Hiking the Mastic Trail

The Mastic Trail provided us an up close and personal view of the interior of Grand Cayman Island. This two mile trail cuts between North Side and the south coast. Years ago this trail was the main thoroughfare; it is now maintained by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The Mastic Trail has changing scenery from north to south as it cuts through two million old, limestone trodden forests that are home to a variety of plantlife and wildlife.
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It was yet another dreary morning, but we hoped that the weather would clear as we started the trail. Normally, had we been hiking in the White Mountains, we’d have thought twice about what the previous four days of heavy rain would have done to the status of the trail. But for some reason that thought escaped us even after we’d read a description of the swampy areas we’d soon pass through. It was refreshing to be out in the wilderness and away from our drippy boat which had been rocking all week in the swells of Georgetown Harbor.
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A Bullfinch – not positive the specific type, it was entirely black.

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Red Birch – these magnificent trees grew straight up out of the limestone.

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Grand Cayman Parrot – these guys and gals were squawking all along our trail.

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The trail was slick from the rain. We spotted large, healthy air plants. We’d also spotted thin, vine-like cactuses that creeped and crawled all along tree trunks and rocks.

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Blue Anole – quick little buggers, they blend right into the scenery

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Caribbean Dove

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Mind the slugs, they’re camouflaged looking just like leaves.

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Haven’t quite identified this little fellow but there were many flitting along our route.

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West Indian Woodpecker

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Crabs! The crabs scurried underfoot and quickly retreated into large, round burrows.

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All that rain had flooded huge patches of the trail. Of course I was in the lead for the first slosh-through and of course I was the first to spot the slippery snakes! EEEEEWWWWW!

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The snakes were harmless, but my friends cleverly put me into the middle of the line as as we continued through the swamp.

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I’m sure the parrots were laughing at us.

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We paused for a moment of relief on the first boardwalk we encountered. Unfortunately, there was a rotten board along the walk and it was infested with ants! They moved right into Jessica’s shoes, and they were biters. Outch! It was at this point in the trail that we think Matt and Jessica wished they could be life flighted out.

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It didn’t get better. There were several more flooded patches to slosh through. I made sure Brian was near my side to ward off the critters. Soon, we were making light of the situation expressing our relief that I wasn’t raining and that the murky water at least cooled our feet during this humid hike. At the very end a long boardwalk led the way toward the trail’s exit.

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The scenery changed once more and we said goodbye to the parrots and hello to a sandy expanse of field.

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The Mastic Trail spat us out near the south shore, but we still had a bit of a walk to get to the Queen’s Highway where we could hail a bus back toward Georgetown. Matt and Jessica were wet, hot, and hungry. Once we’d reached the Queen’s Highway they decided to return home for the afternoon. Brian and I took a moment to explore the beach and rinse our muddied feet in the snake-free ocean water. We then decided to continue walking toward Bodden Town to see a few more sights before heading to Georgetown.

It was a long walk to Bodden Town (too bad we didn’t have the GPS watch, but we measured our route on the map later that night and it was about five miles). When we finally arrived our mission was to find the Mission House…and so we did.

The Mission House is a property of the National Trust and one of Grand Cayman’s oldest dwellings. (The house was badly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and has since been reconstructed.) Throughout its history the Mission House served as a home to Presbyterian missionaries, as a schoolhouse, and as a private home. The Mission House was closed on that Saturday afternoon so we were unable to get a guided visit through this historical home.

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Brian and I were famished and as we ended our tour of Bodden Town we thought a taste of local fare would do us good. We stopped at Rankin’s Jerk Centre for a tasty lunch. Rankin’s is a farm and butcher shop as well. Sure enough our jerk pork and curried chicken tasted fresh and delicious! Both entrees were paired with rice and beans, coleslaw, and festive bread.

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We returned to Georgetown via bus and felt as though we’d really seen Grand Cayman.

Stingray City

Welcome to Day 2 of Rode Trip’s afternoon pleasure cruise! We had a calm night at anchor and Brian, Matt, Jessica, and I all felt well rested after our game night of nearly endless rounds of Settlers of Catan. Brian cooked up a tasty breakfast and soon we had hauled up the anchor (thanks Muscle Matt!) and headed toward Stingray City.

Stingray City is located at the northeast end of North Sound. This string of sandbars is home to hundreds of stingrays. Years ago the stingrays would congregate here because fishermen would stop here to clean their catch. These days, the feeding is done by tourists. Despite it being yet another treacherous day…

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…it was easy to find Stingray City as Rode Trip neared the sandbar. We found ourselves among the many tourists who’d arrived via cruise ship and weren’t letting the rain to spoil their nine hour stop at Grand Cayman.

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We anchored as near the sandbar as our draft would allow and took the dinghy straight into the crowd of tourists and stingrays. The dinghy anchor was down and it was easy for us to jump into the warm water and join the chaos.

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The water was waist deep. All around us people were bunched around their respective guides oohing, aahing, and screeching at the stingrays. One of the guides lifted up a stingray clear out of the water and placed it onto someone’s back! They stingrays weren’t paying much attention to us yet, they were happy to be fed by the tourist groups.

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So Brian brought out our secret weapon…squid! The stingrays like to eat squid and so we’d purchased a box of frozen squid at the Chandlery. Brian coaxed the stingrays nearer and nearer.

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The stingrays were so near that I began scampering about just like a screeching tourist to avoid any possibility of touching the stingrays. Brian firmly reminded me to keep my feed on the ground as I wouldn’t want to land on one of the stingrays. I calmed down just long enough to observe the first feeding. Woah!

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Brian said that the stingray felt like a giant vacuum as it sucked the squid out of his hand. I’d had plenty of excitement already and positioned myself on the edge of the dinghy to watch the tourist and stingray show while Brian, Matt, and Jessica continued to swim with these magnificent creatures.

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