Friday, February 17, 2012

The Island of Two Countries

From bus

My friend barely visible on the bridge

Eight ships parked there for the day. Ours is parked down at 500 foot pier behind its twin. Right next to our ship was the Norwegian ship we took in 2005
Sint Maarten/ Saint Martin are on one island with the French getting the bigger half. Sint Maarten is now an independent country seceding from the Dutch Antilles; St. Martin is officially part of France. We landed in the Dutch half.
This was the only excursion we had signed up for: the so-called eco tour. We thought it would go to a nature reserve but instead it went to a zoo. The tour bus also drove us over to the other half and stopped at several points for pictures and souvenir buying. No rum punch as promised!
The island was hit hard in 1995 with 2 category 5 hurricanes close together destroying many of the buildings. Repairs have been slow in part because of the policy not to tax until the renovations are completed.
Interesting sign in the roundabout:
Motorists must give preference to those in the circle.
Lots of chickens, goats and shorn sheep running around unpenned. Sheep can't tolerate their full coats due to the heat. Sheep have tails down; goats have tails up. Otherwise, they looked the same.
We spent lots of time in the zoo. There they encourage you to feed the animals. With a bag of peanuts provided, I hand fed parrots, cockatoos and vervets aka nasty green monkeys. Baby vervets are cute; adults (although probably weighing less than 2 lbs) are not. Many had been released on the island and now are officially pests. They were not grateful for the peanuts baring their teeth and throwing them back at me. I felt safer handing it to their prehensile tails (A unique sensation to have a monkey tail wrapped around your finger). Photos were taken of this. On the grounds were plenty of iguanas and hummingbirds of various sorts. The green iguanas in the trees; the brown on the ground. How do they know to change color? Is it a conscious decision? Are there special receptors for them to do it automatically?
A tortoise ran at me wanting a handout but I suspect my peanuts would not satisfy him.
We then went to the busy beach town of Phillipsburg  trying out samples of various guavaberry concoctions. We sipped beer on a veranda watching the beach scene and then back to the boat.

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