A few days ago, I showed you the prettiest place I visited during my recent trip to Turks and Caicos (TCI) with the adorable duo at Guy Girl Travel. Today, I want to share another side of the islands with you. This is a true story. No names have been changed to protect anybody.
There are about 400 islands in the TCI chain. We were staying at a private home on Providenciales (Provo), in Taylor Bay. It was absolutely gorgeous there, but more on that later.
One morning, we got the itch to head to North and Middle Caicos, which are accessible by chartered plane, boat or the local ferry. The first two options were ridiculously pretty pricey, so we chose to take the ferry. Bikes and scooters aren’t available outside of the area’s resorts, and Rain Man Guy is an excellent, excellent left-hand driver, so he called the house manager and asked where to rent a car once we arrived. His response should have been our first clue that our spontaneous adventure wasn’t going to be boring: “Call Cheese.”
O….K. We decided to explore the caves, ruins, beaches, and produce farms of Middle Caicos with nothing but our collective wits and a rudimentary map to guide us, so Guy called Cheese and arranged to have him meet us at the port on North Caicos with a Jeep. What could possibly go wrong, right?
We drove to the harbor in Provo to catch the ferry ($50 USD, round trip). The port’s office is being rebuilt and we had a little bit of a wait, so we wandered over to the conch farm next door.
They corral those things like horses.
There were tons of beautiful, free for the taking, imperfect shells scattered everywhere. They aren’t valuable if they are flawed, but I loved them for exactly that reason. I’m sorry I didn’t bring you one, but if it’s any consolation, I didn’t get me one either.
We caught the 12:30 to North Caicos. Our captain flew out of the harbor like a bat out of hell. It was crazy hot, so the breeze generated by the speed of the ferry was a welcome relief.
There’s a happy living room palette right there, with two shades of gray, yellow, turquoise and white. I could make it work, but I digress.
The ferry makes a quick 30-45 minute trip, depending on weather conditions. The seas around the islands are usually smooth and perfect for sailing. This day was no different, and we enjoyed the ride. Things were going swimmingly until we disembarked and headed to meet Cheese.
Cheese was a no show, but one of his minions soon arrived with the keys to our car. You waiting for Cheese, mon? In halting English, he introduced himself as “Sexi, with an I.”
The car he had for us wasn’t in the best of shape. He offered up a couple of options that were more expensive, but equally run down. He said he had one more car for us to look at, another Jeep that was parked down the road, so the five of us piled into Sexi’s tiny Honda Fit. He didn’t tell us that down the road meant 30 minutes.
“Never get in a car with a stranger.” – Mom
There were more than a few furtive glances passed between the those of us in the back seat as we bumped along at high speeds down the two lane highway that bisects North Caicos. Sexi talked on his cell phone the entire time, impatiently zooming around slower drivers in no passing zones. This was a real growth opportunity for me, and I learned that careening into oncoming traffic freaks me out even more than I realized.
We finally arrived at our destination. I guess we were all expecting a commercial lot of some sort, but as we turned onto the street we realized we were taking a car from somebody’s front yard.
Grand Theft Auto.
Except it wasn’t so grand. Proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover? The passenger seat:
That photo might contain useful information for an automotive design spy. Ride quality like this doesn’t just happen, you know. It’s engineered.
This was my view from the back seat:
And of the sound system:
We only had a limited amount of time before we had to catch the last ferry back to Provo and we were not getting back in the Honda, so we took the ca from the yad and headed out in search of mangos and caves. We asked Sexi for a recommendation for lunch, but he just shrugged his shoulders.
Signs are everywhere.
Which ever direction we turned here, you should go the other way:
Our map, and I use that term lightly, showed that there were several dining options to choose from on the islands. Were is the operative word here. TCI was ravaged by hurricanes Ike and Irene, so most of our map’s recommendations either didn’t exist anymore or were closed.
As we took the bridge to Middle Caicos, I set my camera for drive by shooting. We were explorers in a time crunch. We didn’t have time to stop and take photos along the way, and the view was beautiful:
Until the bridge disappeared:
At that point, the Jeep started to develop a rhythm. Bump, bump, stall. Bump, bump stall.
Bang, bang. Chitty, chitty. Bang, bang. Bang, bang. Chitty, chitty. Bang, bang.
We had no cell service, no food, no water and an iffy map. (Sometimes, spontaneous adventures need a little advance planning.) If it broke down, we were out of luck, because we didn’t pass a single car along the way.
The dividing lines were pushed 30 – 40 feet off the road:
There are only about 200 residents on Middle Caicos. I suppose they got ignored because Haiti’s needs are so overwhelming, but this bridge is their main connection to the rest of the world. Somebody needs to fix it for them.
There was very little of this:
And a whole lot of this:
1 BR, Sky View, Boat Incld.
Maybe it’s just me, but aren’t you tempting fate when you live in a hurricane zone and name your boat “Just Bring It?”
Bump, bump, stall. Bump, bump, stall.
More than an hour after we tempted fate ourselves by commandeering a stolen rental car from somebody’s yard, we came across one little pocket of life at the end of the bridge. Somewhere between here and nowhere, the community of Bambarra Beach had survived the storms intact.
Insert fancy sign here:
We headed back over the bridge.
Bump, bump, stall. Bump, bump, stall.
Somehow, despite all our best efforts, we found the lone gas station on the island, filled up the Jeep and made it back to the port in North Caicos in time to catch the last ferry out. Sexi showed up to retrieve the keys and inspect the car in case, you know, WE had done any damage to IT.
We never met Cheese. I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus, but the man at the harbor store laughed when we told him our story and said, “Oh, I know Cheese. Next time rent a car from me.”
Well, thanks for that info because now I can share it with my readers reader.
As we waited to board the boat, explorers that had planned their guided cave and beach tours began to trickle in. They didn’t seem particularly happy. One couple was so haughty and rude that we considered throwing hands.
Maybe tomorrow, mon.