My First Trip Report - the BVIs

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Jun 2nd, 2006, 12:28 PM
  #1
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My First Trip Report - the BVIs

My first real trip report here - from my May trip to the BVIs. (BTW, for those of you who browse TravelTalkOnline, this is posted there as well.) I've been to Jost van Dyke enough times that I refer to many people by name - my apologies if I'm speaking in too familiar a fashion. Hope you enjoy it!

You know you love a place if youíre willing to travel 13 hours door-to-door to get there. And you know your family (husband and 9-year old daughter) loves you if theyíre willing to drag themselves out of bed at 3:30 so you can fly away by yourself to lie on a beach for 10 days. I feel lucky! 6:00 am flight from Denver to DFW, short DFW layover, then onto SJU, short SJU layover, then onto Beef Island. All on American. No troubles with any of them. My seatmate told me about the train in DFW, which made going from one end of the A concourse to the other end of the B much easier. And I was completely captivated by perfect views of the Bahamas Out Islands. The left side of the plane is the place to be! There were several folks who stuck with me the whole way from Denver to Beef Island Ė we didnít interact, but I found it most intriguing, and did run into two of them at Ivanís barbeque. The BVIs seem to be sort of a cosmic centerpoint-gathering place for Coloradoans longing for the sea.

The air held that wonderful humid island warmth that enveloped me during the quick walk over to Trellis Bay. It had been raining, so the bugs were bad, but this was the only time during the trip that I got any bites at all Ė and I just got one. I am fortunate that they donít like me, but I come armed with Cutter Wipes for everyone around me, just in case. I had time for my first (is the first always best?) Carib (from Cybercafe), and watched the cats roam around in the twilight while I waited for the Marina Cay ferry. The ferryman called me by name and it was off to Marina Cay on the little ferry with a very nice couple from Brazil who was going over for dinner. Alison met me and took me to my room overlooking the Camanoes. It was lovely Ė Iíd stayed in a villa the last time at Marina Cay, but the room was equally beautiful and the perfect size for one person. We chatted for half an hour or so about their plans for the island, and their transition from Sandcastle on Jost van Dyke to Marina Cay. Iím so fond of her. Dinner was chicken pasta, well remembered from the last visit. The food wasnít quite as good this time, but the service was wonderful. The restaurant was quite busy, and it would have been nice to have a slightly more laidback first night dinner, but you have to take it as it comes. I was exhausted and could barely stay awake to get the bill and find my way back through the little maze of paths to my room. There was a phenomenal lightning show off my balcony that went on most of the night, peaking at about 3:00 am, when Iím quite sure, based on the flash and the thunderclap, we had a lightning strike close by on the island.

Friday morning dawned clear on my side of the island, and threatening on the other. The ferry had broken down and none of the kitchen staff was able to make it in to cook breakfast on time. The deserted restaurant was a fine place to read Ė the first book was ďTales from MargaritavilleĒ, which Iíd been saving for this trip. I chatted with one of the staff raking the beach whose greeting was ĎItís a good day to be alive!í I liked that. Finally, staff arrived for breakfast, flustered from the delayed ferry. The Huevos Rancheros were good, with their own island flair, certainly not what Iíd get in Colorado, but then, thatís why we travel, isnít it? After a bit of sunning on the balcony, it was time to pack up and shift. I donít think half a day is enough at Marina Cay. Itís what I imagine staying in a villa in Greece might be like. Quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Amazing colors in the rooms, the grounds, the views. A perfect place just to lounge, sun and read.

The ferry had been repaired and I caught the spray during the ride over to Trellis, which made me laugh. The ferryman quickly realized I was not one of those women who objects to getting my clothes wet. I had the pleasure of finding Kessler for my cab ride from the airport to the West End ferry. He had been my cab driver on my midnight arrival on my very first visit two years ago, so it was delightful to see him again. The views, the scent of the air, the warm sun, Kessler gently singing hymns on the drive and telling me about his wife and his life experiences as the little taxi struggled up the hills, made for a perfect memory. We made it to the West End with enough time to grab a Carib in advance of the ferry and doing a little journal writing. The ferry ride to Jost was smooth and pleasant Ė I donít know who the new woman they have working on the ferry is, but her friendliness is a breath of fresh air Ė and itís smart to hand out schedules to people when they buy their tickets. With one cab at the dock and three groups desiring different destinations, we were a bit stymied on arrival, but the other folks, who were just there for the day, wanted to see a wonderful beach, and so I convinced them all that White Bay was THE wonderful beach, and off we all went. Greg took us to Sandcastle in his brand spanking new vehicle (very spiffy). Since I was early, the room wasnít quite ready, but I greeted bartender Mic and made myself at home in a hammock with a Painkiller (two Painkillers) and started to decompress. At some point in the afternoon, I called work from my hammock and left a tipsy, gloating message, which my co-workers have kindly saved as a blackmail tool for later. (Note to self Ė donít do that again!) After I was formally checked in, I wandered down the beach, hung out with a charming honeymoon couple (one of the couples from the ferry) just over from Tortola for the day at Gertrudeís Ė itís amazing that in these islands, you can have metaphysical conversations with total strangers and it feels perfectly comfortable - and then onto Seddyís One Love where the island nurse Derek was sub-bartending. (Raquel, Seddy and the kids were in St. Maarten.) Boy, does he make a mean and delicious Bushwhacker. It was good to get some of the scoop on the local goings-on. (And Derek, Iím sorry we never got to have dinner.) The saddest news he shared was of the passing of one of my favorite island dogs, Paco. I was (barely) able to find my way back to Sandcastle, and had a splendid tuna dish for dinner, but skipped dessert and went straight to bed. I do believe I had been bushwhacked.

The next two days mostly run together. A lot of time in the hammock. Finished ĎMargaritavilleí, which most appropriately ends in Road Town, read two more books. Indulged in cocktails. Had a close (but friendly) encounter with a pelican. Swam Ė more down towards the rocks in the direction of Ivanís Stress Free Bar Ė too many boats right in front of the Soggy Dollar to make it comfortable swimming space. More hammock time.

The new (to me at least) Saturday beach BBQ at Sandcastle is terrific. Little hurricane lamps on the tables in the sand, wonderful food (think I prefer it to the food at Foxyís BBQ), citronella torches to keep the bugs away. Watched the full moon rise over the island. I donít recall the last time I just sat and watched the moonrise Ė for almost an hour. It was a delicious thing to do.

On Sunday, I realized I hadnít left the hammock or the Ďgroundsí, to speak of, for two days, so Iíd better get my lazy self a bit of exercise. Walked over the hill to Ivanís and had a cocktail and played in the water. Back to Soggy Dollar and played along with Reuben during his Sunday afternoon session and bought a CD. Then walked back over the hill to Ivanís and up to Great Harbour. (Note to walkers: itís easier to do this than to walk the road directly from Sandcastle to Great Harbour Ė you avoid one of the big hills.) Poked around town for a while. Ran into a local gentleman at Foxyís who Iíd met before, and we had dinner at Abeís. Good lobster. But a very bizarre evening. Fast forwarding to later in the evening when I could finally shake him, I took a refreshing midnight swim in front of the Soggy Dollar and discovered new guests there when I emerged from the water. Even when you think youíre the only one awake, you sometimes discover that youíre not. David and Justin from Texas and Jennifer from Colorado were fine company for the remainder of the evening, and all acted as if it was perfectly normal to see a woman in a blue dress emerge from the sea in the late hours and pour herself a cocktail.

More liminí the next day, finished another book. One of the other guest-couples took the sea kayak out in the morning. I was exhausted from watching them by the time they got back. All this activity before breakfast! One of the nice things about Sandcastle is breakfast. Itís good, solid, dependable, and we all sit at our respective tables in the dining room and look at the view as if we were all watching a movie. No conversation, no fidgeting Ė just gazing.

Back to Great Harbour in mid-afternoon. Ran into Vinny (from Corsairs Ė Iím very fond of Vinny Ė another Colorado connection) and we took a ride to pick up Joe. Met Dave and Diane (also from Colorado) who were to get married on the beach in front of Corsairs on Friday. Spend some time at Corsairs chatting with a lady from California, and petting Lucifer (what a snuggly cat) until dinnertime. Unfortunately, you canít seem to get a burger on Jost van Dyke for dinner - I sense a business opportunity there. But I cured Debbieís (thatís Vinnyís wonderful wife) headache and she kindly arranged for me to have the best cheeseburger Iíve had in the islands. A lovely walk back home in the moonlight. Stopped by Ivanís and had a drink or two with friend Sheryl, and a very good chat.

Spent Tuesday at Sandcastle, just liminí. What a great place to do nothing. Wednesday, there were several giant cats in from St. Thomas just overrunning White Bay, so I went over the hill and made a nest in the sand at Ivanís. Had a couple of Stress Free punches (they really do make you stress free) and spent time with Tal. Sat in the water and read, sat in the sand and read, sat in the sun and read. Sheryl was bartending for some of the day. Thatís just how it happens at Ivanís sometimes. Itís one of the things that make it special. Met Alex, son of Bob Tarlecky, who was staying in the purple house. What a sweetheart! Back over the hill for dinner. They have cleaned up the path quite a bit, and the part over the rocks isnít as tricky, but I miss having the wild sage to grab hold of on the steep bits. Dinner at Sandcastle was the customary delightful experience. This trip I dined alone, but on previous trips, Iíve joined fellow guests, and for me this time, it was nice to be able to sit and be pampered and let my mind wander to past wonderful dinners and good company.

On Thursday, back to Ivanís, as there were once again a lot of people at Soggy Dollar. Had a great long talk with Ivan Ė heís such a special person. Heís building a little cottage on the hill that heíll be renting out. Might be done next year. Iíll certainly try staying there! Sheryl and Larry were leaving so I caught a ride to Great Harbour with them. Had lunch at Corsairs, did a little shopping at Foxyís, and watched the progress on the Endeavor for a while. Kevin is doing a good job teaching the kids what to do. Claude gave me a lift back to Ivanís, where I indulged in a new sarong and a Stress-Free Punch. Alex walked me back over the hill to Sandcastle, and we collected about 7 other guests and returned to Ivanís for the BBQ. It was excellent, great value for the money. And Reuben played. Took a late swim and walked back over the hill Ė the little flashlight (that can be held in your teeth) is one of my most valued traveling companions.

The rain poured off and on that night, and the bathroom ceiling started leaking like a sieve (or so I discovered in the morning). In fact, the walls around the mirror were completely sodden! There was work to do on the room, so it was good that I was going. Performed the dreaded settling of the bill with Sandy. (I hate that part.) But put in for my May week next year. Walked over the hill to say goodbye to Ivan and to Alex. Finished my shopping at Sandcastle, and said my goodbyes to Tina, Lorna and Mic. Mic is an awesome bartender Ė heís fast, personable, friendly and still seems to make everyone feel special and important. And he gives great hugs. Ferry over to Tortola, and a cab ride to Road Town. Bought my ticket and settled in at Pusser's with a plate of nachos for lunch.

As an aside here, I will say that I found the service in the islands to be far improved over previous visits (and I always thought it was pretty good). And no restaurant that I patronized did the Ďservice chargeí trick.

A Carib to go, and a brief surprise visit from my friend Buddy who had just sailed back from Culebra and St. Croix, and I was on the ferry to Anegada! The big yellow Island Rocket. Another Carib in the sun on the deck and the lovely vistas flew by. A fellow passenger brought me another Carib when mine was empty, because, as he said, ďItís a long journey to AnegadaĒ, and told me a bit about the island, as he was born and raised there. I was really excited to be visiting a new place - that interesting mix of anticipation and trepidation - and it was magical to see it appear, shimmering in the distance.

Aubrey gave me a ride to Neptuneís, where Randy was waiting with a warm welcome. (Now, if I wasnít a married person, thereís a guy Iíd fall for.) My room was perfect and the AC was a nice icy change, which Iíll admit to indulging in. Changed and took a long walk with a glass of wine to Pomato Point at twilight. I never did see any of the fabulous sunsets that Iím accustomed to in the islands on this trip. I think I got too much sun this day (and perhaps the three Caribs and glass of wine contributed?), because I sat down for dinner (a wonderful rare tuna) and listened to Sally singing as she served other tables and practically fell asleep. A very relaxing place.

Up early. Neptuneís Treasure is run by members of the Soares family. Most of the family members who donít work there, live close by, so it seems. And if you just hang around, you meet them all, and they do all make you feel not just welcome, but as if you belong there and are a part of things. Dean and Mark (Patriarch Vernonís sons) were preparing to put new carpeting in the fishing boat. I donít know much about carpet installation, so I couldnít help, but I watched and chatted with them for a while, and provided moral support as the coffee brewed. Took a stroll down the beach towards Anegada Reef Hotel. And back. And this will sound strange, but I never did actually find the Anegada Reef Hotel. I know I walked past it at least four times this trip, but could never quite pick it out.

Met Vernon briefly upon my return. Chatted with Sally (who, by the way, has a weakness for chocolate). Linda was making breakfast for me when Dean Wheatley appeared with my rental car, and we drove back to the shop so I could fill out the papers. At the outset, I decided to keep the car both days of my stay, instead of the one for which Iíd reserved it Ė a good decision. Linda very kindly kept breakfast warm until I got back. After breakfast, it was time to set out for the day. My plan was to check out Cow Wreck, Loblolly and Flash of Beauty on Saturday, so I could decide where I wanted to spend most of my time on Sunday. Armed with a map (thereís really only one road), I started off for Cow Wreck. The day was a bit cloudy but still lovely, and I actually found the beach with no trouble. It was quiet Ė only three children playing in the water, and breezy and beautiful. Spent about an hour, just reading and taking pictures, and it was off to the next stop.

The roads on Anegada arenít really roads. No, thatís not true, there is a paved road, but it will just suddenly become a sand road - I think thatís what threw me off, because I'm a pretty good navigator. I went past the picket fence three times Ė hadnít I been this way before? Maybe not from that branch of the road? Shouldnít the airport be obvious? Oh Ė no, wait, this is the Settlement. Interesting, but not where I want to be. Past Deanís again. Didnít I pass his place before? Back to the fork in the road Ė now which way havenít I gone?? OK, Iím not a guy, so I go back to Deanís and ask for directions Ė and he points me properly towards Flash of Beauty. But Iíd been lost for an hour and a half and I had gotten frustrated, so by the time I finally arrived, I had lost my blissful liminí feeling and there was rain moving in, and it didnít seem to look as lovely as the pictures. So I went along up to Big Bamboo at Loblolly and had a Dark and Stormy (my new favorite drink) and some conch fritters and calmed down. And had another Dark and Stormy as fortification for the trip back. Of course, by now, there was barely an inch of road on the island that I hadnít been on, so I made it home to Neptuneís just fine.

Randy was gently amused by my getting lost, as was I by this time. I had the pleasure of meeting Kia and Thomas Ė Kia reminded me a lot of my own daughter of the same age, which made me a little bit homesick. Had another cocktail listening to that Kenny Chesney CD and sitting outside on the ground watching the water. Chatted with Jeanette. Took a little walk and ran into Mark from Idaho who was chartering with a group, and we walked back to Neptuneís Ė his crew eventually joined him at the bar. Vernon was there having drinks, and he and I just hit it off like ham and eggs. He joined me for my lobster dinner and key lime pie and we talked about everything under the sun. Off to bed fairly early, but I got restless and couldnít sleep, so I walked down the beach looking for an open bar (am I bad or what?) and found Potterís and its pool table. Only two guys (from Colorado) from a charter boat and the waitress playing pool. And who should appear but KC (formerly of the Soggy Dollar)? That was a nice surprise. At any rate, I was on my game and shot with the charter guys for a few hours. Should have taken the $500 bet, but couldnít afford to lose. Itís an amazingly good table (except for one rail) and the sticks are straight (canít figure that out, with the sea air and all). Walked back to Neptuneís in the very very dark, which is tricky on that beach, as you have to go over several small piers. But saw many falling stars, which was a lovely way to end the evening.

Up the next morning for coffee with Vernon. We made a date for dinner in the evening, and I was off to do a bit of shopping at the Purple Turtle and make sure I could find the ferry dock when I needed to without getting lost. Sue Wheatley is charming, and her cat Princess is a love. The shop had a lot of nice things to offer, and I found a couple of unique items Ė particularly the handpainted picture of an Anegada beach on a circle of silk done by an English lady who visits yearly. Itís hanging before me on my office wall now. I headed back to spend the day at Cow Wreck. On the way, I stopped at Pomato Point, as I had met a couple at Cow Wreck yesterday who were staying there and said the little front cottage might be a nice alternative for me for a future trip. When I walked past the restaurant to the edge of the sand, I just stood there, agape. It was without a doubt, the most beautiful place Iíve ever stood in my life. I was looking around for someone to tell Ė and there wasnít anybody in sight! (The occasional disadvantage of being a solo traveler). I donít think my pictures quite do it justice, but it will live forever in my memory. Continued onto Cow Wreck and spent the day, just hanging in the sand, watching the donkeys and meeting wonderful people Ė Jack and Tobi, Len and his dog Boats, and Rich and John from CT. Rich showed me a very cool conch he pulled from the water Ė Iíd never seen one close up before Ė Iím not sure I can keep conch fritters on my personal menu now. Pretty much closed the day down there and went home to make myself presentable for dinner. Dinner (ribs) with Vernon was again delightful and we sat outside for hours talking and sipping Dark and Stormys (me) and a gentle red wine (him). Could have stayed there all night, but I did actually have to pack as tomorrow was departure day.

Vernon came by in the morning to make sure I was up in plenty of time to have coffee and head for the ferry. Dropped the car by the ferry dock, and met the nice couple who had been staying at Pomato Point, and we rode the ferry back together. Buddy met me at the dock and we had brunch at the Cybercafe (I think they have the best flying fish sandwiches). I think I got a little seasick on the ferry (which isnít like me) and so I was trying to fight that off until it was actually time to get on the plane. And then of course the trip back became a complete fiasco. Flights grounded due to volcanic ash (like theyíll believe that one at work), American Eagle rebooking me without telling me (and saying they told me) for a flight the next day, being directing to a non-existent service desk at Gate 1, running full tilt for a ĎDelta gateí without knowing where the Delta gates were (signage and personnel at SJU are not very helpful). At this stage of the game, carry-on only was a mixed blessing. But I did get home to Denver only about an hour after I was originally scheduled to, and was able to retrieve my blissed-out feeling and restore my island attitude before I arrived. And I had the very pleasant company of Susan (also from Colorado) who was in exactly the same position as I was during the madness.

The twelve days I was gone felt like a year, and this time I was actually ready to come home and see my family, although I cried when I left Jost and I cried when I left Anegada. I loved Anegada. It has a completely different feel than the other islands. More independent. Thereís not as much pampering going on there Ė you need to be a bit more self-sufficient. Itís almost as if the island has a strength of character of its own. I like that. I will continue to go back to Jost, of course, but itís a different kind of decompression from one island to the other. And the more time you spend on one island, the more you get to know the Ďnatureí of the island and its people and itís Ďpoliticsí. These are small islands, and there are few families Ė everyone knows everyone else and thereís very little privacy. As one friend on Jost put it to me, ďIf you come here as often as you do, you have to decide if youíre going to sit in the local corner or not. And thereís a lot that goes along with that decision.Ē Interesting to think about. I have a lot of things left to do on these islands, particularly Anegada - find the flamingoes, check out the Settlement (on purpose), go as far east on the island as I can go. Regardless, the beauty of the BVIs is still with me, and I go to come back, as always.

Photos can be found at http://community.webshots.com/user/amyfk
seasweetie is offline  
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 12:54 PM
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Thank you for your very detailed trip report! I've only been to the BVI twice, but I'm planning a third trip for next year. I've been toying with the idea of trying out Anegada, so your information there was especially helpful.
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 05:37 PM
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That was a great trip report, I really enjoyed it. We went to STJ in March and were on JVD twice, once briefly on New Horizons II, then took the ferry for the day. One hour was simply a tease the first time. I met both Mic and Tina while there. Tina and I chatted, she is a former ER nurse and I currently am. What a great person. Mic was also very nice, but really didn't have a conversation with him. I was considering the BVI's for our next vacation in November, but my husband wants to go to STJ again. The compromise is that we will day trip to both Tortola and JVD. I want to check out Cane Garden Bay to see if it is for us or not. Have looked briefly at Lighthouse Villas and Mongoose Apartments. I have read that CGB is "crowded", but I am more interested in how the beach is. I have read toooo many posts on TTOL about the water quality at CGB.

I will definitely check out Ivan's next time on JVD. We started walking that path without shoes and soon realized that it was not possible. We were too "lazy" to go back. Thanks for the descriptive trip report. Almost felt like I was back on White Bay. How was the Tales from Margarittaville book?
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 07:25 PM
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Your post brought tears to my eyes as JVD is my favorite place. I have only been there 3 times, all on "day trips".

This will upset some members, but I have decided that I want my ashes scattered over White Bay, three visits and I know that is where I want to be forever!

How wonderful that you travel alone and meet the wonderful folks that you met.

I had an experience with KC while he was bartending at Soggy Dollar(he teased me about my shy, little voice) where is he working now?

Thanks for your TR
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 08:25 PM
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Seasweetie: Thanks for the awesome trip report! You have taken my dream vacation! I have been drawn to Anegada for some time now and JVD is near and dear to my heart (I have my Foxy's Tee on as I type!). Welcome home and best of luck on your return plans.
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Jun 5th, 2006, 08:30 AM
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ejcrowe, I totally encourage you to try Anegada - a very different and beautiful slice of the BVIs!

brenandg - Tales from Margaritaville was light, entertaining, and made me laugh. It was a perfect beach book - good enough for me to lug all the way back home as a keeper!

mahobaygirl - KC is a captain for a charter boat company now - he was driving the ferry between Jost and Tortola for the first few months of this year, and might still be filling in doing that once in a while. He's also taking some classes and has a wonderful girlfriend!

And as far as that ash-scattering thing goes, I'm planning on leading my loved ones a merry journey around the globe, dribbling my ashes in many well-loved spots!

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment - JVD is one of my favorite places on earth as well.
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Jun 5th, 2006, 09:01 AM
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seasweetie, the idea I'm now toying with is to split a stay between Jost and Anegada. It won't be for a while--maybe not even until 2008--but it looks like a great combo of getting the lush, mountainous scenery and the white-sand-for-miles, with a laid back atmosphere in each place. My husband stayed on Jost about 25 years ago but hasn't been there since. Anegada will be the first time for both of us. We're already committed to a shorter trip to Virgin Gorda next year with one of our grandchildren. It's not been a conscious decision, but it seems as if we're working our way through the BVI.
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