Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Farewell to the Caribbean

[Kyle]Memory can be a strange thing. At times it seems that Maryanne and I just arrived in the Caribbean, at others, it seems as if we have been here for a very long time. Mostly, it depends whether I think back to our arrival in Antigua directly or whether I try to remember it as a thread that passes through all of the places we have been and the things we have seen since then. In either case, it seems strange to think that our time here is already coming to an end.

There has been much about the Caribbean that has been an irritant or a disappointment. We have not, for the most part, found the people there to be particularly laid back and friendly, whether local or tourist. Locals seem to have the barest tolerance for us. Tourists, for the most part, seem to be just as self-absorbed and narcissistic down here as they must be back at home, as if somehow a week or two down here isn’t long enough to wind completely down from the dog eat dog world of their high-stress lives. It must be a terrible thing to come to such a place and know that just as you get a taste of it, it’s going to be time to leave. Most people seem to cope with this by engaging in a marathon of partying and never seem to learn to relax and just take in the place.

[Maryanne]Kyle is right that "for the most part" we have not found locals nor other cruisers that friendly. There have been some notable exceptions and for these we are grateful. I think we arrived at the Caribbean expecting the postcard / fairy tale version. It was a shock to find most islands import ALL their food from Miami (even the fish), and we experienced many other similar shocks. We've had a splendid time once we settled in, and have enjoyed empty beaches, and stunning sunsets - no regrets and 1000 new wonderful memories.

[Kyle]To be fair to the locals, the islands are pretty overrun with tourists during the season, many of whom act like they’re entitled to be waited on hand and foot by people they treat as nothing but servants. The most popular response to this seems to be to charge an arm and a leg for everything, even in excess of what would be reasonable considering that everything has to be imported.

In spite of this, though, the Caribbean is a stunningly beautiful place. The pictures in the magazines and the travel brochures are not faked. In fact, photographs, no matter how good, cannot do justice to what it feels like to stand in the place and have it fill your whole field of view, your toes in powdery sand and the sounds of surf and the trade winds rustling the palm fronds. And then there’s the water, hypnotic in its irresistible warmth and its other-worldly blueness.

Often, at the end of the day, as I watch the sun make its near-vertical plunge over the horizon, I sit in quiet amazement at the sheer beauty of the place. It still surprises and amazes me that we are actually here, that we actually made it and had the privilege to spend half a year down here, hopping from island to island.

Aboard Footprint, we have taken the time to sit back and enjoy the Caribbean. We’ve had a few late nights out but for the most part, we have avoided the crowds and the party spots and enjoyed being part of the nature unfolding around us. We’ve spent whole days trudging on empty islands. We’ve also had days where we’ve spent more of our time awake in the water than out. It’s like being kids again. We just can’t seem to stay out of the ‘pool’. There is so much cool stuff to see.

The signs that it is quickly approaching the time to leave are becoming harder to ignore. The airlines are starting to reduce their flights and the anchorages are slowly thinning out. The really noticeable thing for me is the change in the Sun. The days are barely longer than they were in the winter and the weather, for the most part, is as benign as ever. The thing that’s different is that the Sun is getting higher in the sky. Right now, it’s practically straight up at local Noon. Walking around, our shadows are little blobs hanging around our feet, and it’s hot.

I know we have other places to go and I am, of course, looking forward to them all. I will miss the Caribbean, though, with its reliable breezes and its water you can just jump into any time day or night.

1 comment: said...

Maryanne and Kyle:
I am sure the Caribbean people will miss you both.
Best of luck on your slog to BDA.