Thursday, February 2, 2017

Anniversary Trip: Cruise Day 3 (Grand Cayman)

We were finally in our first port! We were super pumped to get off the boat and see something other than ocean. And we thought we were sufficiently prepared with a plan of action. As it turned out, we were only somewhat prepared with a plan of action. But, after wandering for a bit and trying to find the points of interest on the "walking tour" directions I'd found online, we admitted defeat and went off in search of our next destination, hoping it would be easier to find. And, thankfully, it was! 

Yelp had advised me that at Eden Rock, they owners would let you use their water entry ladders, restrooms, and shower for free if you had your own snorkel gear. As we did have our own snorkel gear (we bought it in preparation for the trip), this seemed like a good decision. What Yelp didn't tell me was that the guy working at the shop was super grumpy and seemed very annoyed by us. But, he did rent us a locker for $10 and let us use the rest of the facility, so it worked out. The interesting thing about Cayman (to me at least) was that there wasn't really much beach to speak of anywhere on the side of the island where we were. There were buildings that had a small stretch of backyard, then the ocean. In some areas, there was some very sharp rocky/coral-y formations between the yard and the water--but there wasn't any sand! And you don't walk into the ocean, starting at your feet and gradually getting deeper; the water depth started over my head and got deeper from there. Final observation: NO WAVES. So weird.

So there we were, ready to snorkel. Ryan was fine. I was hyperventilating a bit. I've only snorkeled once before and, once I got used to it, it was great. But getting used to it took a while. And it was a little unnerving to not be able to stand up or take a break from swimming (other than treading water), so it took me a while. I told Ryan to go ahead and he snorkeled out a way while I worked on remembering that I could in fact breathe just fine through a snorkel. Finally, though, I started to feel more comfortable. Ryan came back in and we decided to snorkel up the coast, into the current. The shop owner (?) had warned us that it wasn't a great day for snorkeling--it was kind of windy and a little overcast and we wouldn't see nearly as much as usual. But OMGsh. We saw so many fish and all kind of coral and ocean life just swimming in front of us! The snorkeling was so cool on a bad day that I can't imagine what it was like on a good day! There were so many different varieties of fish. My favorite was a huge silvery/almost rainbow fish that was at least two feet long. 

After our first trip, we went back to the shop and rested for a bit, munching on some cereal we'd brought with us off the ship. The current hadn't felt that strong during our swim against it, so we decided to start our second trip in the opposite direction, first swimming into the current, then swimming back to the shop going against the current. Did you catch the foreshadowing there? Because this decision was not our best decision to date. 

The first part of the swim was great. We were essentially just floating. Ryan found an inlet close to shore that we explored, and we saw even more fish than during our first swim. Eventually, I was ready to turn around. I signaled to Ryan, then popped up out of the water for a minute to get a look at how far we had to go. As it turned out, we'd drifted much further in the current than either of us thought we'd gone. But, as there was NO BEACH and no properties with ladders into the water near us, we just had to go with it. 

I had a rough time. The current was much stronger by now--I think the wind had picked up. Ryan later confirmed that the current was much stronger to swim into than it had been earlier. And my mask started leaking, which was only a minor annoyance at first--until I had to pop up out of the water to empty it. As it turns out, treading water while emptying a mask is not easy. I managed to get a mouthful of ocean while emptying my mask, and it was all downhill from there. I started breathing too fast and couldn't catch my breath. I was also swimming hard, which wasn't helping. I couldn't handle breathing through the snorkel anymore, so I came out of the water. I wasn't going anywhere like that, though, so I turned around and propelled myself through the water backward with my head out of the water so I could calm down. Ryan found a rock outcropping where we could stop for a minute. The rocks were SO sharp, but I needed a minute to chill out! Once I was calm enough to breathe like a normal person and use my snorkel again, we started swimming. I was not freaking out this time but man was it hard work to swim against the current! Eventually we came to a ladder in the water. I decided to get out right there and walk through the private property of the hotel the ladder led to. Ryan kept going, because we really weren't that far away from the snorkel shop. I crept through the yard, then walked up the street to the snorkel shop. WE WERE ALIVE. I know I sound super dramatic, but I was really worried for a while there. 

Well, after that experience I was ready to be done snorkeling for the day. Ryan wasn't a hot mess like I was, but he was pretty worn out, too. So we showered and changed and decided to explore Grand Cayman for a bit! One thing I loved about Cayman was that there were wild roosters everywhere! Flowers covered everything. It really is gorgeous. The shops had opened by that point, and we started at the $5 hat outlet (of course). The hat outlet has a glass floor that shows stairs and a cave beneath the store that were found when the builders excavated for the foundation! So that was fun. We got each kid a Grand Cayman hat with their name embroidered on it.

We did our own walking tour of sorts next. We walked along the coast--passing areas that did have some beach--just to see what we could see. We found a boardwalk that we went out on--the water was so clear we could see the fish swimming in it. We found a grocery store that we decided to wander because who doesn't want to see what a grocery store looks like in another country?! (For the record, it looks just like a grocery store in the US, but way more expensive). We walked through a really old graveyard, too. And we stopped at a gas station where we got a pick-me-up Mountain Dew.

We were getting near our departure time and we were both pretty worn out for the day, so we finally walked back to the boat. After we got cleaned up, we went to dinner, the main show, then a comedy show!

Our first view of Grand Cayman (out our AMAZING window)

Wild roosters

Our ship

The ocean behind the snorkel shop. If you look closely, you can see little crabs--they were all over!

My underwater photography did not work at all, but I thought this one was kind of fun! Ryan swimming

Wild iguana, just chillin like it's no big deal.

See how big he is?

Ryan + our boat

View from our tender boat.

This photo was taken from the top of the ladder where we started our snorkeling adventure. This direction was our poor choice.

How we felt after our brush with death.

It's hard to smile in snorkel gear.

Some of the sand crabs:

Ryan in the ocean!

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