I did pretty well at work last year, and I made the Chairman’s Club. Anyone in a large sales organization probably has a similar type of reward system. A past employer had “Torchbearers”, and it was similar. They send the staff selected (each with a guest) to a resort somewhere to celebrate their success and to present annual awards. I don’t want to make too much of my contribution, nor do I want to make too little of the event; it is how a good company rewards their top performers. We’ll all just assume I was lucky, for the sake of argument.
This year’s trip was to Grand Cayman Island(see the map; it’s shaped like a deformed sperm whale), the Ritz Carlton, to be exact. Quite the lap of luxury. My wife doesn’t go on these with me, so I took along a USMC-era friend who had just started a law firm. He wasn’t likely to get a vacation for a while, and I knew he would be up for what I had planned, so I thought it was appropriate.
I won’t bore you with stories of excessive drinking of Grey Goose, Knob Creek or the infamous Lenny Special, or of eating lobster tails and filet. I know you’re not interested in that…
Instead, I’ll tell you about the training hikes we did. That’s right, I won a trip to the Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman, arguably one the nicest (literally) and most relaxing places in the hemisphere, and we hiked every day.
So the first morning we had the Ritz buffet and then hiked up to Boatswain’s Beach Turtle Farm. It was about 4 or 5 miles, in high heat and humidity. There isn’t much of shoulder so you have to tread carefully; the bus system is a little wacky, as are the “adventurous” bus drivers. It was a nice hike, though. We were on seven mile beach, the thin spit of land on the far West of the island, and the turtle farm was up north, in what would be the tip of the deformed sperm whale’s tail.
Along the way we walked through “regular” neighborhoods, which was nice after the bustle of 7 Mile Beach’s resorts and strip malls. There were plenty of green iguana, an invasive pest, but the real shocker was how many feral chickens there were. We must have seen 500 on the walk up there, and I was reminded of this. We also saw a lot of “community” dogs. I hesitate to say “stray” only because these dogs were well fed enough not to go after the chickens, but they clearly did not have a tightly defined home. They also were not interested in affection from me, which was disappointing. If you know me, I’ll pet any dog, and pick up and cuddle anything that is 50 pound or less, even if it is foaming at the mouth.
We made it up to the farm, and the place was quite cool. I’ll let you go to their site (see above) and use your imagination, but we did snorkel with the turtles for about 45 minutes, which was refreshing after the hike.
The next day we took the bus (really a stretched Toyota minivan) to the exact center of the island, to the QE2 Botanic Gardens and hiked around there, seeing a bunch of cool stuff, including the indiginous blue iguana. We then hiked about a total of 5 miles (in the midday heat) to and over the Mastic Trail. The link has no Map, but if the botanic garden is in the middle of the deformed sperm whale’s body, the road and path define a lopsided “C” from there south and then looping back North, spitting you out on the northern coastal road. We saw snakes, cool birds, and angry parrots. The path was really rough; not a lot of elevation, but the rock was jagged and bumpy like a lava field. By the time I got to the sea, I knew in some small measure, how Xenophon and his 10,000 must have felt.
We happened upon Over the Edge, a quite excellent local restaurant off the beaten path. It was the kind of place where you talk to your neighbors, and we had a great time with the people there, including a whole table of ladies visiting from Montclair, NJ, where my wife and I met and went to college. Glenn and I both had Conch Fritters and Conch Steaks, and split a Turtle Steak. Before you yell at me about the turtle, it is raised at the farm we visited, not fished from the wild. The farm has been instrumental in growing stabilizing the population of wild green sea turtles, so by eating their steaks, we are helping turtles. Just not the one we ate. Which was crazy good.
In the custom of the island, we hitchhiked most of the way back, then caught buses the rest of the way. All the drivers were Jamaican, and the music was always nice.
The last day, Glenn needed to train for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, a race that makes my little hike seem like a stroll, so I headed out early to hike to 8 AM mass at St Ignatius in George Town. I hiked halfway, then a nice guy named Tom from Detroit pulled over and insisted I let him ride me the rest of the way. The ride gave some alone time in the church before mass, which I don’t often get. It was Palm Sunday, so we left the church and processed from the school to the church with our palms. There must have been 50 different nationalities there, and some of the parishoners came with palm leaves carved and folded into intricate and beautiful bouquets. After mass, I hitched a ride to the Champion House, and we had a West Indian breakfast buffet. My favorite are the Atchee, but to corn porridge was quite good, too. Consider this my Yelp of approval for the place 😉
In all, we probably hiked 15-20 miles. Not exactly pushing it, but not bad for a weekend at a posh resort. As a direct result, we got to see a beautiful and humble side of Grand Cayman, meet and break bread with the locals, and get into several arguments with parrots. Don’t bother arguing with a parrot, BTW, they win every time.