Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Last full day in Barbados – A Long Hike to Holtown and a Scary Bus Ride Back to Angler

I awoke early on my last day in Barbados to temperatures well over 30 degrees. So much for making it to Holtown before it got too hot. With a thick layer of sunscreen, my swimsuit under my clothes and a bottle of water in hand, I set out for the 4.5 kilometer hike to the town center and area of Payne’s Bay that was home to the majority of the shops and restaurants.

I walked along the road until I reached the little beach by the fish market and stopped to take a rest and dip my feet in the water to cool off. I walked a little more along the beach towards Holtown until I reached an area that was impassable because of the high tide. There was a path with a security guard on duty near a pretty swanky-looking condo or resort and I wasn’t sure if it was a public path or not. I didn’t feel like backtracking all the way back to the fish market so I just walked right on past the security guard, avoiding eye-contact as I went, and exited back onto the main road. I don’t even think he noticed me.
As I walked through the area of Sandy Lane, I passed some men who were doing some landscaping near the road. As I usually do when I pass anyone within earshot, I said “Hello, fine day isn’t it”, smiled and kept walking…with one of the young men in pursuit. I should just stick to not making eye contact at all when passing by groups of men working outdoors. For some strange reason they always seem to think that every woman who walks by and says “hello” is automatically in love with them! “So lady, where are you from?” He asked. “Canada” I said as I kept walking, secretly hoping he would take the hint and turn back. Normally, I will stop and talk to people if they are friendly but I was immediately getting bad vibes from this guy. That little voice in my head was saying “just keep walking”. “That’s what I thought. I like Canada. You have a husband who looks after you in Canada or is he back at the hotel waiting for you?” Ah yes, that sneaky inquiry about my absent husband that always seems to come up when I’m walking alone and a man takes any kind of interest in me. “No husband. I look after myself” I said assertively enough to catch him off guard. “Oh? I look after myself too. You can stay here with me and we’ll look after one another. Or we can go back to Canada whichever you prefer”. “Yeah sure whatever…anyway gotta run to catch a bus up the road…nice talking to you” was what I said as I picked up the pace to an almost run but what I was thinking was “in your dreams”. Gotta love how he so quickly threw in that “whichever you prefer” as if I already decided that I would drop everything, move to Barbados and marry a total, completely (and creepy) stranger! He followed me for a bit and as I was almost out of earshot, he yelled “I’ll see you on your way back. I’ll be here waiting” and with that I made a mental note to take another way back to my apartment.

I walked for what seemed like forever. I was exhausted and dehydrated having drank all my water before I even reached Holtown. Yeah, I’d be real good in a desert. Can’t even ration a bottle of water over 4.5 kilometers. By the time I did make it to Holtown, I was ready to pass out. Fortunately, I could see a mall a few blocks away. Malls always have water and air conditioning.

The cool air inside the mall combined with Christmas music and holiday decorations made me forget I was in the hot Caribbean for a few minutes. I pretended to be interested in the shops so it wouldn’t look like I was just loitering (which I was) and when I had cooled off enough, I wandered back outside to explore the little town of Holtown.

I walked as far as I could before the heat overcame me again. I noticed a driveway leading to the water through what looked like a public park. There were no fences and no “no trespassing” signs so I took a chance, hoping to find a store or a vendor selling some water. I was right, I did happen upon a park and there was a little canteen where I bought a bottle of water that I drank while relaxing on a bench under some trees in a shaded area. When I felt better again, I walked towards the water and found a little boardwalk lining a beautiful beach overlooking a bay filled with sailboats. I could have sat there all day on that beautiful boardwalk, listening to the seabirds milling about and the waves rolling ashore but I didn’t want to be stuck making my way back to Angler after dark. I walked back to the little mock Chattel House Village on the main road and browsed some of the little shops (which were WAY out of my budget) and found a little outdoor restaurant where I enjoyed a plate of cheesy fries and bought another bottle of water for the road.
I’d kept some change aside in case I needed a bus but I was confident that I would be able to walk back to Angler. I walked about half a kilometer before near passing out at a bus stop. The heat was too much. The only problem with this bus stop was there were no postings to let me know what times the bus came by. I took a chance and laid down on the bench to wait. About ten minutes later, a bus approached. I was told that the blue government-run buses were the best ones to take in Barbados but this was one of the yellow privately-owned ones that some people told me I was best to avoid. I was going to just let it pass but it stopped and the driver waved for me to get on. I guess he noticed the shape I was in and didn’t want to just leave me there to die in the heat! Finding heat-exhausted, half-passed-out tourists on benches is probably not very good for tourism. I walked up the what I thought was the driver’s window to ask if he stopped in Derrick’s near my apartment and realized that the person who had waved me onto the bus was not the driver at all. Of course, he just looked at me like I had ten heads and repeated my question to the actual driver on the other side (I, once again, forgot that cars drive on the left in Barbados) who confirmed that he did stop there.
The bus was very crowded. Every seat was taken. Some seats were taken twice as there were people seated on other people’s laps. Many other people were standing in the aisles. Reggae music was playing rather loudly and the bus driver seemed to be more into the music than he was with watching the road. I happened to look in his direction at one point and upon closer inspection, noticed a rum bottle within arm’s reach of the driver. Welcome to the Caribbean! It was pretty clear to me by that these private buses that run on a set of laws different from everyone else. I held on to an aisle post for dear life as we drove along at top speed towards Derricks.

The last night of any vacation is almost as sad as the next day when I get on the plane to leave for good. On this night, there were many lasts. The last time sitting on my step with a refreshing beer. The last time watching a colorful sunset turn to blackness over the palm trees behind my apartment. The last time falling asleep to the sound of thousands of cicadas. I got my packing out of the way as early as possible and spent the rest of the evening relaxing. I grabbed that last Banks beer from the fridge and relaxed on the step for a few hours…taking in those beautiful, relaxing, tropical sounds for the last time before I headed home to face a cold, harsh Canadian winter.

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