Monday, January 2, 2017

October 2016: Part V - Barbados

After a long day at sea we arrived in Barbados. It's bizarre to look at it on the map and realize just how crazy close we were to South America. Here we rented a car and Oscar got to experience driving on the left. There were many tiny roads with people going way too fast, steep hills, and terrible terrain reminiscent of the forest roads from our nightmares. Google kept telling us to take those terrible roads, even if they had tons of grass and hadn't been in use for many years. The highways weren't great either (very narrow and often didn't have lines), but at least they were driveable. We liked when someone was in front of us so we could follow them and know we were in the correct lane. Oscar had a hard time judging that from his left side. It was also weird for me to sit where I’m used to the driver sitting. I kept feeling like I shouldn’t have my purse up there with me, like it was going to get in the way of the pedals.

Our first stop was the scenic lookout at Gun Hill. It was actually kind of a let down for all the difficult, winding roads we had to take to get there. Fortunately we found a better lookout later.

Next we searched for Welchman Hall Gully, which was incredibly difficult to find. This surprised us since it's a major tourist attraction, not far from other major tourist attractions, but the signs were very confusing, and Googlemaps told us we'd arrived before we actually had. Fortunately a Canadian couple who were vacationing on the island for a week pulled over when they saw us pulled over and offered to help us get there. We followed them the rest of the way.
The more famous tourist attraction, Harrison's Cave, was nearby, and the gully had several little caves that actually lead through to it. The Harrison's Cave tour was an excursion available on our cruise, but I can’t imagine a tour bus going on those horrible roads we had to drive to get there.
There was definitely some interesting flora and fauna. The Canadian couple told us to watch out for the stinging caterpillars, which were EVERYWHERE.
The tree Oscar's standing near is where you watch for the monkeys. I'd read really good reviews about this place specifically because of those monkeys, but we didn't see any when we got there. The Canadian couple we'd followed came at 10 specifically to see the monkeys, but monkeys feed on monkey time, whenever they all decide to come up for food. They told us it's anytime between 10 and 12. We hoped we'd see them, but we also weren't willing to wait around for an undetermined amount of time.
We walked to the far end and turned around, not realizing there was a scenic lookout at the entrance that we'd missed.

We met up with the Canadian couple on our way out. They said "I don't think these monkeys really exist" and took off.

We took a bit more time getting in the car and turning on the air conditioner than they did, and just as we were pulling out, the employee in these pics stopped us to tell us the monkeys were feeding. We got lucky, though I felt bad for the Canadian couple who'd just left. In fact, I think the only reason the employee stopped us is because that couple had mentioned to the staff that they were hoping to see monkeys. He probably assumed we were them.

At first there were just a couple monkeys in the trees, but then a whole bunch came over to the platform. There was a sign saying don't cross here when monkeys are feeding, but the guy let us come over anyway. The monkeys were cute but a bit vicious. They fought for their food. I saw at least 3 babies eating the little banana scraps after the adults had devoured the rest. It was neat to watch them fight over individual pieces though there were more than enough for everyone. It made me wonder how the babies survive with such grabby adults around.

They were definitely cute, though, and it was fun to be so close to them in their native environment. Some locals have pet monkeys like these, and they offer to let you take a picture of the monkey for a small fee. We got way better than that here!
The monkeys were within a few feet of us on these branches. I could have gone right up to them if I'd wanted to, but I didn't since they've been known to bite. A lady on the cruise I met the next day told me one of the pet monkeys had bitten her.

Beautiful Bathsheba beach! I didn't put on my suit since we had a lot of distance to cover in our short time at port, but I wanted to be in that water. I was jealous of this guy sitting in the lagoon under the rock.

Lovely, lovely!

After Google told us to take a road that was basically just grass, a local helped us to get turned around onto the main roads and on our way to Farley Hill. Even on the main roads we were directed to take little farm roads that weren't much better and had to turn around several times there. I wish there was a way to tell Google "give me the route with the best roads regardless of distance or time." Eventually we made it up to Farley Hill, which had a way better view than Gun Hill. The pictures don't do it justice though. It was gorgeous, and we had a little kitty cat visitor.
Afterwards we drove over to Little Bay. The waves were awesome! They reminded me a bit of the spouting horns in Oregon.
The terrain was crazy for our little Kia. Another couple followed behind us for awhile in an SUV cab. They seemed astonished when we told them we'd driven ourselves. Had we known just what the terrain would be like and the difficulty of driving on the left, we probably would have opted for other transportation as well.

And finally we arrived at the tip of the island to the Animal Flower Cave. Normally you can swim into the cave. I'd saved some pictures from our waterproof camera to take pictures from inside, but then we found out we wouldn't be able to go in. The surf was too strong that it would have been hazardous for swimmers.

The actual cave is just below here. It was still a beautiful area to get pictures and watch the waves, but we had to take terrible roads to get there. There were several people nearby offering to sell us things, but we were very limited on time and had to turn them down.

They had a restaurant overlooking the ocean there, and we were hungry, but it was expensive, would have taken up time we didn't have, and we knew we'd get delicious food for free when we got back to the ship. We decided to just buy some bottled water and some cassava and plantain chips to tide us over. I really liked the cassava!

Fortunately the roads getting back to port were much better than we'd experienced on the other side of the island, so we ended up with more time than we were expecting. We pulled over at Sandy Lane beach and I took off my shoes to stand in the water. It felt so nice!

We made a few wrong turns on the way back and drove around in circles trying to get to the gas station, so we barely made it back to the ship on time. We were supposed to be on board by 4:30 and we were running to the ship at 4:25. Fortunately the rental company (Drive-A-Matic) let us just drop the car off and go without charging us for any damages. We were a bit concerned since we definitely had a few overly sharp turns that might have caused a few scrapes.

And that evening we enjoyed the entertainment followed by our daily towel animal. I later found out our waiter was from Barbados. We should have asked him for driving advice! 

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