Trip Report: Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
“This place is GREEN man!” said my travel companion, Tadd.
I thought he was joking as I looked at cracked mud caked streets blowing up clouds of smoke as vehicles sped around them. The whiteness of the dust was off putting. This wasn’t green. Befuddled, I looked at him.
He met my side-eye and chuckled. “Yea, this is green.”
I took a sip of the beer he greeted me with at the airport and looked out the window. Shrubs were plentiful, but I saw no trees and patches of grass trying to grow.
September is off- season on the Providenciales (“Provo” to locals). During the off -season, many business, shops and restaurants are closed until hurricane season passes in late November. The island felt slow. There wasn’t much traffic except for a hundred cars or so on the two -lane highway where jitneys drive like maniacs. Their driving shenanigans were akin dollar van drivers in New York who swerve to pick up and let off customers, only in Provo, it’s an off the highway.
The water took my breath away. I don’t event think Crayola has color definitions for the various blues of the ocean. I was hypnotized by the neon hues, turquoise tints and deep blue gentle waves. Turks & Caicos has the third largest coral reef in the world. It is visible as airplanes make their decent.
Turks & Caicos has a historically strong salt mining background. Hardly any vegetables grow its arid soil. As a result, goods and food are imported. This drives the cost up for products. There’s hardly anything under USD $5.00 in the supermarkets. I had forgotten my shower sponge and paid $7 for a replacement.
The country is a leading international investment center. Off shore investors are lured by the islands’ “zero tax” jurisdiction. There are no taxes on income, capitol gains, corporate profits and estates. Many of the homes are sprawling mansions or villas by the waterfront equipped with helipads and a yacht or two bobbing in private waterways.
Honestly, I didn’t feel any outside of fish fries, johncanoo dances and ubiquitous conch shells decorations. I felt and saw the heavy influences of Jamaica with jerk something on every menu. Reggae music blasted from car stereos and ripped Bob Marley T-shirts seemed to be the preferred attire.
I went the Western Union downtown to send money to my sister and everyone on the line was sending money off to other islands like Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica. In fact, the fee to send money was much less than what I paid in New York. Folks here work and send money home because they are earning US dollars that although it might be a stretch for them, to make a living here and live like the folks they wait on, but it goes so much farther back in their homeland.
“Whappen Smiley?” the bartender with a heavy Jamaican accent greeted me. I later learnt his name, Jerome. He was built like a barrel with skinny legs sticking out at he bottom. Jerome had a booming voice that demanded attention and he used it often.
“Ah me yaa call ‘Smiley’?” I responded hand on my chest.
“You from Jamaica? Which part?” His eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Oh yea? Me too. Which part of St. Andrew?”
“I’m from Red Hills”
“Ya. Good pan chicken.” I affirmed as my mind harkened fleetingly to the small mountain town where iron jerk chicken pans line the main road on both sides. Motorists block traffic as they stop to order flame kissed chicken and pork that gets passed to them wrapped on foil paper. The foil does nothing to stop the heat from penetrating and burning fingers. Many wince as they reach through the windows and exchange money for silver wrapped meat.
Jerome nodded proudly as he scooped up a glass full of ice.
I kept coming back for the fish tacos here. The atmosphere is lively with DJ sets and a live band on Fridays. Watching the sunset from a perch on the top floor is truly a delight. The cocktails are generous and strong.
The Old Beach House owned and operated by helpful and delightful husband and wife team, Emma and Roger Halliday, is a spacious one-bedroom apartment. Located in Thompson Cove, the apartment is a short twenty-minute drive from the airport. The out door garden had a dining area and lounge chairs to spend lazy days. I liked having all the amenities of home especially in the fully equipped kitchen. The washing machine was a godsend at the end of my week’s stay. I washed my clothes then pinned them on the line like a true island baby.
Off the Beaten Path
Just as I was thinking that every road led to a major hotel development, Blue Hills stepped into my life. My friend I like to take photographs of the quaint and quirky. We drove to Blue Hills, just south of the airport in the downtown area. I liked the old island feel of tattered roofs and rusty chairs strewn along the roadsides juxtaposed with bright and colorful paint jobs. Many of Provo’s charms are no longer a secret. But this rustic stretch of street was right up my alley. Curious school children enquired why we were taking of pictures of “old things”. They did not see the beauty of their surrounding. After photographing, Mr. Groupers was a welcome reprieve from the heat. The menu boasted island delicacies like cracked conch and coconut crusted grouper. I ordered the jerk shrimp salad. The jerk’s sweetness was balanced well with the peppery undertones.
Go to Malcolm Beach
Pack a cooler, umbrella and some snacks for an uninterrupted day at this soft sand pristine beach.
If the island gets a big downpour, the mosquitoes are plentiful. Bring your own repellent, as the selection on ones in the stores is limited and expensive (shocker) costing USD $10-$12
Get your drink on!
For the widest selection of wines and top shelf liquor on Provo, go to the Wine Cellar.
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