Our first stop: St. Thomas's lovely Point Pleasant Resort. (Eat your heart out Sonny Rollins!) The resort was on one steep mother of a hill and our rooms, up at the top of said mother, afforded us an incredible view of Coki Point, the Leeward Passage, and Thatch Cay to the north (from front to back).
(Andre tried running up and down the hill the next morning, but scorching heat and stares from groundskeepers put a quick end to his ambitions.)
The view to the south was pretty good too, but marred slightly by a monstrous Wyndham Resort (complete with bumper boats!). It made for a pretty sweet night shot though, and when the pool-tools weren't singing “Happy Birthday” over and over, it really wasn't all that bad.
You want loud decor? Fine. Here.
Sarah and Andre definitely lucked out with their room. Though slightly lower in elevation, their multi-colored “Island Time” themed room blew Chris and Larry's place away. (Sorry guys!) They even had tumblers to match the ornate chandelier and palm tree pent-tych.
(Other highlights included painted trios of drinking, gossipy women, orange leather couches, flashing blue lights...
It was here as well that Andre remembered his polarizing filter! (Roll over the picture to see what a difference such a revelation made.)
But all that aside... Holy Shit.
What a view from the bed!
Sarah reflects on the amazing view.
...and is joined by her mother while Andre, feigning interest in pictures already taken, snaps a candid shot of the two of them.
This was the last we would see of Chris for a short while as a dose of tasty but tainted scallops rendered her incapacitated the next day...
Larry and Chris lived on St. Thomas for eight years (Sarah for only one). 9N, St. Joseph & Rosendahl was one of several places they called home.
It's a bit more built up than it used to be (and boasts fewer goats than earlier years), but still, it ain't bad.
Larry grew that palm tree in the background.
Contrary to what you might think, this bench had no ducks upon it. Rather, it is named for Sir Francis Drake and his ill-fated attack on Puerto Rico of 1595.
And there's surf in the Virgin islands too! Hull Bay, on the north shore of St. Thomas had a pretty decent reef breaking just offshore. (Sniff.)
A fat tourist and an even fatter boat. There were always at least two of these loomsters parked at the quay in Long Bay, each unleashing a torrent of roaming sightseers (many of which likely never made it past the Hooters on the other side of the street from the pier).
And, as the sun sets behind St. Thomas, our travelers look forward (literally) to the Virgin Islands of the British variety.
I'm pretty sure there aren't any owls in the Virgin Islands. So I have to wonder at the effectiveness of this bird-deterrent. Do Virgin Island birds know that they're supposed to be afraid of owls?
(The answer, as the pigeons nesting in the upturned shutters would tell you, is no.
This cleat probably used to be much bigger.
The first of several inter-island vessels we would have the joy of riding. Now this... This is the real way to travel in the BVI! No traffic jams or gate changes here! (Though we did still have to check our bags... only to watch the deckhands chuck them and the laptops stashed within over the rail and onto the deck.)
The Creque Marine Railway Power House on Hassel Island is apparently lighter than air, as the lines tethering it to the ground would seem to suggest.
Three sneaky cars slip by headed west on Tortola.
From the other side of that hill, it looked like their might be some kind of wildfire. Turns out, I'm just a paranoid Southern Californian.
After a pretty tame (considering previous experiences) taxi ride from Road Town to the east end of Tortola, we hopped on another boat to Virgin Gorda and the fabled Biras Creek Resort.
Pictured: Tortala eating our wake.
Larry looking majestic and Chris looking content.
Lest ye think our land-lubberin' trip wasn't at all salty, behold the sodium chloride deposits encrusting our vessel's window!
What a place! Here's the view from Biras Creek's restaurant, the North Sound being particularly crowded given the New Year's festivities.
And lush too. Our beachside bungalows were nestled amongst all sorts of tropical flora.
Fortunately for Andre, that meant there'd be some neato-mosquitos around too. This wooden-winged fella was crawling up our bathroom wall.
There were a couple of waspy-type bugs making a little nest near our outdoor shower. Industrious little buggers! But we figured we'd save them the trouble of building in a place where they'd inevitably be evicted. (Andre threw a cup of water at them and solemnly dismantled their construction.)
After swooping angrily at Andre for a while, vanity settled in and they calmed down to pose for some glamour shots.
And not a surfboard in sight!
As it turns out, the beach in front of the resort had some decent-looking rollers right out in front. But the coral was too shallow (and urchin-y) to surf.
All poor Andre could do was watch and drool with a tear in his eye...
The lashings of a mutinous cur? Or the remnants of a post-lunch hammocking?
I've never seen anything like this before.
There were a bunch of neat hikes around Biras creek too. Heading up the mountain, one of the trails was lined with a bunch of weird-looking cactuses.
This Christmas cactus even had some festive holiday snow!
Coral be damned! That wave was definitely surfable! (Biras oughta invest in a couple of longboards.)
Alright. This blew my mind. Way up on top of the hill, there were a bunch of giant (and beautifully colored!) hermit crabs. Why they felt the need to go up so high, I have no idea.
I tried to wait patiently for one of them to start walking, but the other members of the hiking party had higher ambitions, so to speak.
I wonder what a hermit crab looks like without the shell...
Oh gross. I just did a Google image search.
According to an old chart, “Biras Creek” is actually the body of water on the lower left (part of the North Sound). The other two are Berchers Bay on the right and Deep Bay in the middle. (A snorkeling expedition confirmed that yes, it was, in fact, deep.)
The New Year's Day crowd in the North Sound at the Bitter End.
Sarah and Andre ditched the old people for NYE and tromped down a mangrove trail to the party at the Bitter End. It was pretty fun! Better than the chaperoned country club social at Biras that night. (Actually, we ran into the chaperones around 2:00 AM at the Bitter End.)
What the hell is an “Auld Lang Syne” anyway?
Call Steve! Thar's bromeliads about!
One of many old cliffside cactuses along the Alvin's Heights trail. (There were a couple of hermit crabs here too!)
We took a short side trip to Lovers Leap (!), which actually looked like more of a painful tumble down a steep slope. The map said it was five minutes from the junction. Pshh! More like thirty seconds!
Sunset cactus at Lovers Leap.
That hermit crabs were climbing mountains was bad enough, but even this little guy?! I know the shells don't grow with the crabs, so that means he's gotta go down the mountain several times for bigger digs.
Sarah and Chris in a mangrovey tube.
They just installed a couple of bright blue underwater lights in the marina, just near the main dock. The light attracted a whole mess o' little fish.
(Do they swim clockwise because they're in the Northern Hemisphere?)
And the little fish attract bigger fish. (Note the absence of little fish.)
Disaster strikes! Other members of the party had suffered their own minor maladies, but these stairs all but crippled Sarah for the remainder of the trip. Realizing she had one goggle too many from the snorkel armory, she turned to put one back and ended up with a severely sprained ankle.
The timing wasn't the greatest--we were picking up the snorkel gear to head out on a daytrip to Anegada--but Sarah couldn't have picked a better place to be laid up, what with the oodles of employees dying to drive her around in golf carts.
With Sarah laid up and Chris on nurse duty, Larry and Andre decided to fill the four empty spots as best they could. Amazing sights were the theme of the day, starting with Larry spotting this hexamaran on the way to Anegada.
Following the matching blue path down to the beach, we realized that...
...Anegada was this type of place.
(Don't let the pictures fool you... There were plenty of other day-trippers about.)
We thought the concrete path was pretty sweet, but from an archeologist's perspective: pure gold. Here are some bear tracks, frozen in time for all eternity.
(They might be dog tracks. But with no indication of scale, you have no idea, do you?!)
Our guide/ferryman Benu told us about a sweet snorkel route through the coral. Starting out in the middle of this picture, you could follow the reef around the big sandy pool. The snorkeling was pretty good too! Being a responsible snorkeler, Andre chased a large school of purple fish around to show them who was boss.
Organisms of note spotted:
- baby barracuda
- large puffer fish
- European speedo dudes
- many colorful fish
Lest we forget that it was winter, the Big Bamboo Beach Bar (yes, that's an intentionally phallic name) had a big Christmas tree set up.
We each ate a tasty lobster for lunch. This poor fella was just a shell of a lobster on the beach. Nice coloration though!
Here, the artist urges us to contemplate the juncture of man and nature by juxtaposing the organic tendrils of this seaside tree with the rigid masts of countless sailboats.
It turns out that those bugs with the wooden wings are really into these tendril trees. They're kind of like fancy bees!
It's clear which way the wind usually blows on Anegada.
Back on V.G., Sarah was managing to keep in high spirits. Actually she developed a habit of testing exactly how far she could move various injured body parts before they started to hurt... Kind of like poking a canker sore with your tongue. (The smile indicates that her neck had adequate maneuverability.)
Oh yeah, there were a bunch of big iguanas at Biras too! We were told that you could feed them if you got close very gently. This dude wasn't interested and ran into the woods.
But then I spotted this fat bastard in the middle of the road. He wasn't too scared of me and didn't run off when I swooped in, camera in hand.
Even let me get a closeup.
One of the groundskeepers, Nicholas, was nearby and saw me harassing the lizard and decided to join in. Turns out they eat red hibiscus flowers. When the iguana saw Nicholas picking a couple flowers, it literally ran over.
I couldn't help thinking how the brochures must read:
“Biras Creek, situated between three stunning bodies of water, is also home to several indigenous iguanas. Though ferocious looking, guests can rest assured that these gentle beasts dine only on exquisite crimson hibiscus petals...”
Then Nicholas started getting a little too personal for me, and I left the two of them alone.
Sarah in a characteristic pose: ankle sort of elevated, semi-sourpuss face, trashy vacation book...
The swelling around her ankle caused her foot to inflate to larger than the remainder of her body!
A rare shot of the trip documentarian... whooped after another delicious dinner.
We rounded off the trip with an afternoon sail in one of the resort's two folk boats. Perfect way to end the trip: Chris got some more sun, Sarah got to elevate her foot (half the time anyway), Larry got to say “Hard a-lee!,” and Andre got to show off his “professional” sailing skills.
...and a little post-sail grog.
Back on Tortola, our intrepid travelers got to wait on line for about an hour to check in with Cape Air. It was worth the wait, however, because when we got to the plane, they asked who wanted to ride shotgun. Our 27-person flight was split into three 9-person planes! Awesome!
Here's Chris and Larry's plane as seen from our plane.
Always on the lookout for a decent wave, Andre spots this small right-hander just north of the airport.
That's the cliff Andre got stuck on when he was a little kid. He was sure he gonna die. Ask him about it sometime...
And the inside of the plane... chock full of weirdo Europeans. That's the runway at San Juan international visible through the window. Sarah and Andre got left behind and locked outside on the tarmac before going through customs as a result of Sarah's gimpy ankle. Ask her about it sometime...