TRAVEL 
VIRGIN ISLANDS 2011


JOURNAL

May 14, 2011- Ash to Fort Lauderdale

We were up and off by 6:45. We stopped a few times, but snacked on pita bread, nuts, iced tea, a quart of our own peas, crackers, and rice cakes and considered it lunch. It rained very heavily at times and we went in and out of rainstorms many times. CD's of the book Body Surfing by Anita Shreve helped to pass time on the over 11 hour drive.

Luckily it wasn't raining when we stopped at a Golden Corral for dinner around 5:30. When we arrived at the Fairfield Inn in Daria Beach, it was dry too. We were in our room by 8 and checked email. I wrote emails to Chris, Vickie, and Steve- as a belated birthday note. I put up a Facebook status to tell people we had arrived safely. Dick worked on birds and I read a little before we called it a night.

 

May 15, 2011- Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas.

We had a fairly leisurely morning and went down to breakfast in the hotel. All the tables were filled, so we stood at a round table and ate our cereal, yogurt, fruit and muffins, then packed up in the room and headed down to catch the 9 o'clock shuttle to the airport.

We got there in about ten minutes and checked our bags- which we had prepaid on the internet- so got off with just $15 a bag- thank you Spirit Airlines. Security was relatively easy, but it was the first time we had to stand at the body scanner-hands up, then wait on two footprints until our scans were okayed. We had around two hours to kill, so Dick began working on birds and I began my book.

Our flight was off in good time and took only 2 hours and 15 minutes- with rather cramped seating and Cokes for sale at only $3 each. As we got off at the St. Thomas airport a woman had a stand offering complimentary samples of flavored rums- coconut and mango- which were both good and served to make more pleasant the wait for luggage.

We were directed to the taxi line when we got our bags and took a fairly short ride, stopping first at the ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie before heading a bit up the hill to the Bunker Hill Hotel.

Our room was nice with a king bed and wifi. We spent a few minutes getting set up, then headed out to explore and find dinner. The waterfront was downhill, so we couldn't really miss it. We retraced the route our taxi had taken down as far as the ferry landing, looking for restaurants along the way. Many, many stores and restaurants were closed for Sunday, so not too much was going on- and the weather was a gentle drizzle with tropic temps so it didn't matter much. We crossed the street and walked back, stopping to eat at The Green House restaurant on the waterfront. I had a French Dip sandwich with plantains and Dick had a mahi sandwich and enjoyed the open air, but undercover, atmosphere. It was a bit modest for Dick's birthday dinner, but enjoyed by both of us.

We headed back to the hotel, taking a wrong turn and heading steeply uphill, then asking directions and finding our way back easily after that. The road signs on the sides of buildings are written with the Danish names (Gard being the name for street in many of them) and the English names. The Danes were the first settlers of the Virgin Islands but sold St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix to the US. When we got back to our room, there was a knock on the door and a hotel man told us our room might have leaks if the rain was too hard, so moved us up another outside stairway to a room higher up and with a better view. The hotel climbed the hill, so rooms were on many different levels.

We settled in for the night to watch 60 Minutes and the Survivor Finale. The Weather Channel didn't give us very good news!

 

May 16, 2011 Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

We went to bed pretty discouraged, but today turned out much better than forecast! It rained on and off, but there were a lot of sunny patches too. Our neighbors were very noisy- starting very early, but Dick was up and off looking for birds before they started up. He wasn't enthused about his bird photos from today, but we did get a few really good iguana photos at least.

Breakfast at the hotel consisted of eggs and ham or turkey, so we ended up opting for toast and oj which we ate overlooking a second swimming pool. Then we walked along the waterfront toward the two cruise ships in today- The Victory and Serenade of the Seas. At the port there were upscale outlets and restaurants. At one place you could get down to a junky beach area which nevertheless had some beach glass and coral. We walked around the area, had an early lunch at SubWay, then headed back toward the town. I stopped off at the marketplace with stalls under canopies and bought 4 T shirts for $10.

We rested a little while then headed down to the area by the Post Office where we were to meet Godfrey, our tour driver for the hotelÔs complimentary island tour. The canopied bus headed up into the center of the island, stopping for photographs of the view of Charlotte Amalie far below. At the top we stopped at Mountain Top- a large shopping area with a bar at the far end- which evidently sold their famous banana daiquiris- which we didn't try. As we left the open tour bus, we asked Godfrey if it was safe to leave our backpack and bag with swimming suits, hat, T shirt, and towels- and he said it would be fine- there were always drivers around to keep an eye on things.

However, when he drove down to pick us up in the courtyard- no bags! He was very apologetic and said that in his seventeen years that had never happened before and offered to reimburse us for our tour- even though it was complementary from the hotel. It was mostly a sentimental loss- Dick's LL Bean backpack that had gone places with him for years and our Costa Rica hat. Godfrey thought the thief might have been caught on video recordings made by a TV Station's monitors, and assured us we would get our things back. But later at another stop, another driver told him the same thing had happened on his bus a few months ago. We were a little disillusioned but glad that our snorkel gear and Dick's other camera lens hadn't gone with us. We were reimbursed $35 at the hotel front desk.

The tour continued, leaving some people off at Magens Bay Beach- which was now useless to us without our swimsuits. We stopped at the Coral World/ Coki Beach area and saw lots of lizards including the only brigth green immature iguana we saw during the whole trip. Cook's Seat, the Mahogany Bay Golf Course where Clinton played with Tiger Wood, and lots of views of the islands- including St. John- passed by as we headed back to drop off people at the cruise docks and us by the open air market and PO. Dick bought a new backpack and swimsuit and I got a dress for Gracie and T shirt for Liam and a gift bookmark at the Islands Craft Shop. It was raining fairly hard and I got semi-soaked walking back, as Dick had a few minutes ahead of me. I stopped under the cover of the Post Office entry and took a photo of a very cute young girl there- with her father's somewhat indifferent permission.

The sink in our bathroom refused to drain, so a nice man from the hotel office unlocked the adjoining room's door and offered us the use of that bathroom for the duration of our stay. He replaced the hotel towels we had lost when our bags were stolen, as well. After a bit of a rest to see if the rain would stop, it did and we headed back to the Green House restaurant where Dick had a fish sandwich of a different variety and I had a very good coconut encrusted chicken breast with pineapple sauce.

I sat out on the balcony and instant messaged with Rob and Nancy Blair and considered what an amazing difference the internet has made in our lives.

We went back to our room and felt that on the whole, it had been a very good day!

 

May 17, 2011- St. Thomas

We had breakfast by the pool and decided to just hang loose for the morning until the rain stopped. So we played Hand and Foot on the patio of the adjoining room while they unstopped our sink and found
out why the hair dryer wasn't working. They did something to get us hot water again after we both had lukewarm showers this morning.

I walked across the road and got a can of Bermudan Ginger Beer from a convenience store and sat out doing internet. We read and waited for clearing and eventually decided to head out anyway. We walked down to the town center and got a taxi to Coki Beach and Coral World. We had a woman driver who played gospel music on her radio on the 20 minute ride to the beach. They were repairing the bathing house so we changed to our bathing suits in a crude booth by the beach. I snorkeled first and took photos which turned out surprisingly well. The water was cool but comfortable enough. Dick went out after I did- neither of us willing to leave our things untended on the beach after losing our bags yesterday. Then I went over to Coral World and did the rounds there. They fed small Nurse sharks and then caught a couple of small sharks in a tub and let people pet them. I exchanged cameras with a woman beside me and we took each other's photos. Mine didn't turn out very well, but you can see it's me and a small shark. I went through the lorikeet feeding aviary, the touch pool with amazing large red starfish, the ray tank, coral reef small aquariums, bird and turtle pond and sea turtle lagoons. Dick hung out at the beach and enjoyed himself while I strolled around Coral World.

We caught a taxi back with two Scottish couples from one of the cruise ships and had an enjoyable conversation while the driver tackled congested traffic. He handed us off to another driver at the docks who got us back to the city center. Dick got us each a couple of T shirts at the market and we walked back to the hotel in the light rain again. I realized that the little bang that I had heard in the taxi was one of my camera batteries falling out of the partly zipped camera bag when I got back to the hotel and saw there was only one battery in there. I remembered the driverÔs name had been Lennox and hoped we night be able to find him and check the cab tomorrow morning, but didnÔt have much hope that would happen after losing our two bags a couple of days earlier.

After rinsing out our suits and reading a while, we headed back to the Green House restaurant for catch-of-the-day fish sandwiches. We saw the man walking in front of the restaurant making flowers out of palm fronds and Dick bought me one. There was still light rain as we walked back to watch TV, edit photos and get ready to leave for St. John tomorrow morning.

May 18, 2011- St. Thomas to St. John

We woke to a sunny day that held on most of the morning and afternoon. Dick went out looking for birds with limited success. Our morning waitress asked if we wanted Ô the usual' and we sat out eating turkey and toast. We packed up and pulled our suitcases down to the city square. Dick talked to the taxi captain and forgot to mention the lost camera battery as we followed a driver to his cab for the ride to Red Hook to catch the ten o'clock ferry. Amazingly enough, when I looked at the driver's license, I saw that somehow we had gotten into Lennox's taxi again. I told him about the lost battery and as we both looked for it, I saw it in the pocket beside the seat I had been sitting in. Amazing luck!

We had about a ten minute drive to the ferry terminal, covering a lot of familiar road by now. The ferry building was modern and large. Dick went out to try to find some supplies for our time on St. John and came back with bread, bagels and fruit. I walked down to one of the little food shops inside the terminal and asked the man for ginger beer. He told me that they had some they made themselves and I got a bottle of very potent (but non alcoholic) ginger beer. The ferry personnel told us we couldn't take any liquids on the ferry but the security woman who (quite thoroughly) checked me out, told me I could stash my ginger beer in my suitcase and take it that way. It was a good thing because you could only drink a little of it at a time and I couldn't have slugged it down quickly.

Our suitcases were stowed at the back of the ferry and we went up to the top deck. Not many people had suitcases and it seemed as if a lot of the passengers were only going over for the day. The boat rocked quite bit as we made the 15 minute crossing to Cruz Bay. As soon as we arrived, we caught a taxi with two young couples headed for Trunk Bay, two or three bays from Maho Bay where we were heading. We saw four of the island's wild donkeys, left over from the old sugar milling days.

At the Maho Bay Campground by 11, we found that we would have to wait until 2 to get into our tent. So we ate bagels, walked down to the beach, up to the restaurant and store and explored all around. The campground is very much into recycling (including in their art studio) and has shelves and a fridge for people to leave the things they don't need anymore and there was sunscreen, peanut butter, Rice-a Roni and several pairs of sneakers and sandals there at first, but much gone later on. The campground is a maze of boardwalks and stairs, everything interconnected but taking a bit of a climb to get around. Dick found a bird feeder behind the restaurant where yellow banana quits were flying all around and took photos for a while. We headed back by the office to sit on a bench and read, but were called by the receptionist who said that our tent- A-VIP was cleaned and ready for us. The tents sit on stilts overlooking the beach and are roomy with a sofa as you come in, twin beds in an area off to the left which can be curtained off, a kitchen area with propane stove, dishes, pots and pans, a water container, and a cooler on shelves around the edges and a round table with stackable plastic chairs in the center. Off to the left of the kitchen, next to the bedroom, is a balcony with clothes line. Everything is screened with plastic coverings so you can adjust the amount of openness or privacy you want at any given time. There are electric outlets and lights outside and in- very comfortable and convenient. Ceiling fans in the bedroom and living area circulate the tropic air and keep the tropic insects from easily biting you.

We moved our things in, rested a short while, then put on our swimsuits (after I took in the one Dick bought in the market- where the woman had crowed, ÒThis fits you perfectly. You don't know your own size, but I do!Ó) An inch and a half taken in at both sides and she was right! We headed down to the beach with our snorkel equipment and headed off to the right side. At first the water was pretty cloudy, but when we got past the rocks toward Frances Bay things were quite clear. We swam through very warm patches of water, then cooler ones. The sea urchins were black pincushions with long spines and were everywhere. We saw quite a variety of colorful fish and some that jumped out of the water in schools. The snorkeling had the usual Ôrapture of the deep' feel about it, but after an hour or so, we were ready to head for the cabin and look at the photos we'd had taken, both underwater and above.

We read, and worked on photos and around quarter of six we headed for the restaurant. Following the advice of a woman we had met during our wait, we ordered one helping of chicken parmesan and an extra salad and sat overlooking the ocean and awaiting the sunset while we ate- and it was delicious and plenty for the two of us. After dinner we walked through the craft store that sells beautiful fish, paperweights, bowls and other objects made from recycled bottle glass and pottery made in the art studio. Dick borrowed a bird book to help with identification from the activities desk. Then we walked back down the many stairs and along the walkway, stopping off at the bathhouse/restrooms closest to out tent. We will certainly get our exercise walking up and down the 113 steps to the beach- with a good few more steps required to get up to the top where the restaurant sits.

And so to bed, after the loveliest day of weather yet- with only one thunderstorm passing somewhere near as we sit in our tent this night!

Thursday, May 19, 2011- Maho Bay, St. John

We slept in our breezy open-air cabin, lulled to sleep by the violin string vibrations of insects and awoke to the sonata of bird song before the sun came up. A place like this can make you wax poetic! Anyway our bladders got us up and out to the bathroom when there was just enough light to make the trip without a flashlight. We had bagels and I bought a fruit punch from the vending machine in lieu of real juice. My banana had been nibbled by some doubtlessly cute little critter in the night and was only about half fit for human consumption. We learned we had better put all foodstuffs in the plastic crate provided! It began to rain as we ate, so we read for a while and put off for an hour or so the exploration we had planned.

Dick wore long socks to protect himself from the sand fleas which seem to bother him more than me, and we made our way down to the beach. I had on my water shoes which saved a lot of removing and replacing shoes as we walked along to Frances Bay, climbing over the rocks between little coves and wading ashore as we went. We saw a small wedding, we think, because there certainly was a young woman in a white dress carrying a bouquet of yellow flowers, but not much in the way of attendants or fancy dress on the young man or person who stood like a minister facing them. Dick attempted to get photos of hummingbirds and water birds and we talked to a dreadlocked older man about bugs and the birds that chase them.

When we got to the far end of Frances Beach it was obvious that the rocky shore would prevent us from walking to Cinnamon Bay, but as Dick walked along the land side of the beach, he found a trail which he felt would lead to Mary Point Pond, the best birding locale on the island. We walked along the trail and came on a young deer with fuzzy small antlers browsing just off the trail. It was very calm and curious, and eventually we saw two companions further in the dense jungly underbrush. Going further down the trail, we found a cou0ple of overlooks that opened out onto the pond. Dick got some photos of white cheeked pintail ducks and a stilt. Small crabs were everywhere in the muddy side on the pond. We went back by way of the very steep road we had traveled in the taxi yesterday- up, up, up and then down, down. I got a can of ginger beer- my signature drink of the trip- at the little store and we took peanut butter and honey from the exchange area. That made for good sandwiches and we'll put back in the exchange what's left when we leave.

After lunch we hiked the Goat Trail to Big Maho Bay. As promised by the name, it had a larger sandy beach than the bay our cabin is located on but other than that it was about the same. On the trail we saw a lot of lizards and more ground hermit crabs. At the shore a large conch shell was being washed in by the waves, but when I picked it up, I saw that it was still inhabited, so threw it father out where I hoped the ledge would stop it from washing back in. A guy out swimming yelled that he saw a sting ray, but it hurried off before anyone else could see it.

We walked back up the trail to the campground, rested and read, then headed down to our beach to cool off in the water. We talked to two women who had rented foam floating mats and we may rent some and try to paddle around the big point to the best snorkeling area according to the man who rents equipment here. He had said that the left side of our beach was poor for snorkeling, but Donna and Marge, the floating mat ladies, disagreed and said it was very good there, so we will certainly give it a try. They saw a turtle grazing there earlier in the day.

I showered and rinsed my bathing suit when we climbed back up from the beach. The shower was cool, literally, with a pull rope that brought the water splashing down on you. I had felt the bathroom was warmer than the outside and hoped against hope that there was warm water. But it was an adequate clean up and I certainly felt fresher for doing it. I read and Dick worked on bird photos for an hour or so, then we headed back to the dining room. Along the way we saw the table artisans here had made with a speckled glass top and three layers of Heineken bottles for the pedestal. Burgers were the major item of the day so I had a cheeseburger and Dick had a veggie burger along with homemade mac and cheese and salads we put together from their good selection. Now we're back, listening to the waves and looking forward to going back up to the dining area to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean- The Black Pearl movie at 7:30. We'll wend our way back by flashlight and snuggle in for another peaceful night of listening to the bug serenade and gently lapping waves.

Friday, May 20, 2011- Maho Bay

Damp outside, damp inside! There were very heavy showers late at night and early in the morning, but during a brief dry spell we hiked back over the Goat Trail to Big Maho Bay then on to Cinnamon Bay over a steep road that even had one switch back. The heavy rains had made a pretty waterfall that came from high up on the hill and cascaded down toward the water plant further down the road.

We walked into the Cinnamon Bay Campground which had very impressive stone work on the walls, reception, and dining area. We passed the tented campsites on the right and the cement bunker like cabins on the left. As we walked down the beach Dick recognized the area where his cabin was. We changed into our swimsuits in the shower area there and went in up to our waists- not too enthused about swimming or snorkeling because the rain was steady by then. After fifteen or so minutes cooling off, we walked down the beach in the direction of our campground, then back again. We saw what looked like a tiny scorpion on a bench and a greenish iguana on the beach. I went into the little shop and bought some small bottles of flavored rum, we put shirts and pants over our swimsuits and headed back on the 45 minute walk, checking out the very pretty restaurant at Cinnamon Bay.

It rained the whole way back but was warm enough that it was never uncomfortable. We stopped at the ruin of an old sugar mill- again with beautiful stonework with coral incorporated into the sometimes intricate designs. To the left was there area where sugar cane was pressed, seemingly from having donkeys turn the crusher from the circular construction. The juices travled to the larger area and were processed there with the waste stalks dried and used for fuel for the fires. Further to the right was the ruins of a stone estate house. I had wanted to see an old sugar mill, so that was another thing off my to-do list.

We got back to our tent around 1:45 and had peanut butter sandwiches- me with a raspberry rum and coke- which was most welcome. The cabin was damp throughout- from rain blowing in on three sides of the Ôdining' area- but the rest of the cabin reasonably dry. I exchanged our towels for dry ones and went up to do laundry. Unfortunately many other people had decided that was a great rainy day activity because I waited a half hour for a free washer. Once I had lined up the eight quarters, put in the half cup of ecologically sound detergent provided by the campground, and loaded our grungy clothes, I headed for the internet office and plugged in our computer. For some strange reason their system has trouble with Facebook and they specifically asked us not to use it, so I downloaded our email, surfed a few other sites and sent a quick note to the family saying all was well. I took the computer back, read for a little while, then went up and loaded the laundry into the dryer.

I went back to the cabin and Dick and I started a game of Hand and Foot. Two hands into it, I went back and got the clothes out of the dryer, some things more dry than others. I laid the damp things out along the back of the sofa, the ledges beside our beds and any other place that might allow for some drying to take place. We lowered a couple of other plastic screen coverings to limit the sides where rain could come in to the Ôdining' area and we finished our card game.

Then it was time for the rainy walk up to the restaurant, where we had a very nice meal of salmon. It wasn't very rainy when we walked back and I bought a package of chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Now there's a goodly amount of rain beating on our roof and about the only activities we'll have for the rest of the night will be reading, a trip to the bathhouse in as little rain as possible, the patter of rain to send us to sleep and the hopes that tomorrow will offer a drier day, some snorkeling toward Big Maho Bay and maybe even a little sun to finish the drying of our clothes! We had to turn off the light in the bed area to lure a whole bunch of flying insects into the kitchen area and in the morning there were only wings to tell us they had been there. I guess the little lizards take their job seriously around here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011- Maho Bay

The day did just what the announcement board by the store said it would- started out gray with pitter patters of rain again, but at least not the deluges that drowned out the sound of the waves as we went to sleep.
We spent the morning reading and playing cards. Dick exchanged our bedsheets for new clean DRY ones. We ate an early lunch- me having cherry rum this time in my rum and coke. I can make a tiny bottle of rum last through three drinks, so I'm not about to become a lush on it!

The day was beginning to clear as predicted, so we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed for the beach. We swam along the reefs by the left side of the beach, then rounded the point and swam at Big Maho Bay. The fish were lovely and plentiful. Dick saw a ray and we both saw three different sea turtles and swam, taking photos of them for quite a while. Dick walked to the beach and told a young couple who swam out to see the turtles and saw rays too.

I hung some of our laundered, but still damp, T shirts to dry. Dick went up to the bird feeder to try for photos, and I worked on editing and deleting fish photos for quite a while. Then he headed back to Mary Point Pond and I headed down to the beach where I found some shells and sea glass and talked to a nice lady from Cape Cod. I saw Donna and Marge from yesterday and thanked them for sending us in the direction we snorkeled today.

We went back to the restaurant again (having had crunchy baked tilapia for dinner) and saw The Girl with the Pearl Earring, then back to read until sleep time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011- Maho Bay

I showered before having breakfast then went down to look for tiny shells to fill my mini rum bottle. Dick went down to take beach area photos. We rested and read for a while, then took our snorkel gear and went back to the big Maho Bay area. I took a lot of photos once again and Dick borrowed the camera for a short while. We spent an hour and a half or so cruising the reefs then headed back up for lunch.

I got my Diet Coke and finished the second mini bottle of flavored rum, washing down another peanut butter and honey sandwich I found a bag with three whole wheat bagels in the Take It spot and brought them back for Dick's lunch.

We read, played cards and relaxed, then I went back down, beachcombed a short while, then snorkeled the other side of the beach to Frances Bay. All the photos I thought I had taken there the first day weren't on the memory stick, so I took lots more photos to rectify that.

By the time I had used the outside shower to get the salt off and changed back into the damp clothes I had worn down, it was 5:30 and time to think about heading to dinner. Tonight we had a curried chicken in flat bread that was, once again, very good. We checked the bird feeder and Dick saw a bird he didn't think he'd had, so we walked back to the tent, he grabbed his camera and I grabbed the computer and went to the internet center where I wrote quick notes to Christy and Rob while Dick tried to get the birds in the fading light.

Some things about Maho Bay Campground in general.- The tents climb the hill from the beach, all on stilts. At least five feral cats inhabit the campground, but they're only feral in that they don't belong to anyone and we're asked not to feed them at the restaurant. Some of them look like they've seen their share of battles, but they're quite friendly on the whole. At least two kinds of small lizards are very common- a little gecko like one and one with a frilly tail whose behavior might be the source of the expression Leaping Lizards. Iguanas are plentiful and one sits in a tree in front of our cabin, a sentinel looking out to sea. Some quite large hermit crabs sift through the dead leaves in their fairly large shells. The area is home to quite a few deer that we've seen walking trails, but we have yet to see any of the wild donkeys, except at the port when we first arrived.

Many of the staff members are volunteers, but there's a large crew of full timers too. The people here are all friendly and the dinner staff is particularly efficient. You give your order at the bar, get your salad from the salad bar and your iced tea and they're calling your name to pick up your food before you can finish filling your salad bowl. On the advice of people we met the first day, we split one dinner- the portions are huge for one person- and we get a second salad to fill things out. Any time you want, you can exchange your dirty towels and bed linens, but they ask you not to shower from 10-3:30 which seems an excessive time to me. It's a no-frills, laid back place and we've loved it. And we think we've found out why our tent is VIP-A. Few of the other tents have ceiling fans and we have two- but the others do have box fans they can move around to get the same effect. Our tent is also more isolated than the average, while still only 37 steps and 24 stairs from the bathhouse. Vines climb the trees outside and pearly eyed thrashers beg for food when we eat on the deck. Sunsets are beautiful from here. It's a lot like paradise!

Monday, May 23, 2011- Maho Bay

Dick was up earlier than me, as usual, working on his article on editing photos. I showered and had breakfast, then we went off in opposite direction- Dick up to search for birds and me, down to search for shells. Out plans for the day were to go first to Trunk Bay- one of the two best snorkeling places on the island, then on to Cruz Bay to shop (me) and look for birds (Dick).

It was raining by the time we were all packed up to head out. We caught a taxi to Trunk Bay and I changed in the women's room. Dick was foregoing snorkeling to try to find birds. His bathing suit that we got at the market in Charlotte Amalie wasn't made to go in water, we guess, and developed huge tears that made it too revealing to use in populated places. So I went off, first to the side away from their marked snorkeling trail where it was really an underwater wonderland- canyons of corral with bright purple and gold sea fans waving in the surge and brightly colored fish everywhere. It had started to rain when I felt I had traced and retraced that side and I decided to cross to the more trafficked side. I was wearing a shirt to cover my somewhat sunburned back and the raindrops came heavily at times making it much warmer under the water. The fish were good on that side too and I snapped away, trying to stick to the shallower area where the fish were closer and photos should be better. I took a couple of shots of rain hitting the water as I made my way back in.

I showered off the salt and found Dick in a protected picnic area. He had already had the lunch we packed, so I ate mine and listened to the rain on the roof- a too familiar sound by now! I changed back into drier clothes- dry clothes will have to wait until we're back in Ash with all the humidity here. We caught a taxi back to Maho Bay, feeling that doing the town in the rain would be minimal fun and deciding we would catch an earlier taxi to Cruz Bay tomorrow as we leave. Then we'll do the shopping/birding before getting the ferry back to St. Thomas and thence to the airport. I got my Coke and we headed to the tent for an afternoon of rainy day activities.

We edited photos and read. It rained for a good while. Dick showered and we passed the afternoon. I spent a good deal of time trying to identify fish using a book on loan from the activity desk. I got a second book on the way to the restaurant. Dinner was a very good chicken breast stuffed with bacon and pineapple. After dinner Dick went back to the cabin and I went to the craft shop and bought some gifts for people which they wrapped in bubble wrap. The glass blowing demonstration was going on so I spent about twenty minutes watching the two men make two wine glasses- minus the bases which would be added on after the glass cooled, I guess. It was amazing to see them shape the stem with swirls and draw out the top of the goblet. When they were done, they put the two glasses into the annealing oven to cool slowly overnight.

I headed back to the tent with the second fish identification book and spent another good long time working on the unknowns and had quite a few identified by night. It was fairly late when I stopped and we played cards. Now we're at a 9-9 tie with the next game deciding who buys who dinner. After a late trip to the bathhouse, I tried to sleep while Dick stayed up until 11:30 trying to finish the John Jacques book he wanted to finish so he could leave it at the exchange. With the early bird song waking me, it wasn't the longest night, but maybe I'll finally fall asleep on the airplane tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We were up around 6. I showered. Then we washed dishes, swept, took the linens to the laundry and the trash to the barrel. We were at the office in plenty of time to catch the 8:15 taxi to Cruz Bay, so we watched an iguana digging on the driveway and scurrying around until it was time to leave. Dick waited with the luggage at the ferry building while I explored Cruz Bay, hoping to see the wild donkeys we saw when we first arrived. I got a T shirt and wandered around drinking a ginger beer. There were no donkeys to be seen, but I did see a neat graveyard where the above ground tombs had a cement plaque on their end where the person buried's name had been hand scratched along with dates and epitaphs. I also got my obligatory photos of school children walking down to the waterfront on some kind of outing. There were lots of tourists around setting out on various boating expeditions. I took the lion's share of the waiting time, but Dick had a short, fruitless walk around in search of birds. Just as we were about to board the ferry, a woman and little girl were exclaiming over a starfish, and there, to my surprise, right near the shore was one of the neat red pillowy starfish (or sea star as they're properly called) that I had hoped to see on my snorkels!

We had a sunny fifteen minute ferry ride. Dick took photos of a brown booby and a tern but they didn't turn out as well as he hoped. The taxis were there waiting and we were directed to one and quickly off. We were at the airport with hours to spare and the Spirit desk wasn't even due to be opened for over an hour when we arrived. We passed the time at an outdoor table, me eating a ham and cheese sandwich to hold our place and watching Netanyahu's address to Congress on CNN.

We checked in, then had to fill out customs forms and go through Customs- because people at the airport may have come from other areas like the British Virgin Islands. At the gate we both wandered a bit, then settled down to edit the Trunk Bay fish photos. The plane loaded well before the flight time and we even took off a little early because everyone was boarded. We mostly dozed- Dick more than me-on the 2 ? hour flight. It was very hot, high nineties to a hundred, when we landed. Luggage took quite a long while to come and Dick figured out the hotel shuttle calling system while I watched for our bags.

As he called for the Fairfield Inn shuttle, a man next to me haltingly asked me to help him find a hotel for the night, so he could get back to the airport for his return flight to Òmy countryÓ which we assumed was either Spain or a country in South America after more conversation. We managed to book him a room at the EconoLodge, walk with him to the shuttle stop and talk a bit during a fairly long wait for the shuttles. I think he understood that he would get breakfast the next morning and a shuttle back to the airport. His shuttle came just before ours, so we were able to see him safely on his way. It was one of those nice travel encounters you have every so often.

We got to our car after seven and quickly drove off, air conditioning on. We drove on 95 for about a half hour, then stopped at a Golden Corral for dinner. I indulged my chocolate cravings after a vacation without and we left more than satisfied. Dick held out until 10:30 when we found a Motel 6 through the GPS, checked in and were in bed ASAP