Its like riding a bike.

Love these critters.

10th March 2023

Georgetown, Grand Cayman – Georgetown, Grand Cayman via Bonnies Arch & Oro Verde, Grand Cayman

Some skills are like riding a bike. Arriving in Grand Cayman we have relearnt long lost skills and they really have felt like riding a bike, as some of those skills were’; riding bikes!

Our bikes had sat unused and unloved for months on Ruffian, but with the unmade roads, crazy drivers and rainforests of Panama behind us, they were, unfolded, re-loved and readied for a day of chores.

Relearning the skill of cycling Grand Cayman felt like a sunnier version of Florida. Roads were as smooth as velvet and were driven on by cars and trucks so big they had their own gravitational fields. Cycling along on our quintessentially little English bikes we felt like a misnomer. The drivers clearly had no training in how to treat Brits on bikes and so they treated us like pedestrians. They dared not overtake, they let us freely wander over roundabouts, waved us through red lights and give way signs applied to everyone but us.

Feeling like there as a forcefield around us, we upped the safety quotient by refilling our gas bottles. Nothing says safety first more than a 6kg bottle of propane strapped to the back of a wobbly bike piloted by ‘safety first’ Iain. After some quizzical looks at the huge gas plant the bottles were overfilled and strapped back onto the Brompton. Iain was now piloting a Brompton with a bomb!

The new skill of cycling took us all around the island but the most important stop was Scotts Marine. While we’d been sailing north, Carla at Scott’s, had been busy scouring the Americas for a water‑maker pump, finding the cheapest shipper and organising tax free importation. Not only had we to pay for the pump but also meet this amazing person who gone above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen of any marine supplier.

Fresh stores were also running low and so the Brompton’s carried us to the supermarket and this is where we realised just how different Grand Cayman is to anywhere else, we’ve been. In the Caymans there is no income tax so the government raises all revenue by taxing ‘things’, add this to the cost of importation and suddenly the simplest of fresh produce was out of our budget. We nearly fainted at $12/lb for tomatoes, $10/lb for apples and potatoes at $7/lb. It looked like vitamin deficiency and scurvy was on the horizon.

Thankfully hidden in the corner away from all this perfect imported produce that was aimed at the rich bankers and richer tourists we found locally produced ‘seconds’.* Here we picked up tomatoes with blemishes that looked like faces and potatoes that ‘Blackadder’ would think looked like a ‘thingy’! These would keep scurvy at bay and some of the cash in our wallets.

The one thing the government doesn’t tax is access to diving and we were about to ‘ride a bike’ where diving is concerned. We’d not entered the other worldly underwater world since Bonaire and we had to relearn all those good habits we’d created diving all those months ago.

Kitting up all our diving knowledge flowed back to us. Our habits, safety checks and hand signals felt like second nature and in no time we were happily relaxing on the seabed. As a first dive we had picked a site were getting lost would be a challenge as ‘signposts’ were scattered all over the seabed, reefs that teemed with fish hemmed us in and Ruffian sat in sight high above us.

Exploring the ‘signposts’, diving really was like riding a bike and a bike had been strategically placed. Always wanting to take the opportunity for ride we mounted the steed and found that the underwater world and lack of maintenance regime hadn’t been kind to it. The air in the tyres had been replaced by water, the lubricant on the chain replaced by coral and we found no way to clip our flippers into the pedals.   

Right on queue with our air at expected levels we found our way back to Ruffian, signalled to surface and stopped for our safety stops. Breaking the surface, we were elated that everything we’d learnt, we’d not forgotten and we had once again descended to a world where man doesn’t belong and returned safe and sound.

Grand Cayman has allowed us to relearn the skills of cycling and diving and in Grand Cayman there is lots of cycling and diving to be done. Most of what Grand Cayman offers is out of (financial) bounds to us, but with these 2 free activities we could be happy here for weeks.

* Locally produced fruit and veg also enabled us to fill up on self-righteousness as our food miles were low, our community support high and flavour maxed out.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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