Off to the Botanical Garden

Trip Start Jan 31, 2013
Trip End Feb 07, 2013

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Flag of Cayman Islands  , Grand Cayman,
Monday, February 4, 2013

Well, we were up with the chickens this morning - or at least by 7:30, breakfasted and fed the chickens scraps of non-NYC bagels and were back to our room by 8:30, sent out the first 4 days of this blog and are otherwise frittering away our early start.  We have decided not to take the snorkeling gear with us to the botanical garden even though there are snorkeling spots on the North shore not that far from the garden.

We were off around 9:30 I think.  First we checked next door to see when we get to swim with the stingrays:  Wednesday.  We briefly tried to see if we could get a tour to go to the North Point and see the starfish, but gave up when the person we wanted went to brief her morning tour.  We walked to where we thought the nearest post office was, but it turned out that it might only have been a postbox because we were informed that the nearest post office was either in Georgetown or a 15 min walk in the opposite direction.  We hopped a bus for Georgetown and got off when I saw the post office out the window.  Our stamps were a real bargain - should have bought more even if they didn't have turtles printed on them.

Hopped on another bus to the North End to go to the Botanical Garden.  The ride seemed longer than the first one to the Mastic Trail and was twice as much, but we did get delivered right to the door of the visitors center.  Once there we bought our relatively inexpensive tickets at $10 apiece.  A man had been wandering around the lobby getting his tour together and we said we weren't on it.  Then we conferred and Kara wanted to take the tour, so we paid an additional $20 apiece and rushed to the door to join the 11 am tour.  Our tour guide was Alberto, a man from Costa Rica, who now was into wildlife, but had spent a wild life traveling.  He started as an 18-yr-old hippie by gong to LA, then he moved to Germany where he worked for the US Army.  He spent time in Greece, living in a cave somewhere on the southern coast with 200 other hippies until the police told them to move on since it was a world heritage site or something like that.  He went to Mauritius and Madagascar, St Juan de Cuno (or something like that in the South Atlantic), and I can't remember where else.  Oh, yes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.  He did not feel comfortable in those last countries.  Ah, well, almost enough of Alberto.  We discovered that the tour was of the blue iguana recovery program that he has been involved with for the last few years.

We got to see a number of blue iguanas. They are indigenous to the Grand Cayman Island and are 2 million years old as a species.  They are separate from the green iguanas.  Alberto also told us about different subspecies of green iguanas that are very different, e.g. a Honduran variety that dives to catch its food and I have forgotten the others.  We saw some of the breeding iguanas as well as some babies.  Alberto picked some up and stroked them behind the ears - they seemed to like that.  He told us not to pet them though because their bite is very nasty and they can move very fast even though they may look slow.  They had been down to 10 blue iguanas on Grand Cayman and that made them functionally extinct, but with the breeding and recovery program, they have now released more than 700 back into two nature preserves on the island.  When they get over 1000, they will close the program and only keep some iguanas - in their park I guess.

After the blue iguana tour, we toured the Botanical Garden itself.  Now I am forgetting what came first??  We visited a heritage area with a typical island house and herb garden as well as a fruit tree orchard.  The orchard had mango, soursap and sweetsap, breadfruit, noni, and then there were a lot of Caribbean plum, cherry, and even a pear that had a more citrus type leaf than the ones I am familiar with.  There was a floral colour (British spelling although I noticed the web pages spell it without the "u") garden with lots of bright flowers and shiny, bright leaves.  One little lawn area had a few poinsettia bushes that had dozens of golden butterflies fluttering around the blooms.  There was a palm alley and a woodland path.  The woodland path was quite similar to the Mastic Trail but here the path was much more even.  In the garden there was a pond with swimming moohrens and water lilies and a lovely gazebo that Kara found for us to have our lunch of granola bars and yogurt leftover from breakfast.  I had been stockpiling the yogurt for a few days now and thought it was time to use some of it up.  After we walked around a bit trying to find the Cayman parrots, we went to the gift shop looking for more food but there wasn't any there.  Also, we had a hard time finding the parrots, even though these other people had assured us that we would find them.  As soon as we heard them, or Kara spotted any, they would fly off....or they would already have left before we got there.  Except for the one in the cage.

At the visitors center, the staff called the bus people to come and pick us up.  While we were waiting, we got a recommendation for a local restaurant next to the Pirates Cave/Bat Cave where we were headed next.  I had remembered reading about a bat cave and then spotted a sign on the way out, so I absolutely had to go there now.  The bus driver almost went past it and then yelled out "Bat Cave" and stopped immediately to let us off.  The Pirates Cave/Bat Cave owner was very nice and explained everything to us.  I forgot how many acres he had with the path in a lollipop shape where you absolutely couldn't get lost.  He had a lot of stuff jammed into that small space.  He was from the US and had only been running the place for 9 of the 40 years it had been in operation.  The caves themselves were very old and had history going back 400 years when pirates hid out in them.  There were bats - Kara could see them and I could hear and feel them flying over my head.  Besides the caves, there were plants - all very nicely labeled - I mentioned to Kara that I thought he had better signage than the Botanical Garden.  And on top of that, he had an assortment of rescue animals, mostly birds I think, but also goats, pigs, an agouti cage with rabbits - the agouti is also called a Cayman rabbit I think.  And there were peafowl and tons of chickens - some running loose and others in cages, including silkies and Polish chickens.  He recommended we go next door to the local art and craft shop and so we did.  The man there opened up for us to come in.  We looked over the wares - lots of  nice little paintings and photos and I even bought one.  While I was buying it, we made friends with the owner's cat.  The owner told us how he had bought him and his brother when they were one week old and their mother was run over by a car.  Soon after they were running around, his neighbors killed the brother.  The owner will not speak to those neighbors any more.  He says his cat loves women and abandons him whenever a woman appears.
Next we went off to the Seaview Paradise Restaurant, run by a young man and his grandmother.  We had wonderful chicken dinners with rice and beans, plantain, a little salad, some hot pickle, hot sauce, and a lovely corn bread - all for $6 apiece.  The young man chatted with us while we ate.  He admired Kara's tattoos and said he wanted a big dragon but it was too expensive and then he said he had gotten estimates of $5000.  Yikes.  The grandmother came out and made me try the gravy - like a sweet and sour sauce - for the chicken.  They were lovely people and very nice and friendly.  I complimented her on the cornbread and she gave me some to go - complementary.  Don't know if that is the right word, or not.  I need to look it up.

The grandson hailed down the bus for us and we were off again for Georgetown.  From there we walked back to the hotel and picked up a bottle of Oregon wine with a screw top for ease of opening without a corkscrew - since I don't carry my swiss army knife unless I have checked luggage.  We were planning on going out for some music, but as usually seems to happen, we couldn't find a place that actually had music for sure today - the day we wanted it.  So, we broke open the bottle of wine, or rather, unscrewed the cap..  A little wine, a little cheese and crackers and the TV and it is almost like being out, right?  Maybe tomorrow??  It is only 9 pm but there are lots of photos to upload since plants are my weakness.  But, then again, those iguanas were definitely cuties!


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