Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cumberland Underwater

Wesley waiting to help us beach the dinghy
Another idyllic day here in Cumberland, St. Vincent has come and gone. It’s been warm during the day so we got our chores done early and talked to Wesley about going out for lunch. We wanted to sit down with him and chat… but I think he thought we just wanted him to arrange the lunch!

I was just finishing up a small load of laundry when he returned to tell us that Mamma Elma would expect us for lunch at 1pm. Wesley was waiting for us with his little boat already beached when we arrived.

New arrivals are a big deal here!

Wesley's cute little dink!
The river mouth is just beyond those palms

It was all a little strange and not as we expected it to be… so we just rolled with it! Mamma Elma greeted us quietly and waived us to the one tiny table set up in a corner of her little patio. Wesley had to go greet a new arrival with a promise to return… 

Not quite ready for prime time
We anticipated a delicious lunch if the smells emanating from the little kitchen were an indication, and we relaxed and watched the incoming boat get anchored and secured to shore by long line…. sort of like watching golf, only more interesting.

Nothing happens quickly here. We waited some time in the warm moist afternoon air. The scene before us was exactly what we expected the Caribbean to be like from a Cruising aspect. Few people, little infrastructure… just a hut and some palm trees lining every stretch of sand.

Mamma Cat
And while the floor in this restaurant wasn’t sand… there were cats! A little black cat and a momma with kittens just four days old, hovered at our feet. I think they were as anxiously awaiting our lunch as we were! 

Wesley finished with the boat and stopped by to say he had to go run an errand and would see us later. Our dinner arrived, I guess he will miss it!

There had been no ordering process…so the meal was a surprise.  Two plates of stewed chicken leg quarters, veggie rice and a wedge of pumpkin with spices sprinkled on top. It all smelled tasted delicious, but the pumpkin was the big winner.  I don’t know what it was baked in, but it was an explosion of flavour. I’m going to have to look up some recipes for this! We were very thankful that the common breadfruit was absent with this meal… substituted with a few plantain medallions…

We waited for a bit, hoping that a drink would be offered… Finally we asked for some water - and ice. A bottle of water was produced. Soon came two small glasses… and no ice. From the awkwardness of the service, to the lack of tables here… We got the idea that they really don’t have a lot of business…

We ate to the tune of baby kittens and momma cat begging for more. I made the mistake of getting caught feeding her under the table… After that, Mamma Elma’s daughter kept a closer eye on us. I get it. She doesn’t want the cats to become accustomed to eating from the table and thus induce bad feline behaviour of the kind we were experiencing today… But they were so thin, and she had babies to feed! (I was happy to see that our scraps were taken out back to the cats as we left.)

Look at that body language during negotiations...
With no real reason to return to the boat, we lingered after lunch and were treated to a bit of dinner theatre… A real-life tableau in which a thin fisherman approached to sell his catch to the restaurant for dinner. (Maybe they have more people come to dinner than lunch? They’re still gonna have to produce some seating!)

Yeah... she's into him...
Anyway, there was Mamma Elma doing the haggling while her daughter stood by looking coy. Maybe she was sweet on this boy? All I know is that her body language underwent a major change in his presence but she hardly uttered a word…

They must have reached some sort of agreement. We couldn’t understand a bit of it as they spoke in the local Patois. The fisherman looked around for a bit of string while the daughter was sent to the back to fetch a scale to weight the fish.

The boy strung the fish all onto the twine by sticking it through their slimy gills… His hands worked quickly in the slippery mess. Once they were all on the line, he tied the ends and took them out to the water to rinse them all off…

He returned and the weight was taken with much ado. He had 6.5 lbs. There was some silence and some posturing… and more discussion. I guess in the end, a deal was struck and the fish were removed from the scene, the boy left us and Mamma Elma limped over to us, pulled up a chair and sat down with a sigh. Curtain!

We talked for a while. She was so soft spoken I had to ask her to repeat herself often. That’s something that we have noticed here… everyone speaks quietly. Even at the Cricket match the other day, the stands were nearly silent. Only now and then have we heard voices raised in heated discussion… otherwise, the people just do not raise their voices.

Looking up into the river from the Bay.  No waves breaking today!

We paid our tab and with many thanks, left Mamma Elma to enjoy her afternoon now that her work was done. It was so hot… and there was a nice point at our side that has begged us to explore it since our arrival. Today was the day. We quickly got ready and plunged into the cool water just off the stern. Ahhh what a relief from the still heat!

The water beneath the boat was very deep. I get a little nervous staring into the murk and paddled furiously to get to the shallows… There wasn’t much current, just a tiny bit of surge to contend with as we approached the fallen rocks near the cliff. Visibility was not perfect… there was a lot of tiny stuff floating in the water and in some spots, the water wavered, like there must be a freshwater spring nearby mixing fresh with the saltwater.

We were pleasantly surprised with what we found!

A Blinny and his christmas trees!

A Sea Slug?

There were forests of these in the deeper water

WOW! Snorkelling amongst the baitfish was astonishing! We enjoyed all of the small bits of coral, the sponges, the fans and the forrest of whatever those were growing in the deeper water. The filefish, the many tangs and smaller fishes just going about their fishy lives… and then the billions of baitfish that ribboned around us… It was so cool!

Now that we’ve missed the heat of the day and our body temperatures are lowered to comfortable levels, we enjoyed our showers and an evening watching life go by here in the Bay…
Ready and waiting for the fish to come...

I was visited by a very polite young man named Ziko… He said he comes from another bay and sells jewellery made by his family… Maybe it isn’t but his well spoken sales pitch and gentle manner got past my initial wall of resistance. I picked out several seed, shell and string trinkets and he was gently appreciative. I don’t even care if his spiel was a lie… his delivery was spot on. I like to encourage this behaviour and we are here to do our part to give to the communities we visit and not just take.

Rasta Joseph
Our next visitor was quite a treat! We had seen this unique individual around the Bay and I even tried to surreptitiously snap a photo of his awesome hairdo without getting caught… Now I had my chance to get a good look at it, and to get to know this Rasta, Joseph in person.

He is a tour guide and if weather wasn’t giving us our walking papers… we would love to visit the nearby waterfalls with him. We talked for some time about life here and the thing in Wallilabou and the sad impact it has wrought on this island community…

Finally I had to ask him about his hair! How long did it take to grow his dreads to this impossible and improbable length??? He said 36 years… Seriously!

I took advantage of his hospitality and new friendship to do a little photoshoot with him! We laughed and I squealed as the little boat rocked sharply causing me to cling to Joseph for balance…

He was as sure-footed as a goat and laughed when I threatened to go overboard. The very real vision of me flying off the side of the boat into the water in my athena housedress pushed the laughter up a notch!

He was very indulgent of my whim and even allowed me to paddle out little boat back to DL after we drifted away… That’s the way a Rasta treats a woman… let HER do the work…

Just before sunset, Joseph zoomed off to greet two big charter cats that he was expecting. He would take them on a tour the following day and we momentarily considered asking to join them…but we had other plans and only one more day here before weather pushed us on.

Two BIG catamarans arrived!

Our evening melted into night there on the deck… smelling the scents of the island, feeling the light breeze and comforted by the onset of now-familiar frog song from the shore. The nights are delightfully cool with no bugs or swell to upset our slumber… We were stoked by our snorkelling experience and just everything about this island…

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