swimming

The Last Hurrah

January 25, 2017

If you are confused by what appeared to be a duplicate blog two days in a row, there really is a write-up for January 24th. Just click on the link that still appears to be about critters and you should be able Tom find out about our hiking adventure. We have since read that others had very similar experiences trying to find their way on the Cot Trail. More signage is needed.

This morning Brian walked down to the beach at Hank’s Bar to try for one last attempt at fishing. Again the brown pelicans were more successful. I walked with Brian to where the road split then walked up Garibaldi Hill to where Stephan is building a 6000 square foot home. I don’t know Stephan but we heard the house has been in the building process for a year and a half. So far they are just starting to lay plywood over the foundation. The owner will have a great view of Isles Bay.

I walked 5.8 kilometres this morning in an hour and twenty minutes, stopping to take photos. I also took time out for a swim in waveless water at the beach. How unusual! I had my goggles on. Although the water was clear, all I saw below the surface were sand patterns.

Back at the Taj I needed another swim in the pool before all of us boarded the people mover, an eight passenger rental van, for a descent to a bank run and shopping in Cudjoe Head. Except for withdrawing money from the bank and buying fresh buns at the bakery, most other errands were unsuccessful because of a closed store or office or a store with no products. Some of us visited the artistic clothing store. The artist makes bright colourful dresses tops, pants and sheets in batik or tie dye. No purchases were made; so, some might say we were successful in not spending money.

I checked out a couple of the nearby stores; most were packed in narrow aisles with a huge assortment of goods. The best place to visit was the public library. It was air conditioned.

It was great to get back to the Taj to relax with a tuna melt and cold drink.

Yesterday afternoon we had one of our daily swims at our Isles Bay Beach just below us. The waves were calmer but nothing like this morning’s calm seas.

We went out for dinner at the Watermelon Cottage a couple of kilometres north of us. Trevor, the owner, chef and server, lives in the cottage which is completely surrounded by foliage. We felt as if we were in the rain forest. The dining area is open on three sides. One side opens to a pool and loung area. We had a table set for eight in the middle of the restaurant. Dining is by reservation only and Trevor never accepts more than twelve people. Last night he limited it to the eight of us. The one page menu changes daily. Everyone pretty well opted for the four course menu: coconut shrimp or escargots, lettuce salad with beets, filet wrapped in bacon with fries, broccoli and cauliflower, chocolate layer cake with mocha icing or butter pecan ice cream. All delicious. All accompanied by a steady stream of chatter from Trevor who has lived on the island for thirty-nine years after years spent entertaining on cruise ships and a couple of years in musicals on Broadway.

Trevor’s restaurant was filled with an eclectic mix of art and artifacts including a tiny operating carousel, carved masks, a camel, figurines from various cultures, a large hanging drum, a huge yellow butterfly kite suspended from the ceiling, the flower arrangements on the table include tiny birds of paradise.

We finished our evening star gazing.

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Island Critters

This blog got replaced by January 24th; so, I will try again.

January 23,2017

We did go for another walk, checking out the homes hanging on cliff tops draped in colourful flowers. We were accompanied by a kestrel as we kept our eyes peeled for iguanas. They have not chosen to give me a close up view. My telephoto just is not good enough. The forty foot tall almond tree beside the house is home to at least three iguanas. We spot one to two foot long striped tails hanging from the thick foliage. Occasionally we see a spiny back. One fell from a branch yesterday but successfully clung to a lower branch and would not look at us. This afternoon one posed for me, caught as he was between a concrete wall and the road.

Brian and Bryan cracked open a coconut yesterday throwing a big rock down on the coconut. That action successfully severed the husk off the coconut but did not crush any feet. Yeah! Today they are busy playing in the dirt, reconstructing a stone wall that collapsed when the gardener was trimming. The third Bryan, renamed Peter, is using a pick axe to try to remove stumps. Are any of them wearing steel-toed boots? No! Apparently Keene sandals or canvas tennis shoes are sufficient.

Sunset was a long display, changing from lemon to fuchsia to papaya with all the shades in between. The colours lasted for at least twenty minutes past sunset and every photographer was trying to capture the uncapturable. Awesome beauty!

We played an outrageous game of Trivial Pursuit, Baby Boomer edition. If you have never played this edition and you are a baby boomer, don’t bother. Most questions focus on the fifties. It is advisable that you were born in the thirties to answer these questions. Even our two kings of trivia, Brian and Peter (how did they get on the same team?), were struggling after what looked like an easy start.

I baked an angel food cake in a springform pan for Brian’s birthday. We are a day ahead of schedule for that but we will be out for dinner tomorrow night. I was pleased that the cake did not flow over the sides and make a mess of the oven. It sunk a little in the middle after I took it out of the oven. That just makes a bigger receptacle for chocolate whipped cream. Susan is going to make an island treat: coconut chicken for supper.

Three out of the four us who went to the beach at noon challenged the huge waves. It was easier to get back to shore than I feared.

This afternoon the ladies walked up, up the hill to Shann Murrell’s art studio. She does very pretty collages and paintings, makes cushions, silk scarves, note cards and jewelry. I took a photo of Shan with a large Montserrat WI batik. I took the photo for you, Cory. I thought it was for the Women’s Institute, but of course, it WI stands for West Indies. Shann said lots of people make that mistake. You can see her art on Facebook.

I really wish I had my hiking poles with me. I am sure I could do double time climbing all these hills if only I had my poles.

Time for a swim!

 

 

 

 

Riding the Waves

January 22, 2017

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Last night we danced under the stars. Al and Barb gave us bachata lessons. I would say that they taught us the bachata but that might imply we learned it. More lessons may be required. We, even Brian, notorious for not dancing, had lots of fun trying.

John and Pam regretfully left for the airport and Canada this morning. Their month passed too quickly. And then there were eight.

A gardener spent the morning cleaning up the undergrowth. In the process a wall, lime tree, banana trees no frangipani were rediscovered. The kestrels have been sitting on the wire to profit from what the gardener exposes. A lizard lost his tail to a kestrel.

We drove to Woodlands Beach this morning hoping to find clear water for snorkelling. The water was very clear but there were also large waves crashing on the shore. Once past the waves it was easier swimming than it has been in big waves, but also a little cooler. The rocky area at the point, closer to the shore, would have been the best snorkelling area but it was too rough. Brian and I only saw sand patterns as we did not swim as far as Al and Bryan who wore life preservers and flippers. They saw a variety of colourful fish.

We had fun swimming then walking the beach trying to get interesting wave shots. A sign at the beach wishes us well: “May your life be filled with relaxing sunsets, cool drinks and sand between your toes.”

Once again, supper provided us with lunch for today: rotis, salad and the remains of chocolate cake. Brian and I are on chef duty this evening: roast beef and vegetable stir fry and roasted squash. Brian has made a few loaves of bread this week. Each one has been gobbled up.

I might work up the energy for a walk and another swim…or not. Reading in the shade of the coconut tree is good too.

Montserrat Memorabilia

January 21, 2017

The past two evenings we have reclined on the deck marvelling at the stars. Every now and then someone gets out an iPad to identify a constellation. The brightest star in the sky is the planet, Venus, in the northwest. It is so bright there is a reflection as it descends into the sea. When it disappears into the water, that signals bedtime, usually around 9:40 PM. I am not positive as I am often among the first to head for bed. We do not often, if ever, observe the heavens as long in Ontario, as we need more clothing and/or insect repellent. No mosquitoes send us for cover here.

Each evening one cruise ship sails past from north to south. While at Hank’s we watched the sun set with a sailboat in the foreground, a barge of sand crossing through the sun and platoons of brown pelicans putting on a comic air show crashing into the sea. What a pleasurable way to eat our seafood platters and drink Carib beer or rum punches.

Last night, for the first time we pulled our blanket, a duvet cover, over our single sheet. The temperature must have dropped to 25C.

The last two night’s the roosters crowing in the wee hours have been seriously in need of voice lessons or someone has been murdering them. For sure they have failed Crowing 101.

This morning after yoga and a swim in the pool we went to the Hilltop Coffee House in Brades to have their Saturday special of waffles with delicious coffee. After David Lea gave us a tour of his photo and memorabilia collection, we decorated our waffles with whatever pleased us from the dishes assembled on the bar: blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, shredded coconut, chocolate, raisins, peanuts, chocolate sauce or male syrup and whipped cream. No sugar highs here!

David and his wife Sun have been here since their hippie days. Their son, Sun, gives tours of Plymouth. He was not available for us. David has been involved in several video productions about the volcano eruption and Plymouth. He also authored a book, Through My Lens, about Montserrat which include his photo collection about the volcano, Plymouth and George Martin’s Air Studios. His photos cover the walls and the tabletops under glass. He also has posters from those early days as well as signs and memorabilia recovered from Plymouth and the buried Belham Valley Golf Course. David is the local historian, a very engaging host.

We found Plymouth Nuts in the narrow aisles of Ashoks’ grocery store. Benjamin’s factory is just down the hill in Brades, but not open on Saturday.

The waves are big again. Yahoo! And the sky is cloudless blue. The volcano is very clear. All we were missing was a water ready camera with a photographer in the water to get our ten bobbing heads with the volcano in the background.

We ordered roti for tonight from Joe’s wife. Joe just delivered them. We are having an awesome chocolate birthday cake a day late for Al, but just right for my sister.

Happy birthday, Rosemary!

Hiking to Rendezvous Bay

January 18, 2017

We are frequently awake to greet the day before 7 AM. The 5 AM call from the rooster has nothing to do with this. It is light from 6 AM to 6 PM; so, more daylight than we are used to at home at this time of the year.

Brian brings me my orange juice followed by tea but since it is so beautiful to read the Owen Sound paper looking out at the morning sea, I take my cup of tea out of the bedroom. I am keeping up my thirty minute yoga habit. After a leisurely breakfast I was surprised that folks were rushing to be ready for a 9:30 AM departure for our hike to Rendezvous Bay. I thought we still had an hour. For some unknown reason my iPad had not switched to island time so I was an hour behind schedule. I still was ready in time for ride north to Little Bay.

We walked past the concrete block factory to access the trail to Rendezvous any, the only white sand beach on the island. It was a hot walk to the top on a narrow path where we watched our feet diligently to avoid the prickly acacia. We had to stop now and then to admire the view back to Little Bay where sailboats bobbed and container ships glided. We picked our way down carefully to Rendezvous, fortunately more shaded as sweaty rivulets already ran off my chin. What a delight to shed running shoes and shorts and plunge into the sea. Brian scolded me for swimming out too far but it was sublime!

It took us an hour and a half to hike 3.5 kilometres, an ascent of 172 metres and descent of 189 metres. We spent an hour and a half swimming and walking or tossing a frisbee on the beach, also chatting with an American couple who had kayaked around to the bay in twenty minutes. They almost got flipped out of their ocean kayak by a big wave, but they managed to keep it upright.

Upon our return all eight of us were more than ready for a drink at Johnny Ponts’ restaurant, built into the hillside by Little Bay. Even I had a Carib beer even though beer is not typically my drink of choice. I followed it with a rum punch that almost flattened me. I was content to have a spicy pumpkin soup followed by a green salad while others had the full meal deal of Wahu (fish), ribs or chicken accompanied by potato, salad and veggies. As we ate and chatted we watched hummingbirds and banana quits dart in and out of the foliage and boat paraphernalia that dangled from the ceiling.

Bryan was alert enough to drive us back to the Taj where everyone settled in for a siesta.

Then a dip in the pool to wake up. Life is wonderful!

 

Volcano Watching

January 17, 2017

Barb, Kate and Fran, I know you especially want to know who won at cards. Although the men won the first game, the women whomped them in the second game.

Last night the loud downpour drowned out the tree frog serenade.

We saw more of the Soufriere Hills Volcano summit today than on any previous occasion. Streaming stacks of smoke continuously puff up from the summit.

The midday sun has a somnolent effect and draws us to recline in the shade or even to retire to our beds and doze. Of course we have to store energy to walk down to the beach. Although it is a ten minute walk, we do detours to make it at least a twenty minute hilly walk. We see plenty of beautiful homes and flowers: hibiscus, bougainvillea, azaleas and flowers the names of which I do not know. When we ascend to the Taj we need another swim in the pool followed by gin and tonic or a rum punch with nuts and or cheese.

Barb and Al met Montserratian Benjamin on the plane coming down. Apparently he has a cashew processing plant and sells Plymouth Nuts. We have tried to find his factory but so far no one even knows who he is and has had not heard of Plymouth Nuts. Apparently there was a time when cashews were grown on the island, but no more. The iguanas are happy lounging in the plentiful almond trees.

Chicken is on the menu this evening and Barb and Al are today’s chefs.

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Showers and Sun

January 16, 2017

Rain, Sun, Rain, Rainbow

It’s a loud downpour this evening after a day of intermittent light showers and sunshine.

A tough day: I read a lot, sometimes sitting in sunshine, sometimes retreating few feet to be sheltered from a shower. I enjoyed swimming in the pool and in the sea. The waves were enormous in the sea, fun to be in if you were tall enough to get past the breakers and able to jump up with the waves or dive into them. We had to time our race to shore between the big waves. Some of our party were too short to safely enjoy the waves.

After an hour and a half power outage we are now ready to challenge the men to a game of pepper.

Octopus’s Garden

Frolicking with fish

Frolicking with fish

Antigua

January 17, 2015

We headed into the sea early to benefit from the sun along the south cliff. We did not see an octopus but his coral garden was stunning, so many different kinds and colours. No photo does it justice. Purple feather fans and yellow ones with tiny white “flowers” waving from the tips of the fan. Stubby green fingers; long elegant green, yellow or purple fingers. Large brain coral a metre wide. Beige, white, yellow or blue coral intermingled in masses much like the spreading patches of thyme in my garden. Black Sea urchins, some showing bright red centres peaked out from under rock ledges. One eighteen inch long fish, eight inches deep had a jagged fin the length of his back and blended in so well that I wasn’t sure I was looking at a fish until he darted away under me.

We were in the water and were loath to leave but our bodies were chilling even though we had swimming T-shirts on. A hot shower felt good. It is still 25C. This morning felt muggy as there was little breeze but the wind just picked up and it is raining. The rain will probably end within half an hour but if not, we will just have to swim anyway!

People tell us we should go on a tour of the island, but as we are only here a few days we are taking advantage of sea and beach walking before returning to skiing.

Coral garden

Coral garden

Hold onto that hat!

Hold onto that hat!

Our palapa awaits

Our palapa awaits

Lizard or gecko?

Lizard outside our room

Rendezvous Bay

January 7, 2015

In our trusty RAV4 rental, the six of us travelled north, not to the squalls and cold of Ontario, just north, along the western shore of Montserrat to Little Bay. There we began our hike by walking through a concrete block company yard. We were observant enough to spy the arrow sign for Rendezvous Bay hidden in the vines.

According to the Montserrat Nature Trails pamphlet, our four kilometre hike over a hill top would be moderate and take us an hour. It took us twenty minutes to go up through thorn bushes in hot sunshine. We slithered sideways, high stepped and stooped to avoid the thorny branches. Brian discovered a piece of aluminum flashing which he used as a hiking pole and weed whacker to clear the overgrown trail. Navigating the down slope to Rendezvous Bay was slower. A hiking pole would have been useful. Brian was equipped!

Leaving concrete block yard

Leaving concrete block yard

Going down

Going down

We heard the waves before we saw the beautiful azure bay. We were delighted to peel off our shorts and shoes, and tumble into Rendezvous Bay. This is Montserrat’s only white sand beach, all others are black. One end of the beach is closed by a huge cliff while the opposite end is much lower with rocks and coral covering the sand in and out of the water.

Brian and I snorkelled briefly at the cliff end. We saw half a dozen different types of brightly coloured fish. I collected a few shells and small pieces of coral for my garden. I admired the baseball sized and bigger chunks of coral but left them on the beach. Carrying such items in a backpayck is not recommended. I am practising restraint for when we do the Camino.

it was soothing to our feet to sink a few inches into the wet sand with every step we took along the beach. A good stretch for our calves. Mindful that a granola bar would not be sufficient lunch, we rubbed the sand from our feet, donned socks and shoes and returned over the hill to Little Bay.

Last year, Bryan and Susan discovered Pont’s Restaurant, only because after twenty-one years of being there, Johnny Pont, chef and owner, decided some were having trouble finding his restaurant. The entrance to the restaurant is a very narrow path through a jungle of vines and trees. Without the sign, I would never have found this restaurant. There is an octagonal deck looking over the bay where we relaxed with our Carib beer and gave our orders for lunch. When our ribs and wahu (dense boneless fish)’we’re ready, we seated ourselves at tables made of slabs of wood, completely surrounded by foliage with a ceiling drooping with an eclectic mix of colourful buoys, lights, driftwood, coral and unusual sculptures.

Pint'so Restaurant

Pont’s Restaurant

Our food was delicious and plentiful as our ribs or fish were accompanied by mixed fresh vegetables, rice, potatoes and salad. Johnny sat and chatted with us when we were finished our meal.  He originally worked in the kitchen at the Belham Valley Restaurant where ex-pats dined before the lahar of the volcano overwhelmed the valley and covered the restaurant and the golf course. While still working there Johnny began his own restaurant at Little Bay, beginning with a barbecue on the beach. He is obviously an island success story.

Water Warmer than the Air

Admiring rocks and coral in the rain

Admiring rocks and coral in the rain

I am sitting outside under shelter from the rain, wrapped in a blanket. I know it isn’t as cold as Ontario, but it is not as warm as Hawaii should be. It has been raining for 24 hours and the wind blowing from the water is chilling. The sky is a uniform grey. It is difficult to see the horizon line. Sky and ocean meet in grey. The waves are huge and mesmerizing. Our hostess who is probably in her late thirties cannot remember a winter this cold.

Nevertheless we have enjoyed our day. We walked for more than an hour on the beach this morning wearing a long sleeved top and rain jacket. We drove into Hanalei ( home of Puff the Magic Dragon) to pick up food for tonight’s barbecue…shrimp and marlin, and to check out the tourist shops. This afternoon we walked the beach in our bathing suits because our destination was snorkelling. We were shivering by the time we were back to our room. The hot water outdoor shower was most appreciated.

Maybe the sun will shine tomorrow.

Snorkelling at Haena...water warmer than the air

Snorkelling at Haena…water warmer than the air