Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ferry Ride to Anguilla

On Saturday, (March 3rd), we got ready around 8:30 am, and caught the 9:00 o’clock ferry to Anguilla. It was about time to play the passenger for a change. I have been cursing the captain of Babou One for some time, whose wakes were worse than the northern swells, but the one on service that hour was a nice new boat called Diamond 1, its captain a young islander. We passed through customs in ten minutes and embarked the boat. There were about thirty seats in the enclosed area at the water level, and ten more at the higher one in the open. All the tourists gravitated towards the upper level, after taking a glance at the lower, since we were the only white couple there. (We are no longer white, we could pass for mulatto).

The ferry increased its speed as soon as out of the bay and started grappling with the waves coming from starboard. When I stood up to look, I thought the waves were about 12 feet, but our speed made the impact stronger. In ten minutes we left the lee of St Martin and the full force of the waves splashed up so much, that some soaked passengers had to rush down. We reached Blowing Point, Anguilla in about half an hour, and rapidly passed through customs.

We were out on the street with a few small buildings, and were greeted with some islanders trying to sell car rental or taxis. Al started talking to an elderly one to ask for the bus service for the locals, but found out that the only transportation was by car, which was $13.00 dollars per person for taxi, or $55.00 dollars per day for rental. Al was angry, and to my surprise said “No, we will walk”. I am the only walker in the family, so no problem for me. I asked if he was up to it, and he said something about having been stuck in the boat without exercise for some time. Oh well, we started on the only way going towards the Road Bay, located on a west facing bay at the north of the island, which we knew from guide books as the place to clear in for the boats.

There were a few people walking on the street, all well-dressed islanders, who greeted us with “good morning”, passing by. My kind of people! I observed that the cars passing by stopped and picked up the walking islanders, but did not look at us. Oh well, we were obviously tourists, which meant $ figures for every step we take. We were able to reach the cliffs of Road Bay in about an hour. Here we asked a nice lady sitting at her porch how to go down to the beach. She told us to follow the road a bit and turn into the bush to take the trail going down; otherwise the paved way would take longer.

Al had seen the ads for Lime (cell phone and internet provider) and changed his SIM card immediately. We still had their data plan active, since we had paid for a month in BVI. Al was very happy to use the GPS in his telephone, and was checking the way.

When we got to the point where we could see the water below as instructed by the lady, he thought that we had come too far, and turned to a road going parallel to the cliffs. I saw two young islander girls coming towards us, and asked them the shortest way down. They replied that they were going that way themselves, and we could follow. God sent guides, otherwise empty streets. We walked back to the point we had turned, and went into the bush. The trail must have been made by goats, but well-threaded; impossible to pick out for the untrained eye. It was a bit winding but steep, so we were beside the very shallow pond (seemed like fresh water, but brown) in no time, just before the turquoise bay.

Half way on the trail another girl started to follow us. When we reached down we asked our guides where to eat, and they suggested we follow the girl coming behind. Three of us walked a short way towards the beach and found a beach-bar apparently working there, nicely shaded, which was quite welcome after an hour long walk in the sun.

They were setting up the tables, but the kitchen was not active yet. We said no problem, we’ll leave our stuff at a table and go swim. Water was pristine, wide beach a fine white sand, a few straw umbrellas, few recliners underneath and nobody but us. Free WiFi to boot. Who could ask for more?

We spent four hours there, and got ready to return to Blowing Point. Al wondered if we should get a taxi back, but we had been well rested, walking back down the hill would be a breeze, once we made the trail up. We debated about going around the long paved way instead of the trail, but for Al, shorter the better. Isn’t it amazing that going back always seems shorter? Maybe because the uncertainty of the length of the way is gone, one can pace one’s energy better.

Anyway, we reached the Customs Office half an hour before ferry’s starting time, went through in ten minutes. We were admitted to a waiting area that looked like an airport’s, after going through a security check. It seemed absurd, but they might have a reason. The boat Samantha waiting for us was a lot smaller and older than the first one, and the wind blowing much harder. On the way I was a bit apprehensive, because the waves seemed much larger, splashes coming down all the way from above. By the way, there was no open section, some seats at the lower level, and the water level was covered. I can say that I was glad to reach land, but not St Martin. My heart sank that we did not stay the night in Anguilla. The only reason was Al’s fear of leaving the dinghy overnight at the docks in Marigot.
Anguilla is a long, narrow island that looks flat from a distance. We walked the width in one hour, which is probably three miles straight, and according to the road signs, about ten miles from east to west, the long side. There are altogether three traffic lights on the island, but rumor says that the number of cars is the same as the total population of fourteen thousand. I asked myself, who would need to burn gas to go such distances in this climate? It is incredible that we spotted even two Humvees on the narrow streets, without any sidewalk or shoulder. We showed our appreciation to the sole bicycle rider, who dressed like a racer, and he smiled back at us.

Main industry on the island appears to be selling real estate to outsiders. The support industries to construction and car ownership seem to be flourishing. In the short strip, we saw three car detailing and tire stores; a large plumbing store which was expanding, and ads for custom ceramic and tile makers etc. I even spotted a vegetable farm, but the wares sold by the street vendor did not seem any different than the ones in Marigot. However, the main difference than St Martin/Sint Maarten seems to be the make-up of its population; all the whites are imported, either tourist or new real estate owners, and the face of the island is seemingly contended blacks; language is the now familiar version of English; currency is non-existent EC dollars, arbitrarily converted to US dollars. Everybody is laid back; only in a hurry while in the car. All in all, a neat place to live.

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