Wednesday, July 22, 2009

virgin islands dispatch #3

i'm not sure how i managed it, but somehow i seem to have brought the rain back from st. john to south carolina. funny- i didn't think i had room for a napkin between my two carry-ons, let alone storm clouds.

forgive me for not posting earlier, but when it came down to $8 for either 45 minutes of internet time, or a ride on mr. frett's taxi from the maho bay camps to cruz bay....well, i like walking and all, but i'm pretty sure i would have missed my flight this afternoon if i'd hoofed it from point a to point b.

where did i leave off last? *scrolling through previous post in another window* ah yes, i was heading over to bvi on monday.....

i'd signed up for the virgin gorda/jost van dyke excursion on the stormy petrel, and was mildly disappointed at first to learn that i'd been bumped to an alternate craft, pirate's penny. however, i could not have asked for a better crew. the captain, eric, was wonderful, and since he was raised in the islands, i'm sure our tour of the baths at virgin gorda was far more detailed than what the majority of folks experience. (i just hope i can remember which room was which when i get around to printing my pictures and stuffing them into an album.)

after our tour of the baths, we grabbed sandwiches at a local deli, which were eaten on the fly on our way to sandy spit, which is this little islet off the coast of jost van dyke:

there's some really great snorkeling here, and though i sort of cheated to get over to it (a float was involved), i was able to get pictures of a parrotfish swimming around the small coral reef.

on the way back to st. john, we stopped over at white bay on jost van dyke for an hour. while most folks were interested in having painkillers over at the soggy dollar bar (so named, i'm sure, because to get to the bar, most folks swim from their boats), i spent some time adding to the local economy (i felt the mojito lip balms were a nice substitute for all the mojitos i was denying myself during my vacation, and the long sleeved t-shirt came in handy at the chilly airpost this afternoon), and took a small (barefoot) hike over to the next beach.

i switched gears again yesterday- the reef bay trail was the other big hike on my "to do" list, mostly because i am a sucker for petroglyphs.

plan a: take the nps' guided hike to reef bay, including the boat ride back to cruz bay.

this would have been perfect. unfortunately, during the off season, this guided hike only happens twice a week....and the only day during my stay just happened to be the day i was frolicking in bvi.

plan b: take the goat trail from camp to maho bay, then pick up the maria hope road to centerline road, cross the street to pick up the reef bay trail, and upon reaching reef bay, hike back.

i found the trailhead to the maria hope road without much of a problem. unfortunately, if it's blazed, it's with the same white that naturally occurs on about a third of the trees in the immediate area. having very little desire to be lost in the middle of the woods by myself (i have a healthy sense of adventure, but not that healthy), i backtracked down to north shore road and walked over to the cinnamon bay trail, figuring that after i reached centerline road, i'd simply hike a mile east and pick up the reef bay trail.

i started up the trail without incident, but by the time i reached the spur trail for america hill, i'd started feeling a little lightheaded and headachy....not a good thing when one is planning a serious hike alone. so, deciding (for once!) that discretion was the better part of valor, i took some pictures at america hill, then turned around (just as a thunderstorm rolled in- talk about timing!) and headed back to camp.

i spent a couple of hours resting in my tent-cottage- mostly scribbling postcards and watching the iguanas in the tree outside.

by midafternoon, i was getting antsy again, and headed out towards a couple of previously missed ruins- annaberg school and fredriksdal. the former is very well preserved and the trail is marked with a large nps sign on the side of the road. finding fredriksdal, however, is not so easy. in fact, i initially walked past both the trail to the estate house ruins and the bridge, which is almost directly across the street. on the second pass, though, i noticed that someone had tied one of those pink plastic ribbons around a small tree by the trailhead to the bridge, and the rest was gravy. (not literally, obviously. i mean, what on earth would one do with gravy in the middle of a forest?) the old stone bridge was the highlight of this round of only regret is that there wasn't anyone else around to take the obligatory photo of me under the bridge, so i settled for a quick snapshot of the view from just off the main trail.

the brush was pretty thick in this area, and since i was wearing my formerly khaki shorts (as opposed to my favorite green pants, which still hadn't finished drying yet), i'm afraid i wasn't really up for the bushwhacking that would've been necessary to see all fredriksdal had to offer. (basically, i went just past the estate house, then turned around...though i also saw some additional ruins peeking out of the foliage while walking along the road.)

i thought about heading back over to waterlemon bay and trying to find the ruins in that area (all i saw my first time through, on the way to the guardhouse at leinster point, was part of a building and a cattle trough), but changed my mind as i got closer to leinster road and opted for a quick stop at my favorite ruins (francis bay estate house) on the way back to camp, instead.

i left camp with somewhat mixed feelings this morning. i took the gnomes down to little maho beach one last time,

said goodbye to the iguanas (by this point, i could see 6 in the trees outside my tent-cottage),

and packed up my two carry ons, as well as the box i was shipping back home, and headed toward registration to check out and meet mr. frett's taxi one last time.

after spending a couple of hours supporting the local economy in cruz bay (nat'l park visitor's center, friends of the virgin islands park store, as well as a couple of other stores, the names of which i'm too lazy to chase down after a day of travel), i paid $10 for a ticket on the ferry back to charlotte amalie. during the ride, i met a lovely woman who was also heading to the airport to catch the flight to charlotte. i won't divulge her name, but apparently half of the island knows that she and her husband bought their east end house for a phenomenal price. (i'm sure even a "phenomenal price" is still far more than i'll ever be able to least until i finally sit down to write my best-selling autobiography, of course.)

between good conversation and a decent mango chicken panini at the airport, time there flew by rather quickly, as did the plane ride home, though part of that was due to the nap i managed to catch during the 3 1/2 hour flight.

it'll be odd waking up in the morning to the view of a solid wall, rather than maho bay and my iguana neighbors, as seen through the screened walls of my tent-cottage. on the other hand, i need a few days for these mosquito bites to heal and my skin to rebound from the effects of sunblock stick and salt water.

besides, with petrogyphs and ruins still unseen, i have no doubt i'll find my way back to st. john eventually......

Sunday, July 19, 2009

virgin islands dispatch #2

when i woke up this morning, my pants were still wet and my legs were incredibly stiff. the condition of the former was due to being put on over wet bikini bottoms 3 times yesterday, being caught in the rain in the middle of a trail once, and, about half an hour after finishing last night's post (which was 15 minutes after i'd hung them to dry on my clothesline and 5 minutes after i left my tent-cottage in my pajamas to donate some extra soap and shampoo to the maho bay camp "recycling center"), we had what could only be descibed as a "gullywasher". there i was, trapped in white pajamas, waiting for the thunder/lightning/downpour to abate, and my pants, which to this point were actually almost dry, were getting an extra rinse.

the latter condition was due to hiking what i figure to be a hair over 7 miles yesterday. i can't remember if i already listed where i went last night (tonight's internet time is being paid for with my good looks, charm, and right leg), but in the morning, i checked out francis bay (mostly because i was intrigued by the picture in my guidebook of the tile floor at the estate house ruins),

(this picture's mine- i tried to pick out the one out of the dozen or so that showed both the architecture and the tile)

the ruins at the annaberg sugar mill, and hiked over to waterlemon bay. i would've hiked the johnny hart (i hope that's right- the book is back at my tent-cottage) trail, but wound up turning around at the guardhouse ruins, since my camera battery was low and i tend to get a little....photohappy. my knees voiced some very definite opinions during the climb back up the maho bay camp driveway, but apparently this is not abnormal when one reaches old age.

lunch was a day-old steak sandwich at big maho bay (the camp where i'm staying is at little maho bay, which gave me a chance to try out the 1/4 mile "goat trail".)

i got bored after about 20 minutes on the beach, so i caught mr. frett's taxi over to cruz bay, where i finally got my national park passport stamped. while there, i asked if there were any local trails, and about half an hour later, i was in the middle of the lind point trail when it started raining. (thankfully, whenever i pack my camera, i also pack a baggie, just in case.) as i'm sure i've already mentioned, the rain continued (intermittently) for the rest of the day.

as for the stiff legs (you thought i was going to leave you hanging, didn;t you?), i did what any normal, rational person would do....i decided to hike some more.

with rain in the forecast again today, i inquired at the activities desk as to whether it would be better to hike over to trunk bay (where the national park service maintains an underwater snorkeling trail), or to head south, to the reef bay trail, which features a waterfall and some petroglyphs (the two fastest ways to sell me on a hike). the girl i asked didn't really have a set opinion, so i figured i'd just start walking and see where i wound up.

as it happened, i missed the trail that would have led me up the mountain to the reef bay trail, so i headed toward trunk bay. along the way, i stopped at cinnamon bay to check out the ruins of another sugar mill,

as well as the danish graveyard, and then continued westward along the highway. there were a couple of stunning views from the road, and i managed to take a few decent pictures, along with several off-center ones of myself. (as you might imagine, though i looked fine when i set out on today's hike, but the second mile, i looked like a sweaty, drowned rat.*)

i wound up passing trunk bay, after realizing it really wasn't that much farther to peace hill, where there's a semi-restored windmill and some really great views. (the christ of the caribbean used to be here, as well, but was taken out by a hurricane in the 90's. according to the website i just linked to, there's a plaque there, but somehow, i missed it. who knows? i may have been sitting on it while taking a spiffy photo (one spiffy one out of 7 attempts, mind you) with a wooden totem sort of thing that was nestled in the ruins.

on the way back, i attempted a snorkel at trunk bay (let's just say i made it to the sign that tells you where the trail is), where i also managed to eat most of my chicken salad wrap, before a rather aggressive bird swooped in from behind (while the wrap was in my hands, no less!) and helped itself to my tomato and lettuce.

i also stopped by cinnamon bay, and after a quick walk to buy a few postcards on the beach, i headed across the street to the cinnamon bay trail, which is fairly steep and a little over a mile long. (thankfully, i did it the right way: steep climb first, and then steep descent last.) there was a spur trail to some ruins that i meant to take, but it wasn't clearly marked, and i didn't want to wind up lost in the woods by myself.

all in all, it was a good day- 8.4 (or so) miles under my belt, and neither of my two new blisters popped. (yay!) tomorrow's adventure: getting up early to head to the baths at virgin gorda and jost van dyke. (it's my one splurge for the trip.)

oh- and i almost forgot to tell, you- i finally saw an iguana! she (i named her ludwanna) was hanging out in a tree outside my tent-cottage. i happened to look up while figuring out today's milage, and there she was. she wandered into deeper foliage about ten minutes later, but my little roommate, anatoly the anole, was hanging around my front door when i last left my tent-cottage. :)

*a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one, i assure you

Saturday, July 18, 2009

virgin islands dispatch

my butt is wet....and it's about the fifth time today.

(i know how deeply you care about these things, so i thought i'd share.)

forgive me for not getting around to finishing the final post detailing the saga of my car. it's about half written, but since i'm paying an arm, a leg, and part of my soul for internet time, let me give you the brief version: do not ever, ever, ever take your chariot to a AAA car care center.

anyway, i'm writing this while sitting on my wet butt in the internet kiosk at the maho bay camp on st. john, in the u.s. virgin islands. it's pitch black at 7:30 pm, which takes a little getting used to, but on the other hand, i have no idea what time sunrise actually is, but i was up, moving, and heading down to the beach to snorkel around 6:30 this morning. (the gasp you just heard was from my dad, who clearly remembers calling and blasting my out of bed at 10:00 am during the summer when i was in high school.)

admittedly, i am not a strong swimmer, and i have a fear of drowning (i am not too comfortable if i can't touch the ground), but i am pleased to report that i wound up swimming over a little reef at maho point....i believe the book said the water was 10' deep there, but can't really find the figure at the moment and don't really have time to search for it (i know i'm up to an arm and half a leg for the internet time, by this point.)

anyway, i also managed to squeeze in a couple of hikes (including one in the rain....good thing i had a baggie for my camera and phone), and a little more snorkeling.

ack- one minute left, i've been informed. time to go dry out my pants and nurse a ginormous blister that popped while hiking in the rain.....but hey- at least i have a popped blister and wet butt in the virgin islands, and not back home. :)