You may remember that the banyan forest was my BFF's one true Bermuda wish.
We'd ferried over the bay to Hamilton that morning for brunch at the award-winning Bouchée Bistro Francais sans petite, leaving her to sleep in with her soccer matches and whatnot, and to wander around town and explore a bit. I think because it was Sunday most shops were closed, so we hailed a taxi to take us to the forest except the taxi driver had absolutely no idea what we were talking about or where we wanted to go.
Take a hike
On a tiny little 20 sq. ft. mile island where everyone knows everyone and where everything is, it's very difficult indeed to stump a taxi driver, but somehow through a series of hilarious exchanges with the dispatch and a cell phone call to the driver's friend and much laughter all around, we eventually found our way to the unmarked entrance of the forest, quite in the middle of nowhere.
That's the opening to the main road where our perplexed taxi driver dropped us off and wished us luck.
It was so lush and beautiful and quiet, very much unmarked and we just wound around several paths trusting we'd find our way out (just like in my Girl Scout days).
We came across little feral baby jungle cats and wild chickens and wide swaths of green laid out by the hurricanes that hit the island just two months prior, dotted with large and unnatural human stuff that clearly didn't belong there and hadn't yet been cleaned up, and even a few shuttered buildings that seemed all but abandoned.
"Did you know that banyans are fig trees?"
"Are they? Huh."
"I feel like we don't truly know what figs are."
"I have to agree!"
It turns out that figs are trees that bear the fruit also called, simply, figs. Of 850 species, only one or two are cultivated for their fruit.
When the path brought us back out to the main road, we spotted a big, moss-topped pillar that read Southlands with dark, carved lettering. It looked as though maybe a gate had once been attached but it now felt like an invitation. We darted across the street, dodging friendly traffic, and descended a slope and crumbling steps that opened up to this incredible, completely empty beach.
Turns out the beach at what had once been Southlands Estate, a 37-acre park with garden pools, woodland areas and limestone quarry gardens, is called Marley Beach, and the estate itself is at the heart of ongoing controversy on the island.
Having changed hands many times since the 1700s and even once used as the site of an anti-aircraft school, it's now in the middle of a ferocious, lengthy fight to preserve its natural beauty or surrender and become a new luxury resort.
After exploring its stunning and peaceful beauty on either side of the main road, I'm 100% rooting for the former.
It felt like a reward for our determination in finding the forest and traipsing all around it! M peeled her shorts off and waded into the turquoise waters while we explored the surf and rock and sand caves carved into the hillside, and had a little rest before deciding how on earth we'd get home.
We had no idea where we were, first of all, nor that our hotel was 5km away. I, of course, felt strongly that it was "just up the road" and "we should walk up the beach until we find it, it can't be that far."
My wife and BFF are just insane enough to follow me, and so I'd sprint ahead in the sand, scope out what was beyond the next corner or sea cliff, and sprint back to report whether or not it was passable. You get the idea. We did that whole routine until we found ourselves stuck here:
They both stopped and gave me a stern, chiding look that said they knew this would happen. There was clearly no way out but up or to double-back at least a mile or two. I sniffed around. Off camera to the left the rock sloped up sharply, but it also provided the most secure footholds at the least severe incline of the lot surrounding us. Plus, it had to level out to a gorgeous overlook way up there (or so I imagined).
I reacted the way I always do to something which appears to be insurmountable: a cocktail of insouciance and willful denial: "I saw people on a path up there. Once we find it, we can just take it to the road. It's probably one of the little parks we passed yesterday. We're SO CLOSE."
They were dubious, so I whipped off my fancy gold Italian sandals and clambered up with them in one hand. "See? Easy!" I yelled down at them. "Come on!"
HOW TO CONQUER A BERMUDA TRIANGLE:
My very petite BFF gave me the look of death. "I have short legs! I won't make it!"
"New year, new you!" I chirped her own new self-declaration for 2015 back at her. "You can totally do this. What's the worst that can happen?" Another look of death, slightly less deathy, slightly more impatient. "Look, just throw me your purse and your hat! Here, if I take your stuff and put it down over here, I can come back and spot you!"
She narrowed her eyes at me and scoffed with resignation, putting her hair into a bun, "If I die or fall, I swear to God..." But she handed me her stuff and began to make her way up, and so did M. Half the battle, won. Next up, the climb.
And I was right! Look how amped they are to have made it to the top! The view was spectacular. You can almost see our footprints in the sand down there in the distance, but there's no question of how huge and high that massive slab of rock was, but we all did it!
I was also right about an easy walk to a real path, which led us out to the main road, then back down to some long and mercifully low and calm stretches of beach until we finally found our hotel, where we collapsed famished, exhausted but with the unshakable conviction that we'd been true explorers that day.
It's an iPhone snapshot, but I love how peaceful M is looking out at the sea below. It's her happy place.
We collapsed back at the hotel
famished, exhausted, but with the unshakable conviction that
we'd been true explorers
I did it all in the navy version of this Cotton:On dress, my Dooney & Bourke bag and a pair of luxe J. Crew wedge sandals. Next up, the horseback ride and deep sea dive, and then it'll be time for all new adventures in Portugal in about two weeks!
Excited for a little summer quiet in the meantime...