You’ll love Cayman Brac — if you love these things
“Walking hiking swimming talking planning working running snork’lin’
playing praying dreaming evermore”
Deep sleeps with happy dreams are slept on peaceful beds
And fed by active days with mystery and adventure in ’em
Good food and drink, pasta, island beer
All to be had on Cayman Brac with a little knowledge
And a map, and a small plan of what to do, but not much of a plan, ’cause
The best thing in the world is idly picking up stones on a beach
Kids are better at it but the rest can do our best
Or turtle patrol in the morning (volunteer!) or count booby birds
Or explore to find a mythic hanging valley
Herewith, some tips. Alphabetical order makes little sense, but may help you find what you want
AEROBICS Aerobics is free, it’s outdoors, it’s tops, it’s an hour long, thrice weekly. One of the great rewards of living here.Mon-Wed-Fri from 6 to 7. Ask at Billy’s Store.
BEACH WALK Go anywhere. The beach belongs to all.
BICYCLE Sorry. Don’t do it. Our roads are not bike friendly. Your blogger does it every day but that’s different.
BIRD WATCH AND BOTANIZE Your blogger’s favorite activities, along with the exploration involved. Birds of the Cayman Islands is all the reference you’ll need. (Treasure Chest shop should have it.)
BREATH THE AIR If the breeze is off the sea and you’re standing on the beach, it’s pretty clean stuff, like aboriginal air. From one direction the theoretical “fetch” over open sea is almost 20,000 miles, from the southern hemisphere to the northern.
BUSHWHACKING Not many people in the world can step into untouched bush. Try doing 100 yards in a straight line, some day in a bluff forest. Better trail a string behind you. And be careful for Pete’s sake.
DIVE The very best thing. Look for hotel packages, or rent a house and car, buddy up and do your own.
DINE OUT An excellent place for local fish is Star Island Restaurant. There are many other good restaurants, including Asian Taste — healthy and appetizing. Bring a book because they actually prepare the food. Yes, You can ask for chopsticks and tea.
DRIVE AROUND As little as possible — it’s not very safe. Perhaps rent a car for one day but please practice everything you ever learned about defensive driving. The safest times are Saturday and Sunday mornings, because nobody is on the road until about 11.
FLY TO LITTLE CAYMAN. Like the guy who said his birthplace was the best place to come from, this author says the best thing you can do when you visit Cayman Brac is to spend some time on Little Cayman. It is gorgeous, even with streetlights. (Sorry about the streetlights.) Little Cayman is the antithesis of a theme park. It’s a real place, where a winter visitor can see the sun rise over the sea, and set over the sea, from the same log or rough chair on the beach.
GO TO CHURCH Churches are all over the place. All start at 11, perhaps to keep the adherents from shopping around.
HIKE Brac traditional trails were once the only “ways” from north side settlements to south side strand, and they remain the best way to appreciate our karst limestone formation. They are rough. Try them. Perhaps the fairest of them all is Old Lighthouse Trail beginning at Peter’s Cave. Two others that are stunning are Bight Road (meaning footpath – cars came much later) and Saltwater Pond Trail. For other hikes and for CAVES, stick with the excellent folding map and combined nature guide available at the tourism office in West End Park. VISIT THAT OFFICE, for more maps. Ask there for a hidden treasure not on the map – the “Turtle Craw” (corral). It’s a 15 minute walk from where you’re standing, through the woods to a mysterious pond.West End Park includes an EXERCISE PATH (20 stations) with a key to the native trees.
HIKES Some are not on the tourist map for the reason that they’re traditional but not maintained, except by volunteers. “The Mountain” for example only needs an hour and a bit, and is well worthwhile. Haymon’s Pond is the same, and you’ll try to figure out how the so-called pond got there. Yet a third attraction on top of the bluff plateau is The Splits. Ask a member of the National Trust (a preservation group with no paid staff) for directions. Here’s another tip — the lovely cave at the end of Charlotte’s Road. That automobile roaddead-ends (for cars) at the base of the cliff, on the north side of the island, near the dock. But that’s where the walking begins. Find Charlotte’s Road on north side near the dock, and commence your walk up the cliff trail. Crawl in the oval opening near the bottom, and use your flashlight to view this charming cave. When you come out the same oval opening, continue walking up the path to the top, and look back to the sea. Lovely. Too bad the rest is blacktop. Now (or another day)go back and drive across the island to the south end of the same old trail. It is harder to find, but even more exotic. Ask an old-timer how to find it – it’s on the south side road towards the east. Park somewhere safe, push through the bush and climb to the top of thecliff. (Dangerous for kids and some city people.)There’s a great view south. Now climb back down, fetch your packed lunch, cross the road and follow the traditional path to the sea. That was the whole purpose of the old path — to get to the beach on south side from your home on north side, for fishing and collecting valuable items of flotsam and jetsam. Find a rock to sit on and enjoy your sandwich in a place not much frequented by people these days.
IGUANAS, PARROTS … There are about 100 “Sister Islands Rock Iguanas” here, in the wild, and four times that number of Brac Parrots. You can find identification books for trees, plants, butterflies, reef fish … the natural system has been studied and now we’re trying to protect it. Seashells are not very common, and sharks in the water are sadly scarce. The “caiman” has been extirpated. But we’re trying to hang on to all the species that remainand the habitat we all depend on. Turtles lay their eggs on our beaches in summer and you can help watch for them and protect them.
IRONSHORE BOCK Cayman Islands Brewery produces four or five beers. All are excellent. If you like your beer on tap, your chances may be better on Little Cayman.
RUN Both running and walking are becoming more common lately, and drivers are generally quite sensitive to their needs. Cross-country running would be spectacular — a combination of trails, beach runs (both rocky and sandy) and a few sections of hardtop — but no event isscheduled at the time of writing. (See articles on this and other topics in the present blog. To review it quickly, simply go to the bottom and click on the successive pages, right through the blog. There’s no real index.)
SNORKEL Using Stake Bayas an example you can launch yourself into the water at an old “barcadere” carved out of the rocks by our forebears. There’s a big “stick” (pole) leaning over from the iron shore, a remnant of the davits once used to winch catboats and cargo out of the water. There were two sticks, both made of Bastard mahogany, and at one time there was a stationary engine with a big flywheel. Snorkel east and the easy current will take you back. Snorkel west for new scenery, and snorkel out but not far — the reef drop-off is only a hundred yards from shore in most places and you can’t see bottom out there.
SLEEP There’s only one bed and breakfast – check to ensure it’s open. It’s in a great location — Stake Bay –central to everything. Or rent a house in Stake Bay and save money by not renting a car. On foot you canattain thewater’s edge,then snorkel or dive from shore. You can walk to a food store, also to the public library, the museum and a first-rate gift shop (good prices). You can walk through a “buttonwood swamp” (more fun than you’d think — you might find a Washwood tree). Or hike up the awkward but safe steps to the top of the cliff. Once you’ve reached the top you can keep walking south and go down the cliff on the other side, and right out to water’s edge — you’ve just done a hundred year old walking trail. Try to ignore the fact that it’s now a vehicular road except for the cliff faces, with no provision for walking or bicycling. The south end of the traditional trail has been altered a little, but persevere and walk to the seaside, a jumble of coral rocks thrown up in storms.
STAR GAZE The sky is lovely. You can see the Southern Cross. Our night sky suffers from more light pollution every year but most denizens of cities abroad will still be impressed. If you stay on the south, walk away from a light pole and look to sea. Views in other directions have been compromised, particularly to the east and west. But you can find a few areas with no streetlights and look south.
TAKE A TOUR You may be able to get one free. Dial 948 2222 and ask for Eco-Tourism. Try it!
TREE IDENTIFICATION There are two marked trails, with laminated guides to the great diversity of native species. (There’s a Sister Island endemic tree, by the way — Banaracaymanensis– and other endemics. For trees, Wild Trees of the Cayman Islands is flawless –try Treasure Chest, the small shopin West End.
YOGA, MEDITATION, MASSAGE, HOLISTIC MEDICINE. There are a several fine practitioners. Seek and ye shall find.
There’s more, and all on a ten mile island. Everything needed for a good life. Come, and enjoy.