Saturday, January 10, 2015

Survived my First Full Day in Barbados (Barely) - A Gas Leak Scare, a Pounding by the Raging Surf, A Dangerous Trek to the Store and a Close Call with the Sun

Before I left home, I checked the long range forecast for Barbados and was disappointed to see that the weather was calling for thunderstorms and rain all week. I got out of bed and opened the curtains expecting to see storm clouds but was greeted with clear, blue skies.

Another thing I noticed upon awakening that morning? My hair. Yes that’s right. I have very healthy, longish hair but the hard water at home makes it look dry and brittle and unmanageable. The only time I can wear second-day hair at home is if I have no plans to go anywhere. Otherwise, it has to be washed everyday to make it look somewhat presentable. On this morning, my hair was soft, wavy and looked like it had just been washed and styled despite the long sleep I had. I was told that the water in Barbados was very safe to drink right from the tap because of the limestone that was abundant on the island that acts as a filter to clean the drinking water. Apparently, this makes the water good for washing hair too! I was pleased at not having to shower again since I was heading to the beach anyway and preferred to shower after taking a dip in the ocean. I was also pleased to know that I would not be having a repeat of the water-borne illness I acquired when I was in Mexico.

I walked outside into the hot, morning sun to take my seat at a table at the Garden Bar and Restaurant where Chandra was already preparing breakfast. As I sat there waiting and catching up on world news flashing across the TV screen that hung over the bar, the dogs, who had been quietly resting, suddenly became very excited and ran in the direction of the trees. It didn’t take long to figure out what got them going – the mischievous little green monkeys were closing in on the grounds. I spotted several of them swinging from tree to tree and inching closer and closer in preparation for their ambush. I watched this comical display for a few minutes when I noticed one of the monkeys picked a round fruit from a tree and held it above his head as if threatening to throw it at poor Jake who backed up, whimpering with his tail between his legs! This is something some transpires almost every morning at Angler and it usually ends with the monkeys successfully winning over the territory. These little monkeys look cute and cuddly but trust me, they are pure evil!
Little green monkey
After yet another delicious breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, toast and scrambled eggs mixed with various spices, I returned to my room and was just grabbing my beachwear and towel when there was a knock at my door. When I opened the door, a gentleman who I hadn’t seen before and claiming to be from maintenance quietly asked “Miss, do you smell gas” except I didn’t understand what he said the first time because he had a heavy Bajan accent. He repeated his question again a little louder and slower “Do. You. Smell. Gas?” Confused at his question, I turned around in every direction, smelling the air. “Um no, I don’t think so. Should I be smelling gas?” I was alarmed by his response “oh you didn’t know. There is a gas leak in this room” is what I thought I heard but, thankfully heard wrong. He just wanted to check my stove to make sure it wasn’t leaking as was protocol when a new guest arrived. Way to play on my fears of gas-operated appliances. For the rest of the day, whenever I was in the room, I frequently smelled the air to make sure there was no gas smell and carefully listened for any hissing sounds that could indicate some kind of leak.

After the little gas leak scare, I grabbed my beach towel and headed towards the entrance to my very own section of private beach. Of course, it wasn’t really private because there are no private beaches in Barbados. Anyone can access any beach at any time whether you are a tourist or a local.

The beach was only a 2-minute walk away. I was provided with a key to unlock the gate that led to my “private” section of beach. I wasn’t sure how it could be considered private when anyone could walk onto the beach from any of the public accesses along the road. I unlocked the gate, walked down the long corridor and down some stairs to the beach and realized how this is possible. While anyone could walk right onto the beach, there are some obstacles to doing so, especially if the tide is high. On this day, the tide was high but I attempted to get access the other parts of the beach in both directions and failed miserably. I could only get so far in each direction before the pounding surf, sharp coral, slippery rocks and deepening water made it too difficult. On that afternoon, I had that entire section of beach to myself and with the gate locked behind me, no one could get to it that way either. After I spent a good hour being battered by pounding surf and nearly loosing my shoes to a giant wave, I decided to leave the beach-exploring for another time and surrendered to a quiet spot on my little beach, laid out my towel and enjoyed the warm, breeze coming off the sea. I made sure not to lie under a coconut tree. I made that mistake in Cuba and was near killed when one fell from a tree and smashed only a mere few feet from me. I once read that the thing that kills the most tourists in the Caribbean is falling coconuts. I believe it. Those things are lethal!
My own little stretch of Beach at Payne's Bay, Barbados

That little piece of beach was just like those beaches on deserted islands you see in movies where airplane-crash and shipwreck survivors end up. There was a town behind me and many people wandering around on the other section of the beach but all I could hear was the sounds of the waves crashing onshore and all I could see was that blue-green water and some seabirds milling about.

A few hours later, when the sea wasn’t as choppy, I was able to safely climb over some rocks to another section of beach. I was able to see the rest of the area and hear the sounds of a typical day in paradise. The sounds of a steel band and loud cheers at what must have been a beach wedding and the smell from a barbecue at one of the beach homes that lined the shore filled the air.

By mid-afternoon, I felt lightheaded and thirsty so I made my way back to the main street, picked a direction at random and set out to find a convenience store that sold bottled water. Only a few minutes into my trek, an Esso Station appeared in the distance. This little walk was my first real taste of what it is like to be a pedestrian in Barbados and it’s quite scary. Not only are there no sidewalks and cars drive along at very high speeds, I literally had to grab onto tree branches that were hanging down to keep myself from falling into traffic! Cars whizzed by only millimeters away from me, honking their horns at this crazy woman who was hanging on for dear life. When I reached the gas station, I had to cross the street to get to it and that took more than ten minutes. I made several attempts at running across but was forced back when cars came careening around the turn at full speed, honking their horns instead of stopping to let me cross and I was on a crosswalk!

I finally made it across, grabbed a bottle of water…and remembered I didn’t bring my money. I’ve made it a habit to never bring money to the beach so I have an excuse when the vendors selling giant seashells (that they claim are the result of an early-morning dive offshore) approach me with their not-very-convincing speeches about how I should buy one since they went through so much trouble to get it for me.

Once again, I repeated the dangerous feat of crossing that street and made my way back to Angler. Dehydrated and lightheaded, I downed the bottle of water in the fridge, turned on the air conditioner, collapsed on the bed and fell asleep. I know the symptoms of heat stroke. I had it in Mexico and it was apparent that a bout of that dreaded affliction was coming on. I came down with these symptoms a few times on trips down south and I knew that hydration, sleep and air conditioning were my best friends when trying to ward it off in time. Fortunately, I awoke a few hours later with no symptoms of it…caught in time so the rest of my vacation wouldn’t be spent in bed or in a hospital. For those of you who are not familiar with the symptoms of heat stroke, I assure you, you will know if you ever come down with it. First, you will get light-headed, than you will stop sweating no matter how hot it is, next you will begin to feel like you are going to fall over, your head will feel like it is going to explode and it will feel like your body is going to spontaneously combust…and finally, you will pass out. The sickest I have ever felt was when I had heat stroke in Mexico and I cannot compare the feeling to any other sickness I’ve ever had. It’s just horrible and deadly if not treated. Just remember, if you ever come down with any kind of heat sickness in Mexico, do not believe the bartender when he or she tells you the best thing for it is tequila shooters no matter how convincing they are. It’s best to leave these kinds of emergencies in the hands of the hotel medic.

Just to be on the safe side, I decided to stay indoors for the rest of the day…at least until after sundown. When I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I walked by, I noticed I had a sunburn. So much for repeatedly slathering on the SPF 75. The sun in Barbados is strong. I guess being so close to the equator has a lot to do with it. I made a mental note to bring a hat and cover-up with me to the beach for the rest of the trip. I’m fair-skinned and like to get a bit of a tan from time to time but not at the expense of my health. From a gas leak scare to getting pounded by the raging surf to nearly being run over by cars and almost coming down with a bout of heat stroke, I managed to survive my first full day in Barbados.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...