Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cayman for visitors

 Jay and Kay (real names changed to protect the innocent) have put Linda up twice over the years, in Australia, so we owed them. They were here this week for a few days, and we showed them around. They’re our age, so there were no booze sessions at beach parties or nightclubs. The pace was leisurely; we concentrated on four of our Island’s best attractions for oldies: Rum Point, “Stingray City”, the Turtle Farm and Camana Bay.

Grand Cayman is a very comfortable place to live (the comfort being largely based on thousands of low-paid indentured migrants), but it doesn’t have anything in the way of beautiful scenery. Driving around is pleasant, and the contrast of rich and poor is interesting, but it’s not a pretty island.

We drove our friends to the other end of the Island and back, stopping at Rum Point for some shallow snorkelling, and an outdoor lunch after all the cruise-ship passengers had left. The latter are bussed up to a jetty on North Sound and boated across to feed the stingrays before lunching at Rum Point. Drinks and fish-&-chips for the four of us cost US$100, which is pretty good value for here. No charge for using the beach chairs, and we brought our own snorkel gear.

Next day, Captain Marvin’s crew took us out to the stingrays’ feeding place by the reef at the entrance to North Sound. The rays bump and nudge humans for food, which caused Jay and Kay to have nervous flashbacks of Steve Irwin’s death in 2006; a frightened ray stabbed him in the heart with its stinger. (Irwin was an eccentric Australian who played dangerous games with crocodiles, snakes and stingrays in the wild, until he ran out of luck.)

The Turtle Farm is good value these days for US$15 each. Swimming with turtles isn’t my cup of tea, but most people like to cuddle them, as much as turtles can be cuddled. We used to keep a couple of terrapins when our son was young. They scrabbled for attention whenever they heard my footsteps on the stairs, and liked being stroked. We thought they loved us, but when Linda let them out for a walk one day they ran off and never came back. Well, “ran off”... Disappeared, anyway.

The Turtle Farm is state-owned, and (therefore) loses between $500,000 and a million dollars every month. Those bumper-stickers that read CRIME WOULDN’T PAY, IF THE GOVERNMENT RAN IT -- very appropriate. Cayman has more than its fair share of loss-making government enterprises. Pedro’s Castle is another. It’s a tarted-up Civil Service committee’s version of a plantation “great house” that requires two girls (one cheerful, the other not) to sell ice-creams and tickets to chance callers-by. We welcomed the ice-creams, but didn’t reckon it was worth ten bucks apiece to see a fake castle up close.

Camana Bay is a visionary new town being built on a fifty-year timeline by Ken Dart, whose company manufactures most of those Styrofoam-type containers that fast-food comes in. The town (“Dartsville”, informally) is a peaceful and gentle place to wander round, and very popular with residents. No expense has been spared, or discounted rents for several (many?) of the shops and restaurants. There’s no way some of them can be earning a profit from such scant custom.

We got up ridiculously early this morning to see Jay and Kay off. We may never see them again, but we gave them some good memories of our island. You do what you can, don’t you?