Monday, 9 March 2015


We went looking for Smith's reef on the other side of the island. It's supposed to be one of the greatest snorkelling places you can swim to off the beach. We failed to find it, despite it being big, mapped and I have it marked on a map tool on my phone and on my navigation program on my phone and on a paper map in my bag. I can't explain. Doesn't bode well for our pending trip through the reef-strewn Bahamas, if we can't find that place.

We found some fish though:

It's only a little yellow thing, but the brown thing behind it in the cave is a shark. Really. I could have probably had a better picture, but I'd have had to tweak his tail, which was sticking out the cave's back entrance.

Here's Ray:

I followed it about a bit, and then left it in peace, and then he followed me about a bit! I have difficulty seeing stingrays without the theme tune of the 60's kids classic 'Stingray' going on in the back of my mind.

With such things about, this seems an eminently sensible way of getting around:

That's a conch, about the size of my head (or, come to think of it, the size of most people's heads).

Smith's reef, or at least the place we thought the reef ought to be, is about 7 miles from the boat, which is quite a long way to walk in the heat. And there's no public transport on the island. Everyone agrees here that taxis cost a fortune - so much that it is cheaper to hire a car. The cheapest car I can find to hire is $66/day, so I daren't ask the price of a taxi.

How locals without a car get around is to flag down a jitney - which is an illegal taxi. It's usually a wreck of a car being driven about, taking people a few miles for a few dollars. If you're walking down the road and you don't flag down a jitney, they helpfully toot their horns at you to give you a second chance. If you don't take the second chance, and keep on walking, usually you don't get far before someone simply stops and takes you where you are going, or close by, no charge. I find it quite amazing.

The people on this island have so far proved to be the friendliest, kindest most generous and helpful I've come across - and that goes for the people in customs and immigration too! Is that racist to say such things of a whole bunch of islanders? I have my eye out for some greedy selfish bastard, for curiosity's sake, but I don't rate my chances.

I asked why people were so ready to give walking people a ride, and it was pointed out to me that it is only us that's walking. People don't do that here. They go everywhere in their enormous gas-guzzling American cars and pick-ups. I was told they'd rather take a taxi than a 10 minute walk! (Can't be true, but that's what I was told anyway.)

These roads aren't made for walking, so I take a back road when I can. But that's not so good:

The bushes are knee deep in rubbish, mostly plastic bags. I'm not surprised. There's no room for landfill, and everytime you go shopping, someone grabs your stuff at the checkout and partially fills two plastic bags, one inside the other. Even if you're standing there with your knapsack open.. it causes a little upset I've found, to reject the plastic bag service and stuff things directly into a knapsack. It's been like that throughout the Caribbean. In Luperon, I lost something overboard at the anchorage, and cast a weight and a hook out to try to snag it back. All I got, time after time, was plastic bags and discarded clothing. I never found my thing, so that is there now to add to the rubbish. too.

I don't understand it. Plastic bags are quite easy to do without. And the huge cars.... petrol is imported of course, and not cheap. I have no idea why people drive around in such huge trucks, at great expense. I'm looking forward to seeing how Bermuda runs  - a place only a little smaller, but it has banned private vehicles.

And while I'm on the eco-thing - I haven't seen a single solar panel on a roof anywhere yet - though there is loads of sunshine (it's getting drier as we head north and west) and the panels on the boat easily supply more than we need. It wouldn't take much to put a few panels on your roof and power an electric car - the island is only 30 miles long, so it's not like the limited range is a problem. A golf buggy might do, or an electric bicycle.... the only downside I see of that strategy is that we'd have no choice then but to walk the 7 miles, as there'd be no room for passengers.

All of which brings me to the ecological cost of this trip, and of the boat itself. There's a big bag of rubbish on the back platform, awaiting a suitable opportunity for disposal. There may not be one! I don't mind throwing cans and bottles overboard in deep water. The steel rusts and provides iron to the ocean, the lack of which is a key limiting factor on ocean life. And glass will revert to sand before anyone gets to cast a disapproving eye on it. The rest? I wish it wasn't there! I wish I hadn't bought any of it. Now we're stuck with it!

The whole boat is glass and plastic. There's some consolation for me in that at least it was a second hand boat, well on its way to landfill when I bought it. I'd think very hard before I built a new boat, adding several tons more plastic to the environment. Here are some more environmentally friendly boats.

They are lined up outside the customs and immigration office. They are Haitian refugee boats, falling apart before they started from Haiti, and disintegrating faster and faster in the tropical sun.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, an enjoyable and informative read. Intriguing pics too.