I woke Joel up this time, about 6:30 am. We looked outside and it was still cloudy and rainy. We really want to snorkel. I hope it clears up soon.
I went out to the gazebo this morning to catch up on my journal. It was very pleasant listening to the waves crash into the shore. They sound loud even though they are very small, less than a foot. My kids are busy inside making shell necklaces. They took some of the thread from the sewing kit and are stringing on the little shells that have holes in them. In not too long a storm really moved in. Thunder and heavy rain followed. C-- decided to go outside and take her shower in it. The rest of us were more sane and stayed in where it was dry.
We whiled away the morning playing Falling, a fun game where you are all falling from an airplane and you try to be the last one to hit the ground. When playing the game you feel out of control and things around you happen that you are not prepared for.
Then it was an early lunch at 11am. Yesterday we had picked up some chowder from the New Sunset Inn, we also got a key lime pie (some of which we at last night before bed). YUM!
We discussed what to do. We really wanted to snorkel but it was still cloudy, though clearing. We decided to go west to the Hatchet Bay Caves, the Glass Window Bridge and hopefully it would be clear enough then to snorkel.
The road up was a little scary in parts. Right before the little town of James Cistern the road goes right next to the ocean. Parts of the road had washed away in hurricane Floyd. Parts of it had obviously been so bad they had to regrade a new road. We picked up gas in James Cistern and got back on the road. James Cistern is not the most beautiful of towns. It gets our most run down award for the trip. It has a big colorful sign in the middle of it saying, "Rebuilding our Community within this Millennium." It seemed about right for the Bahamian attitude. Give yourself a whole millennium to fix things up.
Finding the caves was an interesting challenge. We had some vague instructions. We ended up taking the correct little dirt road right before a large group of old silos. We had actually gone past it not thinking it was far enough, but turned around later to try it. The caves are off a small dirt track to the south side of the road. The road is very short and you go by someone's garden. When the road split we weren't sure where we were and discussed getting out to walk down each of the branches to see what we could find, but I spotted the way down to the cave, a hole right in the ground with a handrail disappearing into its depths.
The first challenge was getting by the wasps' nest hanging down near the hole. But we all made it down the steps with no problem. Our next major hurdle was the lights. We only had a couple of bright ones. The rest were penlights. And our eyes had not adjusted to the dim conditions yet. After Amos had stumbled around in the dark hurting himself, we decided to split into two groups. One would wait, one would take all the bright lights.
Our family went first. We descended a ladder about 10 feet and ended up in what looked like was once an underground river. Though now it is dry. The walls were lined with graffiti and I was thinking to myself if this is all that the cave is, it is pretty boring and not worth the trip. But we continued on and got to an opening. There were cathedral type rooms and they were spectacular. Stalactites and stalagmites still drip into bizarre formations. Some ribbons, some small multiple little fingers sticking only a few inches out of the rock, and some large pillars stretching from the roof to the floor. We debated going back since the Meeks were waiting, but I saw a dim light down another stretch of old river bed and wanted to see where it came from. So we trucked down there fast. There were no stalactites or stalagmites here, but Ben and I looked up at about the same time and noticed the ceiling. Wow! It looked like we were inside of some gigantic creature and could see its veins. The main rock was white but it was covered with thin 1/4" lines of rust red. It is something you just have to see. The pictures do not do it justice. We finally found the source of light. There is another entrance to the cave at this end. A rope ladder dangles down. We decided to just go back the way we came. On the way back we noticed another ladder descending into a pool of water. We thought about going down, but decided we had taken enough time, so we headed back.
After giving the flashlights to the Meeks, we headed out of the cave to the car to wait. We waited a long time before they came up. The kids were hungry so we continued on to Gregory Town in search of food. We were hoping the bakery was open. Reportedly it is good.
Gregory Town is the most picturesque of all the towns we have seen so far (Best of Trip). Pretty little houses that were brightly colored dotted the landscape. We drove all the way through town looking for the bakery but to no avail. So we looped back and parked near the playground. There were three guys hanging out there so we asked them about the bakery. They pointed way up on the hill and said it was the green house. We also asked them what was happening down by the water. They said the school (Sunday school). We asked if it would be ok to go look and they said of course. The men were very friendly. We started walking down and could see that it wasn't just Sunday school. This Sunday was Palm Sunday and they were forming up a procession to walk through the streets with their palm fronds. They walked right past us singing hymns. The little kids in the procession were adorable in their Sunday best.
After the procession went past we got back in the car and went up the hill, but unfortunately the bakery was closed. There was a nice spot to look out over the town. It was actually prettier from the bottom where you can see all the pretty colors of the houses. From the top you can only see the gray roofs. Joel, Beth and I walked back down the road so we could take pictures. The others took the car to the little snack store. It didn't have much, a couple of crackers and sweets and ice cream. But it was the only store open on Sunday.
Not many miles west is the Glass Window Bridge. This is where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet at high tide. The view of the spot from the hill before the bridge is amazing. You see the deep, deep blue of the Atlantic on one side and the turquoise blue of the Caribbean on the other, a startling difference. At the bridge itself the Atlantic was crashing into the rocks, while the Caribbean was placid. The bridge itself was strange because the road at the far end zigs to the right. The bridge moved about 8 feet from where it used to be and no longer matches up with the road. A little scary to think about.
We decided to find the beach and snorkel area near Goulding Cay, which is about a mile from the bridge. Finding the right road down was a challenge. We tried several but finally had to go back to the first one and park our car before a large and deep puddle and walk to the beach.
The beach was incredibly beautiful with the cay just offshore. The water was shallow enough to walk out to the cay. We snorkeled around it. I wore a lifejacket, as did Beth. With my stitches I didn't think I was strong enough without one.
Despite being marked as a snorkeling spot there was very little coral and few fish. Bernie warned us before coming down that there didn't seem to be very many fish this year. We did see a few, however. The best was a very large (maybe 16") flounder. Joel tried to scare it so we could see it move, but it was not a very scareable fish.
Back on shore the kids made sand castles that got knocked down as the tide came in. I collected shells. As I walked along I noticed a small shell that I didn't already have. I picked it up then noticed its occupant. It was a tiny little hermit crab.
Later as the tide came up farther I noticed a place under the water that was billowing up sand. A spring was coming up right under the sea. When we stepped close our feet started sinking, like quicksand.
We left the pretty beach around 7pm. The boys were very tired and hungry . . . and grouchy. It had been a long fun day. We stopped to eat at the Cove, a very pretty resort nestled in the rocks. Joel and I split an order of the grilled grouper and an order of the cracked conch. The conch was good, but the grouper was to die for. Definitely the best of the trip so far. The veggies that came with it were also first rate. The potato was yummy but the rice and peas were better elsewhere. I had a rum punch with dinner, which was good but not spectacular. If the restaurant was not so far way we would go here again. The service was even fast though it took a while to order the drinks. As we ate the sun set. It was beautiful setting over the rocks of the ocean.
After dinner we took off down the road in the dark. It was a long drive back on some bad stretches of road. Joel missed the frogs hopping along the road but the grey bird just stood there and we ran over it. Sniff. Unfortunately it blended into the road and we couldn't see it until it was about 20 feet from us.
As soon as we got home we all collapsed (at least the Goulds all did). I snuck a small piece of key lime pie first. YUM!
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