NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT ...: Adventures in Grand Cayman include kissing stingrays

PHOTO CONTRIBUTEDDenise Fedorow enjoys the crystal-clear aquarmarine waters off of Grand Cayman island with a stingray.

I’ve just returned from a fabulous all-expense-paid trip (the best kind) to Grand Cayman, which I learned is actually a British West Indies island, not a Caribbean island — though it is on the Caribbean.

Even though a lot of the famous 7-mile beach was swept away in Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the beach was still beautiful with glistening white sand — a gorgeous contrast against the backdrop of the multi-hued blues and greens of the sea.

Although we had one business meeting, the rest of the time was pure vacation with more food available to us than we could eat, as well as drinks, a gelato and bon-bon bar (oh yeah!) and plenty of sun, sand and sea.

One of the most rewarding things for me was traveling and rooming with my friend and long-time team member on my candle-lady team who earned her very first trip. To protect the innocent I’ll rename her Carly. It was fun experiencing it through her eyes.

Carly and I went on a couple of excursions to experience the area. The first was to the Crystal Caves in a Jeep Safari ride around the island with a couple of photo opportunity stops. The first was at the “shoe tree” — a tree along the highway that has hundreds of flip flops, tennis shoes and sandals nailed to it. Our guide, Yves, explained that someone once found a pair of flip flops on the beach and decided to nail them to the tree so the owner might find them and it became “a thing.”

Yves showed us a red birch tree that the natives call a “tourist tree” because it’s red and peeling (like I am now). The caves, unlike those in the states, were hot but had beautiful limestone stalagmites and stalactites with glistening crystals. He took us through three caves and we discovered different formations. The “rule” was if we found something new in the formations everyone had to agree.

Along with us on the tour was a family of four from North Carolina, including two teenage boys and a young couple from Arizona. Half-way back to the hotels, the Jeep ran out of gas — the gas gauge was apparently broken. Carly was quick to blame me, saying she should’ve known traveling with me something would happen — it always does.

Our guide was embarrassed and stressed as he called for help. Carly started an “I’m going on a picnic game” and we encouraged our driver to take part. First he was like, “What?!” but we told him it’d relieve his stress. The parents of the boys didn’t play but everyone else did. It was brilliant. It took everyone’s mind off the dilemma and we had fun while we waited to be rescued. Then we found out no one had ever heard of the game before. But the guy from Arizona said he was going to bring it to his workplace.

The next day we went on a catamaran ride out to Stingray City — just a spot in the Caribbean where lots of stingrays congregate — so we could swim with them and do some snorkeling. The crew came out to the water with us and helped maneuver the stingrays. They assured us they were a different breed than the ones that killed Steve Irwin. Whew!

They also told us we’d have seven years of good luck if we kissed the stingray on the snout and helped us do so. And yes, I did — not once, but twice (once for the photographer). That along with being dripped on in the caves should cover me for a couple of decades of luck.

We also had a mudslide on Rum Point, supposedly home of the original mudslide, and it was good. I met my one-drink limit.

Carly got emotional the day we arrived when all the spoiling began and thanked me for bringing her into Partylite and not giving up on her, which of course choked me up. I had my emotional moment on the Catamaran — after having a possible once-in-a-lifetime experience with the stingrays and surrounded by the crystal clear sparkling-like-diamonds water and the bright blue sky. I felt so incredibly blessed to be there at all, surrounded by such beauty, but to be there for free made it a double blessing.

After the cold, rainy spring we’ve had all that sun was healing to body, mind and spirit. Also while at the resort, we got photos with mermaids at our Under the Sea awards dinner and gala and with pirates at the Pirate Booty Bash on our last night.

It was an unforgettable trip and I somehow don’t think the “strangers” on our excursion and our guide will forget the two Indiana candle ladies who sent them on a picnic while stranded on the road.

Denise Fedorow is a correspondent and columnist for The Goshen News. Her column appears every other week. You may reach her by email at fed1@bnin.net on Facebook or Twitter @DeniseFedorow.

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