Grand Turk is part of the small archipelago known as the Turks and Caicos islands. Seen from above, they would resemble nothing so much as a few slivers of emerald green, with outlines etched in clear white, somehow incredibly afloat in a sea of turquoise. And, in fact, their main claim to fame for many years was space related.
John Glenn came down in his Mercury capsule in the waters just off the coast here back in 1962, and there are also some who claim Grand Turk as the original spot where Columbus actually set foot on the shores of the new world for the first time. Adventurous though he was, the Spanish explorer has travelled far more miles in fiction than ever he-or John Glenn for that matter- ever did in fact.
These days, Grand Turk is the biggest island in the group; a colossus fully seven square miles in total. The gin clear waters are a magnet for divers from all over the world, while simple, stunning beaches along the road near Grace Bay are among the best- and least busy- anywhere in the entire Caribbean.
The small capital of Cockburn Town has a population of less than four thousand, and has many pretty, palm shaded colonial style buildings along the main road, with picket fences and roosters strutting nonchalantly in the mid day heat. A lot of the buildings here are very reminiscent of the style of architecture found on Bermuda, a thousand miles to the north. All things considered, it’s a sweet, rustic little smorgasbord a million miles slower in tempo than the islands to the south.
A few years ago, Carnival built a facility here to dock two large cruise ships, and also created an adjacent themed village and relaxation area for the passengers. Among other things, it includes the world’s biggest branch of Jimmy Buffett’s famed ‘Margaritaville’ franchise. There are pools, palms, and wooden rocking chairs in a riot of brightly coloured shades, as well as the inevitable logo merchandise outlets. There’s also a small, beautiful sweep of beach that fronts it. The whole complex is set up for serious, indolent fun, and it’s an absolute knock out.
Small, brightly coloured fishing boats lay upturned on the smallest slivers of fine, flesh coloured sand. Small. rickety bars, half hidden behind walls of blooming poinsetta, loomed out over the beautiful waters, with just the ghost of a breeze tickling the cold beads running down the neck of my first beer. My footprints were the only ones on the sand. It was quiet, serene, and utterly spellbinding. And, of course, it is unlikely to stay that way.
So I sat on the edge of this sweet little space for a while, dangling my legs off the pier, and trying to imagine John Glenn’s exalted descent from the heavens as he splashed into these self same waters. I don’t know what the Iguana crouched just across the way from me was thinking.