Thursday, December 20, 2012

Turks and Caicos

Lana and I were planning our season early last year and we decided that a vacation was in order for us in 2012, after the dust settled from a year of racing.  Last year was a whirlwind of ironman, house buying, moving, training, racing, Lana’s first half ironman, and even a big marathon PR for the both of us.   We were more than ready to get away and slow down a little bit.  
Our adventure began last Sunday.   We made our way to St. Louis at around noon, and arrived at about 3 pm.   I ‘surprised’ Lana by taking her to the St Louis City Museum, where we first met.   After that, I surprised her again with dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, a delicious salad bar type chain that we both like.   And then, the next morning, passports in hand we left for the Windsong hotel in Providenciales (Provo to the locals) Turks and Caicos.
After a long day of travel, we touched down in Provo and were promptly greeted by a line to clear immigration and then another for customs.  Once through, we met Liege (pronounced Lee Gee) who shuffled us off to our hotel, and would become our taxi driver for most of the week.   After a few heart attacks caused by being driven down the British side of the road, we made it to our hotel. 
And then we waited at the front desk to check in…and we had our first run in with Island time.   At first I thought it was just bad service, but in reality it’s culture.   Things just happen in their own time on Provo, and no one is in a big hurry to do anything.  
We found the ocean and went for a quick swim, had dinner in our hotel, and went for a walk on the beach.   The beaches in Provo, particularly grace bay, were the draw for our trip and they didn’t disappoint.   The night sky was clear and amazing.  There was a persistent cool eastern wind.  The sand was so white that you could see it at night, and the sounds of the ocean crashing against the shore were just always present.   We went to bed pretty early that night, exhausted from a day of travel.

Tuesday morning Lana and I started the day off with a run.  After that we had breakfast at the hotel and walked down to the beach to snorkel. 
 We discovered that our hotel was right on a reef, maybe 100 ft from shore, called  Princess Alexandra National Park.   It was seriously the coolest place.  In just a few minutes we were snorkeling and swimming in what seemed to me to be the biggest saltwater aquarium I’d ever seen. 
I held Lana’s hand as we flippered our way through the ocean and saw the entire cast of finding nemo, a sea turtle, huge parrotfish you could hear chomping on the reef under the water, and a barracuda that Lana was sure was staring her down and considering eating her.   At one point  Lana noticed that she was being followed by an entire school of yellow finned fish, and then realized, because of her yellow flippers, she had become the lead fish.  
After snorkeling we got a shower and walked down the beach to find somewhere to eat.  

Somewhere was pretty good, it was an interesting blend of Tex/Mex and Carribean with lots of fresh fish!
That afternoon we went Kayaking and swimming (have you noticed I can’t sit still?) and then ,after a trip to the grocery store, went to Sailing Paradise for dinner.  

Sailing Paradise was some of the best food we had on the Island.   Lana and I split a platter of curried goat, jerk chicken, jerk pork, fish, fried plantains, and rice and peas.  

 We washed it down with rum punch.

I’d describe it as a small local place, in a non touristy neighborhood, set up to cater to tourists as well as locals.  They had a free shuttle, which was very nice, since it was about a 20 minute trip by car.  
We finished the day, again, with a walk along the beach, taking in the beauty of our surroundings, and enjoying each other’s company.  
Wednesday we got up a little earlier and ran a bit further.   The island gets hot as the sun gets high, so ideally the running should be done by about an hour after sunrise.   We were careful to bring water because we weren’t heat acclimated.  
After breakfast we did some more swimming, and then traveled down the beach to have a picnic lunch on a secluded beach.   It was only turkey and cheese, but on an empty beach, thousands of miles away from life, with only my wife and the ocean, it was the best turkey and cheese ever.  
After lunch we checked out bikes from the hotel.   We took the bikes downtown and did some shopping.   We got a rum cake, some local rum (which is delicious and not exported ).   After that I took Lana to a local jewelry store and bought her a Larimar necklace for our second anniversary. 
Once we made it back we relaxed a bit in the hot tub, and had this evil tropical drink that was a mixture of pineapple juice, rum, rum, rum, and had a floater of Bacardi 151 on top, just in case we didn’t hit our rum quotient.   Suddenly, we were on island time too. 
That night we went to Grace’s Cottage, which was a beautiful outdoor restaurant that was a little bit fancy for us, but was really the perfect place to celebrate being married to Lana for two years now.

Thursday morning we went on a tour with a local tour company. 

They picked us up around 8am, right at the beach in front of our hotel and we took off with two guides and 6 other visitors on a 30ft’ catamaran. 
At 8:30 in the morning, the guides starting giving us rum punch.   Apparently I looked like a guy with an overly healthy liver, and I did my best to put an end to that. 

First we took off for the barrier reef, a reef that protects the islands from the ocean.  The snorkeling there was great, even better than near our hotel.   The reef was so wide it extended as far as I could see in about every direction.
After about 30 minutes snorkeling, the tour company took us to the south side of Provo, near another small island.  Next up, we were diving for Conch!   I jumped in and immediately felt the current pushing me back.  I had to swim quite hard to make any progress forward, and after some significant effort I got about 10 feet in front of the boat.   After just a little help from a tour guide, I found my first Conch!   It was a big shell, covered in grass, that looked sorta like a chia pet, which is exactly what the tour guide said it would look like.  I dove, grabbed it, swam back to the boat, and then did another hard swim interval to get back in front to find another one.  

The tour took us to an island where we they showed us how to crack and clean the conch.  A ‘trained’ stingray was waiting just off the shore for the spare bits of conch left over as the concj was prepared.   While the tour guides worked on our lunch, we were free to explore the island a bit more.  

I found an old net of some type, strung up hammock style, that I certainly enjoyed.  

We also found quite a few large iguana’s living there.  

Lunch was served, which consisted of Conch Salad (Conch, bell pepper, tomato, habanero, and lemon/lime juice kind of like ceviche), Doritos, and more rum punch!  The guide did warn us about the punch ‘jus remember the more you be drinkin the more you be sinkin.’  I thought I was done swimming for the day though, but, I was wrong

After lunch we went snorkeling one last time, and saw a lion fish.   Then we dove for sand dollars.
By the time we got back to shore, getting off the boat was just a little difficult.   The coolest part of the trip was our new souvenir Conch shell, the previous home of our lunch.
Later that night we went to “Shark Bite” for dinner, which was a local burger kind of place where we had Conch Fritters, Jerk Chicken, and Rice and Peas.
By Friday we had really done about everything we wanted to do, and spent most of the day relaxing on the beach.   I did some swimming, fish watching, and kayaking because I sort of suck at sitting still and doing nothing.   For lunch that day we had Liege take us to “Da Conch Shack” which was pretty amazing.

We split some conch fritters!  I had curried conch, plantain fries, rice, and more rum punch.   Lana had blackened grouper tacos.  This was probably the best food on the island. 
That night we walked down to the beach and watched the last sunset of our trip, both a little sad it was almost over.  

For our last night, Lana and I went to Mango Reef. It was right on the water, in the open air, and really beautiful.  It was a great last night on the island.   We had great sushi, it was really amazing.   After that I had Dominican Paella with grilled lobster.   Lana had grilled pecan crusted fish that was really good as well.
We woke up Saturday, got one last run in, one last swim in the ocean, and then headed back home.  
It was nice to be home, but what an amazing adventure we had.  I’m so glad I got to experience all those things, and I’m even more glad I got to share them with my wife.  To be sure, we’d rather be at home than anywhere else, but sometimes a little adventure is called for and Lana and I are pretty good at finding it. 


  1. Awww! Thanks for taking me with you guys on your trip. The pics were beautiful. Happy anniversary. Mine and husbands was the 19.He bought me a flower and I sang him some Sam Cooke's nothing can change this love.
    Merry Christmas to both of you and I'll be looking for your next blog.

  2. Congratulations on your Anniversary and well deserved trip. Looks wonderful! As always, you guys are an inspiration for me to keep up my effort (riding). Thanks for sharing.