MAHO BEACH AND THE ICAO CARIBBEAN AND SOUTH AMERICAN DATALINK CONFERENCE
17.04.2016 - 22.04.2016 28 °C
This seems to be a new theme, finding time to write a blog from the Air Canada lounge while delayed in travels. Sigh, but what can ya do? I am grateful for good friends who fetched me on this latest 12 hour delay, took me shopping and fed me a fine supper
I am attempting to return home from a business trip that is worthy of a little blogging and a few pictures. I spent the past 5 days in Sint Maarten, four of which were spent presenting at and attending a conference for Air Traffic Service (ATS) providers from the Caribbean and South America. Despite the fact that the island (particularly our resort) was plagued with Norovirus, and I did get sick, and that I was inside from 9-5 on the four business days, it was a pretty good gig. Especially when 30cm of snow was falling back home.
Sint Maarten or St Martin is the smallest island in the world divided between two countries, France and the Netherlands. Salt was the original draw but for me, the biggest draw was its warmth and of course the airplane watching. Although it has a relatively short runway anchored between a beach and a mountain it is one of the busiest Caribbean airports. The airport which employs 52% of all the employed on the island, is perhaps the biggest attraction. Every day the beach is filled with tourists coming from the cruise ships to stand underneath arriving aircraft or to stand behind larger departing aircraft, the largest of which is the KLM747, and be blown across the beach and into the ocean. Some idiots hold the fence in hopes of becoming airborne. It works. It all seems a little crazy to me and the first day, I ran away but I will admit to joining my group on Friday to stand beneath the KLM. We figure the worst case scenario was an ironic news story, 15 air traffic controllers and service providers killed beneath a B747. Good grief. I did not, however, risk my life, hearing, vision or my camera to stand in the sand blasts as the flights departed. Rather I took pictures from further down the beach.
Most of my pictures were taken from the veranda in my room overlooking famous Maho Beach.
I did get a chance to do a little exploring. One night we cabbed it 25 minutes to the French side for some fine dining on the beach. Although the meal was delicious, it was not long after that the Noro hit me so fond memories were lost on that.
We also went into the city to the carnival and a youth concert.
I extended my stay by one day to explore and to get a sensible itinerary into Canada so I had all of Friday to explore. As previously mentioned, the day started with the remaining gang underneath a B747 which was kinda cool and not nearly as loud as I thought.
This is from the first sighting to overhead and landing
Those behind a departing aircraft
From there, my new friend Kent, a trinie from TT, (that’s my newly learned slang for a guy from Trinidad and Tobago) and I decided to hop on the local transit and check out the island. First of all, I must comment on this most excellent trans-island service. You can pretty much stand anywhere, watch for a large mini-van with a sign in the window indicating the destination (Maho, Phillisburg), wave down the driver and go from one side of the island to the other. All for $2 usd. You cram in with all who care to join and stay on board until you say “stop driver” at which point he pulls over and lets you out. It is as simple as that. Almost like hitching a guaranteed ride from anywhere to anywhere. I love it. Doesn’t get any more efficient than that and I don’t think we ever waited more than 10 minutes. Alternatively you can take an expensive taxi for $25 usd +extra for additional people. There doesn’t seem to be much gain in that approach.
Our first stop, Philipsburg. This is a typical tourist trap for cruise ships and people who clearly have more money than I. Most of the shops were gold and diamond shops and were therefore, of no interest to me. There were some electronics. Because I had done some pricing back home and had Shirley on standby, I can confirm that with the current US exchange, there are no deals. Everything I priced in camera gear was cheaper back home even with the relief of no duty or taxes. It was a pretty cheap shopping day for me but it was still fun chatting to all the charming salesmen.
So after strolling around the area for a bit we decided to make our way to the French side and the capitol of Marigot. This had a completely different feel. The currency was the euro, the language was French and the architecture had a European feel. There is a small outdoor market but again, mostly tourist stuff, cheap t-shirts and handicrafts but it closed due to rain shortly after we arrived. I don’t think I missed much.
We did sit and have a wonderful French/Creole meal. I loved my coconut cooked conch.
We then crammed into another stuffed minivan that dropped us at a very busy roundabout where we waited for one last van home. Although we didn’t do much we had the best day filled with much adventure and tons of laughs.
Overall a great week at the office. I enjoyed the work, learned lots and loved the warmth. Neither the lost luggage on the way down, the overcast skies, the norovirus or the never ending journey home has dampened my spirit and I so, I look forward to the next adventure.
A few more snaps