Macabuca isn’t just my favorite restaurant, sunset spot and ice-cream sandwich place – it is also my favorite place to dive.
The fun thing about diving there (other than the underwater part) is that you have to walk through the bar/restaurant area to get to the dive ladder.
We suited up and got going. This is a picture of Mike coming down the ladder after I was already in the water. He’s hard to see because I had the red filter over the lens already. If we’d dived later in the day there would be restaurant guests sitting along the railing and enjoying the spectacle of divers coming and going on the ladder.
Just a short swim off the ladder is a mini-wall where we drop from about 20 feet under to 50-60 feet. As we were dropping over the edge, we saw a huge green eel swimming below us at the bottom of the wall. He scurried into a coral formation to hide, but we could still see his head. We both tried very hard to get a picture (me) and video (Mike) of him -but neither turned out good. We needed a flash on the cameras to light him up. I played with a bit of unskilled photo editing and was able to prove there was an eel in my picture!
In general, fish seem to act like they’re in the Witness Protection Program when I try to get a picture. As we swim along, they are doing their fish thing and I think, “Oh that’s a good picture”. As soon as the camera gets lined up, they turn sideways or slip into a hidey-hole and suddenly I’m taking a picture of the background coral. I swam all the way around a coral bump trying to get a good picture of two angel fish who were swimming along and this is the best one I got:
However, this underwater creature is not the least bit shy!
For diving, the tanks are filled with 3,000 psi of air. They prefer that you return them with no less than 500 psi left. We usually dive for about 40 minutes and still return with about 1,000 psi left. On this dive, it wasn’t until I was down to 1,000 psi that we turned around to work our way back to the ladder. As I was swimming along on the way back, I was still enjoying everything, but I was also feeling just a teeny bit sorry for myself because other than the eel, we hadn’t really seen anything “cool” on any of our dives so far. Every dive is cool – it’s just that we hope to see the celebrity creatures, stingrays, lobster, tarpon…etc. Just as I finished that thought, I turned my head and what to my wandering eye appeared? YAY! A turtle!
Well, that made my day! When I told Mike that I’d really enjoyed the dive, he said, “I know! You weren’t bugging me to go in as early as you usually do!”
Here is a short video montage of the dive from Mike’s camera:
It is tradition to have lunch at Macabuca after a dive. Of course any trip to Macabuca includes an ice-cream sandwich. The flavors still weren’t to my liking…and a cheerful complaint was lodged. The bartender provided insider information that as soon as they sold the remaining 12 Espresso sandwiches, they were going to break out the mint chocolate chip ones. Now that’s speaking my language!
I told Mike we should just buy all 12 and give them away to get rid of them! We settled for another Oreo sandwich. We will be making one more visit there for our last sunset -so fingers crossed for mint chocolate chip!
One last bit of Cayman history:
The Silver Thatch Palm is the national tree of the Cayman Islands. Its fronds have been used for shoes, hats, roofs, baskets and, historically, rope making. I didn’t have to go far to get a picture of one -there are several on the property.
Making rope was an activity that often involved the entire family. Around the time of the full moon every month, people would go harvest only the tops (the new growth of a frond) from the palms, bundle them and transport them home.
I was taking these pictures around the time of the full moon and this tree had a new frond growing -which is the part I think that the Caymanians used for rope-making.
Once they got their bundles home, they would let the fronds dry for seven to ten days. When the frond was dry enough, they would begin to split the furled leaves into strings, which took another day or so of labor. Once they’d prepared the materials, they began twisting the rope using hand tools that were made for that purpose. After twisting, the rope needed to be cleaned and dressed. The standard length was 25 fathoms, which is 150 feet. Sometimes a special order would require 50 fathoms -which is equivalent to the length of a football field! The rope made from the palm lasted three to four times longer than other natural fiber ropes exposed to saltwater.
The rope was mostly sold on a barter system. The rope maker would take the rope to the general store where it was traded for food and goods. The store owner sold it onward. A 25 fathom rope was worth about 9 shillings. I’m not able to figure out how much that might be in todays money. However, I read an article that said if you priced the process of rope making in today’s money, paying about $10.00/hour for labor and adding the cost of materials -a 25 fathom rope today would be worth about $730.
One source I found said that between the years of 1901 and 1906, two thousand miles of rope was exported. That went up to 8,000 miles of rope between the years of 1941 and 1945. Another source said that at one point Caymanians were producing one million+ fathoms each year. A million fathoms would be just a bit more than 1,100 miles. Any way you twist it – that was a lot of rope. Cayman’s rope making industry became obsolete in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s when synthetic ropes replaced handmade ones.
We’d hoped to get one more dive in before we packed up the dive gear (it needs to be completely dry before storing it) -but the weather on our last possible day was overcast with scattered rain showers. Quite often the entire island isn’t having the same weather, so sometimes if it’s raining by us, it might be sunny somewhere else. Plan B was going over to Starfish Point to see if the weather was better there. It was.
Starfish point is an area located in the North Sound that is a large, shallow, sandy bottomed area where the conditions are good for the Red Cushion Sea Star to hang out. As the crow flies it isn’t far from us at all -but we’re not crows…we have to take the long way around…so it takes about 45 minutes to get there. At least for now, it is still a somewhat isolated beach -even though you find it by driving through a very heavily developed residential area.
It probably takes longer to get there than the time anyone needs to actually spend there -but it is fun to see so many starfish just doing their own thing. They are anywhere from at the waterline to waist deep. You can see them without even getting your feet wet, but we waded -watching where we stepped very carefully- and saw lots of them.
There are a series of barriers along the point to help with erosion. These two conch shells were sitting on one of them.
After wishing on a star…fish or 30, we headed home with a stop for lunch at a place called Over The Edge.
We were just inside the building, next to a large opening to let the breeze in and this hungry fellow dropped by to see if we’d dropped anything good to eat. Our table had already been cleared, much to his disappointment.
The last few days on the island are mainly dealing with departure prep. We keep a lot of things for personal use at the condo and it takes a couple of days to round up everything and stuff it back in the tubs and then stuff the tubs in the closet. Some things are used almost right to the point where we’re walking out the door to leave, so packing up takes a bit of choreography. Then there’s laundry, packing our luggage and last minute errands.
Another thing that has to be done is planning out our food supply so that eating ourselves out of house and home is a good thing! We did pretty good this time, but it never works out perfectly.
Even so – all work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, but it makes island life boring! So I told Mike that I had two last goals I wanted to achieve before the morning of our departure.
The first was to walk across the street to Ristorante Pappagallo for a Blueberry/Thyme martini. Ristorante Pappagallo is an Italian restaurant where almost everyone working there is actually from Italy. If you are ever on Grand Cayman, I would highly recommend it. What stands out to me the most is the welcoming atmosphere there where every employee makes you feel as if you are the most important person to have walked through the door that day. They really try to make being there an experience -and they’re good at it.
We were the only people to sit at the bar when we went there. It was a quiet night. The bar only seats six people. Our bartender’s name was Tito and he is from Sardinia. From his description of his home, you will very likely see me blogging about Sardinia someday when the world can travel again. We ordered our drinks and I told Mike to spy on Tito and try to see what the ingredients are. Mike got distracted and missed a step…so I had to order a second one just to give him another chance to see how it was made. I’m a good wife like that! Epic fail -we still don’t know how to make one.
Only a few moments after our drinks were served, a waiter came by with an “amuse-bouche” for us – two pieces of bruschetta. Amuse-bouche means “a small complementary appetizer”.
We lingered. We chatted with Tito. As we were finishing up our drinks, Tito asked us if we’d like an after-drink, drink? From past experience, I know that the bartenders at Ristorante Pappagallo like to make Limoncello. Limoncello is the second most popular drink in Italy after Campari (which I’ve never had). It is served chilled in a small glass as an after dinner drink (or after drink, drink as the case may be) to assist digestion, which I think is something that is more common in Europe than the USA.
At Ristorante Pappagallo, the Limoncello is on the house. Tito said we could have Limoncello or perhaps an Orangecello. I’d never had Orangecello, so we picked that. I liked it very much. As the Orangecello was served, another small plate arrived in front of us.
This is what I mean by having an “experience” when you simply thought you were just going to grab a drink. It was really a enjoyable evening.
The second thing I wanted to do is somewhat predictable. I wanted to see our last sunset at Macabuca and have our last ice-cream sandwich of the trip (as long as it wasn’t Espresso). We had a couple of errands to do in a different direction, so we grabbed a bite to eat elsewhere -but dessert and sunset at Macabuca were non-negotiable.
As we entered the restaurant area, I anxiously checked the daily specials board and saw… WHAT? OH NO! Espresso! STILL Espresso. I decided that Espresso is actually the Italian word for “sadness”. Because it was certainly making me sad! Extremely sad. The waiter, who’d received my complaint and discussed the whole Espresso problem with me on our previous visit, took one look at my “espresso face” and said, “I know! What the heck?” He spoke to a manager and explained the trauma I’ve been going through on this trip waiting for something other than Espresso to be available. She was kind enough to go find out what the situation was behind the scenes with the pastry chef. I have to say that she and the waiter were really being sympathetic to my plight and trying to help!
Before long, this arrived:
Mint-chocolate chip!! HEAVEN! It was the perfect send off. The waiter suggested that before our next visit, I need to send a message to Macabuca through social media that I’m on my way and there better not be Espresso as the daily special flavor when I get to the island! He made me laugh.
While sitting at the bar to have ice cream, we saw some divers getting ready to go down the ladder for a night dive:
To be cliche’, the sun was setting on our time in Cayman and it did so brilliantly for our last night. We saw a teeny green flash (which is what pretty much everyone is looking for in the tropics when watching a sunset). It doesn’t happen all the time.
I was pushing the zoom on the iPhone a bit -but I still like this one
It was a perfect way to end our time in Grand Cayman. The next day we were all business – getting to the airport first thing, flying all day…and dragging our luggage back through the door at home. When I woke up in the morning, our trip already seemed like a half-remembered dream that fades away when you open your eyes and get out of bed. It is amazing how fast seven weeks can fly by -even when two of them are in quarantine.
My heartfelt wish is that all of us will soon be free to travel where ever our dreams take us.