Without a care in the world and the stresses of Grand Cayman far behind, I begin my off-the beaten track adventure at the end of it all – Long Beach in Cayman Brac.
Long Beach is an interesting place to begin a trekking journey. At first look it may not seem like much is around; only grape trees, white sands, a bench and a few sand flies. But trust me, if you look hard enough you will find there is more to Long Beach than meets the eye.
Standing in an open space among the grape trees I take in my surroundings. Peaceful bliss. What happens next had me wanting to ditch the tour, take a seat and spend the rest of the day admiring Spot Bay Bluff and hanging with the locals.
As the sun crept over the magnificent bluff rock formation, it lingered there awhile and in one great big golden burst, lit up Spot Bay like a Christmas tree making the morning dew clinging to hanging branches glisten and dance.
Standing on Long Beach only one thing reminds me that someone else has been here before me and that is the number of one foot slippers, discarded and stuck on a pole obscuring the view of a Department of Environmental Health sign that reads, “No littering, Keep Cayman Brac clean.” That ends that moment of tranquil bliss.
Further down the road one lone soul crossed; it was my nudge to get moving.
Passing Miss Cora Smith on her door step and waving a cherry hello, I was heading to the first stop on my list of assignments – native cook Annie Walton’s place. From there I would meet Cayman Brac resident Hennburgh Dixon, 81, who had a lot to say about the mischief he got up to as a little boy and the “great storms”.
Up to mischief in Spot Bay
Growing up in the community of Spot Bay there was nothing much for boys his age to do. After chores were finished and school work completed, he spent his time getting up to mischief.
“But it was not bad mischief,” said Mr. Dixon, recalling his teenage years with a chuckle. “Those days we had to come up with our own activities. Bored with fishing, we searched for wild fruits, played marbles, gigs and anything that brought a laugh was done in good spirits, not to harm or offend anyone.”
If Mr. Dixon’s parents had heard this story they would have said the Devil always finds work for idle hands of the mischievous prank.
In an attempt to escape from the dreary vacuum of idleness and forced to turn in just before nightfall because of parent control and the pesky mosquitoes, young Mr. Dixon and his friends needed something that evening to occupy their time.
Sitting on a rock wall they waited and watched as the sun sank below the trees and the mosquitoes made their first attack. Nothing else moved in the sleepy district of Spot Bay.
It would not be long, if left up to Hennburgh Dixon. Glancing down the twilight road he saw a figure fast approaching. It was a lady on a bicycle.
“This lady had a gentleman friend in the neighbourhood she always visited on several occasions,” Mr. Dixon said. “When heading indoors she would lean the bicycle in a rose bush to keep it partially hidden. That was our opportunity to pinch the bike and get a ride,” laughing as he recalled the longago experience.
“In those days, there were not too many bicycles in the area and any opportunity presented to borrow a bike was quickly snatched.”
For this group of boys it was no different.
“It was three of us, but I was the first one to jump on the bicycle and take off up the road. But I was back in a flash,” he said. “As I jumped off the bike another friend said it was his turn. ‘Yes, but wait’,” I said.
“‘What happened,’ he shouted, as I dropped the bike and started to run away. I saw something up by the church yard and you better not go up there. I thought it was a big cat run cross the road and onto the church steps but then it grew to the size of a huge white ball. When I turned around to head back it bounced to the centre of the road and started rolling down the street in front of me. I never peddled so fast in my life,” Mr. Dixon said, relating his experience with a more serious note.
But the other boys would have none of it, assuming young Mr. Dixon was pulling another of his pranks to stop them getting a ride.
“Go ahead if you don’t believe me, you will see for yourself,” he said.
He said one friend hopped on the bike and took off up the road. But he returned promptly looking quite shook up, jumping off the bike and taking off for home.
Young Mr. Dixon asked what happened. “He saw what you saw,” they said.
“I don’t know what he saw, but I said if he did he had to run,” he said.
Up to this day, Mr. Dixon does not know what it was he really saw. He said it looked like a cat, but it was not a cat that took off in front of him.
His childhood days were different from today’s young children, he said.
“I don’t know if it is parent neglect or not spending enough time with children to put them in the right track with life. Having too much free time on their hands, something needs to be done. This might be causing some of the problems today. The parents are not talking with them, taking them to church and giving them things to do to keep them out of trouble,” he said.
When he was growing up he remembers his mother taking him to Sunday school and staying until the service was over, he said. Today, he said service only lasts one hour and they find it hard compared with when he attended with his parents.
Spot Bay offers fresh air
Cycling is like a breath of fresh air and the sleepy town of Spot Bay in Cayman Brac offers just that without the traffic.
But in the sleepy town of Spot Bay, bikers are few and far between. Residents in the district prefer to enjoy the scenery and cool breezes from hammocks on porches.
In my travels throughout Cayman Brac, I happened to come across two cyclers. These two cyclists had the opportunity to have a fairly uninterrupted conservation with each other from opposite sides of the road before continuing on their journey.
I would say cycling Spot Bay in Cayman Brac is an easy feat, try weaving the contours of the island’s bluff and you will experience something altogether different. But the Brac bluff offers breath-taking views with a blue ocean as backdrop that will have you stopping to take it all in.
Despite the perfect conditions for biking in Cayman Brac, few people use it as a mode of transportation.
In years gone by, bicycles were luxurious commodities for those who could afford them.
In his district of Spot Bay, Mr. Dixon recalls there being no more than three bikes. An old man by the name of Athious Bodden and his brother were the first men he saw with bicycles, which he said they used to ride to the Bight to tend grounds.
Further down the years, a gentlemen by the name of David Jervis got one and there were a few others in Stake Bay. He also remembers a bicycle race between Algier Ryan, Glennie Dilbert and Eldon Lazzarie and the prize being next to nothing.
If you are ever in Cayman Brac or planning to take a trip, renting a bicycle will have you getting exercise, meeting humble people wanting to share their homes and offering pleasant chatter to be remembered for a long time.