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South Coast Beaches Miami Beach

11th March 2017

Skeete's Bay, a Drink in a Rum Shack, Lost in the Sugarcane and Exquisite Orchids

    Rex was up before 05:30! Why?
    Alex came across to say hello as we were having breakfast. He asked if there were any problems with the bungalow. No, all was fine, but I did point out the splitting edging around the sink worktop in the kitchen.
    As far as his plumbing and electrics were concerned, he was a happy bunny, but now he had a problem with T.V. reception. An antenna on the outside of his new building was linked to a splitter, which fed the upstairs and downstairs separately. He had placed a booster at the end of a long chain of connections. I explained it would be better to locate the booster as close to the antennae as possible in order to keep the Signal-to-Noise Ratio as high as possible. "Indeed, if you deploy a multiple output booster, you would eliminate the splitter," I informed him. I was not at all convinced he followed my reasoning. I drew some diagrams out for him to explain the S/N issue, and left him to think it through. Rex was all for climbing up into the loft and getting the job done; he really is a handy man.
    Alex then shifted the conversation onto religion, and how important the Bible was. He was a devout lad, and passionate about his faith, but we soon dampened this avenue of discussion down.
    We considered two beach days on the trot would be overkill, so we headed up the rugged east coast, stopping off at Skeete's Bay, a picturesque bay situated in a tiny quaint fishing village in the parish of St. Philip, with Ragged Point and Culpepper Island to the south and Conset Bay to the north. The bay is named after Francis Skeete, a 17th century landowner in the area.
Skeete's Bay      (please use scroll bar)

Ragged Point
    One of the main features of this relaxed little village is the fish market which has stood there for many years and is the hub of the community. In the winter months, only two boats usually leave Skeete's Bay to source fresh fish for the area. In the summer months, however, six additional fishing boats return from their labours during the "flying fish" season and work out of Skeete's Bay spending just one day at a time at sea. Bajans refer to these boats as "day boats", the alternative bigger boats being called "ice-boats" as they are able to stay at sea for longer due to the copious amounts of ice they have on board. As well as boat fishing, many Bajans, and sometimes tourists too, sit or stand on the jetty to fish. Rex and I walked to the end of the jetty; we couldn't work out how fishing craft could get through the thundering waves seething across the reef not far off shore.
    Robert Lee wrote a lovely poem about the bay entitled simply Skeete's Bay Barbados:-

            Skeete's Bay, Barbados

            One always missed the turning, but found, in time
            The broken sign that pointed crookedly, loath to
            Allow another stranger here. Perhaps this Tom
            Or Dick has plans for progress that will tow
            The boats away and make them "quaint"; that will tame
Ragged Point Light House
            This wild coast with pale rheumatics who tee

            Off where sea-egg shells and fisherman
            Now lie with unconcern. Naked children
            And their sticks flush crabs from their holes
            and a bare-legged girl, dress in wet folds
            Wades slow towards a waning sun.

            And the sea tossed angrily
            For it knew that freedom here was short.
            It remembered other coasts
            Made mod by small-eyed men in big cars

            And as before it knew she'd vanish
            The bare-legged girl; the children and their crabs
            Would leave; a better world would banish
            them to imitation coconut trays

            But those small eyes reflecting dollar signs
            Have not yet found the crooked finger to this peace;
            And down the beach the women bathe their sons
            Who'll never talk, like Pap, of fishing seasons past.

            Only memory will turn down this way
            When some old man somewhere recalls his day
            On this beach were sea-egg shells once lay.

            Robert Lee

    From the bay we headed up the coast to Bathsheba. On our route we passed a car with its bonnet up, and a young chap peered down at the engine. Thinking he had a problem, we pulled up to see if he required assistance. "My car is overheating," he told us, "and I have a pipe dangling and I'm not sure where it connects to," he added, waving the lose pipe to us. Our first reaction was it must be a water pipe and he had lost his coolant. Two young Bajans, who the chap seemed to know, walked by and also stopped to help. There followed a dialogue between the three of them which neither I nor Rex could follow at all. The accents were thick, perhaps with a mix of Creole, but it was unintelligible to us Brits. Rex and I poured water into the car's water reservoir, but it soon became apparent that the vehicle had not lost any coolant. I deduced that the loose pipe must be attached to the engine's vacuum system, and I knew a mistimed engine will over heat, but we could not see where it should connect to. Perhaps it had been joined to another pipe, which was now lying on the road miles away. We put forward that theory to the three young men, who seemed to go along with it. Another discussion in Klingon followed, with the word "vacuum" sprinkled at intervals, and the lads decided to nurse the car along to a friendly garage. They did not require any further assistance from us, so we wished them good luck and left them to it.
Bathsheba      (please use scroll bar)

    We rolled into Bathsheba in order to visit the rum shack there; I had wanted to visit a rum shack whilst in Barbados. This rum shack had a claim to fame. There on a wall inside the building, proudly displayed, was a photo of a young man sitting on the steps of the shack. The photo had been taken in the mid-80s, and the young man was Mick Jagger. Rex was in ecstasies over this, though he did not repeat his impersonation as he did at the Oistins Fish Fry.
    At a table inside the shack a young Bajan chap sat talking to who I presumed was the owner. The fellow had a small bucket on the table, the type kids use on the beach, which was full of ice. Beside the bucket stood a bottle of red rum, and a bottle of soda. Ice, rum and soda were periodically poured into a tumbler, from which he sampled his nectar.
    In another corner sat an old, wizened Bajan chap nursing a bottle of beer. I took my rum punch over to his table, and asked him if he minded if I sat at his table, to which he indicated he had no problems. I tried to chat with him, but his thick Bajan accent made it extremely difficult. I did learn that he lived just down the road at Bath. We discussed the fishing industry at Skeete's Bay, and he too had no idea how the boats crossed the vicious reef.
    Meanwhile Rex was talking to a huge fellow, white in colour, but a Bajan. He had done an ancestry trace, and discovered his Scottish ancestors came over in the 1650s, part of the persecution of the Catholics at that time. The bloke's ancestors may have been Red Legs at one time, but this man certainly did not fall into that category.
Boiling Mists over the Soup Bowl
    I thanked the old man I had been chatting with for his company, shook his hand and returned to the bar. A chap wandered in from one of the outside tables, slid up to the bar, and ordered three beers and a rum punch. On detecting a northern twang, I piped up, "Have you just come across from Manchester?"
    "No, I'm a Yorkshire man from Sheffield. I've lived over here for 13 years," he replied. His name was Paul Crucheon, and he and his wife had moved to the island and were renting out their house in Sheffield. "I live just down near Miami Beach," he added, "and have a year to go before I pick up my pension. But I needed to earn a living over here, and now work as an odd job man, and also look after a lot of peoples' gardens. I have not really noticed the effects of the pound dropping since I get paid in Bajan dollars."
    "Are Bajans paid well?" I asked.
    "No, the wages are low, particularly for the tradesmen. I occasionally work with a Bajan joiner who is first rate at his job. If he moved to Britain he would earn a fortune."
    Paul's nephew had come across with his family to visit him and his wife. "My nephew has young kids, and I warned them to take it slow with sun exposure. But the 3 year old spotted a paddling pool, stripped off completely and jumped in. It is like talking to a brick wall trying to educate them about the dangers of the powerful sun out here," he told us, with a resigned expression on his face.
Bathsheba Rum Shack
    "How long do you intend to stay in Barbados?" I enquired.
    "I don't know," he answered, "it is my wife who finds it difficult. Every Sunday evening she Skypes her friends. They tell her what her old pals have been up to, and their excellent times together. 'We were saying how much we miss you' they would tell her. Then on Monday my wife desperately wants to catch a flight home to meet up with them."
    He continued, "There are quite a few folk who have moved out here and tried to live the big-time dream, bought a big house and car, having sold up back home to finance it all. Then their new life style proves too much, they can't really afford it, so they try and sell up and move back to the U.K. They often lose out on the sale of their assets in Barbados, and when they return to Britain they have not got enough funds to relaunch their lives. It happens time and time again."
    "How does the health system operate over here?" was my next question.
    "Health can be expensive here, but I have insurance to cover it. I had to have some dental work done recently, and that was expensive," he replied, with the emphasis on "was".
    Rex chatted with Paul about property prices around the area near Miami Beach. My pal had a dream of buying property on Barbados, though Meryl soon puts him right on the issue.
Sugarcane Field      (please use scroll bar)

Dwarfed by the Sugarcane
Cut Sugarcane
    We bade our farewells with Paul, wishing him well, and I shook hands again with the old man in the corner, and off we set across country to Orchid World. It was a steep climb up from Bathsheba to the top of the ridge, and then we were traversing a plain carpeted with sugarcane fields. On our way over winding roads we spotted a couple of tractors parked up, their trailers brimming with freshly cut sugarcane. We pulled up. A group of harvesters were gathered by a cart, so I politely asked if we could look at the cane. They smiled and nodded approval, and carried on with their banter. Poking my finger through the metal grill of a trailer, I was able to scratch a finger nail across the cut surface of a cane, and tasted it. It was of course sweet as expected, with a granular chewiness that reminded me of coconut.
    Ploughing ahead, we arrived at Orchid World & Tropical Flower Garden, located on a six acre property, surrounded by sugarcane fields in the heart of the Bajan countryside. At an elevation of approximately 810 ft. above sea level, a refreshing breeze washes over the land. The location is ideal for growing and displaying the more than 1,000 orchids currently on display as well as the thousands of Caribbean plants and flowers. Orchid! The very name evokes exotic mysticism and is truly one of nature's wonders.
    We had the whole place to ourselves. The well-landscaped, meandering paths lead us on a self-guided tour past a waterfall, through a coral grotto and eventually through five orchid houses. Each turn of a corner offers a new and different view or floral delight. A number of tranquil rest stops in the garden offer the ideal vantage point to take in the lovely country views. This was spectacular, breath-taking, garden art at its best.
    Vandas, Phalaenopsis, Calanthes, Cattlyeas, Ascocendas and Dendrobiums, just to name a few, can be found throughout. Schomburgkia and Oncidiums stuck to mahogany trees, Aranda and Spathoglottis orchids grew in the grotto. Vandas and Ascocendas, "rain forest" orchids, are displayed in an environment meant to be a simulation of the condition in which they would grow in the rain forest. This simulation is an eye-catching display, as they seem to hang in mid-air with the orchids' roots completely free of soil. The accompanying sound of burbling water not only adds moisture to the air but also adds a feeling of tranquillity to the already peaceful atmosphere. The only other sound we could hear was the wind rustling through the nearby sugarcane, or the twitter of the birds. To add to the magic, the lingering scent of an orchid is just as likely to enchant as the colours and shapes of the flowers.
A Small Selection of the Thousand Orchids
View Across to Sweet Vale Hills      (please use scroll bar)

    After a refreshing drink and a few purchases in the shop, we left this beautiful oasis and headed south to Gun Hill Signal Station. At 700 feet above sea level, this was another communications centre in the 18th century, part of the same chain that Grenade Hill to the north belonged to. Sadly, the heavens opened when we arrived, so we decided to give it a miss. Rex pointed out a carving of a huge lion from a single rock on the hillside just below the tower. The sculptor was Captain Henry Wilkinson, who had to while away his off-duty hours in 1868.
    We headed back to base, passing through a sea of waving sugarcane, popping out at the other end at Oistins. Rex made a detour to inspect a property on Coral Drive, near to where Paul lived. Rex had latched on to the property after he spotted it on the internet. Dream on Rex, and still in a dream, he returned us back to Mike's bungalow.
    We noticed a ship anchored just off Oistins. Rex thought it was an LPG carrier discharging its load via an underwater pipeline.

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South Coast Beaches Miami Beach
Last updated 28.4.2017