Friday, March 12, 2010

Provo, Turks and Caicos

I originally felt guilty about planning to do my stop over here. Not anymore.

I got here around noon yesterday, exhausted. I hadn't slept in a long time, and the hassle with the hotel had made it even more tiring (Thanks Tadpole, you rock!). Still, I didn't want to disrupt my sleep schedule, and I don't like naps. So I kept pushing. I went to the beach (less waves than we saw at Tahoe last year, or even Osawa). Quiet little place.

However, just beneath the surface, was action. The ocean floor was a stark white sandy bottom that dropped pretty quickly. 20 yards off shore, the water was easily 8 feet. I rapidly got to a point where it was deeper than I could comfortably dive (I only brought my crappy diving mask to use for helicopter ops. Doesn't matter if it gets scratched up). After about 25 minutes of swimming in the calm water two bonitos swam up and kept me company. I had just decided to head back in when they appeared. I decided to stay and swim with them for a bit longer.

Five minutes later, in a flash, they disappeared, swimming for the shallows. I did a slow scan around me, but could only see faint flickers of light at the limit of my vision. I decided to follow the two fish towards shore.

On my next scan, I came face to face with a four foot barracuda. Well, it seemed like it was face to face. I'm pretty sure he was four feet, because he was longer than my arm, but not truly terrifying.

If you've never seen a barracuda, it's something to behold. A skinny, long fish. It looks fast. It moves in very sudden jolts of movement, between hovering stock still, staring at you. The staring is very unnerving. It's very clear that it has its attention on you.

Oh yeah, and the teeth. Mustn't forget the teeth. Barracudas have great teeth. Something that HR Giger used to draw. They are the stuff of nightmares. Snicker-snack

So this thing is out there, initially at around ten feet. Looking all large and sinister. I decided (on my own, no prompting needed, thank you) to head back to the hotel. I swam about thirty of the thirty five yards back to the beach, watching my escort the whole time (I'm never going to mask swim without a snorkel. I should have brought it). He was perfectly happy to swim behind me. Really close to my toes. Too unnervingly close to my toes.

Suddenly, he took off. When a barracuda leaves, it's a Coppefield Act. One second he's there, the next second, poof, he's gone. If the sun hits him right, there's a quick flicker, but that didn't happen this time. Just poof. Gone

I continued my swim towards shore, watching behind me. When I finally turned, to finish my swim in, I was maybe ten feet from shore, and the water was filled with small (6-10 inches) silvery white fish. Thousands of them. They swarmed around me, leaving a polite foot and a half between us. They had no problem with me being there.

It was incredible. I could almost jump to the shore, and I knew from experience that the majority of the people on the beach had no idea I was surrounded by these fish. At times they were so dense I could only barely make out the ocean bottom two feet below me.

I must have stayed there for ten minutes, just quietly paddling. I really wished I could float at this point, with a snorkel. I could have just laid there, face down, watching this beautiful dance in front of me. Each time the school turned, it picked the light up a different way. The turn happened in a wave like fashion, so I was surrounded by this gorgeous, undulating wave of light.

Eventually I had to get out. I had already stayed longer than I had planned, and I hadn't put on sunscreen (It's combined with my bug spray, and I'm saving that for Haiti).

I walked the 300 yards back to the hotel, more relaxed than before. A couple of quick emails (still nothing from PayPal....grrrr), and I set out to find dinner.

Money's tight, and the nearby "local" restaurant was pretty expensive ($15 for a burger?), so I settled on a quiet looking pizza place (Pizza Port, in Provo). It was really quiet. I was the only one there for about 5 minutes, until the lady of the house came out to greet me. She reassured me that it wasn't too early for dinner (it wasn't even 5 yet), and showed me the menu.

I asked her what was good, and she pointed to the top item, an Islander Meat Lovers Pizza. I'm big into trying the local food when I'm abroad, so this really dovetailed with my love of meat lover's pizza (Ask my friends, I'm a Tyrannosaur!). I went with that.

The pizza came with a baked cheese surface, on a crunchy, but moderately thick crust. It smelled heavenly (when was the last time I ate?), and I dived right into it.

This has to be one of the best pizzas I've ever had. Jerk seasoning in the sauce, pepperoni, ham and a jerk seasoned sausage. It was spicy, but not extremely spicy like jerk sometimes is. It was a unique flavor that I have to try to duplicate when I get home.

I sat almost quietly. A family was letting their little girl have a full-on tantrum for half an hour down in the courtyard. People, I sympathize, but when your child is a burden, it is your burden. Please don't inflict the screaming on all of us. My parents removed me to the car, a private corner, or back alley, and tried to reason with us, before smacking our bottoms raw. It worked, and I fully appreciate them for their administrations. Indeed, I remember diners coming to our table when we did behave, and comment on how well behaved we were. Thirty years later, and I remember.

The food was excellent. The breeze was lovely. I sat and ate as I finished my one book (uh-oh.... no more books??? This will be a long dry spell. I've never gone a week without reading a book. Holy shit! What was I doing). Alistair Reynolds is a pretty good author, but damn, it seems his stories have a pretty dark bent at times. I've only read one (Thank you, Jim-Jim. Awesome book to take with me, matched my mood perfectly), Diamond Dogs and Turquoise Days, but I'm going to have to get more.

Finished dinner and back to the room. I stayed up just long enough to talk to my father and my girlfriend. I love the internet. I passed out and just slept. No alarm clocks, no meetings to make in the morning. No critical phone calls to make.

I feel cleansed. I've left behind the stress of home, and I can concentrate on what is ahead of me. Next deployment I'm going to plan on this. The pricing structure made it easier (it was about $100 cheaper for me to come a day earlier, and get another night at the hotel).

OK, gonna go drop the laptop off at the room, and wander down to the beach. Maybe my friends will be waiting for me.


Lynda Lippin said...

The barracudas here love to swim behind or next to people because we hide them from the fish they are hunting ;). Hubby and I have often found ourselves snorkeling off of Provo with schools of fish on one side of us and a barracuda or two on the other side.

Pilates & Reiki In Paradise

Static said...

I've seen that before. Once with a little guy, and another time with a terrifying one. I turned to scan behind me, and a five foot plus was just out of arm's reach, mouth gaping.

It's a beautiful island you have here. I hope I can come back for a real vacation soon. So far everyone's been friendly and helpful.