Monday, January 12th -- Happy Bay and Friar's Bay
Today we thought we might find better snorkeling on the Caribbean side of the island and read that Happy Bay was an unspoiled beach with few visitors -- perfect for us. The island map showed a short road to the beach but the Internet descriptions said the bay could only be reached via a short path from Friar's Bay. It would be an adventure! At 8:30 the first bus going to Marigot was full and didn't stop. The driver of the second bus knew where the road to Happy Bay was. The only sign we saw indicated this was the way to Friar's Bay. A short way down this side street the road made a sharp turn to the left, but there was a road that continued straight. It was gated and marked 'Privé'. Aha! Light bulb moment. Both the map and the Internet description were correct. We continued along the road to Friar's Bay, an easy walk with almost no traffic and the forecasted windy, cloudy skies kept us cool. Oh-oh. Do we continue on the paved road up that steep hill or do we turn off past the cows onto the dirt road? The Internet didn't mention dirt roads but Hubby thought it made sense to stay low and follow the dirt road beside the 'lagoon', Étang Guichard. He was right. Shortly after the pig stys at the edge of the pond we saw Friar's Beach and the trail to Happy Bay. The trail is not strenuous and not difficult with running shoes or Crocs on and was partially shaded in the morning.
We didn't get rained on but we got to enjoy rainbows three different times during our commute. The last one, from Happy Bay looking towards Anguilla, was the best. We joked with the man who sells the grilled chicken lunches for US$10.00 that his office had a great view. Although the beach is beautiful, the churned up sandy bottom made snorkeling visibility 0%. We couldn't even see each other in our hot pink and bright yellow swimwear. The rocks on the south end of the beach looked promising but once we were standing on them we could see the angle of the waves was hitting them harder than on the north side -- too rough for our liking. Maybe Friar's Bay was the better choice today. Putting socks and running shoes onto wet sandy feet is so uncomfortable as to be avoided if at all possible. With only a few acrobatic balancing exercises we managed to rinse off most of the sand and get our socks and shoes on before the next big wave washed over the rock we were balancing on. By 11:00 more visitors were arriving than I had expected for a weekday.
On the walk back to Friar's Bay we spotted several iguanas in the trees and the water at the north end of the beach was clear enough to see the underwater rocks. We were still early enough to find a shady spot under an acacia tree at that end but we waited until a particularly dark cloud had passed over and the sun was out again. Even with the sun the visibility was only good enough to see 5-6 feet down. Sadly this spot looked almost completely dead, with only a few stunted soft and hard corals and some type of sludgy gunk coating most of the underwater rocks. That was what severe overuse looked like. The spiny urchins seemed to be the only species thriving here.
It was after 13:00 and we were hungry. We had not put in our advance order with the vendor at Happy Bay so had to choose one of the two more expensive beach restaurants. We chose Roots and were glad we did. Their Caribbean Mahi Mahi, aka Dorado, was delicious in Hubby's burger with fries and in my grilled fish kebabs with rice and beans. Of course for 4 times more than the Happy Bay meal it ought to have been tasty, but they did offer the convenience of a bathroom, which would not have been available at Happy Bay. We also enjoyed chatting with our Roots server (maybe the owner?). She told us a little about the October hurricane and how it had completely destroyed the other restaurant on this beach.
The Friar's Bay parking lots were almost full and more cars were arriving as we walked back to the main road. A small pond with a viewing platform, near Grand Case, caught our attention. In February this uninteresting water hole becomes a preferred nesting site for many types of migrating Egrets, which stay until the chicks fledge in May. Since we were in Grand Case we walked off the main road along a side street paralleling the beach. We passed through one of the narrow public access alleys (required) to reach the beach. The fronts of the hotels and restaurants facing the street don't look very fancy so we were surprised at how pretty they looked from the beach.
Our final excitement for the day was to see a huge 'lowboy' semi-trailer slowly squeezing its way down the main road while a fellow riding on top of its tall load was manually lifting the overhead wires up as the truck inched its way through Grand Case. He went a little too fast one time and pulled a live electrical wire down (they use 220v standard here). It landed across a parked car, narrowly missing the wire-moving fellow. Some yelling from the car owner ended with the truck stopping all traffic towards Orient Bay while the wire-fellow climbed down and moved the live wire off the car and to the side of the street, but just hanging there. Whatever! Our bus arrived soon after, not aware of what had caused the delay until we saw the truck again later and told our driver the story of what had happened.
If you are going to Ilet Pinel by bus you might be lucky enough to be on one or trying to catch one if you travel during morning or evening rush hours -- 8:00-9:00 and 15:00-17:00. Catching one of these 'special' runs off the main route considerably cuts down the walking distance to the ferry. We were not sure if this detour from the main route was at the discretion of individual drivers, if there would be an extra charge per rider or if this detour was mandated because of the school children from this neighbourhood who attended the public school in Grand Case.
We were finally home, showered and finished hand laundering our clothes when our friends texted us to say they were nearby. We met them at the beach and escorted them back to our studio for fruit salad and dinner salad. They came bearing gifts -- bananas and red peppers. Only really good friends would know the perfect gift for us. It was an enjoyable visit, hearing about their day's activities in Marigot and Grand Case.
By bedtime our laundry was almost dry and we had confirmed with our landlord what we should do for tomorrow's checkout. A peaceful night's sleep was the only thing left on our 'to do' list.