Bermudaful - Island adventures in Bermuda - 14 yo son & 82 yo mother. Part 1
Bermuda is an island, in the Atlantic, at the 32nd parallel. Diagonally akin to southern New Mexico, and the Mediterranean Sea. A volcanic island finned from a long extinct cone. Now, a limestone atoll built-up by millenniums of pink coral creatures sunning themselves with calm, clear ocean currents.
|16 yo cabin boy from 1813
Aside from the prehistoric formation, the human story starts in the 1500s. Unlike the North American continent, it lies 650 miles east of North Carolina, and ~1000 miles north of the next closest Caribbean Island; this island sat, uninhabited, basking with birds and nature for most of its existence. Likely, it remained untouched due to its remote location and lack of any fresh water reserves. Any and all grottos are brackish; dense sea water below, fresh rainwater afloat.
Bermuda eventually became a way-point for the British fleet to refresh from a long sail across the Atlantic. In 1610, the first hints of the Bermuda Triangle folklore began. The story of The Sea Venture, a shipwreck, and of British Imperialism. The crew and passengers survived a misguided excursion; the castaways sustained themselves off wild hogs found on the island. The swine were there due to Spanish and Portuguese sailors’ previous exploration (the pigs are long since exterminated). Using Bermuda cedar, the survivors simultaneously rebuilt two new ships to continue on to the failing Jamestown; and left 3 crew members on the island, to mark claim as British territory, expand colonialism and spoil the direction of driving forever.
(The Spanish/Portuguese were uninterested in the island, as it lacked precious metals or indigenous people to enslave, but they did shove pigs overboard in the case of stranded fellow pirates/privateers. Pigs can’t fly but they can swim.)
St. George, the east end outpost town and our first visit, now boasts the oldest continuously active, Protestant church in the “New World” (just a few qualifiers). St. Peter’s is a lovely, quintessential island church, with cedar beams and white washed ceilings, substantially understated. The outside yards are adorned with above ground crypts and, of note, were also segregated. Whites with crypts, people of color with grave markers only.
St. George’s, as a town, is a shoppers seaport, with arguably the best prices on the 22 mile tourist based archipelago. Here, also, you can take in exemplary models of brightly painted concrete homes and businesses. Each bolder than the next; blues, pinks, greens, purples and the like, oddly pleasing to the eye, like the roses, hibiscus, poinciana, oleander and bougainvillea growing domestic and wild throughout the landscape. Each building topped with (once upon a time) limestone white roofs and all the trim in effervescent white for a most diametric effect. Every roof designed to catch every precious drop of rainwater and stored in cisterns of many styles. This, plus reverse osmosis, makes Bermuda habitable to the 70K year-round residents.
|Mark for Segregated Cemetery
Way back when, I was probably 12ish, I came here with my parents, it was for my Dad’s Council Group, a bunch of rich, white CEOs wanting to be able to write-off their trip and get some hells-good business advice from my dad; tee-times and Bermuda shorts the norm when not in seminar. Darling wives lying next to the pool with easy access to overpriced shops hawking nautical-themed silk tops and gold filigree necklaces. Curling pedicures stuffed into white sandals desperately attempting to obscure gnarled, tennis-weary toes. If we went sightseeing, it was in a hired cab, arranged by hotel staff. And I do remember an excursion to gardens with peacocks and ocean-lined pathways, I venture it was the Bermuda Aquarium. The wealthy still visit Bermuda, now predominantly hedge-funders and insurance tax evaders. Drawn here for the numerous golf-courses (more per square mile than anywhere else). The other tourist conveyance are the very transient, massive cruise-liners and the chattel therein.
We choose the AirBnB route. Do NOT do this if you are unwilling to spend a fortune on taxis ($8/gal just to start) or twyzzies (small, pillion seater electric carts with a small egg-like shell) or are comfortable with left-hand drive and motorbikes (scooters). They do not rent cars on this island; in fact, a whole household is only allowed to own one vehicle. Bermuda is very strict, there just is not enough room for uncontrolled vehicle growth, but plenty of room for golf courses (priorities, damn you).
Thank goodness for our very own St. Peter, John’s cousin, Peter H. Another reason we choose this remote island. His ancestors landed a couple generations back and visiting had always been on John’s bucket list. Peter has a 5-seater car and was willing to cab my mom around, along with John’s other visiting cousin Serena and husband Tim. However much, mom opted-out of our beach ventures, deciding instead to lounge in the AC cooled, 1800s plantation style home we rented. She may have also dipped her toes in the private pool. Of note, she never played tennis.
I will say, the Bermudians are an astonishingly patient lot. Tourist scooters are marked with red license plates and “giving-way” seems to be a national motto, especially for those with the scarlet letter plates. The roads are tight, knocking-side-mirrors-kind-of-tight, with wild hedgerows and limestone walls lining every thoroughfare. This is a dangerous situation at best, then add public buses (another tourist option) and freight trucks, all driving on the “correct” (left) side of the road. Therefore, giving-way is a survival necessity, as are excellent brakes. Even at posted 25mph, speeds are 40mph in practice. Passing on the right is expected and a fine art by the zippy locals. You may get your scooter license at 16, drivers at 18. Thankfully, my 18yo and I have our motorcycle endorsement, but we both suffered some angoraphobia. Economically, it had to be scooters when we couldn’t be shuttled by Cousin Peter. And as much as I could lounge by a tropical pool, I would have had a very bored husband. Balance overcame fear.
The day Serena and Tim rented a Twizy, Peter took us to the Chrystal and Fantasy Caves by car. Limestone caves, highly abused by imbecile generations before us, today healing as best it can, 1”/100 years, the broken tips softening with time. Nonetheless, a deep and cool reprieve from the near oppressive humidity and sun. Deep underground, Mom went into one and barely made it back up the 83 steps. We can thank high altitude living for her recovery. She choose otherwise for the second 88 step cave. Unique to these caverns is the 100% inside humidity and popcorn stalactites (hanging from the ceiling). Due to the humidity, the stalactites form a popcorn ceiling, where moisture is trapped underneath and bubbles into hard form. Below, brackish underground ponds receive the filtered rain water drips (water much clearer than Dasani). This pool’s water level hardly ever changes, and if it does change dramatically, batten down the hatches, really foul ocean weather is coming! But, stalagmites (from the floor) exist as well, under the water, which means at some point, these pools of water did not exist, it was barren of sea water; dry so to speak, Ice-age dry. And guess what, the water level has risen 9” over the last 20 years, global-warming wet.
And it is true, Bermudians are some of the nicest people to interact with, and impressively patient with the elderly. It's was almost like a competition as to who could better tend to my mom when she wasn't with us.