Twenty years ago my husband and I discovered this little bit of paradise – Grand Turk. Then Grand Turk, being the capital, was the most known island of the Turks and Caicos Island chain. Relished for it’s superb diving and known for it’s off shore banking. There were only a handful of restaurants and small hotels or inns, the streets were unpaved and the only street lights where the antique replica’s of gas lamps you found on Duke St., the historic district of Grand Turk, per say.
When you arrived on Grand Turk your plane would screech to a halt on the tiny runway and you almost felt like you were going to spill over into the sea. The airport was made up of a stone single room open air building with ceiling fans whirring overhead. Bags were unloaded onto a plywood platform and shuffled down by hand to make room. The taxi that brought you to your hotel was likely to be a rusted out chevy impala with no floorboards. Donkey’s, horses and chickens roamed the narrow dirt roads freely.
When you strolled the streets it wasn’t unusual to have one of the local people say “Hello, how do you like Grand Turk?” They were proud of their island. You would wake in the morning to the cock crow and the beautiful blue sea and dine in the evening under a veil of stars.
Today, things have changed a bit but not as much as you would think. When your airplane lands on the larger and improved runway you may feel the force of the stop and hear the chirp of the wheels but there is now plenty of room for the large bird to have a graceful landing. There is a modern air-conditioned building where the old stone one once stood, though the bags are still loaded onto a plywood platform.
The taxi’s no longer have rusted floor boards though the do show their age and to see a donkey roam the streets is probably a thing of the past, since they have been shipped off to other Caribbean islands to work, but in their place you will probably see a big bull amble down the road and scratch it’s horns on a nearby car causing the car to bobble and then stroll away. There are still only a handful of restaurants, maybe a few more, there are more street lights though and many of the roads are paved yet potholed.
It’s much easier to find necessities on the island now that the shopping center at the cruise pier has been built. But even the addition of cruise ships hasn’t changed the island and hasn’t overloaded it with tourist either and that to me is amazing. It has actually been an asset to the island.
The restaurants are still the same restaurants perched on the edge of the sea, you still dine there under a veil of stars and still wake to a gorgeous blue sea, with a few less cocks a crowing. Grocery shopping isn’t the task it used to be with a few more grocery shops to make your purchases in. These are far from the Grocery stores in the states but have come a long way from the tiny shops of Grand Turks past.
If you were to ask me how has Grand Turk changed in the 20 years I have been fleeing the snow and winters, to bask in the tropical sun, I would have to say, it hasn’t really, with the exception of the names of the hotels and restaurants, it has somehow managed to pretty much stay the same. There have been a few improvements to make life more comfortable but basically the island has remained the same.
There is just something about this tiny island that calls me back again and again. It could be the gorgeous seas, it could be the friendly people, it could be the fact that it has somehow kept the commercialism at bay but I think for me it’s what happens when I get here. Time seems to stand still, I can almost feel my blood slow down it’s flow, my worries just wash away with the gentle waves and I find that I am totally relaxed.