Grand Cayman is probably my favorite island in the Caribbean… well unless you count Key West. Then it’s a coin toss. I’ve been here more than any other place in the Caribbean. There’s so much to do here, I keep discovering new things every time I visit this place.
This time I wanted to try out something new as well as do some research for my book. I don’t want to write about stuff unless I’ve been there or done what I’m writing about. I wanted first hand experience with the public bus system. It’s a really an inexpensive way to get around most anywhere on the island. I also wanted to check out a secret snorkeling place on the East End of the island.
Before I go too far, I have to tell you that this adventure is not for the meek. I knew the place I was going to was in the middle of nowhere. Yeah… Grand Cayman isn’t that big, but even so, there are some isolated places out on the east end. There are no tourist stands, no taxis, no places for eat or drink… no tiki bars for a frozen concoction to help me hang on. If you decide to do something like this, you should take your passport with you in case you don’t make it back to the ship in time. Take food and water. You should also take an air mattress, sleeping bag and survival kit.
OK… you really don’t need that last stuff but you really do need to take water and any food you want for the day. You should also be prepared for a bit of a hike just in case… and you really do need to take your passport.
So… I got off the ship as soon as I could… second tender to town. Then it’s just a short walk to the bus station. Don’t think of this as a Greyhound or public bus system like you find in the United States. And don’t expect any of the air-conditioned luxury seating tour type buses. The “bus” I got was an old Toyota “mini-bus” with seating for about 12 crammed in. It had Caribbean air conditioning… open the window and the air that blows in conditions you.
The bus depot is a block and a half away from the place where the tenders drop you off. (The Royal Watler terminal.) Walk the shortest distance out of the terminal toward town and head down “Fort Street.” Walk the first block into town and turn right after the “Heroes Square” park. The terminal is a little farther on the left.
I’m not going to try to explain their bus system to you in detail. I’m not even sure if the Governor of Grand Cayman could explain it in detail. The essence of it is that they have big round colored circles with numbers on the front of the “bus” (mini-bus”) that indicates where they go. There are also letters that indicate where they go. “EE” for “East End”, “NS” for North Side¸ and WB for West Bay.
After that, your guess is as good as mine what routes they take. I asked at the little stand at the terminal if they have a map that shows each route. I was told that they are working on that. What I have since discovered is that there seem to be no set routes. I’m convinced they just go in the general direction. You tell the bus driver where you want to go and if it’s not too far out of his way, he’ll take you there. It’s only a few bucks to go almost anywhere. For a couple bucks more he’ll take you a little farther out of the way.
There are bus stops but unless you are just looking for shade, you don’t need to worry about finding one. Just stand along the side of the road and wave down the bus. On my trip we picked up and dropped off people all along the way… none standing at bus stops. As you’ve probably guessed, the bus really doesn’t keep any schedule. When it gets there depends on the route and where folks want to go. I did say this isn’t for the meek didn’t I.
I wasn’t even sure of the place I wanted to go to. The directions I had were something like this; “It’s on the Oueen’s highway… there’s a long brick wall near an abandoned resort project… and if you get to East End you’ve gone too far.” The place had a name, but I really didn’t remember it. There was some more description and I had looked at the area using Google Earth, so I did have at least a little idea what it looked like. I wasn’t totally crazy. I knew that if I missed the place I could just stay on the bus and ride it back to George Town.
By the time we got to the Queen’s Highway I was the only passenger left in the bus. The driver was trying to help me out. He was going kinda slow while I looked out for the place. I saw a brick wall and said there it is… but then I wasn’t so sure. So we kept on going.
Another few miles I saw an abandoned resort and knew that was it. The bus driver stopped and let me out. As I got out I asked when the next bus would be by. e He gave me a kinda funny look and said he wasn’t sure. If they don’t have passengers that need to come this way, they often turn around and go back to town. He suggested that I would have the best luck if I walked back to the last town.
I thought about getting back on the bus. But I had come this far and wasn’t going back without getting to the spot I had come for. I gave him five bucks and he drove off into the distance. I stood there for a minute or two and not another vehicle came by. Oh well… time to go see the beach. It’s what I had come for. I walked down this little gravel road that led down into the jungle. I knew that the beach wasn’t far away, but I was a little worried what may be in the jungle to eat me.
Part 2 after another a Ferengi Burger…
Searching for… a bus back to town.