February 2009 Courtesy of American Airlines... Long Bay Beach, Tortola, BVI.
Frequent Flyer miles, First Class, Admirals Club and Airport Greeters...What a welcomed escape! 3 connections and 4 airports- IAD, MIA, SJU, EIS just how far away are we going?First Class was first on first off, with hot towels, hot peanuts and hot flight attendants (Wade said that last part) the best way to travel hasn't changed in the years we've been away!With a free pass to the Admirals Club we marched in to find what- no smoking? Are you serious- Come ON why else would we be here?? We touched down at Tortola's Beef Island Airport and were welcomed by warm tropical breezes and some volunteer greeters: 2 chickens and a smilin’ momma dog. At least we were hoping she was a momma dog... Tortola Island is truly a mountain in the sea, and that became clear real fast after leaving the airport! The 45 minute taxi ride at harrowing speeds through switch backs, no guard rails and free range chickens, delivered us toour final destination- Long Bay . In the days ahead we'd get real familiar with the road system conditions and understand the difference between the only two types of roads on the map: "yellow" which aren’t so bad and "red" which are more akin to donkey paths (Wade assured me these were quite navigatable by car).
We fell asleep at the end of a long travel day to the sounds of waves rolling in....ahhhh, this is the life!Then we woke up, fell asleep, woke up, fell asleep... well, you get the picture. The soothing lulling sounds of a rolling surf made for quite an adjustment that first night!
Long Bay Resort
DAY: ONE Our beach was AMAZING!! One mile long and views of Jost Van Dyke, Norman and other islands. It was a glorious day to shed our winter blues and soak up some sun! As the newest expats and not yet sunburned or tanned, we got busy with both right off the bat.
Smugglers Cove, right over the hill, offered "walk right off the beach snorkeling" which we did, and then met a completely grassroots businessman. On Tortola all you need is a solid piece of plywood, a shady tree, signage to advertise (or in this case a simple flag), and plenty of rum... this combo makes for a thriving business! These islanders are very environmentally conscience as well, his entire enterprise was fueled by two extension cords running off his car battery, and the car doubled as his warehouse and transportation. After 4 rum drinks I couldn’t have been more impressed- this man was a genius! Even more amazing was the conversation between Wade and the CEO: "Please sir, take this boat and paddle the cove for free, it is a sight to behold that your wife can drink 4 "car crashes" and still carry on a very stimulating conversation... please enjoy with my compliments!" (I'm sort of guessing at how that went- since I wasn't a witness to it myself). The free boat ride part is definitely true. So we did paddle out around the cove and became his temporary marketing department for the remainder of the afternoon. Dinner that night was at the 1748, an old sugar mill and to answer the question which you're surely about to ask, "no I don't remember what we ate or whether it was any good."Actually this is about when I lost track of how long we had been on the island and how many more days we had left to go!Boy that happened awfully fast!One thing I do remember is that we discovered that sharing a meal serves us both very well.The portions are so huge, that if I ordered only a salad and Wade ordered an entre we both walked away very satisfied.
White as the sandy beach!
CEO of Smugglers Cove
First Car Crash
2nd Car Crash
DAY:PROBABLY THE NEXT ONE... The next day looked daunting as far as weather (it was surely divine intervention... we were already quite sun burned).Ever the optimist though we had booked a trip on the White Squall II over to Tortola to see the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The vessel was an 80 foot long wooden ship with 3 full sails, very, very unique, the only one in the islands.To say we were simply looking forward to the sail would be an understatement.We got up at DAWN and sat waiting (waiting and waiting) in the lobby for the taxi over to Road Town.When the taxi did arrive, our very friendly driver (think grandma) lost all composure when we hit rush hour about 10 minutes outside the "city".I think it was her creative use of the word "dodo" in traffic, as in "that stupid dodo bird", which had us in rapt attention for the remainder of the ride. We were rewarded with a few other euphemisms for real cuss words, but did finally make it to the dock safely. Our captain for the day was a Canadian expat. His first mate, a Tortola Island native rounded out the crew- both great guys and humble hosts.We were politely introduced to the other guests along for the trip and began preparations to set sail. We cruised out of the dock under the power of a monster diesel engine and started out for sea with all eyes toward the heavens. Out past the breakers, the Captain took one good look around, clicked on the ship to shore radio, reported back the weather with frustration and turned the vessel around.Unfortunately the water was too sloppy and a squall had settled squarely in our path (love the technical terms of sailing!) I think the pictures show the sky pretty well but it looked worse in real ife!Once back in the marina, he performed the docking procedure as everyone on board held their breath. It really didn't look like we'd fit back into the space we left.Wade and I wondered over to the marina restaurant and had the most delicious breakfast of the trip as we sat and chatted with our Captain. We walked through Road Town with out being accosted (except once) and shopped for souvenirs.At Pusser’s Pub we got Patience a thank you gift for watching the dogs and I got Wade a baseball cap, which figures prominently throughout the rest of the trip.It DID look so good with his blue eyes... Since it was now a rainy day we decided to drive around and explore the rest of the other bays on the island. This is when we learned about the yellow roads and red roads, switch backs, pot holes, goats and chickens. The switch backs drove me crazy with fear- the only comfort being that you drive on the left side of the road- so Wade was always the one closest to the edge.That however, left me closest to the path of oncoming traffic.Its amazing that any of the cars have side mirrors! We visited Cane Garden Bay made famous by Jimmy Buffet. Wade sat outside one souvenier shop (while I browsed inside) and made friends with a local, a very audacious 1st grader. When I joined them we had an impromptu spelling contest for the next 20 minutes! Her favorite word was cement- and she definitely knew how to spell it! After that walked back down the beach and had lunch...which was interrupted by a little brown rooster. He was eyeing us for quite a while before hopping on my knee, using it as a springboard onto the table, grabbing my conch fritter and fleeing off towards Wade and then landing safely back on the floor (all this in about the time it took me to blink in disbelief!)
White Squall II
Nature Boys Bar
Sunset Long Bay
DAY: ANOTHER ONE We had yet another great evening... accidentally broke our bed (oops!) but didn't get hurt and woke up to another day dawning! We had a monster hamburger at the pool side bar, served to us by a monster of a cook.We went over to Soper’s Hole in search of Steele Point, the farthest point west on the island. In the village of Soper’s Hole a guy was trying to navigate his truck pulling a cigarette boat through a very narrow road lined with palm trees, which caused a total traffic jam. I think it was only about 4 or 5 cars, but boy, no one had any patience!! People were extremely upset by the delay, which was pretty odd given everyone else we’d encountered had no concept of time at all!Anyway, we parked and watched the locals try to maneuver past this guy and then followed the road to its end in search of the sunset. Instead of finding the setting sun we found a big house named “meown” so turned around, went back through the same traffic jam (he hadn't made much progress) and drove over to Jolly Rogers to sit and mix up our excellent "duty free" rum, relax and check out all the boats in the marina.
I’m sure we had dinner that evening...and I bet it was good!
Hunting for Ft Recovery (Syd on break)
DAY: ? I GIVE UP... This might be the day before our last day... when we went off in search of Ft Recovery, the oldest landmark on Tortola. It was another cloudy day and after loading up the car we discovered it had a flat tire. This did not surprise Wade AT ALL (it also wouldn’t have surprised him if the transmission just fell out and rolled to the edge of the parking lot!). Although there was no AAA, road side assistance did show up in and had us back on our way in no time (we drove on the flat tire down the road, over a hill through 2 switchbacks to the nearest gas station with an air hose). Fully pumped again, we expected to find Ft Recovery in short order and do a thorough inspection.
Ft Recovery turned out to be the most elusive landmark we've ever tried to find! It was hidden on private property that had been sold to it's delightful owner (an ex-actress and every bit exotic) back in '69. We surveyed the turret, which looks a whole lot like the cistern at the farm, then sat on the beach making friends with the guard dogs until we got bored with that and decided to leave. Before we were about to leave we got stopped by the owner- who Wade handled with utmost respect and ended up making a memorable friend (even though she actually came out to throw us off her property). He's such a charmer!!!
Having achieved the nearly impossible task of finding the island relic we were definitely emboldened and decided to check out Dolphin Discovery park over near Road Town. Even though we were just spectators (sadly I have no pictures to share) it was great way to kill an entire hour... the dolphins hauled cruise ship tourists from one end of the pool to the other, right on cue and the trainers were full of energy, clapping hands and sunshine! We probably stayed longer than we would have, simply to see a (300+lb) tourist make the plunge and wait her turn for a ride... and when she did we were awestruck on behalf of the dolphin! He made a heroic effort pulling her all the way... ALL THE WAY by him self!! He got a well deserved big fishy treat!
Ft Recovery (Wade on break)
LAST DAY Bombas.Failing to mention Bomba's Place would be a mistake.Thankfully it wasn't't a full moon...and we were there in the daytime.This shack bar by the sea is most famous for serving mushroom tea every full moon (yes, I mean majic mushrooms).Even more of an attraction I'm sure is just what Bomba promotes: Sex and naked women.Women willing to get naked and pose with Bomba get a free t-shirt (I'm not sure why that makes any sense) and apparently there are tons of women all over the world quite willing to do this.As a result they immortalized forever in photos tacked to the walls and their panties are nailed to the beams and walls of the shack.Actually people could be motivated to do this, not by the massive alcohol surely consumed, but rather for architectural reasons... I'm kidding of course, but I swear, if someone removed all the panties- I just bet the entire shack would totally collapse!We spent waaaaay longer than I felt necessary inspecting the place and that was Wade's fault.... The end of another day in paradise.... was done.We polished off our excellent duty-free rum back at the Cabana and discussed the finer elements of a really good rum punch, and how to properly pronounce Carib Beer and how much we missed our dogs.... ahh, good stuff!
Epiphany from the trip:
Same shit, different island (best t-shirt of the week) Good rum is good, never compromise!