down a not so travelled road to a totally secluded beach. It is one of the most romantic moments of our vacation and makes for some beautiful photo opportunities.
While climbing rocks along the coast line to collect conch shells that have washed up on shore, my left flip flop snaps. I spend the rest of the day barefoot, or dragging my left shoe along the way, where shoes are required to get over rocky areas.
From there we head to a resort on the north point. We hope to find water or a restaurant, but neither exists. The kind receptionist offers us two of her bottles for free. This is something new, hospitality. We have been less than impressed with the receptionists at our resort.
Our third stop is by pure accident. Brandon again takes us down a rough to travel road and we end up at Malcolm Beach. It is beautiful and we are the only ones there. Off in the distance is a yacht with people enjoying a vacation and to our left we can see an exclusive resort. But where we are, it’s just us.
Malcolm Beach appears to be a great spot to snorkel, so we give it a whirl. We luck out and see a lot of different fish, some quite large. We both agree; it’s been the best self-guided snorkeling adventure yet.
After snorkeling, we head to grab lunch at the Conch Shack. Brandon has seen it advertised everywhere and really wants to try it. The restaurant is a dive by most accounts, but it’s packed. Brandon orders curried conch, while I order the curried vegetables. We share an odd version of a piña colada, odd because they’ve added coffee to it. Yuck! Coffee and piña coladas don’t mix.
As we wait for our food to arrive, we watch two men fish for conch off the shore using their kayak. As they clean them, they offer to share the anatomy of the conch with some tourists watching closer than us.
After eating, we head to Chalk Sound to take in the views. We’ve been told the waters are a different shade of blue. What we haven’t been told is it is also a residential district with several million dollar beach mansions. We manage to find a public beach. It is beautiful, like all the others. It reminds me of a large saltwater swimming pool because it’s so clear and literally surrounded on both sides by beautiful homes with slides coming off their decks. There, however, isn’t anything to snorkel for. This is probably a good thing, as we also realize Brandon is having an allergic reaction to the conch.
Seeking Medical Help at a Pharmacy
We stop at a pharmacy where we ask the pharmacist for help deciphering which Benadryl option is the best. He’s less than enthused we have asked for help, and as you can imagine, even less helpful. The one thing we have noted about the island is hospitality and customer service are greatly lacking. Luckily the cleanliness, lack of crime, and beautiful, uncrowded beaches, keep us in love with the country.
After stopping at a second pharmacy and getting no help there either, Brandon decides he’s feeling a bit better and our adventure continues.
Visiting the Other Side of the Island
We drive to Leeward on the opposite side of the island, where I take time on our new private beach to play in the sand as Brandon snorkels. I simply could lay in the silky soft sand under the warm sunbeams and dream my life away. The sound of the waves completes the picture perfect fantasy I replay daily from my office desk back home.
After I am thoroughly covered in sand and have proudly shown off my sand sculpture to Brandon, I join him for a short snorkel. The chilly Caribbean waters are refreshing on my sun kissed warm skin. I love it being just the two of us, only occasionally disturbed by boats as they pass thru the channel.
A Romantic Sunset Dinner
As the afternoon comes to a close we head back to the hotel to primp for our evening dining experience at the Mango Reef Restaurant located at the Alexandra Resort. I put on the first of two dresses I have packed for this honeymoon. It’s a knee length black and white strapless dress with a bit of a formal flare. I find it a bit ironic that I will be climbing into our ghetto buggy wearing it, but inside, I also laugh!
The ride to the restaurant is fun. I feel a bit like I did going to high school prom, except there’s no makeup and goofy hair. Just me, Brandon, and the ocean breeze as we roll down the road at “top speed” towards the culinary experience that has been recommended by almost everyone we have talked to on our trip thus far.
Mango Reef is located on the beach, and our front row table affords us a sunset view that would be award winning worthy for any photograph. The colors of the sunsets in Turks & Caicos are hard to describe. The oranges and pinks seem to flawlessly melt into the deep blue hues of the ocean. The deep blue fades into an electric blue or turquoise color as it crosses the reef, before turning almost crystal clear as it reaches the white sands in front of us. It is a beautiful backdrop for a romantic dinner. I feel like I am on movie set.
There are not enough words in the English language to describe the food we order. Brandon opts for seafood pasta in tomato sauce, while I elect the grilled vegetable pasta in a cream sauce. Each bite melts in my mouth leaving my tongue craving the next bite. It is the perfect blend of textures and flavors, and I wonder why food like this doesn’t exist back home in our small town.
The Last Day on the Island
Sunday morning greets us about 8:00. Again, we dine on Apple Jacks before getting ready to take our ghetto buggy back to Bayside Rentals. I am really going to miss our morning breakfasts together on our patio, complete with the ocean breeze. Our schedules are so rushed back home that eating breakfast together usually only happens on the weekends, and even that has become the rare treat.
The lady at the car rental place remembers us. As we tell her about all the problems with the buggy a look of confusion, or semi-horror, over takes her. She never apologizes for the POS car she rented us, but she does blame it on the mechanic being off yesterday before adding, “It sounds like you really had an adventure”. Let’s face it, I really shouldn’t have expected more from her, so I accept this as her version of an apology. It fit with the lack of customer service on the island. But I do contemplate sending her a copy of the Zappos Delivering Happiness book. Perhaps I should send Paula a copy too??
Back at the hotel we pack up our snorkel gear, my book, and a can to collect some sand in for our friends back home, and we head to the beach. We snorkel but don’t really see anything new. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as our “waterproof camera” shorted out on us shortly after getting in the ocean this time. Turns out it didn’t want to be waterproof today. We can only hope the SIM card storing the only copy of a week’s worth of our honeymoon photos isn’t destroyed.
After about an hour splashing around, we decide to dry off a bit and swim back to land. I bury my feet in the sand, take out my book, and get lost in its pages. My only slight distraction comes from my constant desire to twist my toes in the cool soft sand. Periodically a few sprinkles fall from the sky, but we ignore them. Soon the sky pours, and we gather our things quickly and run across the sand to seek refuge in our room.
When the sun peeks out again we head to get lunch. We pick Jimmy’s Restaurant near Giggles. The final Wimbledon Championship match is on and two Englishmen discuss tennis and if Murray really has what it takes to beat Federer. In the end, Federer wins, but we don’t stay to watch the whole match.
We both order burgers. The “Best Vegetarian Burger Ever” is the title I award to Jimmy’s. Unlike the usual boring cardboard tasteless patties, this burger has flavor and texture! I never knew a veggie burger could have both. It’s official; I am now a spoiled vegetarian!! Brandon’s cheesy bean burger is unique too. The beef patty is super thick and he says it tastes swell.
After lunch we head back to the beach to snorkel once more. Again, we don’t see much. But we opt to snorkel for shells near the beach. While doing so, I feel a pinch. I jump screaming from the water, “A crab just pinched me! A crab just pinched me!”
Brandon laughs at me as he spots the evil culprit. I soon realize it’s a tiny, colorful fish, no larger than my palm. Brave little stinker! He nips at me again. I move. He finds me again. Apparently he has confused me for fish food, perhaps because he knows I am the only human near him who won’t pluck him from the sea and fry him for a snack.
When I have finally had all I want of this silly fish and his antics, we go to get out of the water. As we do, Brandon sees something black floating towards us…a stingray! Quickly we scramble to reposition our snorkel wear and the chase begins to marvel at him. He swims too fast to gaze long, but that’s okay, we quickly spot a barracuda. His sharp teeth scare me a bit, considering I have already been confused as fish food by one fish today. Secretly I hope the crazy color fish becomes the barracuda’s snack. It doesn’t happen. An entire school of fish swim by, and they don’t tempt the barracuda either.
Brandon and I step out of the ocean for the last time this summer. It’s bittersweet. I pause for a second to enjoy the cold refreshing ocean before heading to bathe in the sun.
As I lay with my bake baking under the warm rays above, I doze off. I know this solely because I hear Brandon’s voice calling me in the distance. He doesn’t want me to burn again like I did last year under the warm Caribbean sun in Jamaica. I don’t care; I just don’t want this moment to end.
We head inside, shower, and get ready to take one nice photo together on the beach. My concession to having the big wedding was I wanted one photo on the beach in a white dress. I have purchased a beautiful lace white dress just for this moment. We find someone to snap our photo on my iPhone. It’s not the best, but it will work. We head back in to change, in hopes of still making a sunset dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Our Final Dinner Adventure
We run into Darren in the parking lot. He recommends we try the Pink Flamingo next to the Ocean Club Resort. We get the free shuttle to the sister resort and walk to the restaurant. It’s more of a bar with a limited menu and we decide it doesn’t interest us. We leave and walk to the nearby pier to watch the last sunset. Then we grab the shuttle back to our resort to eat at a restaurant across the street. It’s Sunday, and it’s closed.
Brandon recalls passing Coco Beach Restaurant and seeing cars. We walk several blocks back to it and realize we are severely underdressed. They are completely booked but offer us a table at the “bar”. We accept, but the choices on the menu, combined with their high prices, are a turnoff to me. We leave.
We head back towards the resort and the restaurant we ate at for lunch. We opt to dine at the restaurant above Jimmy’s, aptly named The Upstairs Bar. The Mediterranean Grilled Pizza catches my eye. When it arrives about 20 minutes later, I am glad. The pizza is so supremely delicious. The crust has been cooked on a BBQ grill and covered in a light tomato sauce topped with mozzarella cheese. The intensely delicious flavor, however, comes from the creamy melted goat cheese, luscious sun dried tomatoes, and the gracious drizzle of balsamic vinegar that decorate the top of the pizza pie. I eat more of the little squares of pizza than I should. But that’s okay, as my taste buds are in heaven one last time.
We head back to the hotel, pack our bags for tomorrow’s early departure and call it a night.
Island Time Even Applies to Airport Security
6:00 a.m. comes early. I am not nearly as eager to jump out of bed as I have been. I don’t want this amazing vacation to end. The taxi is 15 minutes late to pick us up, but our flight is the only one departing this morning at 9:00, so we aren’t super worried. Tina’s Taxi & Tours is the company, and Tina herself is driving. As we climb into the van, a preacher is going on and on over the radio. Perhaps someone should tell Tina that islander music is much more fitting for a ride to the hotel on a Monday morning. But we don’t.
We get to the airport shortly before 7:30 a.m. They haven’t yet opened the security gates and the long lines for both it and the check-in queue together are confusing and intertwined, causing me to wonder if we will make the flight. Then it dawns on me, everyone there has the same problem.
We unknowingly cut in line, securing our boarding pass from the kiosk well before our turn. We easily breeze thru security, having only to stop so a young agent can check our heavy bag full of sand and shells. He jokes, “You’re taking all of our beach with you.” I smile on the inside as I ponder the thought, “If only that was possible.”
Inside the terminal we decide to check for a tie-dye t-shirt in the only gift shop selling shirts! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! It may cost $28, but Aunt Sharon is worth it. And being it’s the only adult tie-dye t-shirt on the island, it is a valuable commodity of which I can easily justify the overpriced payment. Between the two of us we find just enough cash left to purchase it, and our final exciting fete on the island is done!