On our way to the Turks and Caicos Islands we sailed south of the Tropic of Cancer. This is a line of latitude at about 23° 26′. This marks the northern edge of The Tropics or West Indies. We are now in the West Indies.
To answer the question posed in my previous post about what are people called who live in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The answer is: Turks and Caicos Islanders or just Islanders. We have also found the “S” in Caicos is somewhat slangishly silent when the locals refer to their homeland. They pronounce it Turks and Caico [kahy-koh].
We parked Cream Puff at the Turtle Cove Marina for a few days. Checking in with Customs and Immigration at a marina is much easier on these islands since the officials come to the marina rather than us roaming about aimlessly trying to find their government buildings. This marina is also centrally located and has just about everything we need within walking distance. Coming from the Bahamas where the population on the small islands is pretty much always under 1,000 people (except Nassau) and amenities are sparse, we are excited to find more main stream services available.
Our first stop: about a mile and a half walk to the grocery store. Keep in mind, the last grocery store we visited was the grotty little Exuma Market at George Town in the Bahamas thus setting the standards very low. We walked inside the Providenciales local IGA market and both stood for a second in awe. It’s a real store! They actually have stuff to sell. And, it’s fresh! Oh joy!!!! And the best part, the prices are reasonable. Okay. I need to pause here for a moment. I say reasonable prices because we have been paying Bahamas prices for the past three months. If we had traveled here from the USA or from Puerto Rico, we might feel a little differently. For us, a gallon of fresh milk for $5 compared to $8 or $9 in the Bahamas seems like such a great deal.
On our walk back to the marina, we had our first experience with a jitney. Although they have bus stops just about everywhere on the island, there is no bus service. I can only guess the bus service went belly up at some point. But if you wait at a bus stop, you will be offered a ride by a jitney. When they honk you raise an arm and they stop for you. A jitney is an illegal taxi. It is a private individual offering another private individual a ride for a small donation (the donation is negotiated up front). It’s sort of like Uber but without the app. Locals use jitneys like people in the USA use Uber. It was only $3 for a ride back to the marina with our groceries. The local government doesn’t like jitneys. Why? They don’t pay any taxes or license fees. They really try to discourage tourist from using them on the official government web-sites:
There is no public transport of any kind in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Small four-door ‘jitney’ cars and mini-buses cater to the low-wage migrant worker market, but we recommend that tourists avoid these due to fact that they’re typically unlicensed, uninsured, poorly driven, and that drivers will often charge tourists inflated rates. Fares that cost a local worker $1 will cost a tourist between $5 and $10.
We saw plenty of people using jitneys, including many tourists. Anyone walking down the street can raise an arm or respond to a car honk for a ride. This island isn’t very big. Giving someone a ride never really takes the driver out of their way. We asked a lady for directions and she offered us a ride instead. Most people reading this right now are thinking of axe murderers and serial killers. This is not the case on this sweet little island. It is a safe and acceptable form of transportation, in our opinion.
We have made some new friends in the marina. Mike and Kathy on Braveheart were docked next to us and are traveling toward the Bahamas. Over a few adult beverages one afternoon we swapped favorite anchorages and best routes. The best part was we traded charts. We now have all the charts encompassing the Caribbean and they have all the charts for the Bahamas. We typically use our electronic charts but being an old-timer I feel better having paper charts aboard. Just in case.
We rented a car for a few days. Providenciales is not very big. It is about 13 ½ miles (22 km) wide. In fact, we drove the entire width of the island in about one hour. Being a British colony, people drive on the left. There are roundabouts and not a single traffic light anywhere to be found on Providenciales. We rented our car from Scooter Bobs.
I try to give small businesses a chance over companies like Avis or Hertz. If the price is the same I would rather see my dollars stay in the local economy. And besides, Scooter Bobs is located close to the marina. Our experience was more like borrowing a car from a friend rather than the normal rental experience I have encountered in the past. In our rental car agreement it stated, “Try to avoid looking backwards while driving. This is the cause of a lot of accidents”. Scooter Bobs names their cars. Ours was called Gypsy. Quite fitting when you think about it. Gypsy was a 7 year old sub sub sub compact Toyota. At age seven she had only 10,000 miles. Like I said, it’s a small island. I am guessing our car still had the original manufacturer tires. Gypsy lost her hubcaps years ago. There are pot-holes in most of the streets, that is, the paved streets. Sometimes when driving, we found ourselves on unpaved roads almost as if the contractor ran out of tar for a few days during the paving job. Then, the road was paved again a little further on. The local islanders all speed. They are tolerant of the tourist drivers and just whiz past them at warp speed with a polite honk and a wave. The limits are 20 mph in town and 40 mph out of town. Nobody drives that slow. So, the island government installed speed bumps to slow the traffic. Over the years, the paint has worn off the speed bumps making them very hard to see. As I barreled down the wrong side of the road Cindy would yell, “Bump!!!!” If I could slow in time, we had to crawl over the bump at a snail’s pace since we scraped Gypsy’s undercarriage on just about every speed bump we encountered. When I return Gypsy to Scooter Bobs, I noticed the hubcaps on some of their newer cars were held on with plastic wire bundle ties.