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January 22, 2003
Exploring Anegada

As always, we went ashore with no real plans. Is this the way most cruisers do this? Or do they write agendas, bring their highlighted cruising guide, and check off items on a list? We just head in looking to see what we stumble into.

We docked the dinghy at Neptune's Treasure, directly off our beam to port, and headed off to find a road. What we found wasn't much more than a long, sandy dirt drive. Really long. The good news was the highest point of the island is only 28' feet high, so how hard could this walk be, right? I wore flip-flops today (little piggy tightly bound in waterproof tape), and we walked along in the sharply biting sun, and passed houses here and there, abandoned cars, and the occasional souvenir shop. Of course, I took pictures and Curt laughed at me. "But," I said, "someday you'll be talking about this road I dragged you down and you'll say, 'remember?' and you'll be glad I took the pictures."

"I'll be glad you took the pictures if something happens. Like a giant snake jumps out at us or we're attacked by an iguana or something."

"Oh you mean, like if a donkey busts through the bushes and charges out to smell your penis?" (Backtrack, see photo: Saba where this actually happened.)

We chuckled awhile and settled into a quiet walk along the arid landscape. And then we saw a bull lying in the shade of a tree. It jumped to its feet and stared intently at us while flaring its nostrils. We stopped in our tracks.

"Would being charged by a bull in the middle of nowhere without even a tree to run to make the pictures of the road worthwhile? Just keep walking- but don't look at it." I couldn't remember if you're supposed to stand still for dogs or bulls- so I was improvising.

"What do we do if it charges us?" He asks. (like I'm the resident expert on bulls because I used to work for a cowboy boot company) "Damn- I'm wearing a red shirt!"

"They're color blind for God's sake. Just ignore him and walk slow."

"Will you at least hold my hand?"

I considered stopping to take a picture of the bull, but then thought better of it. Great photo opp, but not worth the "X" factor. The bull watched us walk by with his ears tuned-in to our footsteps.

We kept walking and walking. We passed a salt pond and saw a flock of flamingos. Not the plastic pink ones in people's front yards in mobile home parks- these were the real deal (sorry- no picture… too small on the horizon to be worthwhile).

The dirt road met a paved, cement one. I noted a 30MPH road sign and a big pile of cow dung so we'd know where to turn on the way back. And then, wouldn't you know- a car pulled over and asked us if we were headed toward the Settlement and wanted a ride? My how our attitudes have changed. We accepted. You see, once we realized we weren't braving the streets of New York City… dodging muggers and rapists, we've become much more open to this kind of adventure.

The driver (…of course being in the Caribbean, he's a black dude), asked us where we were from in an accent I couldn't quite place. "San Francisco. How 'bout you?"

"New York City," he said with a now distinctive New York accent. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, but resisted the urge to look back at Curt.

Turns out Lionel has family on the island. Wanted to get out of the rat race of New York where he had lived with the rest of his family. So he came down here to start a landscaping business. I looked out the window at the landscape. It looked like Arizona desert to me. What's there to landscape? I thought it, but didn't say it.

Anyway, Lionel was super great. Really nice. He told us the island's reputed to have about 240 people on it, but he's never met anything close to that in the four years he's been here. I got the feeling he wanted to show us around the town, but there wasn't really anything to show. We got to the main town (the Settlement) and he said, "Well, this is it. There's a store, and another little store. And… well- that's kind of it. Where do you guys want me to drop you?"

"Is there a spot to get a cold drink?"

"Either little store's got cold stuff."

"This is fine. Thanks dude." Curt said.

Lionel shook our hands and said "No worries man. My pleasure."

We opted for the nearer store: pink with bright yellow shutters. Kids hanging around eating popsicles in what must be their school uniforms. We walked in to a one room shop that was packed with a no more than a handful of everything. One wall was filled with what looked to be home taped VHS videos. A small glass door fridge stood in the corner with cold drinks inside. Seemed like your typical Caribbean store to me. We got some drinks and headed to the counter. A big girl, maybe thirteen or so, rang us up while other kids heckled her and heckled each other. They stared at us curiously out of the corners' of their eyes. We went outside and sat in the shade of an umbrella.

We had no more than chugged our first swallow of Coke when a young girl of, "27" (but she looked like she was about 5 to us) marched directly up and said, "You look pretty." I thanked her and said she looked pretty too. That we have the same curly hair, but hers was better behaved than mine. Without boring you with the details, within five minutes Kia had hopped in my lap to show me up close and personal how she can eat a chicken bone. "SEE?!" As she opened her mouth to disclose the crunched up marrow. "You've gotta have really strong teeth to eat that part."

"I can see that."

We got to talking with some of the young girls (or I did anyway) and I asked about their school. The bigger girl that sold us the sodas said there are 43 kids between elementary and high school ages. Of those, only 13 are boys and half of them she's related to. She said most of the girls have to "go with" boys on other islands. I wondered how they "go" anywhere together when separated by so much water.

As you can imagine, Kia can't stand to be out of the action for long and so she works her way back in to our little chat. Turns out she lives in the pink house behind Neptune's Treasure. Her aunt owns Pam's Kitchen- who came by the boat last night and sold us muffins we'd had for breakfast this morning. In the end, we had to decline Kia's pleading to stay and have one more Coke while she was on a lunch break from school. We needed to start heading back along the road to where we were anchored. All along the way, kids waved and said, "Good afternoon," as they raced by on their bikes. One boy asked if we were on vacation. Other passersby also greeted us with, "Good afternoon" and a smile.

We walked back along the hot road and were glad we weren't part of the packs of tourists that sat in the canopied trucks that zipped by us on the road. They were wearing matching t-shirts and holding beach balls and floating noodle toys- must have gone to the beach. On the way back, we felt more like travelers than tourists. Perhaps we hadn't accomplished much today, but we felt much more like we got a slice of life in Anegada than if we had gone careening on through in the back of a taxi. Which is not to say that half way back, when one of the canopied trucks stopped to offer us a lift, we didn't accept. He said he'd seen us when we had set off back in town. We looked hot and he wanted to show us a little island hospitality.

He brought us back to the other end of the island near where we were anchored: to the Anegada Reef Hotel ( where we sat at the bar in the shade to have a beer and see what else might happen. Curt watched a group of drunk bareboaters- the male half of the boat- downing 'em like no tomorrow. When the female half showed up at the dock, they begged off that it was time to go. I thought they must be kidding, but they weren't. When the women showed up, they made themselves scarce. Curt and I exchanged a look and said we'd never be like that.

And clearly we wouldn't be, since when we looked at the menu where they'd made dinner reservations for lobster, we saw the forty dollar price tag. In more ways then one, we weren't in Kansas anymore.

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