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......

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