Day 10: Grand Cayman Islands
Again this morning is blowing a gale. I haven’t mentioned yet that I am in Cayman during hurricane season, which runs from June through November each year. And although Cayman has been fortunate enough to escape the wrath of most of these wind demons, it was unlucky with Ivan.
Hurricane Ivan devastated the island of Cayman in September 2004, as it tore across the Caribbean. It wreaked havoc with the islands infrastructure, leaving the inhabitants without electricity and water for months. Trees were uprooted and homes blown apart. A storm surge left over a quarter of the islands buildings uninhabitable and 85% damages in some way. Luckily there were only two lives lost.
Today Yoshi drives me around to the Savannah and South Sound parts of the island to explore what’s there. First stop of the day – Pedro St James.
Pedro St James
Englishman William Eden created this three level ‘castle’ back in around 1780 in the part of the island known as Savannah. Pedro St James is known as the “Birthplace of Democracy in the Cayman Islands”, being it was the venue for the 5 December 1831 meeting where it was decided to form the first elected parliament. It was also the site of another important milestone, when on 3 May 1835, Robert Thompson, sent from the Governor of Jamaica, held court at Pedro St. James to issue the proclamation ending slavery in the British Empire.
Our guide walks us through a photo exhibition, voicing the history of the building, in his lilting Caymanian accent. He leads us to a theatre, which is decorated with Pedro St James props, including replicas of parts of the house. for an audio visual presentation on the island on Cayman and Pedro’s place in history on the island. Thunder and lightning start the show, followed by rain. Hang on – it’s raining in here! What the? Fine sprays of mist sprinkle rain on me as I sit in the front row wondering what’s about to happen next. The whole presentation is so well done, and to be honest, it was certainly not something I was expecting. But the story has been bought to life, and now, as the doors swing open to reveal sunlight, we make our way to the real Pedro.
Pedro also houses exhibitions on the history of Cayman and a tribute to Hurricane Ivan.
In 1994, the home was restored to its former glory, or as close as it could be done from past descriptions, and old articles and photos, and now sits monument to its place in Caymans history, overlooking the ocean and blooming Flamboyant trees.
It has struck me how many churches are located on this island of 50,000 people. Driving through the streets on this Sunday morning, congregations meet and chatter outside their places of worship and church bands practice their marching out in the hot sun.
The churches cover all denominations – Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jehovahs Witness, Presbyterian – and there are new churches in various states of construction continuing to add to the numbers. I tried to find out how many churches there were in Cayman – but it was near on impossible. One website said ‘too many’. Cayman Online lists 16. ECayman lists 71, including Dial-A-Prayer.
Flip Flop Tree
Along the beach in South Sound, you can find the flip flop tree (and yes it has its own facebook page). It’s a tree covered with – yep you guessed it – flip flops. I wish I had remembered to bring a pair of my own to nail to the tree. The first shoes were nailed to the tree in the dead of night in May 2008 by a couple who wanted to highlight the amount of garbage that washes up on Cayman’s shore and the importance of recycling. Over a four hour stretch, the couple collected 333 shoes that had washed up on the shoreline. And not wanting to just add to Georgetown’s growing landfill problem, they decided that they wanted to spread the message about the importance of recycling, and so finding the perfect tree, which was already dead, they got out their trusty drill and stuck the shoes all over it.
XQ’s hosts an all-you-can eat brunch from 12-3pm today and that is where we are heading next. For just US$40, you can eat your way through freshly made pizzas, pastas and omeletes, choose from circulating platters of ribs, calamari, lasagne, chips, chicken pies, chicken goujons and steak, drink beer, wine, mimosas, caesars and more, and then finish off with a taste plate of key lime pie and rum cake. Although I don’t really like the concept of all you can eat – XQ’s have done this really well. When choosing your omelete or pasta, you can select your own ingredients, type of sauce, whether to add cheese or not and its all cooked in front of you. The pizza is also freshly made according to your wishes and then delivered to your table. And the rest of the food is dished out by circulating waitresses, which means no queues of people breathing over bainmaries, or children fingering food and then putting it back. The food all tasted so good. This would have to be one of the best all you can eats I’ve ever been to.
DAILY IGUANA COUNT: 0