Saturday, August 22, 2009

Honeymoon Chapter 6: Remembering St John

I sit here today a married man for exactly four weeks. We just received our official wedding photos so it is time for me to wrap up my blog posts about the honeymoon and start working on sharing with you all some of the wonderful memories from the big day itself! Our trip to St John will of course always remind me of the happy day that Kristal and I publicly and permanently declared our dedication to each other. But for me when I think of St John I will also always remember Dribbles. What can I say - I'm a cat person. It is a great comfort to know that while we have returned to less-than-tropical Richmond, Dribbles is still happy as can be, chillin' out on his Caribbean Island. We will return.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pony Pasture, Aug 16th

Fish, Clouds, Wading, Leaf

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Honeymoon Chapter 5: Sunrise

Sunrise, originally uploaded by evens.john.

This post needs no words other than to credit Kristal with getting up at 6am and capturing this amazing shot

He loves it!

He loves it!, originally uploaded by evens.john.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kayaking the Z-dam

The Saturday before my folks returned to England my Dad and I went out on the James in a couple of sit-on-top kayaks. We'd intended to make it down to Reedy Creek from just above the Huguenot Bridge. One obstacle stood in our way: the Z-dam.

I know there are signs telling you not to do it, but I've always wanted to boat through the hole. The river was just above 4ft at Westham, so I knew not much water would be going through. Turns out it's a bad idea no matter what the conditions are.

So, here's a tip: Don't boat the Z-dam.

(According to this blog, river was at 5.3ft when this video was shot.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Honeymoon Chapter 4: Drink and Food

"I traveled all the way to St Thomas to not get a haircut!"

When we were done sitting on the beach for the day we would go in search of a bite to eat. Food prices in the grocery stores are extortionate, but bars and restaurants charged little more than similar joints in Richmond, so we opted to eat out most nights. The closest place to our cottage was called Shipwreck Landing and it was the first place we tried. I think we just stopped in for a drink. On their specials list was a strawberry banana pina colada and it was sooo good. Its wasn't very busy so we got chatting to the barmaid and got some good tips about beaches to visit. I think every time we went there we found some nice people to talk to.

The best restaurant on the quiet side of the island was undoubtedly Aqua Bistro. It was a bit on the pricey side but the servings were big enough to give us a decent lunch the next day too. The food was just great and the chef was kind enough to share his recipe for coconut curry pasta sauce with us. Towards the end of the trip we went back and sat at the bar in the evening. The bartender was hilarious because he got caught up in a conversation with one guest (mostly about his kayaking business) and completely neglect the rest of the bar! He was a really nice guy though, and on the island you don't really complain about slow service!

Our favorite place was Skinny Legs. For one, the drinks were ridiculously cheap (vodka pineapple for a dollar) and they pour them strong. Secondly, a lot of cool people work there. One afternoon we stopped in for a quick drink. We sat at a table but didn't get any service right away so decided to snag a couple stools at the bar. Just as we started on our second (and last) round, Rodney arrives. I never quite ascertained what Rodney's position was at Skinny's, but he was clearly well enough involved to climb into the roof space to fix the Ipod connection. Anyway, his story is that he went over to St Thomas to get a hair cut. After waiting in line for a couple hours he gets fed up and comes home. No hair cut. And now he needs a drink. Beth, the barmaid obliges, and before we know what's happening we all have shooters in front of us. I did the first one out of politeness, but the next two I did because they were so damned tasty. I couldn't help notice that Beth had a system going on. She makes up a shaker of "Beth-ikaze", pours five shots, and the rest goes in an empty water bottle. We soon discover why: As Rodney waves goodbye she throws him the now-full bottle of liquor for him to enjoy at home! Needless to say we liked Skinny's. That night we got chatting to the grill chef, so went back later in the week for a couple burgers and a few Presidentes.

The last joint I want to talk about is the Tourist Trap. It deserves a mention because the food was really good, and it came out of a shack by the side of the road. OK, the portions were a bit small for the money, but they had just recently opened up so they deserve a chance. And it's run by ex-cons, so what do you expect?! No seriously, the entire time we were there the staff kept mentioning their parole officers. The place is run by Mary, the cooking is done by Larry, and the old stoner hanging around was called Gary. It was like 'Cheers' but in the Caribbean instead of Boston.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Wake the #@%! up

Wake the #@%! up, originally uploaded by evens.john.

We went to Meadow Farm this morning to take some pictures of the Mariner's Compass Quilt that Kristal made as a wedding present to ourselves. I got this great picture of a cockerel in mid crow!

Honeymoon Chapter 3: Beaches

"Isn't there meant to be a beach around here somewhere?"

The Island of St John has more beaches, bays and coves that I care to count. With such a wide range to choose from we felt duty-bound to sample as many beaches as we could. Thus we dedicated the majority of our vacation time to simple sitting on the white sands and swimming in the clear waters.

I'll try to cover the locations we visited in more-or-less chronological order. Be sure to check out my flickr photostream for photos tagged "beaches".

On our first day we headed out to our nearest beach on the South-East shore of St John. Salt Pond Bay involved a short hike down from the parking area. Even early in the morning the sun beats down hot and relentless. I was desperate to finally get to the ocean.
"Isn't there meant to be a beach around here somewhere?" I grumbled. At that exact moment we rounded a corner to find the most pristine cove you can imagine! We both gasped in amazement of the sheer beauty we were faced with. I was definitely worth the hike.

The Bay is so name because there is a shallow pond there separated by a thin spit of land. Obviously it's proximity to the sea means the pond is very salty, and is a unique habitat within the confines of he Virgin Islands National Park. There was a flock of Least Terns nesting on the shore of the pond.

Our favorite beach of the trip was probably Maho Bay. It's the last beach you get to on the North Shore Road from Cruz Bay. The road runs right next to the beach so you literally step out of the jeep and you're there! Despite it's convenience it was never crowded.

We only visited one other beach on the North Shore, which was Cinnamon Bay. These beaches are basically full of all the tourists who ride taxis out from Cruz Bay. For some reason it was too hot, too windy and we lasted about 15 minutes before going back to Maho!

On Thursday we rode out to the East End and stopped at Haulover Bay. This was a rocky beach, so boasted some of the best snorkeling of the trip.

Friday saw us visiting Lameshur Bay. As soon as we got there it started raining, so we retreated to the VIERS site to visit the exhibition about the Tektite project that took place right in Lameshur Bay. By the time we came out the weather had cleared up. We were relaxing on the beach when a large shadowy object appeared under the waves. It was a nurse shark swimming right in the shallow water! I followed it as it swam the length of the beach. There was a rocky outcrop at the East end of the beach so I climb up on the rocks about ten feet above the water. I was looking down into a deeper pool below the rocks as the shark glided in and I got a great view of it lazily swimming around in the crystal clear water.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Honeymoon Chapter 2: The Cottage

"The view is to die for."

Sago Cottage is located at 18°19'45.70" N 64°42'32.62" W so go look it up on Google Earth! The elevation is about 515ft, which might not sound like a lot until you consider that the road at the bottom of the hill is at 30ft above sea level, so it's quite a climb up a gnarly dirt road. We really got lucky finding this place. Simple surroundings to spend our honeymoon in, and as everybody in the guest book agreed, the view is to die for.

Honeymoon Chapter 1: Getting There

"...Passengers may disembark using the rearward door at their own risk."

Having been cooped up in this cigar tube for far too long already, we jumped at the chance to escape even a few seconds sooner. As we stepped out of the stale air into the ocean breeze and azure blue sky we knew our Caribbean honeymoon had finally begun.

Of course getting to this point in time was not such a smooth ride. The wedding had gone wonderfully, and we got home in time to open all the cards and read the kind words that so many people had written. Finally we began to come down from the excitement of the day and the tiredness crept in. Just before drifting off I drowsily programmed an alarm on my phone. The next thing we knew, my parents were knocking at the door to take us to the airport. It was 4.30am and I'd set the alarm for the afternoon! Luckily the packing was almost complete, so we threw some clothes on and hurried out the door. I hardly even bothered to wake up as I was confident we would soon be on a plane to Newark and I could catch a few z's.

Five hours later we were preparing to board a plane to Charlotte! Unfortunately our plane to Newark had suffered an incurable mechanical difficulty so we were re-routed on another airline. Thankfully US Airways took good care of us, even serving us an unexpected lunch on the flight down to St Thomas. Soon we were making our final approach over the deep blue waves and dark green hillsides of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Our delays of course threw the rest of the days schedule off a little. The airport in St Thomas is like no other I have been to. Small, of course but insanely busy and bursting with tropical color and heat. When we got to the baggage claim the crowd around the carousel was three bodies deep and there was no indication of which flight's luggage had arrived. Surely all these people couldn't have come on our plane an the one other aircraft parked at the gates?

I located a payphone before I plunged into the baggage collection melee, and got in contact with Juancito, our substitute taxi driver on St Thomas. He was right outside and came into meet me. It actually didn't take long for our bags to appear and we were led to our awaiting chariot. All the tourists ride around in these converted pickup trucks with open safari-style awnings bolted to the bed and bench seats. It wasn't the most luxurious ride, but like being on a motorcycle it was a good way to connect with our new surroundings. Our route to the ferry took us along the St Thomas Bay shoreline and then up into the mountain roads to get to the East End and the Red Hook ferry port.

We had just missed a ferry and they departed hourly. That gave us just enough time to enjoy a well-earned island drink before boarding yet another form of tranport for the final leg of our journey to St John.