Oxfordshire Mind’s Physical Activity Team are offering a weekly ‘virtual walk’ this week the team are visiting a remote island in the Caribbean!
Hello everyone. Today we’re getting away from it all with a peaceful beachside walk on a little-known island in the Caribbean.
Of course, just saying that we’re visiting the Caribbean doesn’t tell you much –it is a huge region, with a real mix of landscapes and diverse cultural influences – African, Indian, French, Spanish, British and Dutch. There’s a huge difference between Cuba and Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad, Barbados and Puerto Rico. But I’m afraid I can’t be too specific about where exactly it is we are heading today, because this tiny island is a very well-kept secret. Suffice it to say that the open ocean is a little over that way, Jamaica is a little further over that way, and, as with most places in the region, if you keep heading south for long enough, you’ll run into South America.
The only way to arrive at the island is by boat from the nearest port. We can see it as we approach; a bright green hump in the distance, like the back of some strange whale. The boat speeds towards our destination, ancient engine chugging away as it cuts its way through the water. The sea is so clear here you can see all the way down to the bottom. We watch the sand and pebbles of the sea floor pass by through that turquoise-coloured lens. There are fish here, too. We must be able to spot hundreds of them as we negotiate the reef that surrounds the island, in all the colours of the rainbow, darting about and winking in the sunlight.
And there, look! A huge turtle is swimming alongside our boat, lazily keeping pace with a few slow strokes of its flippers. What a life. Imagine spending all day cruising these warm, tropical waters, without a care in the world. I think we could all learn a lot from the turtle. She’s in no hurry, has no place to be, but moves through her element with grace and ease, just letting the current take her where it will.
Finally we draw up on the jetty by the beach and hop off the boat. From the moment our feet touch the sand, which has the same colour and texture as caster sugar, a deep peace settles over us. For many of us, this scene- white sand in a gentle curve, turquoise water on one side, a lush tangle of palm trees on the other – is what we think of when we think of a ‘happy place’. The island is a perfect little world in miniature. You could walk around the whole of it in an afternoon; a pleasant stroll along miles of nearly uninhabited beach.
Unlike many other places, this island was never really settled by anyone. At one point it was used as a stash for stolen goods by pirates, and every so often someone unearths an ancient rum bottle – empty, of course- buried in the sand along the shoreline. There are even persistent rumours that a captain buried his ill-gotten gains somewhere on the island– something that is probably more inspired by the movies, or the local tourism industry, than by actual fact. But it doesn’t stop people venturing into the thickly forested interior every year, armed with metal detectors and hopeful expressions. Who knows? Maybe one day they will get lucky, and unearth a chest full of gold dubloons, glittering in the tropical sunlight.
Nowadays, the island is still largely uninhabited, apart from a couple of small resorts that cater to visitors who are really looking to get away from it all. It’s to one of these resorts we’re heading now. There will be a sun lounger there, and some sort of iced fruit juice to parch our thirst after our journey. We’re in no hurry to get there, though. The sun is warm on our skin, and the waves lap softly against the shoreline, dragging a soft foam like soap suds along in their wake. We remove our shoes and follow the wiggly line of wet sand the water leaves behind, stopping every so often to dig our feet in a little and feel it ooze between our bare toes.
A gentle breeze brings a faint fruity smell from inland. The coconut trees bend in stately curves over the beach, the enormous tassels of their leaves nearly touching the ground. There’s a flash of bright colour, and some sort of parakeet flies out from the treeline, letting out a loud, raucous caw. The sound is happy, somehow, as if it were crying out with sheer joy to feel the air beneath its wings.
We scramble over a little barrier of rocks at the end of the beach, and there it is; the tranquil cove that is our final destination. The hotel is just a cluster of little wooden cottages scattered along the beachfront, with a few sun loungers and big parasols in front of them. Hear that? That’s right. Nothing. There’s barely any noise here. Just the sound of the waves and the insects and the sighing of the breeze through the trees. How rare is that, nowadays, to be somewhere where you can’t hear the sound of cars or airplanes or crowds of people rushing around their daily lives? This is where we’ll stop for the afternoon. Hope you’ve enjoyed our walk today- and see you next week for another walk!