Also managed to do a circuit of the island – watched the sunset from Dieppe Bay, by The Golden Lemon (high-priced resort hotel – all closed up for the quiet season. Tourist season doesn’t start until October, I’m told). Wandered the black sand beach with my feet in the 80-degree water, enjoying the breeze (half a mile out, it was blowing the waves hitting the reef into dazzling rainbow-white combs). Found a giant dead fish rolling in the surf – wasn’t a kind of fish I’d ever seen before. A screaming mass of local kids descended on the thing while I was looking at it, and had to poke and prod it and chuck it at siblings, while their parents looked on, amused. I asked the parents what kind of fish it was, and they said it was called a Congo locally. Looked like a cross between an eel (back half) and a potato cod (head). When the sun sank behind neighboring island Statia, I walked back to my car, where I met a friendly Rastafarian selling handmade coconut birdfeeders – they actually were pretty neat, but I declined anyway. Sat and talked a while. He invited me back so we could do some more “liming” (which evidently means “hanging out and talking”, locally).
Drove the rest of the way back home, enjoying the titles of the buses (local buses are actually minivans, owned and operated by independent entrepreneurs, and each one of them has its own name painted prominently on the front, sides, and rear, and even put in the windshield!). Saw my old friends “Shocking Vibes”, “De Gospel Train”, “Vicious”, “Cocky”, and “De Menace”, with whom I’d become acquainted in April; also saw “Bingi” (English here, as spoken by the locals, is pretty impenetrable. In May, I rode in a bus named “Bashment”, and wondered at its meaning for a week before a friendly local clued me in: it refers to what we “coll a rave paaty”), “Superdog”, “Mr. Humble”, “Mr. X”, “Business”, “Scooby Doo”, “Mr. Wab”, “Tiger”, “Catch De Cat”, “Rudeboy”, “Rough Times”, “De Program” (as in get with), “Shabarly” (?), “Chucky”, “Fabulous” (I thought of Sam and her “Fabulous!” routine), “Fighting Cock” (ouchie!), “De Roach” (I liked that one), and my favorite, “No Comment”. Ate another vegetarian dinner when I got home; meat just isn’t appealing, here, with the notable exception of “Chicken Man” – homemade barbecue set up on the streets several nights per week. (For less than $4 US, Caribbean-spiced BBQ chicken that falls off the bone. Yum!) The fruit here is wonderful. Have been buying local bananas, guavas, mangos, and papayas from a little old lady selling her backyard produce on the main street in town. Have also been buying green coconuts from a couple of guys down by the waterfront – enterprising entrepreneurs, they must scour the island for trees with ripe ones, because I have yet to see any trees with coconuts larger than my fist. My pants seem to be fitting a little bit more comfortably, so here’s hoping that the diet of fruits and veggies (and rice and beans, eminently affordable staples that they are) helps me drop all of the unwanted weight I’ve acquired.
Yesterday (Thursday, August 22), I finally went snorkeling, since most of the setting-up that is possible before my shipment of stuff arrives is already done. Wow! First of all, the southeast peninsula (a full half the length of St. Kitts) is totally undeveloped – much drier than the rest of the island, it is home to lots of monkeys, cattle, aerobatic frigatebirds, a very few snorkelers and sunbathers, a couple of beach bars (once again, enterprising entrepreneurs), and a solitary flamingo. Poor thing. I saw him out there in the middle of Great Salt Pond, very alone and pink. The salt ponds are also quite red with brine shrimp – it seems like a good living for a flamingo. The monkeys were gorging themselves on the cherry-like fruit of a scrubby tree that grew all over the peninsula. They wouldn’t even stop stuffing themselves if I stopped next to them, so I was able to get quite close. It really felt like I was in a different country altogether. From where the road ends, Nevis (St. Kitts’ sister island, part of the same country) looks so close I swear I could swim there. They say it’s a mile and a half, but it looks so very much closer than that…
Underwater, saw myriad polychaetes (free-swimming segmented worms, related to earthworms – I’ve always been fond of them. Once, my invertebrate zoology professor was bitten by one. They have eversible jaws, with really enormous mandibles, that they can shoot out faster than the eye can follow. My professor was responding to a student’s cry of “a seasnake!” with his rebuttal: “It’s a worm… I’ve just been bitten by a worm.”), in as many colors as there were individuals. The prettiest fish I’ve ever seen: angelfish design, black, with iridescent neon spots ranging from aquamarine to ultraviolet. Saw a big one of these with a canary yellow tail. Saw a porcupine pufferfish the size and shape (and approximate color) of a football; saw the spiniest sea urchins ever (spines the length of knitting needles, the width of hypodermic needles), the size of basketballs. Saw three perfect squid, who watched me and saluted with their arms, changing colors all the while (also luminous, iridescent). Saw a snail clinging to a fan coral who had completely covered his shell with his orange-and-white polka-dotted mantle. Saw a black-and-white spotted hunting eel. Saw a truly giant school of big-eyed squirrelfish, hiding from the current in the lee of a large rock. Saw red crabs with yellow joints and neon chartreuse stripes. Saw one adventuring elbow crab scuttling sideways over the sandy bottom of the beach (where so many perfect shells have collected it’s like a gallery); he immediately buried himself in the sand when my shadow passed over him, with just his buggy little eyes showing. Saw too many perfect conch shells to count. Saw a black-and-yellow angelfish the size of my head; saw bannerfish, gobies, rockfish, parrotfish, a host of others. The rocks were covered with this wonderful alga – deep dark green, it looked like the largest shag carpet I’ve ever seen (the individual “fingers” were the size of my pinky). My kingdom for an underwater camera! Also saw a speedboat go by with the appellation “U Too Fast” on the side. Hee hee.
Today (Friday, August 23), I’ll be snorkeling at a really great beach with my landlords – Brian participates in the St. Kitts triathlon every year, and won last year (he does the 2-mile swim for his team), and he keeps in shape by snorkeling about every other day. Brian has also promised to take me up into the rainforest, and into the volcano crater next week (he takes expeditions as a work sideline – he’s officially retired, but very serious about 4-wheeling in his Land Rover). I can’t wait! I’d better go get my swimsuit on and pack a lunch. It’s another flawless tropical day, here.