16 October 2010

Too much of a good thing really can be wonderful

Saturday dawn.  I awake to our first full day on the island, alive with possibility.  First rule of order is to put water on for coffee, and after that I try to open our door as quietly as possible to step outside.  (Fortunately I was able to liberate myself without anybody else having to come to my aid!)

Stepping out onto the quiet, untouched sands of Shoal Bay East at that time of day is like a prayer.  The only footprints I see are the bird and lizard tracks in the sand from the night before.  Looking left, looking right, there’s not a soul on sight.  You’ll have to pardon me here, but it was a moment of pure joy and grace, and as a deeply seated agnostic, those are not words I bandy about frivolously.  But there is something magical, spiritual if you will, about those quiet moments where earth meets water and the sun glances off the waves with a certain slant of light; the beauty of it all is so much to take in that you nearly burst trying to contain it, so you can return to these moments in the future, when everything around you is cold and dark. 

The avenue of palms at Anguilla Great House
After making breakfast, we pack up a beach bag and head out to explore.  Our first stop is the Coral Reef bookstore, where we drop off a big bag of children’s books to donate to the Anguilla Book Fund.  Once again, the young woman working the counter looks at me blankly when I tell her what the books are for.  I fill her in on the details, after which she knocks on a hidden door that presumably leads into the home where the bookstore is housed.  When a man emerges from the hidden door, I explain again and this time he simply nods and takes the bag from me in silence.  I’m not sure what I was expecting—perhaps some sort of verbal communication, or at least a confirmation that I’m not randomly bringing coals to Newcastle, but toting coals there with a specific purpose.  Ahh, well. 

Our next stop is the Anguilla Great House to drop off a small thank you gift for Junior.  We apparently just miss him, but we got to chat with his brother Will and walk out to the beach to make some photos.  I’ve always loved the look of Anguilla Great House; if they had larger units with kitchen facilities, I’d stay there in a heartbeat.  Until then, I guess we’ll just visit.  Rendezvous Bay is gorgeous and a little wild looking that day. 
Rendezvous Bay, looking east

Rendezvous Bay, looking toward Cuisinart

DH and DG at Rendezvous Bay

Smokey’s is our destination for the rest of the day.  On our way from Blowing Point, we stop to pick up the first of three different groups of hitchhikers on the island, explaining to DG that while we’d never do that at home, we like to do it when in Anguilla.  This group of boys were heading towards South Hill for some soccer practice, and it was so hot we could hardly bear the thought of their walking in those temperatures, much less play ball! 

We’re the first to arrive at Smokey’s for lunch, but by the time we leave in the late afternoon, the joint will be jumpin’ with tourists and locals enjoying the live performance of the Musical Brothers.  Despite our breakfast back at Ku, we definitely feel a rumbly in our tumblies, as Pooh might say.  Two orders of ribs and a BBQ bacon cheeseburger and some Presidentes make a valiant effort to quiet the rumblies, but it takes a round of pina coladas to drive them away for good!  The ribs were marvelous, though I would have preferred them with less sauce.  DG enjoyed her burger but also thought there was a surfeit of sauce.

Una (not to be confused with Oona!) nee Gumbs
Looking out toward Cove Bay from Smokey's
Una, nee Gumbs, came out to chat with us between rounds, telling us her story of arriving in Anguilla and the many changes she’s seen to her island in the decades since her arrival.  After lunch, we headed out to the chairs & umbrellas that Mo had set up for us right as the music was gearing up.  We dozed and swam and dozed some more, pausing in our busy rotation to amble up to the bar to get more libations.  Mo mixes a mean rum punch, let me tell ya!  And he ain’t stingy with the float of rum he pours on top, either!

Just to shake things up a little bit, I took a walk up the beach towards the pier, and by the time I returned, DG had made a friend.  There was a little boy on the beach about the age of her younger brother, and they spend the better part of an hour playing together in the water.  His mama gave me permission to make photographs of them.  Apparently he was using the big stick to try to keep the big waves at bay, jousting them like a knight would.  It was very cute to watch them together. 

DG and me at West End Bay. Photo credit: B Moser

Sandpipers near a salt pond at West End Bay
When we left Smokey’s, instead of heading straight back to Ku, we headed west instead, all the way to West End Beach.  We got out at Indigo Reef and walked to the water’s edge and made some more photos so DG could see another side of Anguilla.  When the camera batteries died out, we headed back “home” to Ku clean up and do a  quick turnaround and head for Sandy Ground to watch sunset from Elvis’ Beach Bar.
Sunset at Sandy Ground
I’m still not used to the driving time coming from the east end, thus we pull into Elvis’ just in time to see the sun sink into the sea.  Conditions are fairly hazy on the horizon but we manage to snap a few shots while Elvis prepares our drinks: strawberry colada, mango colada, and beer & a bump.  Unfortunately, the mosquitos and sand fleas are so awful that DG heads to the car to wait for us while we finish our drinks. 
Various fruit-flavored coladas make for shiny, happy people!
Instead of heading straight to the SandBar for dinner, we make a brief detour to pick up some bug repellant, but we make it back to the restaurant in plenty of time to get a table before the place filled up (they don’t take reservations!).  While we’re deliberating over the menu, Carrie and Jerry from Veya show up, thus buoying up our choice for dinner – you know that when your favorite chef on the island chooses the same spot as you do for dinner, you’re in for something good!  They greeted us briefly, which gave us the chance to thank Carrie in person for such an amazing meal the night before. 
DH and DG at the SandBar
We were again famished, so we decide to order six tapas to share—in the spirit of trying as many items as possible, of course.  Here’s the roster: Cayenne carrots with honey and pinenuts—excellent.  Olive stuffed meatballs encrusted in parmesan—very good.  Spicy French fries—excellent. Beer battered fish – excellent. Red duck with savory pancakes and mango chutney—good, but a little dry.  Crispy fried chicken livers – these were actually quite soggy and thus quite disappointing.  In retrospect, we should have only ordered five dishes instead of six because we left quite a bit uneaten, and clearly that night the chicken livers were a dud.  Overall, though, we really enjoyed our time at SandBar and thought the food was quite good, and beyond that, an excellent value.  All of that food came to just US $62, not including tip.  In addition to the food, we wanted to make sure we sampled some of the items on offer at Whiskey’s Rum Bar, Whiskey being the eponymous pothound who has guarded Sandy Ground for several years and has gone to his great reward recently.  DH opted for a shot but I eagerly tried the Sea Cooler, which is as delightful a concoction as I’ve ever tasted: rum, mint, lime, and fresh cucumber juice.  With a nod to Jane Austen, I daresay it is even more refreshing than a turn about the room!
Setting crescent/new moon seen from Sandy Ground
Despite getting up from the table with uncomfortably full bellies, we felt like we were missing a certain something…dessert perhaps?  SandBar doesn’t serve desserts (more fools, they!), but our server suggested that we head up the road to the ice cream place in North Hill.  After all, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that even a person stuffed to the gills on tapas must be in want of some ice cream.  In the dark we drove right past Kel’s ice cream and candy shop and ended up down a dark and lonely road.  Since our gas gauge was running perilously low, it didn’t seem prudent to keep searching for ice cream in the dark, so we turned around, admitting defeat.  Wouldn’t you know it, but on the way back to the main road we passed Kel’s again, this time just barely registering it as we passed.  “Was that it?” I called from the driver’s seat.  “No, I think it said it was a dress shop,” was DG’s reply.  Like a good coonhound, though, my nose was a-twitch with the possibility of ice cream and I turned the car around yet again.  Bingo!  Turns out, we were both right.  You can gorge yourself on ice cream below stairs and try on wedding dresses and other formal gowns above stairs.  ‘Cause who wouldn’t want to do both in the same stop, right?  Disappointed that the dress shop part was closed for the day, we consoled ourselves with double-decker scoops in waffle cones.   Six scoops, three cones, came to US $10.  We were just putting the final licks to our fingers to erase all of the sticky evidence when we hear a familiar voice in the darkness.  Would you believe that it’s Junior and his wife, Caroline, going out for ice cream on their “date night?”  I’m not sure whose grins were larger, ours or theirs, but we passed several minutes there, chatting about our good fortune in running into him again.   It just got me thinking about the randomness of the universe – if we hadn’t gotten lost trying to find the ice cream, if we hadn’t stopped a second time to turn around and go back, if we hadn’t let several other customers ahead of us while we decided what we wanted, if we hadn’t decided to eat our ice cream outside on the porch instead of in the car on our way home, we wouldn’t have run into Junior and Caroline.

So yes, another day of hard living on Anguilla.  Another day of making friends.  Another day of unexpected joys.  I could definitely get used to this!
All three of us at Rendezvous Bay


  1. You were definitely not too late for the sunset at Sandy Ground. Memorable, indeed!

  2. Emily, I love reading about your travels! Hope all is well.

  3. I think we could be new best friends! I loved cats, literature, anguilla, and ice cream!! We leave Oct 30 for a week in anguilla at Cusi and can't wait! We used to stay at Rendezvous Bay resort and have struggled to find a replacement!

  4. well, don't be shy--let's be new best friends! i'm always looking for new book buddies who love cats, ice cream, and anguilla!


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