Have Car: Will Travel
08 April 2008 | Cat Island
Mary Lou and Bob (Cygnus) and Jim and I rented a car on Tuesday and headed north to see what we could see. We had several items on our lists - beaches, ruins, fuel, and palm hearts for weaving.
The road followed the beach in many spots, making the drive just a gorgeous one. We stopped to wander around the lovely resort at Fernandez Bay where the folks were friendly and the ambiance superb. Mary Lou and I both bought copies of a fine book - The Cat Island Guide, produced by Jacqueline Campaigne - and used it as we continued our travels. We did a little "back and forthing" as we discovered that fuel should be next on our list and we couldn't seem to find the service station. With both the guidebook and the chartbook naming The Lot - between Orange Creek and Arthur's Town as the location of the Club Crystal "Service Station", we finally located the lone Shell fuel pump by the side of the road! With $40.00 worth of gas ($5.40 per US gallon) in the Dodge Caravan, we headed off once more, this time in search of food. The helpful lady at a convenience store suggested Sammy T's, and gave me a most delicious bennyseed (sesame seed) cookie to munch on as a stopgap measure. I hadn't seen bennyseed cookies since Charleston - these were a little different - made with chocolate in them.
Sammy T's turned out to be an upscale resort with a beautiful deck where we ordered grouper and cracked conch along with salads - no menus, just a list from the server. The food was superb; the price when the bill came reflected it - about $45.00 for the two of us. Ah well - we made up for it later.
We passed through Arthur's Town - the seat of government for the north end of the island, named for a privateer, Arthur Catt, whose surname is probably the source of the whole island's name. Sir Sidney Poitier grew up here in this neatly organized little town with well-kept stone church, butter yellow school and tiny green police station. Up at the end of the road at Orange Creek, we went walking on a beautiful beach but found no interesting shells. Jim swam out to have a look at what we thought might be a reef worth snorkeling but it turned out to be mostly kelp, so we loaded back into the car and headed south again in search of a road across to the ocean beach.
Bob had his hand-held Garmin GPS with him and was able to pinpoint exactly where to turn. I'm glad he was with us, because although the map also showed a road, it was really just a track and I don't think I'd have convinced Jim to take it without Bob's backup. We were all impressed with the accuracy of the cartographer on that GPS chart. Once we reached the end of the track, we walked a bit farther to the bluff overlooking two lone gravesites and a little path down to the beach. It was just glorious and if the sea had been a little smoother, would have been fine snorkeling. We each found a number of seahearts and a couple of hamburger beans among the trash and wrack washed up against the bank so we were all delighted. We were also reminded of the huge number of plastic bottles and single shoes that find their way ashore. Note to all: stick to re-usable bottles and hang on to your shoes and the beaches will be cleaner places!
By the time we made it back down below New Bight, the sun was sinking lower in the sky and Mary Lou and I were on a mission to find palms. She weaves baskets and had promised to teach me, but we needed materials. We found a couple of silvertops along the way but needed more so at a likely-looking spot, Jim pulled the car off the road and we headed down a path. It wasn't long before the men came after us - having been quite surprised when Mary Lou and I disappeared into the bush. It must have been a traditional gathering place because the bush opened up to a clearing with many plants. We gathered several hearts and happily set off down the road again.
A proper visit to Old Bight and a trip down to Columbus Point and Bain Town will have to wait for another visit because it was time to head home to New Bight and a fish fry.
When we had first come through town, Lula's was open but this time her shutters were closed and we all groaned in disappointment. Luck was with us though, because we passed her on the road and after hearing that we were four hungry folks who would eat whatever she had to offer, she turned straight around, threw open her shutters and fired up her stove. In short order, she produced delicious stewed chicken, accompanied by peas'n rice and boiled cabbage. (Even Jim agreed that the cabbage was good - not overcooked.) We handed over $18.00 per couple for it and also bought a coconut pie and homemade bread.
Lula had been on her way to the store so we gave her a lift back to Smith's Bay but by then the lights were out and the doors locked. In the "island way" we then took her to her friend's house where she left some money so her friend could pick up the soft drinks she needed and bring them by in the morning. While we sorry we couldn't have assisted her more in her shopping trip, we were really glad to have had the time to visit with such a lovely and interesting woman. She is one of 8 children, all college graduates as are her own three children. The concerns of her life are much the same as those of many of us in Canada and the US. She works hard, values her family, doesn't have huge expectations but expects integrity and respect as she devotes herself to achieving her modest ones.