We're in the process of moving into a new house in Las Vegas at the moment. Whenever it gets too crazy, we take a deep breath and think back about where we were in March in years past. The Turks and Caicos come to mind when we think about March 2002. We had finally broken loose from the hold of the Bahamas and we were heading to the Dominican Republic. The Turks and Caicos were on the way and well worth the stop.
We didn't have a website then. I kept a handwritten journal and I was just getting into photography. We were also really just getting into the cruising life. Everything was new and exciting. We were venturing just a little further off the beaten path. We stopped first in Provo (Providenciales), the largest island in the Caicos, and did a bit of exploring on foot. Provo is known for its luxurious resorts, its diving and its upscale tourism. Though we appreciated its beauty, it was far too touristy for us.
We moved on to the Turks and anchored off Grand Turk Island. Here we found what we were looking for … few tourists (except us, of course), an interesting history, and lots of exploring to do. We visited the tiny, but informative Turks & Caicos National Museum where we learned lots about the island from its curator.
While in the museum garden, I spotted two male lizards apparently having an altercation over a female or territory, I suppose … perhaps both. Their dewlaps were extended, and had they not been tiny critters, they might have looked ferocious. We were told that these anoles were endemic to the Turks & Caicos and that we would see endemic anoles in most of the Caribbean islands. To this day, it's one of my favorite photos.
We wandered down Front Street along the shore, admiring the houses, but one notable observation was that all of the houses had walls, gates and fences. According to poet, Robert Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors!”, but come on now on such a tiny island, is this really necessary?
It appears that if locals want to have a garden it is necessary, otherwise donkeys eat your yard. Donkeys? Lots of them! As very tangible reminders of the salt-raking industry of Grand Turk’s past, donkeys still roam freely on the island and can be seen most everywhere. The island’s official donkey keeper rounds up the equine vagrants about every six months and corrals them on a “ranch” in the northern part of the island. If adopting a donkey appeals to you, this would be a great place to find one. Providing a good home is the only criteria for ownership!
We wandered from one end of the island to the other. The Grand Turk Lighthouse, which was cast in iron in England and transported and reassembled in 1852 overlooking Northeast Reef was a good spot for a picnic.
The Bermudian Saltrakers were the first to commercially produce salt in the Turks and Caicos by evaporating sea water in a series of salinas or salt ponds. Salt played an important part of the islands' economy until the 1960's. The salinas still occupy a huge area in Grand Turk and Salt Cay, and are reminders of this history. The old, now decrepit windmills once used to pump water between the salt ponds, were particularly scenic.
There are more than 40 islands in the Turks & Caicos, only 8 of which are inhabited. Had we been a bit more seasoned cruisers, we would have explored more, but we didn't. We were anxious to move on. We've learned through experience to slow down and appreciate each place more. Guess we'll just have to go back some day and do a better job of exploring.
Want to learn more about the Turks & Caicos? Check out this website.