Archive for the 'BVI' Category

Pictures of Our Trip

I’ve been working on our pictures from our trip to BVI.  I have uploaded 138 pictures to my Shutterfly “collection” that you can see here:  http://www.wiltap.shutterfly.com/action/

Also, I’ve created a slideshow with music that’s too big to upload to a website, so I’m putting it on a disc and can bore you quite easily when I bring it to your house to show it on the TV.

Finally, I’m putting a few of the pictures on a slideshow that I will link into this blog, so if you really aren’t into viewing 138 pictures (I can sure understand that) then you can enjoy just a few.  You can see this slideshow on my British Virgin Islands page.

That doesn’t count the scrapbook that I’ll put together, so if you’re really bored one day you can ask me to see that when it’s done.

I have thought of about a dozen pictures I wish I had taken, and didn’t.  Guess I have to go back. <GRIN>  Also, I wish I had brought along more undewater cameras, because I missed getting a picture of the sea turtle and giant parrotfish we saw in Anegada.  When we got home, I found an underwater camera at CVS with a flash!  Of course, the bad thing about the film cameras is you can’t get good digital files from them, so if you want enlargements you have to get them printed at the store using the negatives.

Right at the end of our trip, something happened to my card, so many of the shots we did in Anegada didn’t turn out.  I’m thinking this card is on its last legs, and they don’t make it any more.  Time for a new digital camera!

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone.  We are home and glad to be here after having a most wonderful vacation.  We feel relaxed and refreshed, and are happy to have spent our time in such a beautiful place as the British Virgin Islands.  People who live there must love to hear us say it’s time for us to go back to the “real world” as if theirs is not real.  But it is most definitely a real place and we are lucky that we had the chance to see and experience it.

Our trip home went like clockwork, I was a bit worried that we would not make our connection in San Juan because of the customs but we made it in enough time for Amy to buy some perfume she wanted from duty free, for which she had been saving her money.

One funny item, with all the research I do, you think I would have been prepared for the departure tax at the airport in Tortola.  They charge $20 per person (!) to leave Tortola by air and I had no idea and it caught us by surprise.  In addition, BIG surprise, they do not accept credit cards, so Tony had to literally run to a cash machine and get money.  We didn’t tell him how much to get, at the time we weren’t close enough to the sign to notice the amount, but luckily he returned with $60 so we could pay the tax.  So, next time, be warned, make sure you have cash on you before you show up at the airport…or deal with the cash machine when you get there. 

Amy’s been out with her friends this evening, catching up on all their spring break activities.  We had a quiet dinner out, and I put Tony to bed nursing his cold.  By the way, I guess in my other days entries I didn’t mention that I caught a classic cold and by Tuesday was really suffering the sore throat and runny nose, sneezing and now have a chesty cough to go with it.  By Friday Tony and Amy both had all the symptoms, and so it’s going to be a few days before we’re all better.  It never fails for me to get a cold when traveling, but at least I had a warm climate this time and I didn’t let it stop me.  I’ll have to try one of these preventive products like Airborne next time…and see if I still get sick or not.  If I do, then it doesn’t work, if I don’t then, hey, it must have been the Airborne that keeps me well!  (GRIN)

Thanks again to Alison and Jim who made our stay at Marina Cay so special.  Also Melissa, our ferry boat drivers (never got their names) and all the restaurant staff and housekeepers did so much to make everything the best for us.  Melissa especially for putting up with all my dumb questions and last-minute requests, she was always easy to work with and made great recommendations for us.  Very soon I’ll put a post on Trip Advisor and link back to my blog so others can read how great staying at Marina Cay is.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip.  I will post our pictures tomorrow, or sometime next week and will let you know when they’re out there.

Anegada — The Drowned Island

We were very fortunate (thanks to Alison!) that we could get on the Dive BVI tour to Anegada.  This island is straight north of Virgin Gorda, and is the only coral island in the volcanic BVI chain. The Spanish named it Anegada, the “Drowned Land.” Measuring 11 miles by three, its highest point is just 28 feet above sea level. The island is surrounded by Horseshoe Reef, one of the world’s longest at 18 miles.

Our boat picked us up at Marina Cay just after 8:30 a.m. and made a quick stop in Leverick Bay before heading north to Anegada.  On the way we got a great view of Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and a whole load of boats sailing in the beautiful blue waters.  Not many of them go all the way to Anegada and all but the most experienced avoid it anyway because the reefs are very dangerous.  You can see why there are a lot of shipwreck sites off of Anegada because you really can’t see it like you can the other islands, the most you see is a few palm trees, and then you’re there!

We waited around at the Anegada Reef Hotel for what seemed like eternity until our taxi showed up for our ride to Loblolly Bay.  We had to laugh, it’s a pickup truck with benches in back, except this one has the benches set like the Safari Ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom safari ride.  Well, this one is not as new, and is held together with baling wire and string in some places.  The road is newly paved, and not all the way.  So riding in the back of the truck, bouncing up and down, swaying back and forth, was very much like the safari ride indeed!

When we got to Loblolly Bay, we ordered our lunches and then made our way to the beach to swim and snorkel.  This beach is beautiful white coral sand, clean, and unspoiled.  We headed straight for the water with our snorkels, and started out to the reef.  We swam out for about 10 minutes and found a reef and swam around and when we got over to the far side, we spotted a sea turtle grazing on the sea grass and tried not to scare him.  He spotted us and continued to graze for a bit, but got fed up with us and went up for air and swam slowly away.  It was wonderful to get so close…it was a shame I didn’t have an underwater camera, having already used up two on the previous snorkeling trips!  We also spotted a giant parrotfish.  At lunch I looked at a book that Meron (our Dive BVI guide) brought over and learned that there are about 40 species of parrotfish that get quite large, but I don’t know what kind it was.

Our lunch was Caribbean lobster (for Tony), shrimp (for me), and chicken for Amy.  Our lunch was good, and we enjoyed visiting with Meron and her friends from England.  After lunch we had a short walk down the pristine beach and then back to the reef for more snorkeling.  Amy came with us and just as we came up to a sort of deep spot in the coral, we spotted a large Barracuda hanging around.  It was beautiful, if not a bit scary, because he was 3 or 4 feet long.  Amy got spooked and wanted to go back, so we swam back with her (it’s about a 5 minute swim).  I must admit, they’re a bit scary for me, too, but they are not aggressive, and they just swim slowly away, taking no interest in us at all.  When Tony and I went back out to the reef, we saw him again, and more giant parrotfish, too.  The reef is beautiful…but the current was pretty strong and the water was choppy, so it was difficult to swim too far out. 

Meron told us later that the reef in that area has been bleached by the sun and killed off a lot of the coral that is in shallower water, so many of the fish have left the area.  If we could have gone further out we would have seen more.

All to soon it was time for our safari ride back to the Anegada Reef Hotel, and it sure was nice to get back in one piece!  We had a little time to stop in at the Purple Turtle gift shop (didn’t find anything interesting) before a quick stop to buy a couple of beers at the bar and set back to Tortola.  One interesting note, when we returned to Marina Cay there are these signs stating that they can’t sell alchohol until afte 6:00 p.m. because it’s Good Friday.  It seems that Anegada didn’t get the memo!  We were buying drinks all day long and the bars, at both Anegada Reef Hotel and Loblolly Bay were doing a brisk business.  I think they’re just so far out there in more ways than one, they don’t worry too much about things…such as roads, truck maintenance, blue laws, what have you….it’s a good life on Anegada!

When we got back to our room, we were pleasantly surprised by a lovely bottle of bubbly and a nice note from Alison and Jim — very touching and sweet of them to remember us.  We arranged for our ferry at 8:30 a.m. the next morning, as it was time for us to say goodby and our lovely vacation had come to an end.  We spent the evening at Pusser’s restaurant, packed up our things, and had another pleasant night with a cool breeze, and beautiful moonlight shining through the window. 

Takin’ it Easy

We were so busy all week we thought it would be good to have a day at Marina Cay, just relaxing on the beach, and swimming in the “pool.”  The water at Marina Cay is so clear and warm it might as well be a salt-water pool, and the added bonus is that you can snorkel over the reef, and in the deeper parts you can see many different kinds of fish, and we saw a good few.  For example, I saw a Barracuda hanging around, and others came by with reports of rays and even a turtle.  Alison told us about an octopus, but we couldn’t find it.  There was so much to see that we didn’t get to it all.

After spending most of the morning and early afternoon on the beach, Amy and I decided to go over to Trellis Bay to take another look at the shops there.  There are two artists studios on the beach, a market, and a little restaurant known as “De Loose Mongoose.”  We checked out the restaurant, as we wanted to go there later in the evening.  The interesting part is, that when approaching the restaurant from land, it’s not obvious where it is, you have to walk along a dirt road, or better yet, along the beach.  If you have a boat…just pull up to the convenient dock in your dinghy, and you’re there. 

We walked through Aragon’s studio but didn’t find what we were looking for.  They have some very nice things, including ceramics and baskets, some very pretty shell jewelry, and unique T-shirts.  We went to the Trellis Bay Market, and found some Sam Adams for Tony, as he’s been missing his good beer friend.  We also went to Fluke’s, which is an artist’s shop and I bought four small prints and some other items as gifts.  The artist lives on his boat in Trellis Bay and his shop is just a little house, painted bright blue, on the beach.  I have seen some of his work in other places around the island as well.  He’s known for his maps…but I found some pretty fish and beach scenes that I liked.

I ended up running for the ferry back to Marina Cay…but had no need to do so since they were using the run over for supplies and they had a pretty big load to go over.  In addition some folks were just arriving to stay for a few days as they were meeting a charter on Saturday with a few other couples.  They were certainly in for a treat…and it was fun chatting with them on the way over.

We stayed on the beach for a little while longer, then it was time to change and go back over to Trellis Bay for dinner.  The ferry boat driver said he thought that 9 p.m. would be enough time.  I learned very quickly that an evening out in this country means an evening out…nothing happens fast…even in a casual dining restaurant.  So it was a good idea to check with our driver as he’s very experienced and knows what to expect.  Turns out…he was right on.

De Loose Mongoose is a house on the beach with a screen porch, some tables outside, and some tables inside.  The tables inside might as well be outside, because the screen doesn’t fit the openings and there are gaps large enough that would not keep a bird out, much less a mosquito.  The menu is basic, but includes Caribbean favorites, and they serve Pusser’s rum…what more do you want!  So there are four tables inside, one server and one cook.  The server very wisely serves one table at a time, and in order.  The service in this restaurant was the best we had on the island, and considering their size and that all their tables were busy, it was the most efficient.  It was not fast, but they served excellent food and it came out hot and tasty.  While we were waiting, we were swatting and killing about three mosquitoes every 30 seconds, so I got up and wandered around in search of (what I felt sure would be available) a can of Off.  Sure enough in a corner of the building there is a little book exchange, and to my delight, a full can of Off.  A couple of sprays, and I was feeling much better.  My family giggled and laughed, but it wasn’t long before they were over there getting sprayed themselves.

In our entire week this was the only night that I felt bothered by mosquitoes or any other insects.  I did get a rash on the inside of my left knee and on the back of my left hand, but I have no idea where I got it, and what caused it.  It seems like mosquito bites, but it’s just little red bumps that don’t itch.  I can’t think where or when they happened…anyway it’s nothing serious.

Anyway, we returned to Marina Cay and watched the moonrise again, and as we had done all week, went to sleep with a nice breeze and listened to the sounds of the waves on the reef.  I couldn’t get enough of this, it was just divine.

Island Tours

We decided to have a day out in Virgin Gorda, which is the second most populated British Virgin Island after Tortola.  Alison recommended that we take the ferry at 11:15 a.m. and have lunch, and go to the Baths and return on the 4:30 p.m. ferry.

Amy had found a cafe that sounded interesting called “The Fat Virgin Cafe.”  This is when knowing your island geography comes in real handy.  Unfortunately for me, I had not studied this island well enough.  Turns out, the Baths and The Fat Virgin were on opposite ends of the island.  Ah well, that means taxi rides, not a big deal. 

So off to the ferry we went, and made it over to VG by about noon.  We took a cab to the Baths, which is a very popular snorkeling and swimming spot.  There might have been 100 yachts moored off the coast, and all of their dinghys tied up just off shore as well.  The  Baths are huge granite boulders and caves, in addition to great looking reefs right off the beach.  We had a short time there and did some snorkeling, and walked through the caves just a bit.  There is no easy way to walk through these caves, so we didn’t venture in too far.  It was really a pretty place.  By the way, we had to hike down a trail to the beach (reminiscent of yesterday’s hike up the mountain) and of course back up again when it was time to meet our taxi to go to the Fat Virgin Cafe.

So, right on time (15 minutes late) our taxi driver showed up, his name was Tiger.  He said he had the same name as the rich golfer, but that he was the chocolate color tiger, and didn’t have as much money.  His taxi was a Ford pickup truck with padded (thank God) benches in the back, and a canopy over the top.  Pretty funny.  Anyway, he brought us down to Gun Creek, just in time to miss the ferry to Biras Creek resort where the Fat Virgin Cafe is located.

Enter Dexter, the sailing instuctor from The Bitter End Resort, who was in Gun Creek loading up on some supplies for the restaurant.  Dexter, being the nice guy he is, offered us a ride over to the Bitter End and then said he’d find us a way over to The Fat Virgin.  He got us there in style, on a Boston Whaler.  Then he checked with the people there who said the next ferry back to Gun Creek would be 4 p.m., which would not be in time for us to meet Tiger for our ride back to the town for our ferry home.  Dexter, being the nice guy he is, said he would take us back and would return for us at 3:30 p.m.   We enjoyed a nice lunch and sat out in the Caribbean sun, and sure enough, Dexter was right on time (15 minutes late) and got us back to Gun Creek by 4 p.m. 

Amy had a little mishap getting onto Dexter’s boat and bruised her shin, but not before I did a very ungraceful flop onto the boat myself, luckily I ended up on a padded seat, just didn’t look to good on the way there.  We are truly landlubbers, that is for sure.  Dexter told us he lives in Gun Creek, and that this is his backyard.  Nice.

So we  made it back to Spanish Town to the ferry dock in plenty of time for our ferry.  Now let me say that the ride between Spanish Town and the ferry dock is a mountain road with such beautiful views of the sea that it was well worth it.  Good thing, too…since when we got onto the ferry, we realized that it was going right back to the Bitter End resort to drop off some passengers.  Wow.  So we got to see this island, from end to end, from the mountain view, and from the sea.  While we were on the ferry we stopped in Leverick Bay where there is another Pusser’s and also saw Saba Rock resort.  Several yachts in this area were mini-cruise ships and one had a helicopter on it.  We were told that it belonged to Wayne Huyzenga (spelling?) who owns the Miami Dolphins and Blockbuster Video.    Must be nice.

When we got back to Marina Cay we were tired but had a wonderful day.  We ate dinner at the restaurant, and just before we left our terrace we watched the moon rise over Virgin Gorda which looked at first like someone lit a bonfire on the boulders at the Baths.

What a View!

Every day here seems to be an adventure, not really knowing what to expect and how to go about business.  It is so different from any other experience we have had recently.  To say that this culture is a bit laid back is a total understatement.

The car rental agency, DD’s, also known as Deadman’s (no joke, the owner’s name is Deadman) was supposed to pick us up at 8:30 a.m. in Trellis Bay.  Of course (now when I say of course, I mean that we have gotten used to the fact that people here in BVI tend to take things pretty loose and easy with time) when we landed there, no one was waiting, and I had left my cell phone in the room.  Not sure how that happened, but it’s all part of the adventure.  We did meet a nice Brit hanging around there by the name of Richard Boudier who was looking for a ride to Roadtown.  He had a yacht in the bay which he needed to sail to St. Martin (about 80 miles) by himself to meet some other people who were going to sail it back to Venezuela.  Sounds a bit dicey to me, and he seemed pretty nice.  He was actually from the area in England where we rented a vacation house about seven or eight years ago — North Devon.  Finally our driver showed up with the car, and we made a short stop at the airport where he picked up another car and we went back to the office to arrange the details.  We were handed a map, made arrangements for returning the car, and we were off.

Tortola is 8 miles long and extremely mountainous.  I don’t know the population, but there seems to be houses stuck on every hill at precarious angles.  I think a 4-wheel drive is the best vehicle to have on these roads.  We started out in Road Town, where we had breakfast at Village Cay Marina (which we knew because we were there when we sailed on White Squall II) and said goodbye and good sailing to Richard.  We then went to the shops on Main Street which really ought not to allow cars, it’s only about 10 feet wide, and there are tourists and locals walking along.

We found a couple of goodies, but after we started driving out of town we saw an area that we missed, but I’ll bet it was just tourist souveniers for the cruise ship passengers.  There were 2 ships in port.  We also noticed that there were open air busses, that looked a little like Disney’s Safari Ride busses, absolutely packed with tourists on their way to Cane Garden Bay, reputedly the beach in Tortola.  But I must say, if it’s beaches you want, I wouldn’t come to Tortola.  I read that in the websites where I did my research, so I pretty much knew what to expect.  As modest as it is, Marina Cay has possibly the nicest beach in Tortola.  Now if you want surf, then the one we saw at Josaih’s Bay was great.

We drove the whole island around in a circle.  As soon as you start going up into the mountians on the west end, it’s a fantasic view at every curve.  I kept asking Tony to stop so I could take pictures, I hope some of them turn out nice. 

We made our way up to the highest point in Tortola, which also included something like a 1-mile hike up a very steep hill over tree roots, rocks, you-name-it, and all done in beach flip-flops.  We were laughing the whole way.  But when we got to the top, the view was well worth it.  I will have to come back to this blog later and tell you the name of the National Park but for now it escapes me.

I had spotted what seemed like a great spot for lunch, so we made our way back there but turns out it’s only a dinner spot, so we went back down the hill to Sugar Mill for lunch…getting there right before it stopped serving.  They have a pretty little beach and a very pretty hotel which serves great food, we opted for the beach-side restaurant, which is sandwiches and burgers, but very good food.  Tony and I both had a Caribbean Roti, which is  basically a chicken curry wrap.

From there we visited two beaches, Cane Garden Bay and Josiah’s Bay.  These are two polar opposites where Cane Garden Bay is calm and serene, with a wide swath of white coral sand, and very gentle waves…Josiah’s Bay is rocking with waves and filled with surfers.  I get the feeling that Cane Garden Bay is pretty much set up for the tourists but that Josiah’s Bay is where the locals prefer.

Our day came to an end and we made our way back to the car rental agency without much trouble…well…when we tried to fill the car with gas we had to look high and low for the gas cap release button…that was a bit of fun.  Gas here costs $3.26.  Ouch.

In the evening we went for a meal at “The Last Resort” which is a restaurant located on an islet in Trellis Bay.  Our Marina Cay ferry dropped us off there and we enjoyed a great meal.  The donkey is gone, but evidence of the donkey persists in the restaurant logo.  There were cats roaming around, circling like sharks, and sitting down and looking up dolefully for a hand out.  Also a lab mix dog….I heard that the dog will sing happy birthday, but we didn’t stay for the floor show.  When the guy started singing Simon and Garfunkel songs it was time to go.   Which brings me to Ivan the boatman.

We were given a ride home to Marina Cay by The Last Resort ferry, driven by Ivan the boatman.  That’s our name for him, he had an accent that sounded Russian to me.  He had a fast skiff, like a Boston Whaler, only a bit bigger and with a bimini.   Ivan put the pedal to the medal and we literally flew over the waves, laughing with every bounce.  Amy and I were seated on a cushion, but Tony was not.  With every bounce, he bounced and you can imagine from there…poor guy had a sore tush when we got back.  Ivan told us that if he didn’t go fast, we would have gotten wet.  So, it’s either wet, or bounce…take your pick.  Anyway we made it back ok, and lived to tell the tale.

Tortola is filled with great views, friendly people, and loads of fun stories.  Stay tuned for our visit to Virgin Gorda next, this was even more fun…dealing with Taxi drivers, ferry boat drivers, tourists, and more.  One thing for sure, never a dull moment.

Full Moon

Today was the full moon, which meant there was a full moon party in Trellis Bay.  This was an authentic Caribbean barbeque with music — I guess a modern sort of reaggae — it was easy to listen to, and not steel drums (thank you so much).  This little area of beach is an artist colony, the artist known as Aragon, and he has constructed “fireballs” from steel, and they load them with wood and light them on fire.  There were three in the water, a pyramid, a cube, and a sphere, and there was another sphere on land.  They are intricately carved, with human figures.  The Caribbean barbecue was jerk chicken, barbecue chicken, pork, curry goat, rice, mac/cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting.  The crowd was friendly, mostly tourists, and the artists in Aragon’s studio were demonstrating how they fire their clay creations in an outdoor kiln.  All very interesting and loads of fun.  We left before the Moka Jumbies came out, they are stilt walkers.  Tomorrow is an early day, we have rented a car to do sightseeing and beach-hopping in Tortola.  With any luck we will find a map at the airport to guide us on our way otherwise we might have some fun trying to navigate by the seat of our bathing suits!

 Also today we went diving.  Actually Tony and Amy went diving, I snorkeled.  The first thing was a short course in “how to dive” and then they went to a reef nearby called “Diamond Reef” because supposedly some lady once lost a diamond ring there.  That made me remember that I had forgotten to take off my rings….oh well, I managed not to lose them.

The divers saw some giant stingrays and I saw a few barracudas.  They also saw gruntfish, squirrel fish, parrot fish, and many others.  This reef had beautiful fan corals also.  My snorkeling partner was Lila, a 9-year-old who tried the diving (very brave) but couldn’t hack the equipment (who could blame her) as it was very uncomfortable for her.

Amy said she had a great time.   The rest of the day we spent just hanging around Marina Cay, we had a bit of a sleep in, which was nice.  The sun comes up in our windows so there’s not much sleeping in for us but I’m not really complaining because I’m still overawed by the views.

Anyway, tomorrow will be an adventure for sure.  We will tour Tortola (8 miles long, but some big honkin’ mountains) in a rental car with a left-hand drive, as we have in the US, but driving on the left as they do in the UK.  Hopefully we never feel the need to pass a slower moving vehicle…as that will probably make the passenger (me) feel very nervous.  I remember this well in Barbados years ago and didn’t like it there too much, either.

More tomorrow!


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