Turks and Caicos 1998Turks and Caicos 1998 I had heard about the Turks & Caicos islands talking about diving. I had read and heard about the crystal clear water and the steep walls going down as far as 6.000 feet.
Next morning I had a few hours to stroll up and down the streets of Miami Beach, before it was time to leave for the airport. I took a shuttle bus. It turned out we had to pick up a few more before going and we were getting late, so I started getting nervous. Finally it was off to Provo.
It was extremely hot when I landed at the airport and I was exhausted
after all the travelling. The taxi driver was a voluminous grown up dark
women in colorful clothes with an interesting "perfume". But the ride to
Le Deck hotel and beach club was smooth and not expensive. The hotel was
situated right at the beach and the restaurant was overlooking the water.
The room was spacious and had a large balcony from where you had a good
view over the garden.
The only way of getting around at the island - unless you wanted to rent a car - was by foot. They had some taxi's but everyone seemed to be walking where ever they went. Being by myself I did not fancy going out alone at night too much, so I preferred to stay at the hotel every night until wednesday, when a friend of mine would arrive. Le Deck was a small and quiet hotel and everyone knew and said hello to each other, so getting company was easy. I met a Canadian couple who was at Turks for God knows which number of times, and one night I had dinner with 2 American businessmen and the girlfriend to one of them. They advised me to set up a business at Turks & Caicos. Said taxes were cheap and it was a good excuse to come back here every year.Active Diving Tours. They were really nice, but very unlucky which meant that I only got the last vouchers and tickets the day before I left. They had also booked diving at Dive Provo which was situated at the large Turquoise Reef Hotel and Resort 5 minutes drive from Le Deck. When I got to the hotel I immediately checked my dive reservations and made arrangements to get picked up the next morning.
The first day we dove out of Grace Bay just some 5 minutes of boating. My buddy for the first day was Steve Janvier. The dives were nice, but nothing spectacular. On Monday the dives were out of North West Point and far better than the day before. My buddy that day was a big guy Scott. He was wearing brand new equipment which should have warned me of an inexperienced diver. On the second dive Scott got into all kinds of trouble. Exiting over the edge of the wall he forgot how to adjust buoyancy and I had to "pick" him up, then he had weight problems and he lost one weight item. His tank loosened and after fastening it he had used too much air and we had to go to the safety bar on my octopus. A nice learning experience. The only shark I saw on Turks & Caicos was at the night dive with Willie. I was the only tourist diver there and after Willie ended the lesson with the three boys who were also in the dive, he and I turned off our lights and just swam closely together only with the light of the moon and the phosphorescence (morild) in the water. A very special and nice experience.
On Wednesday we were going West Caicos for the diving and we really had two great dives. Coming up from the second dive we discovered that the weather had changed completely. So far we had had nothing but sun, but now the wind was blowing strong and the waves were big. I was very happy that I had been in bad weather before. There were some of the other divers who very not being happy about the situation. And getting into the boat sure was hard. It was bouncing up and down and I got a really big bruise on my right leg. When everyone was onboard all we had to do was sail back into the nice weather. We could see the sun not far away - but we couldn't get to it. The waves were in the wrong direction. At last the crew gave up and called the dive center and asked them to pick us up at another spot on the other side of the island. We went ashore at a small jetty in pouring rain. And I say pouring rain. Lucky for us our gear was already dive gear, or it would have been turned into dive gear very soon in the rain. We waited on the porch of an old deserted house. Everyone was soaked. All we could do was laugh.
The next morning we go diving, but because of the weather the dives sites are not the most spectacular and I remember we did have some pretty strong current.
Turks & Caicos never have bad weather. The islands are very dry
and have virtually no run off of soil into the water. That is the main
reason for the great visibility under water. Of course this is the wintertime,
but even then there are only few days of rain and bad weather. Of course
these few days in the winter of 1997/1998 has to be exactly the days when
I am there. The locals blame it on El Ninõ. On Friday we plan to
go diving again, but since the weather still does not cooperate we decide
fly instead. My friend has his own plane. Of course the weather is not
too good for that either, but me manage a short tour in the morning. This
is my first time flying such a small plane and after a short safety demonstration
we take off. I am out of myself with joy, escpecially when I get to fly
the plane myself for a while. It feels great! We cruise at only some 600-900
feet and you can see everything on the ground. So much different from flying
the big jets. Much more fun. And the feeling of moving in three dimensions
- like when diving - is so special!
In the afternoon we rent a car and explore the island. First we go North
East where there is a nice harbour and you can look over to Mangrove Cay.
Then we visit the Conch farm. I have never seen so many nice conch shells
in my life. But the place really is not much to look at so we head back
towards Turtle Cove and Down Town. We pass both and continue west with
the ambition of making it all the way to the North West points. The road
map does not show the exact conditions of the roads and most of the road
is not paved. On the way we stop to see the Tiki Huts which were made by
a French film crew, who was making an adventure serie. But the filming
was stopped when it was discovered that the adventures were both stupid
and dangerous to the participants like making a diver go down to 6 "virgins"
without air. Some of the "virgins" would have air, but the diver would
not know which one.
The trip to North West point is a long but nice drive through the low and dry vegetation. We have difficulties finding the right way and first we take of wrong and find some condominiums. Someone there tell us which way to go and we finally hit the unpaved and bumpy road to North West Point. Whether we ever made it all the way to the furthest point I don't know, but I do remember the waves being really big and their breaking against the rocks fascinating.
Time passes quickly. Saturday is the last whole day on Provo. We decide
to fly and explore the other islands. Salt Cay sounds interesting and is
our first stop. The airport is a joke. I almost have to laugh. The runway
is tiny compared to what I expect from airports. So far the smallest airport
I have landed in has probably been Providenciales and now this. Is is just
a short piece of paved field and the airport building is hardly more than
a shack. Our plane is the only one there. Leaving the airport a taxi -
probably the only one on the island - comes out to see if we want a ride.
He probably saw us in the air coming in. We reject and start walking to
find a place for lunch.
To both sides we had the salt "fields" where they make the salt, that gave the island its name. Later we passed Netty's, Smiths Shopping Center. Well I must admit that I got my perception of the "Shopping Center" concept adjusted that day. If this was a shopping center what did the local grocery store look like?? The place was smaller than my first apartment. The door was locked - the shopping center was obviously not open on saturdays. There are less than 200 inhabitants on the island and a few tourists whom on that particular day could be counted on one hand I think, of which we were two. It was like a totally own and different world, way back in time.
We walked and walked..... we passed the local Town Hall, the School and another shop - this time open. The buildings were all dilapidated and most were hardly more than shacks.
It was hot and we soon have to admit that were lost - not that it was
possible to really get lost because there were only one road on the island,
but obviously we had passed the place where we were supposed to have lunch.
Instead we got a ride on someones truck back the way we came to a place
called Mount Pleasant. Real cars are not common in Salt Cay. Instead they
use the small golf carts for driving around. In Mount Pleasant everything
seemed deserted. The place did not seem to be able to live up to its name.
We were obviously the only guests here. We went inside and shouted "Hello",
but noone answered. The place seemed dead. After a short time of waiting,
just sitting in the shadow in the old gardenchairs a girl came out. We
asked for 2 cokes, but unfortunately she did not have the key to the bar.
But she would take the bike and ride over to fetch the woman with the key,
who was having coffee with the neighbour J
We were hot and needed a rest, so we decided to wait. It was not like there
were a lot of serving places to chose from. The only alternative meant
another long walk in the sun - nothing that attracted either of us.
Soon we had company by an elderly couple from Bermuda, who had build a house on the island and now lived there several months every year. It was a very strange couple. The man might have been half drunk or maybe he was just very tired. He fell asleep right when we were sitting there talking (or was it the woman?) Rejecting the place for lunch did not take more than a look at each other and we flew off to Grand Turk - a much larger and more civilized place for something to eat.
The flight between the two islands was only some ten minutes, but the view was spectacular. You could easily see the drop off along the two islands. It was very pretty.
The Grand Turk International Airport was about a mile outside town.
It was hot, but we decided to walk again and find a place for lunch. We
first looked for a specific restaurant called Turks Head, but on the way
we passed The Waters Edge, which - as the name indicated - was situated
right at the waters edge. It was a bit windy, but we decided to sit outside
anyway. The food was delicious and I remember having to fight for my part,
which was steamed conch. According to my friend, the best ever.
Going back to Providenciales we follow the chain of Islands and cross Pine Cay. The runway ends almost on the beach and we decide to try to land and go for a swim. Unfortunately they will not let us go down there and we have to continue back to Provo. What a pity. How cool and it would have been to land, roll to the end of the runway, take the snorkeling gear - or just go for a swin - in the crystal clear water.
We had dinner at The Bistro that night. The name does not indicate anything special, but the place was very neat - or maybe it is just because the night was so memorable in all aspects, that I recall it like that. We had a table in the garden under the stars and the palmtrees and the music was the songs of the cicadas. The weather was perfect and I remember my lobster was delicious. Truly a night to remember.
Next morning was goodbye. My friend took off in his plane while I was waiting in my American Airlines Boeing 737. Goodbye - for now! Looking forward to some more intersting adventures.
irresponsible film crew
in front of the big waves