Monday, May 24, 2010

Well, Maybe one more...

Sorry. I know I said I was done. Just found a few more pics of our last couple of days on Nevis and had to share them!

So this picture is like a screensaver or something. Just one of the many we got on our trip that made us thank God for creating it and allowing us to be here.

Is this not awesome?! This has to be my favorite (from many favorites). We were simply having the time of our lives. No schedule, no worries, no people around, just the two of us. Man! Just seeing it again whisks me away to daydream land! I'd love to be there now.

So here are some shots from a walk down our beach away from Nesbit Plantation toward the southeast. Darla didn't like the fact that I kept taking pics of her, but I just had to do it.

Ok, so I saw something on Survivorman (one of me and Dara's favorite shows) a long time ago. Les (aka Survivorman) was marooned on a beach and found a coconut with the sprout of a little tree coming out. He cracked it open and instead of the normal coconut and milk in the inside, there was a sweet solid center more like a crunchy simi-sweet bread. I totally had to find a sprouted coconut and try it for myself!!! Guess what? I did and it was sooo cool! Here's me carrying the sprouted coconut. I don't know why I get such a kick out of this kind of thing! Darla thinks I'm crazy.

The farther we walked, the more shells, coral, and cool rocks we would find. This is a pile of conch shells just lying in the sun on the beach! Can you imagine seeing something like this at Destin?! Of course not. It would make the news!

This was a cool spot where a palm tree had blown down in a storm over the water.

Another pic of the leaning coconut palm, taken from the other side. We couldn't get over this and other postcard scenes.

This is Henry the gardener. He is probably 90 years old. He moves slow, but works hard. He can barely see. He mows the yard slower than any human being I've ever seen, and he sings about Jesus the entire time!!! Henry taught me all about which coconuts are good for drinking or eating, how to get them and how to get them open. Such a nice man. Incidentally, we were driving on one of our last days and we passed a big beautiful house with gorgeous landscaping. The sign on the house said that it belonged to Henry the Gardener! You've got to love Nevis! Like the U.S. It is a place where honest people of any background or profession can succeed by hard work and wise habits.

Ok, so what would a Sparks-at-the-beach blog post be if we didn't include something about FOOD! Lunch that day was Coconut shrimp for Darla and a whopping lobster salad sandwich for me! Mmmm mmm.

Alright. I'm done. Thanks again for letting me share. Again, I hope all of you can do something like this one day. You'll have to go to the website for the Lazy Turtle Villa on Nevis (Google it) if you want to check out our place. Lara and Jane (owners) are great people.
More than anything, I pray that you all will have the blessing of having a life-mate who loves Christ. That's the best thing of all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Last Nevis Post...What a Trip!

Well, we've been back in Knoxville less than a week and life is crazy busy once again.
Ok...I've been told we've made people mad and some have kidded us that we've been gloating. I feel bad if that's happening (we're NOT gloating, just sharing a joyful time with friends!), cause we certainly don't want anyone getting mad!! I pray that you ALL will have the opportunity to BE MARRIED FOR 20 YEARS TO A PERSON SEEKING CHRIST. THAT'S the REAL blessing! The trip was really just a celebration and rekindling of our most important earthy relationship.

Here's a FEW shots of our final two days on Nevis...

This pic was taken on May 12, the day of our 20th anniversary. We decided to eat at Coconut Grove, a restaurant in which we had eaten lunch one day earlier and really liked. We had met the owner, a Frenchman who had also lived in New York before selling all and moving to Nevis 5 years ago (he looks kind of like George Clooney). Awesome fish! Darla had some freshly caught local grouper that was INCREDIBLE! The restaurant's claim-to-fame is that it has the best wine cellar on the Island. But like a couple of nerds, we brought some non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice that they gave Darla at the Baptist Church for Mother's Day! We didn't care and neither did they. We couldn't take it home. It was a great time!

The view of the beach at twilight was so good. The gentle cool breeze was perfect! A quintessential group of wealthy Brits were there. It was so fun listening to them! It could have been a SNL skit! We were cracking up.

Really, for our last two days, we wanted to spend as much time on the beach as we could. So on the 13th that's what we did until lunch when we decided to go back to Peak Haven where we had eaten after our hike to Nevis Peak.

Here I am looking through the telescope.

I know it is funny, but Darla was always wanting to take pictures of the food we were eating. She took this after I had already eaten half of the chicken. IT WAS SOOO GOOD. It was a Nevis favorite: Curry chicken cooked in a stew. The cook's name is Llewellyn. He used to work at the Four Seasons resort. Such a nice and gentle man, and a great cook! Also on the plate are some yellow Nevis-grown sweet potatoes and other local veggies. I wish I could convey how good it was. Darla had a chicken sandwich made with Llewellyn's homemade bread. Mmmmm. And what a view while we ate. We conversed with the owners there too.

Afterward we decided to pop over to a place we had heard about from several sources: Golden Rock, a restored sugar plantation which has been turned into a restaurant and hotel. All I can say is...Wow. Darla and I were sad that we had not come sooner and eaten there. All these pics will perhaps show how excellent this place was. They had restored the original stone buildings and had added some water features and allowed the tropical plants to grow in just the right places.
Their specialty is their lobster sandwich. We had heard about it the whole time we'd been on Nevis but never went to try it. While walking around, one of the servers walked by with one. HUGE! Homemade thick-sliced bread LOADED with chunky lobster salad (yeah, like chicken salad)! Perhaps my only regret for our whole trip! We should have eaten here!! Even some of the rooms are in the remodeled ancient stone structures. I wish the pictures did this place more justice.

This pic is of the most desirable room there, the honeymoon suite, converted from a sugar mill tower. Darla (always curious to see how the inside looks) went up to the front door and nervously cupped her hands around her eyes at the glass to see inside. Assuming no one was there, she started oohing and aahing about how nice it was. I couldn't resist. I spoke loudly, "We're sorry, we didn't know anyone was in there--sorry!" Darla just about swallowed her tongue!! I wish I had a picture of her face! It was great.

Well, the dreaded day finally came when we had to leave Nevis. Here are some shots from the ferry as we departed and went to St. Kitts to fly home. We met a nice couple on the ferry from Boston who are attending seminary at Gordon Conwell. Great folks, and it was good to talk to some Americans.

It was truly sad to say goodbye to a little island we had grown to love, which has such kind people. Nevisians (pronounced Niv-EESH-uns) are almost all helpful and smiling. They speak perfect English and are very proud of their education (highest literacy rate of all western countries), low crime, rich history, and Christian heritage. They are hard-working people who have made their island great.
We boarded the ferry and took pictures all along the 45-minute ride to St. Kitts. We passed a big old freighter, a Carnival cruise ship, and other craft as we approached the port city of Basseterre. It is interesting that frequently while on Nevis, the Nevisians expressed disdain for St. Kitts. One Nevisian called Basseterre "thug city."

How to end...
I can't express how glad I am that we did this together. We'll be paying for the splurge for a while, but it was SOOO worth it. And Nevis couldn't have been better. I'm recharged and ready for another twenty and beyond!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


There is no way to describe it. God is good to us. Our trip just seems to go from great to even greater. Thanks to all of you who have wished us well. Again, no time to tell details. Here are some shots from the last two days or so.
Yesterday we spent most of the day lounging at the beach. We hung out next door at Nesbit Plantation. We went snorkeling and saw a lot of stuff. There's no way we can bring back the huge conch shells and other treasures we have found. Beautiful fish abound. Don't know if I mentioned it, but Lobsters are everywhere. I've caught
one but lost it swimming back in. They're not easy to catch...and can cut you up if you're not careful. Darla had an awesome lunch on the beach (Mahi Mahi sandwich with a tropical salsa on top, salad, & fries) and we shared a dessert.
A rich chocolate brownie with caramel, nuts, and coconut, served with great vanilla ice cream. Darla's favorite!!

This is what the beach is all about...reading a good book about American Christian history! I also finished a book about Eric Liddel, the Olympic runner about whom they made the movie, "Chariots of Fire." Awesome book. It's called Pure Gold. I highly recommend it.

It was not all paradise, however. Me being the adventuresome type, must push the envelope. I started getting coconuts for eating and drinking the coconut milk. Got a little obsessed with knocking them out of trees and figuring out how to get them open, etc.

Anyway, when Darla and I were leaving the beach to take a shower before dinner, I grabbed a rock bigger than my fist, said to Darla, "Watch out honey, I'm going to get a coconut." I threw it hard at a big coconut about 20 feet off the ground. It hit the coconut square and bounced right off AND RIGHT AT DARLA'S HEAD!! Thankfully she had her visor and sunglasses on which shielded her from the brunt of the blow. I thought she would have a concussion or her head was split open or worse! I couldn't have done that again if I tried all day for a year! She has a little bruise, but nothing serious. Whew! Thank you Lord. Stupid me. She's so patient with my A.D.D.

We went to town to eat and many restaurants were closed (go figure...we're learning that there are certain Nevis cultural ways). We finally found a place we had heard about called Seafood Madness. Sounds totally different than it is. This was actually a very peaceful place, and we had it all to ourselves. I totally splurged and got fresh lobster. UNBELIEVABLE. This was the MEDIUM!

It makes my mouth water just to see the pictures again. It was the best lobster ever. It's my favorite food, and I haven't had it in many years. I savored every bite. Does it seem like we're talking a lot about food?

Today we planned to hike the 3232 ft. Nevis Peak. It's in the center of the Island and is a huge inactive volcano. You can see it wherever you are on Nevis and there is almost ALWAYS a cloud on it. We've only seen the peak cloudless twice the whole time we've been here. I don't know why...something meteorological.

We had been told that it was very difficult and VERY dangerous to go without a guide. Stories of people who have been lost abound. Interestingly, when we tell locals we're hiking the peak, they respond with emotion. "'re crazy!" kinds of responses. But you know's there...we've got to hike it. Poor Darla. She's been dreading this the whole time.
We booked a guide (great guy, his name is Sheldon) and met him this morning at 9:45.

Let me tell you: I've hiked most of the hardest trails in the Smokies. This was SO hard. Over half of it was crawling STRAIGHT up on all fours, pulling on ropes over mud, tree roots, and slick rocks through the thickest jungle you can imagine! Darla is one of the toughest women I know. She wasn't feeling well for the first (less difficult) half because we ate a big breakfast before coming. But she sucked it up and made it! The whole time I was thinking about how sorry I was to get her into this.

This is one of the many flowers we saw on the way called "Bird of Paradise." The flora is amazing--like a big botanical garden--huge ferns, vines, trees that are nothing if not exotic. There were NO bugs, and Sheldon told us there were no dangerous animals of any kind (no snakes on the island due to the many know). As to hunting, Sheldon said, "Open season, all the time." He told of an old guy he knows that kills and eats monkeys. There are small wild hogs, two different kinds of doves (one big, one little) but nothing dangerous.

Here is a typical part of the trail, in this case a hole in the mud, rocks, and roots that Darla is crawling through. What doesn't show here is that this is STRAIGHT up (most was like climbing a ladder), and behind us is a drop of about 50 feet into the dark jungle!

The views on the way up were astounding. We were blessed to have less cloud cover until the very top.

I can't overstate how difficult this was. My arms are sore as I write for pulling myself up with the many ropes necessary to climb this trail.
Sheldon, our guide, was young and talkative. He had a lot of opinions about religion and many questions. We found out much insider Nevisian stuff that was really interesting. He was brilliant and engaging. Not to mention athletic. He climbed the whole thing in Reebok tennis sneakers.
We were beaten up and covered with sweat and mud when we finally got to the top. Drew would have absolutely LOVED a challenge like this. He would have been in heaven.

And of was covered in a cloud. The only other disappointing thing is that we couldn't see into the crater (did I say this is a volcano?). Here we are faking a smile, acting like we're ready for more. Truth is, it was in many ways harder and more dangerous to get back down the mountain. I fell twice, Darla fell a few times and has some bruises to show for it. We were filthy we we got done.

When we were almost to the bottom, Sheldon showed me some red-orange fruits that he called "cherries." Not like ours, but they were so sweet and juicy and sooo good. The redder the better...the orange ones tasted like hot pepper/tomato mixed. I ate many of them. Tasted a little like red raspberries to me. I wish my kids could have been here. They love to eat berries we find while hiking. Aren't these beautiful? They're shaped like tiny pumpkins.

After hiking we ate at a little place called Peak Haven where the trail starts/ends. It was really good. I had a curry chicken stew that was spicy. It was a colloquial dish--that's what I love more than anything, trying the native food. Darla had a grilled chicken sandwich that was on some great homemade bread. We got salads, Thick yellow sweet-potato fries, some kind of orange squash. All delicious! The people were so nice and courteous. We spoke with each of them and thanked them for such a lovely experience. And the view...the pictures don't do it justice.
While eating we talked about how people who take cruises or all-inclusive resort vacations to the caribbean never get to experience the REAL Caribbean like we have on this trip. I wouldn't have changed a thing.

We were soooo tired. But the view...magnificent. Check out the seat of Darla's pants in this picture. I'm telling you...we were battle-scarred.

Finally...what kept Darla going...the HOT TUB. We stayed in it until the sun went down. Another beautiful sunset with an incredible 360-degree view.

Hard to believe there's just two more days.