But If You Try Sometimes

I’m catching you up now from our hotel room in San Juan.

So close, and yet so far from our Caribbean beaches.


So, on Monday, we went to breakfast and awaited the Phone Call. Sure enough, Little Dix called and said we could do the 11 am glass-bottomed boat ride. We bundled up our things into the Jeep and headed over to the fancy side. However, when we presented ourselves, it turned out the captain wasn’t coming for just two people. Maybe we could go on Wednesday. I explained we were leaving Wednesday, though we didn’t know exactly when. Our original flight from Virgin Gorda had been at 4, but Air Sunshine had yet to tell us The New Plan.

Did I mention Little Dix is a class joint? They gave us free Mango Coladas at the pool bar for our trouble.

And then we went to the beaches. Long Bay is a beach-comber’s delight, with nifty critters fossilized into the rocks. Shells are everywhere. Snorkeling was great there and at Savannah Bay.

We took time out for lunch at Leverick Bay resort (where we saw the Jumbies). Did you know there are Kobe beef hot dogs? Delicious, too.

Both beaches are sunny and exposed, so we dragged ourselves home, sun and salt-bleached, to grill shrimp on our little barbeque grill.

Tuesday morning, we finally found out that Air Sunshine intended to put us on a 12:30 flight out of Tortola, which meant we’d have to leave on an 8:20 ferry.

At which I commenced whining. For good or ill, while I could call and pester Air Sunshine (Lord knows how much those calls cost me), they couldn’t seem to call me. So they called Guavaberry, who were good advocates for us. Finally the bearers of sunshine agreed to a 4pm flight, but we had no choice but to take an 11:20 ferry to get there. If we took a later one, we’d have to deal with Road Town and the transfer to the airport.

Too late for the glass-bottomed boat tour.

And here I’d had my heart set. You see, David is not a strong swimmer. (Chalk it up to childhood lessons in a city pool filled from snowmelt.) So he can’t swim in the deeper water and see the really cool fish. I so wanted him to be able to see it. I might have shed a tear or two.

Then David had the brilliant idea of calling the captain directly. It’s hard to say who it was more for at that point – for David or for me-for-David. But it worked! The guy said if we came to him, he’d take just the two of us out.

Not super-easy, but not hard. We zipped over to the jetties at Gun Creek and caught the hourly free ferry over to the Bitter End Yacht Club – an all-inclusive resort on its own little island. Most of our fellow passengers were locals who work at the resort.

Not a bad commute.

The tour was wonderful. I even saw a sea turtle, which I’d not long before told David I no longer believed in, since I’d snorkeled in all these sea turtle places without seeing one. Then we had beers and calamari while we waited for the five o’clock ferry, which was packed with housekeeping staff and other resort workers heading home in end-of-day merriment.

Last night we went for a return dinner at Copper Mine. This morning we went for a last swim at Spring Bay and drove to the ferry landing (just past the harbor where we arrived, we were told).
We left our Jeep, unlocked, keys in ashtray, as instructed.

The ferry people knew nothing about our Air Sunshine deal, so we had to pay the $40 fare.

And we ended up in Road Town. We were *supposed* to take the OTHER ferry, the Air Sunshine woman irritably told us. The other one that also left at 11:20, of which there was no evidence. Now we’d have to take a taxi.

So we ate lunch. And shopped a bit in Road Town. We arrived at the airport around 2:30. No one was at the Air Sunshine desk, so we sat in the outside cafe and had a Coke. The Air Sunshine woman spotted my suitcase – which is really funny, for those of you who know what it looks like – and came to fetch us.

We were to check in or we’d get left, she said. I said the plane was for 4pm, wasn’t it?

Or earlier, she said. The pilot had just left San Juan, so would arrive soon.

They bundled David and I onto our private plane at 3:30. They walked us out, pulled the arriving couple off and popped us on.

I watched the other couple walk in, thinking that had been us, just a week ago.

But it’s good to go home while you’re still having fun. We’ll take our chain of flights home in the morning. Soon I’ll be back to it. I’ve been turning Sterling over in my mind and I know where we’re going next.

Vacation is over. I’m ready.

When You See the Southern Cross for the First Time

I skipped posting yesterday, for no particularly good reason.

Actually it all started with breakfast at Little Dix Bay on Sunday, so I’ll start there.

As I mentioned on Sunday’s post, it rained all night Saturday night. Torrential, cooling, tropical rain. It still rained on Sunday morning, so we slept longer, listening to it fall through the broad leaves. And then we decided it was an ideal morning to have breakfast at Little Dix Bay, which is the high end resort on the island. We stuffed ourselves and watched the gentle rain fall. Then we walked on the beach, which is endless. We were the only people on it, because rain is apparently poisonous to tourists.

Little Dix is so sauve, they give you a little photocopied mini-version of the New York Times. We read the articles while we lingered – and noticed they offer a glass-bottomed boat tour. We asked if we could do the Monday one, they said yes, if enough people signed up and they’d call.

We noodled around the island for a bit after that, visited the ruined copper mine and looked at houses for sale, debating the pros and cons of each. None have asking prices on them.

Then we hiked up Gorda Peak.

Up very slimy hill. Through jungle. We saw a soldier crab, several giant hermit crabs and nearly stepped on snakes three different times. It was a bit unsettling.

We also saw these yellow and brown butterflies, that we think are zebra butterflies, though the colors are wrong. They have this lazy, languid way of flapping through the heavy moist air.

And, of course, the view from the lookout tower at the top was incredible.

We investigated some new beaches, ones we returned to yesterday, so I’ll save those pictures for now.
Sunset found us on our deck again. Then we went to the Copper Mine Shaft Cafe for an incredible meal – and really strong drinks. If you have occasion to drink a Caribbean Blue Martini, resist the urge to have more than one.

The best part was a Cambridge professor and his wife who live here now showed us the Southern Cross on the deck. We’re only 18 degrees north of the equator here. I had no idea we would be able to see the constellation so easily.

It was thrilling, actually. And I didn’t have to go to the Southern Hemisphere to see it.

When we got back to our Guavaberry Hut, a little dog greeted us as if we were his returning owners. He came right inside. His tag said his name was Humpty, with owner’s name and location on the other side of the island. His tag also said: “I wander. Love me. Feed me. Release me.”
I gave him some water and he politely asked if he could get in the chair. I patted the cushion and up he leapt to spend the night. In the morning he wandered off.

We left the house more expeditiously than usual in pursuit of the glass-bottomed boat tour.

A story for tomorrow.

Oh – and last night? We found the Southern Cross in the sky from our own deck, now that we know how to look.

Yes, just as thrilling the second time.

A Day of Too Much Perfection

Yesterday was spent much like every other, which was perfect.

We took our usual breakfast walk up to the Top of the Baths, where our breakfast buddy waited for us.

Then we hiked the trail down to The Baths and crawled through the caves to Devils Bay.

Each bay seems more perfect and lovely than the last.

The afternoon whiled away with sunbathing, beer-drinking and snorkeling. We went to a great place for dinner – The Village Cafe – where they provided us with amazing barbequed ribs, chicken and jerked pork. The best meal we’ve had so far, poolside and with a live band. Everyone was so wonderful to us – and again we were the only people there.

Perhaps it’s the end of the season here. Perhaps it’s the economy.

Seems to me like it’s the perfect time to be here.

As night came on, the rain started to fall, which pleased everyone here. They’ve been having drought. A cooling, drenching rain fell all night.

Which also seemed just perfect.

P.S. This morning I bought an underwater camera. I know, I know – you were thinking, if only there were FISH photos! Stay tuned…

Smells like Caribbean Spirit

If I could post scents, I would.

So you could know what it’s like to walk down the road and smell the honeysuckle sweetness of Frangipani. Or the earthy smells of ferns. Or the smoky mesquite of the mangrove woods.

I’d also give you the taste of aquamarine salt water and white shell sand. Cold beer on a hot afternoon.

I spent a lot of time in the sun water yesterday. Here’s me, emerging like something less than Aphrodite from the waves, snorkel mask tangled in my hair.

In the evening we went to Leverick Bay and at the spicy jerk barbecue on the beach. We drank Red Stripe and Presidente, ate too much and danced to reggae. Turns out pretty much any song can be set to a reggae beat.

Then the Jumbies danced for us. The picture isn’t good, but it gives you the feel.

Just Another Day in Paradise

On our second day in paradise, we went for breakfast at the Top of the Baths, where we had dinner the night before.

It’s an easy walk up the road from our little Guavaberry hut. The plantings around the place are phenomenal, witness this incredibly happy white Bougainvillea.

Chickens set up the calls at dawn, sounding oddly like the coyotes from home. These will wander around under the tables until this one local guy gives them a look. The chickens know him and scurry out immediately.

All was peaceful and lovely until the cruise ship tour people made it up the hill and demanded rum punch. They were not peaceful and lovely.

We sat on our deck in the shade through the hot part of the day, catching the breezes and catching up on a bit of writing. Then we spent the afternoon and sunset on the beach. The water is clear and gentle. Fish everywhere. I saw a school of nearly 200 blue fish (I don’t know what they are) from dollar-coin size up to bigger than my head.

Tonight is a big party at Leverick Bay. We’re promised dancing and stilt-walking and barbeque.

Welcome to Paradise

On the second day of vacation, they slept in.

And it was good.

It cut into the pool time and I didn’t get any wordcount in, but it was great. I love the fur-family and we both miss Zip and the kitties. Sleeping in without being walked on or whined at was quite lovely, however.

We went an ate breakfast and cleaned up and lo, and behold, it was time to head to the airport for our adjusted plane flight time of 2:00. Or 2:30.

See, this is how it went: I booked us on Sunshine Air at 11:00 am for a flight to Virgin Gorda. I chose Sunshine Air, after extensive and careful research, because they were the only ones who flew to Virgin Gorda. Mind you, I booked these tickets back in January.

The other day, I emailed the place we’re staying, Guavaberry Huts, to double-check that the Jeep rental people would be meeting us when we landed. Actually, they responded, the Virgin Gorda airport was closed and Sunshine Air would be flying us to another of the British Virgin Islands, Tortola, and someone from the Tourism Board would meet us, take us to a ferry that would bring us to Virgin Gorda, and there, at that ferry dock, we would indeed be met by the Jeep rental people.

Okay then.

I did try Googling why the Virgin Gorda airport was closed, and only found an article about crosswinds and how the airport was .

Sunshine Air did call, also. I received their voice mail when we landed in Miami. They say in the message that the flight will be at 2:00 instead of 11:00. Apparently I was supposed to call and confirm 24-hours ahead. The gal suggests I forgot. She was nice, so I didn’t suggest that no airline requires you to confirm in advance anymore. She doesn’t mention the Tortola thing, so I do. She’s sorry. But maybe we get to see some sights, yes? Sure, we’re fine. The flight’s now at 2:00, I ask?

Or 2:30, she says.

So, David and I go to the San Juan airport and check in. The guy who checks us in has to make a phone call, then painstakingly hand-writes a form. He ruefully informs us that our 11:00 flight is now delayed until 2:00. Or 2:30. As it was 12:45 then, it seems like he should know that we had some clue of this, but we just nod. We get one “boarding pass” for the two of us, that looks a lot more like an NCR receipt, but TSA doesn’t blink.

We went and drank a couple of rum concoctions while we waited. The departure screens reassuringly reflect that we, indeed are on a flight to Tortola on Air Sunshine. At 2:30.

We wait at the gate. And wait. Cape Air is there and far more organized in that they actually have staff at the counter. They also have flights to Tortola, but not for us. In fact, they become highly annoyed if anyone looking for Air Sunshine or Laria (billed as THE airline of the Caribbean) asks them questions. A sign under the Sunshine Air logo says an agent will arrive before our flight and that we should stay in the area.

Like we’re going to wander off.

David eventually tells me the tv monitor shows our flight as departed, so I ask a guy who looks official by the Air Sunshine counter. He tells me he’s just the Door Guy. But that someone from Sunshine Air will fetch us. And they’d be wearing a yellow shirt. Door Guy has an important job because the sliding glass doors work only sometimes. Occasionally they convene a fairly large group of people to try their security codes on both the inside and outside scanners until eventually one works.

At 2:46, a guy in a yellow shirt, as promised, shows up and says Air Sunshine? Six of us gather around him. He doesn’t care about our boarding pass/receipts. He trots us out to his airplane – he’s the pilot, it turns out – and he points at me to sit directly behind him. I feel like I’m riding behind my dad, and not just because he has all kinds of crap on the dashboard.

We rumble down the runway and it feel like going too fast in our Jeep, especially when it catches the heavy tropical air. One passenger, who’s clearly a local, tells us we got the best pilot.

It only takes 30 minutes to Tortola and we land. There are many welcomes to the British Virgin Islands, but no mention that we’re on Tortola. Our boarding passes/receipts still say Virgin Gorda. I remark to David that, had I not emailed, we still at this point would not know that we were on Tortola instead of Virgin Gorda, unless we figured it out from the geography.

Tourism Board gal is lovely. She explains that we’ll take a ferry to Virgin Gorda. She introduces us to our taxi driver, who taxis us all of three minutes around the corner. Local guy turns out to be local to Virgin Gorda and the three of us board our “ferry,” which is this extremely gorgeous yacht. I kid you not.

I ask local guy what the deal is with the airport and he says nobody seems to know. It’s a mystery. I mention the crosswinds in the article and another local guy laughs and says “The crosswinds were there before the airport.”

Lo and behold, the Jeep people do meet us at the dock. Everyone is spectacularly

warm. The island is gorgeous.

Our little house is amazing, with a tremendous view. Here I am, calling my mother on undoubtedly expensive roaming, to let her know we didn’t die.

As exhorted by our hostess, we went down to the private Guavaberry beach for sunset.

We went to dinner at th

e Top of the Baths, which was both delicious and gorgeous. And we were the only patrons.

I sit out on the deck writing this in the tropical night air. And finish with that same full moon, a little blurry from the moisture, but so very lovely.