Monday, April 20, 2009

Trekking in the Park

The other day we left Norman's Cay and based on the weather forecast we headed down to Warderick Wells Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park where we figured we'd get some protection from the weather - Mother Nature has sure been giving us plenty of windy days! We traveled on Exuma Sound (the outside) but unfortunately we couldn't fish!!! The Park is a complete no take zone - so the fish are unafraid and actually come up under your boat sticking their tongues out at you (or at least it seemed that way when a bunch of yellowtail tuna surfaced right off our swim platform knowing there was nothing we could do about it!!)

We tried to get into the North anchorage where the Park headquarters is located (think internet connection) but it was full so we wound up in the South anchorage between Warderick Wells and Hog Cay. If there is a more beautiful place on the planet I'm not sure I've seen it yet! We are in a totally protected little channel between two beautiful islands with white sandy beaches alternating with very rugged rocky coasts - in between is the warm aquamarine water that is so clear you can see clear to the bottom!!

Guess we lucked out...even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often. Instead of moving up to the North anchorage the next day, we all decided to stay here - why leave paradise??

That afternoon with our boats safely tied to mooring balls, we decided to head up to the Park headquarters on the Banks side (the inside route) in our dinghies to check in and get the lay of the land. With the East wind blowing chop on the Banks it was a very wet and wild ride for us - we could have gone swimming and been less soaked...but heh, the water's warm and the sun was hot so we dried out pretty quickly!! The Park headquarters is this great rustic wooden building with serious heavy duty Bahamian shutters where Judy welcomed us with open arms as she checked us in.

Things are pretty laid back down here - they understand the cruising life and are very flexible!! While Doug hopped on the internet, we explored the surrounding beach and soaked in the atmosphere and views from the balcony. The Park headquarters overlooks the North anchorage which is truly spectacular with its multi-hued water - a circular strip of deep blue water where the moorings (and deeper water) are located surrounds a sand bar that reflects the sun and makes the water look almost translucent!!

We watched several little birds eating sugar out of a feeder off the balcony on our way to the beach where we saw the carcass of a 52 foot sperm whale (of course we had to play around a little with that!)

The dinghy ride back to the boat wasn't quite as wet but it sure was a lot faster - thankfully we had the new 20 hp motor because we were being chased by a nasty thunder and lightning storm. We got back to Gypsies just as the skies opened up - but like a lot of storms down here, it blew through in a matter of minutes and half an hour later it was sunny again!! Tide Hiker and September Song had tried to radio us, but with the wind whipping and us running for our lives (OK, not really but it sounded good) we hadn't heard them - they were glad to see us back before the storm hit!! Bootsie doesn't really like thunderstorms so she jumped up on top of her sister - Puss didn't really seem to mind!!!

That night we had dinner on Tide Hiker - bring your own food to grill! Vicki made wonderful veggies and sweet potatoes while Norm was the grillmaster extraordinaire for the evening.

One of the highlights of the evening (besides the company of course!!!) was seeing a large nurse shark swim right up under Tide Hiker's swim platform. I got down with the looky bucket to check him out and Norm got a great picture of the shark which had two ramoras on top of him (ramoras are a fish which cling to a shark and feed off the particles that escape when the shark eats - a very symbiotic if not strange relationship) through the looky bucket!!! When we get internet connection he promised to pass it along and we'll post it!! The sunset that night was awesome - it reflected up into the clouds right over Gypsies!!

Yesterday the Gypsies and Tide Hiker decided to hike the Exuma Sound Trail which turned out to be 7 miles round trip from Capture Beach (which is one of the beaches in the South anchorage where we are moored) up to Boo Boo Hill by the North anchorage!!! What were we thinking???? No seriously it was an amazing hike! Bob from September Song played executive limo service and taxied us all in to the beach (he even got close enough so we could get out onto the beach without our hiking boots getting wet!!) - thanks Bob!!!

From the beach we entered another world - first we hiked to the Pirate's Lair where you could just envision pirates of old sitting around the fire drinking rum, wenching and eating meat off a stick! Aargh...

Then we hit a series of trails that brought us to the other side of the island where the beaches were snow white and the water a shade of emerald green that made you just want to dive in and float - one beach after the other captivated us - first Bush Basher Beach (no I'm not kidding even though we are a bunch of staunch Democrats!), then it was on to Alive Beach (which we figured was so named because we had survived the hike through the Poisonwood, No Touch 'Em Plant and the Bahamian Boa Constrictor habitat), Cockle Beach, Emerald Beach and Loyalist Beach, each more beautiful than the last.

As we crested one hill, we could look back to our anchorage and see Gypsies, September Song and Tide Hiker all floating majestically in our little slice of paradise - great photo op! We even got to wave to Bob, Stephanie and the dogs on SS who had chosen to do the Hog Cay hike that day instead (smart folks)! The trails themselves were unbelievably diverse - we walked through cragged volcanic rock with sinkholes and ceynotes that looked like something akin to a walk on the moon,

and then the next minute we were in palm shaded woods

or on a sandy path leading to yet another beautiful beach.

About half way up the island we followed a stone wall to the Exuma Sound side where we followed the Exuma Sound Trail along the rugged cliffs watching the waves crash in huge plumes of sea spray - thinking how glad we were that we were not out in those seas in our boats!!! The difference between the crashing waves against the cliffs and the ferocious Sound on the East side of the island

and the serene beaches and calm waters on the West side of the island made for a remarkable contrast and great pictures!! As we progressed along the Sound we saw a natural bridge with waves crashing under it (which I of course had to go explore!),

rock cairns (which were built by prior cruisers as an offering to the gods for fair weather)

and a really cool bird who let me take his picture up close (he lives in the Park and therefore doesn't seem to be afraid of people!)

With Boo Boo Hill in sight (our destination) we walked along Boo Boo Beach and were greeted with a message from our friends on Life's2Short who were in the North Anchorage - written in the sand was "Remember Life's 2 Short :-)"

How Kewl!! At the top of Boo Boo Hill is a pile of wooden signs with boat names and dates on them - we saw Life's2Short's signs from this year and last.

We plan on making another trek to Boo Boo Hill and leaving a Gypsies sign before we leave!! From Boo Boo Hill it was a short trek to the Blow Holes where we decided to stop and have lunch -

Doug and I unknowingly sat on one of the blow holes (that sure surprised us when we got soaked!) A crazy gecko decided he wanted some of Doug and my lunch and wouldn't leave us alone - he finally settled for a small piece of orange rind that I had accidentally dropped - aggressive little guy!

On the trek home we took some different trails and actually saw a hutia (a Bahama mongoose looking thing) - we were actually fairy surprised in that we didn't see a lot of wildlife or birds on the whole adventure (other than geckos which were everywhere!),

but....the scenery was plenty beautiful to capture our attention. About half way back, we were desperately hoping to find a beer stand tucked in the woods but no such luck....all we got was pure unadulterated and uncommercialized beauty. Guess we could settle for that - although I must say, the first couple cold beers back on Gypsies (after Bob's limo service delivered us safe and sound) sure tasted great!!

Dinner last night was on September Song - Friday night pizza and beer!!! Do we live large or what??

This morning the wind is gusting something fierce so we think we'll sit tight and do some boat chores this morning and then go explore Hog Cay this afternoon - sitting here in the helm station I can see the waves from the Sound crashing up and over parts of the island - should be fun...and wet!!!

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