Features

Moving Ahead

Middle Caicos proves itself as “the little island that can.”
By Sara Kaufman ~ Photos By Claire Parrish
It has been a year since Hurricanes Hanna and Ike rampaged through the Turks & Caicos Islands, and despite the physical reminders of debris, broken infrastructure and fallen trees it seems a long time ago. Middle Caicos was comparatively fortunate, with damages to houses minimal and no injuries to residents — but the causeway between North and Middle Caicos was almost ruined. Memories of the storms are distant now, but the energy at the time was blazing!
Oddly, although Middle Caicos is the largest island in the Turks & Caicos at 48 square miles, the population is only about 300 people which makes for a very familiar and close community. Both during the storms and afterward, everyone pulled together to make sure supplies were available to those in need. In the pause between the two storms we had two days to ensure everyone was in shape to handle Category Five Hurricane Ike bearing down on us.
Hurricane Hanna had pummeled us with rain for days, trapped us in our homes for most of a week, ripped apart the asphalt, guardrails, lights and much of the causeway surface (making the causeway connecting Middle Caicos and North Caicos totally useless), toppled trees and flooded all the ponds and low areas. The rain and tidal surges turned the channel between North and Middle Caicos brown with runoff and bottom churn, showing a power none had expected from Hanna! On Thursday morning we hurried to take advantage of the respite before Ike was due Saturday afternoon, repairing leaks, hustling those stuck on Middle back to their islands, checking supplies, and ensuring neighbours were safe. Hanna had been long but kind in a strange sort of way, with no one hurt, no homes lost and no vehicles swept away.
Without the causeway — to which we had all grown quite accustomed — we were an isolated island once again and back to the old routine of trucks to the Pine Barrel ferry landing on Middle Caicos, across to Toby Rock landing on North Caicos by small boat, then trucks on the other shore to run up to Bottle Creek for food, propane, water and other supplies . . . then all in reverse to get the goods home to Middle Caicos. This shuttle system ran non-stop in the quiet two days after Hanna and before Ike.
Although flooding from Hanna’s monstrous rains cut off each village for normal vehicles to pass, major construction equipment could travel through the flooded road areas and keep us all in touch. While many residents were in the shelters, most preferred to remain at home, so ensuring all were taken care of in that short time span was a huge task. But by Saturday afternoon everyone was huddled down safely as Ike slammed into the country. Throughout the endless night the cell phones continued to work, making for heartbreaking conversations with folks in Grand Turk as their roofs lifted off and ours creaked ominously. Everyone was awed by the power of the storm.
Walking out of our burrow on Monday morning, peering through my fingers to see how much was left of our restaurant and office near the shore, afraid maybe all had been blown away, sent me to my knees when I saw all the buildings intact. Amazingly, the combination of Hanna with major rain and low winds, then Ike with major wind and no rain kept damages down for all.
One of our best advantages on Middle Caicos is the little power plant based there. Whereas normally electricity comes all the way from Providenciales, the local plant can run all power for Middle Caicos by itself. This emergency power plant ran flat out for weeks, keeping us in light, with running water and working refrigerators. As the causeway remained unusable for weeks, a steady stream of barrels of diesel fuel had to be manhandled across the water in small boats by volunteers, then hand pumped into the tanks at the plant — a fantastic effort.
Each day we moved forward, reaching out to each other and to friends and family in trouble on other Islands, offering whatever we could. Middle Caicos has five churches and a very devout population. Praise and thanks to a loving God echoed constantly in conversation, and an earnest appreciation of the simple life we share was much in evidence.
By early October the worst of the flooding was over, shingles had been replaced, schools reopened, the causeway debris bulldozed away and a rough bumpy roadway re-connected us to North Caicos. The fall passed as momentum was slowly regained for projects underway on Middle Caicos. Remarkably, these projects included four residential homes, two private commercial buildings, the ongoing government complex, a major study of the “pine yard” and the revival of a development agreement in Half Creek. We had four different contractors on their jobs, workers coming in from North by day and a current of optimism palpable as the projects grew toward completion. The local cable company restrung lines and the local realtor office remained open throughout! While the world economic outlook grew dim, great activity was in progress on Middle Caicos, the “little” island that can!
As the 2008/9 tourist season moved forward, we met it head-on. The annual Valentine’s Day Cup festival in February proved the point — life on Middle Caicos was vibrant, healthy and happy. Day trips were promoted including the unique Conch Bar caves, local lunches, traditional handcrafts and a dazzling day of wide open scenery. In March, 2009 a well beloved eatery re-opened in brand-new premises on the seashore, and Daniel’s Café continues to serve mouthwatering cracked conch to those in the know. In April, 2009 the Middle Caicos Co-op opened its own shop, returning to Conch Bar ten years after it began! (The hurricanes had destroyed the shop in Providenciales and the co-op used the opportunity to re-claim its original home.) Middle Caicos, now and always, offers much to explore, along with a literal “breath of fresh air” and aura of peace, whether for a day or for a week and both tourists and TCI residents find a warm welcome.
Middle Caicos is a unique place, with those choosing to live there following their own rhythm, their own drummer, their own dreams . . . and building a modern lifestyle and sustainable economy in their own way. The future path of Middle Caicos is firmly in their capable hands.
The Middle Caicos Co-op Studio and Outlet sells traditional straw-work, modern art and a variety of handcrafts from a network of 60 island artisans. Wholesale, retail and custom orders are welcome. The store in Conch Bar is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
For more information, call 946-6132 or 231-4884 or visit www.middlecaicos.biz.

Middle Caicos proves itself as “the little island that can.”

By Sara Kaufman ~ Photos By Claire Parrish

View of Mudjin Harbour from top of bluff in Middle Caicos

View of Mudjin Harbour from top of bluff in Middle Caicos

It has been a year since Hurricanes Hanna and Ike rampaged through the Turks & Caicos Islands, and despite the physical reminders of debris, broken infrastructure and fallen trees it seems a long time ago. Middle Caicos was comparatively fortunate, with damages to houses minimal and no injuries to residents — but the causeway between North and Middle Caicos was almost ruined. Memories of the storms are distant now, but the energy at the time was blazing!

Oddly, although Middle Caicos is the largest island in the Turks & Caicos at 48 square miles, the population is only about 300 people which makes for a very familiar and close community. Both during the storms and afterward, everyone pulled together to make sure supplies were available to those in need. In the pause between the two storms we had two days to ensure everyone was in shape to handle Category Five Hurricane Ike bearing down on us.

Hurricane Hanna had pummeled us with rain for days, trapped us in our homes for most of a week, ripped apart the asphalt, guardrails, lights and much of the causeway surface (making the causeway connecting Middle Caicos and North Caicos totally useless), toppled trees and flooded all the ponds and low areas. The rain and tidal surges turned the channel between North and Middle Caicos brown with runoff and bottom churn, showing a power none had expected from Hanna! On Thursday morning we hurried to take advantage of the respite before Ike was due Saturday afternoon, repairing leaks, hustling those stuck on Middle back to their islands, checking supplies, and ensuring neighbours were safe. Hanna had been long but kind in a strange sort of way, with no one hurt, no homes lost and no vehicles swept away.

Without the causeway — to which we had all grown quite accustomed — we were an isolated island once again and back to the old routine of trucks to the Pine Barrel ferry landing on Middle Caicos, across to Toby Rock landing on North Caicos by small boat, then trucks on the other shore to run up to Bottle Creek for food, propane, water and other supplies . . . then all in reverse to get the goods home to Middle Caicos. This shuttle system ran non-stop in the quiet two days after Hanna and before Ike.

Although flooding from Hanna’s monstrous rains cut off each village for normal vehicles to pass, major construction equipment could travel through the flooded road areas and keep us all in touch. While many residents were in the shelters, most preferred to remain at home, so ensuring all were taken care of in that short time span was a huge task. But by Saturday afternoon everyone was huddled down safely as Ike slammed into the country. Throughout the endless night the cell phones continued to work, making for heartbreaking conversations with folks in Grand Turk as their roofs lifted off and ours creaked ominously. Everyone was awed by the power of the storm.

Walking out of our burrow on Monday morning, peering through my fingers to see how much was left of our restaurant and office near the shore, afraid maybe all had been blown away, sent me to my knees when I saw all the buildings intact. Amazingly, the combination of Hanna with major rain and low winds, then Ike with major wind and no rain kept damages down for all.

One of our best advantages on Middle Caicos is the little power plant based there. Whereas normally electricity comes all the way from Providenciales, the local plant can run all power for Middle Caicos by itself. This emergency power plant ran flat out for weeks, keeping us in light, with running water and working refrigerators. As the causeway remained unusable for weeks, a steady stream of barrels of diesel fuel had to be manhandled across the water in small boats by volunteers, then hand pumped into the tanks at the plant — a fantastic effort.

Each day we moved forward, reaching out to each other and to friends and family in trouble on other Islands, offering whatever we could. Middle Caicos has five churches and a very devout population. Praise and thanks to a loving God echoed constantly in conversation, and an earnest appreciation of the simple life we share was much in evidence.

By early October the worst of the flooding was over, shingles had been replaced, schools reopened, the causeway debris bulldozed away and a rough bumpy roadway re-connected us to North Caicos. The fall passed as momentum was slowly regained for projects underway on Middle Caicos. Remarkably, these projects included four residential homes, two private commercial buildings, the ongoing government complex, a major study of the “pine yard” and the revival of a development agreement in Half Creek. We had four different contractors on their jobs, workers coming in from North by day and a current of optimism palpable as the projects grew toward completion. The local cable company restrung lines and the local realtor office remained open throughout! While the world economic outlook grew dim, great activity was in progress on Middle Caicos, the “little” island that can!

Daniel's Cafe in Conch Bar, Middle Caicos

Daniel's Cafe in Conch Bar, Middle Caicos

As the 2008/9 tourist season moved forward, we met it head-on. The annual Valentine’s Day Cup festival in February proved the point — life on Middle Caicos was vibrant, healthy and happy. Day trips were promoted including the unique Conch Bar caves, local lunches, traditional handcrafts and a dazzling day of wide open scenery. In March, 2009 a well beloved eatery re-opened in brand-new premises on the seashore, and Daniel’s Café continues to serve mouthwatering cracked conch to those in the know. In April, 2009 the Middle Caicos Co-op opened its own shop, returning to Conch Bar ten years after it began! (The hurricanes had destroyed the shop in Providenciales and the co-op used the opportunity to re-claim its original home.) Middle Caicos, now and always, offers much to explore, along with a literal “breath of fresh air” and aura of peace, whether for a day or for a week and both tourists and TCI residents find a warm welcome.

Middle Caicos is a unique place, with those choosing to live there following their own rhythm, their own drummer, their own dreams . . . and building a modern lifestyle and sustainable economy in their own way. The future path of Middle Caicos is firmly in their capable hands.

The Middle Caicos Co-op Studio and Outlet sells traditional straw-work, modern art and a variety of handcrafts from a network of 60 island artisans. Wholesale, retail and custom orders are welcome. The store in Conch Bar is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM.

For more information, call 946-6132 or 231-4884 or visit www.middlecaicos.biz.



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Photographer Marta Morton was enjoying another spectacular sunset when she spotted this lovely scene—a picture-perfect clump of Old Man Cacti and the pastel colours of what she later learned were crepuscular rays (see page 18). For more of Marta’s images, turn the pages of this issue and visit www.harbourclubvillas.com.

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