Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need to Look in Your Own Back Yard

The old saying goes "familiarity breeds contempt" whilst not completely true in this case is getting there so far as myself and Bermuda beaches goes as its been probably a couple of years since I went to a beach here.  For the life of me I can't think why as they probably are the loveliest anywhere in the world and on Sunday this came home to me even more strongly when we drove out to St. David's and took a look at the beaches now available to the public at Cooper's Island.

Bermuda's history is interesting none more so than St. David's which until the 1940's was cut off from the mainland -- if you can call Bermuda's chain of small islands 'mainland' that is.  The narrow track railway reached St. David's since the 1920's but to get to, say, the Rum Swizzle bar and restaurant you needed a boat to reach the causeway and then the mainland.  WWII changed all that with the strategic imperative to build an airport in the middle of the Atlantic to ferry planes and supplies over to Europe and in impressive style the Americans arrived as part of lend lease and did just that, flattening several islands along the way and building what became Kindley Field, later the L F Wade International Airport.

It also connected St. David's to the mainland.  Whether this was a boon or not is difficult to say as until this day St. David's Islanders are a breed apart with plenty of interesting genealogical identity gathered in from who knows where.  Some people never visit the mainland at all to this day.  I know of one St. Davids Islander who last had a passport 30 years ago, visits Hamilton twice a year to conduct whatever business he needs to do and spends the rest of his time fishing.  "Who needs any more?" is what he says when we meet.

The US maintained a base at Kindley Field stationing 3,000 or so servicemen there until the 1990's when a US TV expose showed them living the life of Reilly at US taxpayers expense.  As this coincided with a major pullback all around the world following the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the US upped sticks and pulled out from Bermuda too.

My own involvement with St. David's has been limited with occasional attempts to visit the oldest house in Bermuda -- called Carter House -- on Thursdays which enabled you to also visit the PX and more importantly McDonald's for a Big Mac fix.  Terrorism ended that in the late 1980's so it wasn't until the Americans pulled out that Bermudians were able to visit again.  But it was only on a limited basis still as NASA maintained a tracking station at the very end of the island chain called Coopers Island which operated from the 1960's and entry beyond some very large gates was impossible until quite recently.

The Bermuda triathlon association trains there on Saturdays and I used to attend with Alistair in tow until he went to school in England and that pretty much concludes my attachment to that particular part of St. David's.

So when Viv said lets spend the afternoon there on Sunday I was skeptical but after the Wimbledon men's final (well done Andy Murray, incidentally) we left collecting our friends from the Villages, Christine and Andy along the way.

It is a near 40 minute drive from where we live so we arrived to a throng of people parked around the more popular and nearer Clearwater Beach.  Cooper's Island was further along so we hoped for fewer people.

And boy was it ever beautiful!

Our first view of one of the beaches

Observation tower at the end ... presumably a relic from NASA days

Another random beach ... there are several to chose from!

We walked to the end of the island chain that the US had joined together with various causeways back in the 1940's and wondered what it was like in pristine condition.  We also wondered how 'tough' it all must have been for the US servicemen stationed in that particular hardship post when, for example, an annoying space launch dragged the NASA bods off the beach and into the tracking station.

Our snorkeling beach ... great reefs

The park is managed by the BLDC, a government quango, tasked with the redevelopment of it.  There are certainly a few yucky buildings from the old days but in my estimation not a lot needs to be done to enhance the beauty except clearing away some of the old detritus and putting in some decent gravel footpaths and a lot of trash bins for that beautiful place needs not to have trash all over.

It had been a couple of years since I last snorkeled and the familiar filling up of the sinuses with sea water was instantaneous as always readying me for uncontrolled evacuations at any time in the next 2 days from my nose, ears and sometimes eyes of globs of seawater.  Partial deafness too!  But it was worth it for the reef and the large numbers of fish.  We even saw a couple of lobsters on one occasion but I won't say where as they are hunted a lot.

Another totally deserted beach ... really, that colour!

Our farewell view of yet another lovely beach setting 

We will return.  This place could be one of, if not THE best beach area in the world.  It is that lovely.

Sunset from Christine and Andy's porch ... not too shabby either!

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