I was relaxing in my hammock when all of a sudden I had a Brac attack. Why not I said…. It’s better than sitting around here waiting for a hurricane. I called Cayman Express, booked my flight and here is my staycation experience:
The Friday 12.20pm flight to the Brac was delayed until 2.45 – Oh well I said best start getting into the Brac mode right now, no rush, no stress, just simply blasé.
There were only two tourist types waiting for that flight, the rest were obviously Brackers and expat workers. The tourists were easy to spot they were the only ones agitated over the delay.
I made an attempt to calm them, “Relax folks…… the plane soon come, go have a drink.
“Are you from the Brac” they queried.
And there it was … that simple question was the start of a two hour chew the fat session. I did most of the talking, reminiscing Brac stories from my first visit in 1972 (when we flew over on a DC-3) till my last visit some months ago via CAL jet. They asked lots of questions and I had most of the answers – except when they asked “why do you keep going back – to the Brac”?
A few Brackers who overheard looked my way as to say “you better make it good….we’re listening”. “That’s a tough question” I responded, I gotta think about that”.
I’m in Edds Place just around the corner from the airport downing a few cold Caybrews. Here I run into some old friends…exchange some gossip and take note of the pretty Spanish girls behind the bar. They are decked out to a tee…high heels, rosy red lipstick, gold hoop earrings and a sunshine smile that should be bottled up for our Department of Tourism.
I check into the brand spanking’ new Alexander Hotel. Wow, Cleveland Dilbert did an excellent job here……I’m impressed. Even a Caymanian receptionist, what a nice touch and truly a rarity these days. The place is so new there’s not a scratch on the floor or a dent in the lobby couch and the grass on grounds is still sprouting.
I need something to hold me until dinner so I drive to La Esperanza; I recall from a past trip they have some great grilled chicken. “Not done yet”, say’s the chicken chef. The aroma of the cooking fowl is tormenting my belly so I wait patiently at the bar where I see more young imported beauties serving drinks and smiles. Adorned with sunshades, tight jeans and well manicured nails they serve the bar patrons while strange unfamiliar (irritating) music blares through the huge speakers. Personally I’d prefer the natural sound of the sea that breaks along the iron shore just a few feet away….. Or a little Andy Martin music would be nice.
My chicken is soon ready in Styrofoam plate and I continue my journey.
As the sun sets in the west I sit on the highest point in the Cayman Islands. What is it about this Bluff’ I ask myself? It’s nothing more than a giant mass of rock covered with shrub and dildo cactus…yet so beautiful. It’s also a bit hypnotising when you stare out to the vast sea from its 140 foot summit. Gaze long enough, you just want jump into sea below. A spectacle to see is when during certain times of the year a foray of white butterflies seem to come out of nowhere…giving the Bluff a wintery characteristic.
The next day,Saturday 9.18am
I wanted to catch the sunrise from the Bluff peak,however I overslept (something I rarely do back in Grand Cayman), I stayed to long at Edds Place the previous night.
After classic eggs, bacon, toast, pancake and hash brown breakfast at the Alexander (something I rarely do in Grand Cayman) I made my way along the South shore road heading east. The huge statues that depict some sort of saints caught my eye. This is the home of Mr. Foots (no relation to The Barefoot Man), he has a passion for The Lost City of Atlantis. In fact he has such an infatuation that he has created his very own version of the underwater city by sculpturing some 50 statues, which represent the inhabitants of the lost city. The statues now rest in 60 feet of water off Brac’s north shore in the Stake Bay area. Mr. Foots dream come true has now been rated one of the top six dive sites in the world. It’s a bit eerie yet impressive when you swim amongst the sculptures, snappers and rays; you seem to be diving deep into the pages of Plato, the Greek Philosopher whose dialogues introduced Atlantis.
It’s very pleasing to drive with no traffic congestion, so I’ve taken my time to reach the road’s end. Along the way I’ve made several stops along the rocky shore, which is a treasure trove for beachcombing. I collected barnacle encrusted floats, colourful sea fans, driftwood and strips of old fish net to decorate my seashore deck back in Grand Cayman.
There is little wind as I climb the steps to the Great Cave. It’s hot and stifling yet once I reach the entrance of the daunting looking cavern the muggy air turns cool as if the grotto has its own built in air-conditioning. Childlike I talk, sing and shout at no one in particular, after all there is no one there, yet I’m answered with the echo of my own voice. This massive hole in the bluff would make a great place for a restaurant and bar. I’m sure to the displeasure of the local church community. The coolness of the cave puts me in a siesta mood, but I’d rather not , it’s just too creepy.
I find myself along the north shore with a hand line and plastic bucket of huge soldier crabs. The agitated crabs clickety –click in an attempt to escape – however their fate has been sealed, soon they will be in the jaws of some grunt or squab whose final destination is my frying pan. It’s rumoured there are places on the Brac where “soldiers” are so plentiful they can be scooped with a shovel.
This is real fishing, no rod, no reel…no electronic fish finders or GPS …….simply hook, line and sinker (and cold beer). The breeze has finally picked up and I’m satisfied with my catch of two jacks that flop about the rocky shore. I roll down the windows of my rental car and immerse in a favourite Brac pastime, a nap.
Considering the idle mood of the Brac-time is flying by too fast. I gorge on a burger and fries at the Captains Table restaurant and run into the tourist couple who were so frustrated at Owen Roberts airport.
“You folks sure are looking much more relaxed than the last time I saw you” I commented.
“Relaxed,” said the husband. “Why even if I make an effort to stress on Cayman Brac it’s impossible; we are having a grand old time doing NOTHING”.
They followed me back to the Alexander after I told them that Eddylee Martin and Arlin Tatum will be crooning some country music at the poolside bar. They were intrigued …
“Country music in the Caribbean, this we gotta hear.”
The full moon acted as a spot light while the duo sang classic songs from Jimmy Rogers, George Jones and Hank Williams. Bar patrons asked for their favourites and as long as their request was from the old Grand Ole Opry era the Brac Cowboys had no problem pleasing the small crowd.
When the mini Brac-Nashville concert came to an end some hours later, Michael Lemay took over with some pleasing Caribbean sounds on his steel drum ….. And soon another day has come to an end.
Sunday – 10.35am
Oh my I can’t believe I slept so late again. Is it age or the Brac? Whatever, I missed yet another sunrise.
Checking my “things to do” list was interrupted by Melgreen Ried.
“The turbots are bittin’ and the yacht is ready to leave… are you game”?
“Silly question Melgreen…. I’ll meet you at the dock”.
Melgreen’s so-called yacht is 14-feet of disarray, powered by a 25 HP engine. From bow to stern “Berth Control” ( that’s the name of his boat) is a mish-mash of fishing line , hooks, leader wire, ropes ,weights, nets and peeling paint. It’s a US Coast Guard nightmare, nautical chaos, yet a floating charm. And surprisingly with one pull of the starter cord ,we are on our way.
It’s a fabulous day… the sea is smooth, the air is near windless and booby birds entertain us with their amazing acrobatics as they aggressively chase flying fish hovering just inches above the sea. The fish have little chance of escape; the feathery “Red Barons” stalk them until the fish finally plunges into the waves and then the booby dives to continue his pursuit underwater. The show is Mother Nature at her best.
Thirty five fry jacks and 22 turbots later we stop at the Brac Reef Hotel for a cool one. The hotel is due to re-open in late November. In the meantime the outdoor restaurant and bar are in full operation. The Brac Reef took a major hit from Hurricane Paloma in November; however, anyone that knows Cayman’s most successful entrepreneur, Mr. Linton Tibbets, knows that it would take more than a hurricane to deter him from seeing his hotel back in full operation for the 2010 winter season.
I look up my old friend Mr. Ottly Scott. Ottly, well in his 80s, lives alone with a cat and a colour TV. He once owned a popular bar that still sits along the breezy south shore. Ottly was glad to get out of small lonely house; he had shaved and put on his best tie for a night on the town. (A night on the town in the Brac – now that’s funny). Our first stop was Ottly’s old stomping ground the Coral Isle Club. Old acquaintances came by to say hello and to offer a drink.
“Care for a drink Ottley”?
“No, but I’ll take one of those” pointing at the young senorita behind the bar.
He had us in stitches reminiscing about the good times back in the 70s and 80s when we’d waltz around a coconut tree that was planted firmly in the middle of The Coral Isle dance floor.
Mr. Ottley has been around the world several times and he is a wealth of information on Brac history. I pick his brain about past hurricanes, the caves, the bluff and the economy. He always puts a humorous spin in all his stories and I could listen to him all night however I have an early flight back to the big island tomorrow. I leave my old friend with a few fresh fish and a happy cat.
I sit at Shorties in the departure lounge of Gerrard Smith airport when my two tourist friends show up just at the last moment before the flight is called.
As we take off they ask “did you ever come to some conclusion why you keep coming back to the Brac”?
“Yes I think I finally have it figured out, you see the Brac is not for everyone, in other words it is what it is like scotch whiskey, and you need to acquire a taste for it but when you do….you always come back for more”.
Thirty five minutes later we approach Owen Roberts International Airport… and some George Towner in a seat behind me mumbles- “Back to the rat race”.
G Nowak (Barefoot Man is a regular contributor to What’s Hot – when not travelling you can hear him perform at the Reef Resort in East End on Grand Cayman every Tuesday and Thursday night.