Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cruising the Caribbean Sea (and other adventures)

            I suppose not everyone is on Facebook, but I would wager that most people reading this blog are a part of the popular networking site.  And I’m also guessing that most of you are my Facebook “friends.”  If that’s the case, then you’re also probably aware of my super awesome weekend.  Want to know more about it?  (That was a rhetorical question.  By the time you’re reading this, I’ve already completed and published this post and the following tale of my super awesome weekend has been written for X amount of time.  So by answering that question, you’re just deciding whether or not you’re going to continue reading. [This is a parenthetical statement inside a parenthetical statement just to tell you that this blog is called Digressions for a reason (Ooh!  Something shiny!).].)  Great!  Here you go:

My super awesome weekend

            At the risk of sparking a world-wrecking argument about when the weekend actually begins, I’m going to go ahead and say that our weekend started on Friday.  The day Ivan’s first set of midterms ended.  I don’t actually remember what we did after the Microbiology midterm was finished.  I’m pretty sure we just geeked-out (that’s like vegging out, but with more dork-friendly activities and less potato chips) and played games all night.  Super awesome, no?
            Okay, scratch Friday.  Nothing really happened except that Ivan finally had a night off!  And we spent it dork-aliciously!
            Saturday the fun started.

            Late Saturday morning, Ivan and I met with a group of friends on Grand Anse beach to await the arrival of the catamaran that was going to take us around the island for the day.  We had ten people total on the boat (a very small number) which made the day more intimate and (IMHO <-- that’s an annoying acronym for In My Honest Opinion.  These Annoying Acronyms, or AAs, can be found all over Facebook.) a lot more fun.

            The weather was perfect.  As usual.  (You’d think I’d get tired of saying that by now.  Of course the weather was perfect.)  The sky was blue blue blue with barely a puff of clouds and the sea was a swirling blend of viridian and smoky blue.  The island, though, was less the lush greenery like a verdant wildfire rushing up the mountains as it was a threadbare brownish and yellow husk, dry and cracking from the waterless months of the dry season.  A little depressing, I know, but we barely had time to mourn the missing growth as we cruised along the western coast, drinks in hand and chatting away the stress of a landlubber’s life.

            Our first stop was an area known as Mango Bay—a small dent in the island where the cliffs cup a romantic little sandy beach with a bar built from bamboo a couple yards from the tide and the few bamboo dining tables on the sand are covered with palm-leaf umbrellas.  In the very center of the beach is a single almond tree supporting an inviting hammock.

            The catamaran’s crew dropped anchor about a hundred yards from the shore and everyone suited up to go snorkeling.  I must admit, one of the most influential factors in my decision to go on this day trip was the prospect of diving (actually diving) off of the boat into the Caribbean Sea.  I mean, how many people can say that they’ve dove into the Caribbean Sea?  Like, from a solid surface, leapt into the air and cleaved the turquoise waters with their outstretched arms?  Me!  I can say that I have done that!  A few times!

            It was super awesome.
            Now on to the snorkeling.  We were at it for about an hour.  The reefs in that area were much nicer than the ones we usually visit at Magazine Beach and were teaming with wildlife.  At first the schools of fish skimming directly below us were charming, but eventually I started to get irritated.  There were so many of them, I couldn’t even see where I was going!  Someone made the comment that there were so many fish, they weren’t traveling in a school; they were traveling in a university! (chuckle)
            We saw tangs, sand dollars, gars, urchins, box fish, and two-thousand six-hundred and fifty-three other fish that were colorful and shiny and completely unrecognizable by me.  Then we swam ashore and had lunch on the beach.
            After lunch, we said “to heck with waiting thirty minutes for our food to digest” and promptly began bouncing on the inflatable water trampoline, and subsequently falling off the water trampoline.  The bouncing and falling off became a cycle for the next couple of hilarious hours before we heaved to (is that right?  My Pirate is a little rusty, yarr!) and set off back down the coast.

            Our last stop was Flamingo Bay (or Molinere Bay or Moilinere or Moliniere, depending on what site/map you look at), the location of Grenada’s underwater sculpture park.  To anyone who’s not familiar with it, I know an underwater sculpture park sounds odd.  It is a relatively recent creation and is a tourist attraction for scuba divers and snorkelers alike.
Photo credit: David Spinler
Photo credit: David Spindler
            The statues are not very deep; so they’re all accessible without the need for expensive scuba equipment.  Though a serious set of lungs may help you enjoy your trip underwater a little more.  We paddled around for a while, visiting the two rings of children and the mermaid and the bench and the heads lined up on a rock.
Photo credit: David Spindler
            The more I talk about it, the more creepy I realize it sounds.  Well, really, it is pretty creepy.  Especially the faces.  If you swim down to the children or the heads or the praying woman, you can look right into their faces.  And then you can wish that you hadn’t.
            The statues are created from casts taken from Grenadian people.  So their realistic qualities are a given.  But even in a short amount of time, the blank faces end up being miniature ecosystems for plants and coral.  Most of the statues were placed in Flamingo Bay recently, but their eerie unmoving bodies are crawling with life and the fluttering black seaweed tends to project on the figures a silently decaying condition.
            We were returned to Grand Anse beach after visiting the sculpture park.  And that was the end of our super awesome day.

More Super Awesome Weekend

            Two-thousand seven-hundred and fifty-six feet above sea level you will find the top of Mt. St. Catherine, Grenada’s highest point.  Wikipedia calls the “[…approach] to the top” of the stratovolcano (I don’t know what that word means, but I like the sounds of it.  And even though it is a hyperlink on Wikipedia and I am one click away from knowing what a stratovolcano is, I won’t click it because I like to use big words that I don’t fully understand.  God bless America.) “somewhat strenuous.”  To which I would like to respond with an eloquent, “Say whaaaaat?”
            That stratovolcano’s top was a beast to approach, Wikipedia!

            Here’s what happened: at around 6am on Sunday, Ivan and I met with Nick and John for a trip to Mt. St. Catherine.  The plan was to hike the mountain at a brisk pace, like a run-hike (though I did more of a complain-hike).  
Before heading out (L-R) Nick, Ivan, Allison, John (Photo credit: Nick Mosca)
             After having been to Mt. St. Catherine only once before, Nick miraculously found his way back.  That’s an hour drive without a single wrong turn, for anyone who needs more reason to be impressed.  We all had our hydration packs (except John who had iodine tablets and a greater sense of adventure than I) and food for refueling at the top of the mountain.  I still had a blister on my heel from the hash the week before…
Photo of the swamp part of the hash. Photo taken from the hash site.
Digression: That hash was insane.   We went through the swamp three times and since we’re in the dry season now, the swamp was just sort of like quicksand.  Then we had to follow the coast, up against cactus-covered cliff face and the rising tide.  That was after rushing through the first thorn field, but before rushing through the second.  The day after, I pulled a thorn out of one of the many cuts on my leg.

            …and we don’t have any medical tape.  I wanted to make sure that the blister was covered during our hike, so I improvised a foot wrap with some masking tape.  It definitely wasn’t the prettiest thing, but my blister was unaffected that day.

            Climbing the mountain was hard.  I found out pretty quickly that the muscles I use for running up a mountain are the same ones I use for swimming with fins and since I’d done quite a bit of snorkeling the day before, my muscles were throbbing.  Still, we were afforded some pretty amazing views.  At one point, after a few ridiculously steep stretches, we found ourselves on a ridge winding between two lower peaks.  On either side, the ground dropped away to a sweeping jungle.  Further out we could see the coast and the white glinting of the sea.  Ahead and above, the sun and sky were gone and our path drove into the grey ceiling of the clouds.
There was a rope at one particularly steep point (Photo credit: Nick)
Photo credit: John Weller

            At the peak, we were completely submerged.  There was no Grenada around us anymore, just a sharp wind and a consuming, opaque fog.  We ate our lunches and it was time to go back down.
At the peak. You wouldn't know it, but Sunday was a very sunny day! (Photo credit: Nick)

            If ascending the mountain was hard, descending it was a blast.  The path was narrow enough at the steepest points that trees and branches were always an arm-length away.  Knowing I could just reach out and grab one to slow down or turn abruptly, I went for it.  I moved as fast as I could, without making any blatantly stupid decisions, and only fell a few times.  Unfortunately, just because a tree is available for grabbing doesn’t mean it also is rooted to the spot.  So I banged my elbow off of a rock and twisted my ankle a couple times.  The worst was my back, though.  I’m not entirely sure what happened.  I think I slipped.  Generally speaking, if you’re in the jungle, everything is wet and moss-covered.  And, therefore, slippery.  So I was running down a hill and grabbed a bamboo tree to pivot around, but bamboo is way too smooth and I lost my grip.  Then I think I stepped on a mossy rock or something slick.  My feet went out and a gnarly root caught my fall.  It took me a minute or two to get over the initial shock, but Ivan looked at it and said I was fine.  Turns out he was right.  I got a nasty bruise and a cluster of burst capillaries and that’s it. 
At the end of the hike (Photo credit: Nick)
Nick was pretty excited to find the cache of "beads!" (Photo credit: John)
            When we finished the run, we collected some seeds off of the ground.  The seeds (referred to by the local we asked as “beads”) are used to make jewelry and sold to tourists.  I don’t know what tree they come from, but they fall from it already polished and bright red.

            Along with a couple handfuls of local “beads,” I also took away from the excursion an appreciation for the accelerated dilapidating effect the mountain had on my Skele-Toes.  When we left, the shoes were essentially whole (except for a few tears here and there).  By the time we’d finished, there were gaping holes in the fabric.  Now three of my toes can hang right out the sides!

            Ta-da!  That was my super awesome weekend!

(Curiosity got the best of me and I looked up stratovolcano.  Now I know what it means and so can you!)

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fabulous weekend. I'm jealous! And I really like the new blog layout. Lots of Caribbean flavor!