Hurricane Hole

Mermaids and the Old Man of the Sea

OK, about the picture, there is an outfit here that does photo shoots for tourists. Think of it as Glamour Shots for the aquatic set. Called Mermaid Swim VI, it specializes in costumes of mythical sea creatures. I had only intended to ask to take their picture, but instead was invited for a selfie. Their costumes make it difficult to move about on land. In addition to the tight fitting wrap that binds their legs together, they also wear a single two-footed swim fin, making their only means of land motion small two-footed hops. Our guide for the day had stopped at this beach to pick up some stuff and I got lucky enough to cavort with them

We had contracted with an outfit called Arawak, to sea kayak and snorkel on the far end of the island at a place called Hurricane Hole. It is so named, because in the event of a hurricane, this where boats go to ride out the storm. Although, this plan didn’t work out so well in 2017 and quite a few ships were lost there.

Compared to where we had been, we were the only tourists around. Anne and I shared a tandem kayak and our guide Arthur had his single. There were a couple of big catamarans about, but they seemed to disappear at our approach. We saw lots of wildlife there, especially while swimming. We did some Mangrove swamps, the nursery of the sea and more coral reefs too. Our picture taking was way better than at Trunk Bay. There was some wind, but we powered through it as a team. It was a great adventure and a fantastic day, we had lots of fun.

Snorkeling at Trunk Bay

Snorkeling at Trunk Bay

Compared to the last few days, today was supposed to be a laid back one. We slept in for a change and just laid about on the beach, in between snorkeling trips, which I guess does constitute exercise.

We hailed a taxi as it was pulling out of Cruz Bay that after a couple of stops, dropped us off at Trunk Bay. We got to ride in the truck’s cab. This gave us the opportunity to speak with the driver, who was full of great advice. It’s always nice to talk with the locals.

We rented snorkeling gear and a locker, then we were off to the beach. Trunk Bay is the go to beach in the Virgin Islands, but being so good, it I also very popular with the tourists. Meaning that it was crowded, but not too much so. At Trunk Bay there is an underwater snorkeling trail that we followed. We saw lots of sea beasties and tried to photograph them. It remains to be seen how well we did with that.

After lunch, we swam again, but by then the cruise ship crowd had arrived. Making the reef very crowded. They didn’t stay long though and soon the beach was emptying out again, but we were hearing the siren song of town by then too.

Another taxi dropped us off in town at a shopping center called Mongoose Junction. Like other animals, the mongoose was introduced to the islands. It was brought here to control the rats, which were also introduced here. But the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose is diurnal and never their paths did meet.

At the junction, I started playing with my phone, while Anne quickly disappeared into the shops. After a while, I went looking for her, but quickly abandoned that effort, after a couple of shop girls, at different stores told me the same thing, without me ever saying a word, “She just left.” I guess that I was a marked man or maybe just a man.

I did find her and we checked out one more store, an outfitter for sea kayaking. We signed up for a tour to Hurricane Hole on the far side of the island. It is named so, because this is where the island’s boats go to ride out a hurricane.

Then dinner. We were running too late for any Happy hour specials. Walking back to the apartment, we paused on Gallows Point for photos of what turned out to be a rather ho-hum sunset. A woman passed us and asked if we were going to the art party?

Our host Bob had already clued us to this event, it was almost over, but with a second nudge, we took the plunge down the hill to Elaine’s art party on Gallows Bay. It was great! We met Kent again, our ranger hike guide from yesterday and Anne bought a painted floral tile. So much for an easy day.

Mountains to the Sea

Mountains to the Sea

We scored two spots on Tuesday’s Reef Bay tour. This is a ranger led hike. It began with a taxi ride from the park’s HQ to the trailhead. In the islands what passes as a taxi is either a Ford or Chevy pickup that’s backend has been modified to provide rows of open air bench seating for about fifteen people, all under an awning. We drove the island‘s main road, which runs along its backbone. I am glad that I didn’t rent a car.

The photo captures our hike well. Starting at a 900’ elevation, we descended two miles to the sea, following the course of a stream, which here is called a gut. This hike took our group of thirty about four hours. We had many small children in our company, but I cannot blame them for our slow progress. Kent, our guide, liked to talk. Still, he knew a lot and was well worth listening to. Kent by his own estimation has led this tour 180+ times.

We started in a mountain rainforest and descended first to a drier lower level forest, in the foothills, before reaching an almost desert like plain along the coast. In between were a host of micro climes. Our company of thirty were full of questions for our guide, which he could answer most of them. To stoke our naturalist interests, he purposed a couple of “scavenger” hunts.

The first was for the Golden Orb spider, a spectacularly looking beast, whose webs were once harvested for their tensile strength. It didn’t help that one was directly above Kent’s head when he announced this search. The other one was for the orange fruit, from the Mast tree. So named, because this tall and very straight tree, was once used for sailing ship’s masts. Some park botanist wanted these fruits to repopulated hurricane damage elsewhere, but after the first few examples, Kent declared no more.

We lunched by some Native American petroglyphs. Not the ones posted yesterday. The hike ended at an old slave era sugar mill. Then we boarded a waiting boat back to Cruz Bay. We waded out to a Zodiac that ferried us out to Sadie by the Sea, just restored to service this year after the 2017 hurricanes. Entering Cruz Bay, Captain Tom pointed out all of the derelict boats that FEMA had re-floated, to minimize its costs.

After that all, we were pretty much toast, fried, ready to be laid out. Fortunately, it was three by then, Happy hour time. We ended up at High Tide for a second lunch or maybe an early dinner. It was shady dining, with a great view of the water. Afterwards, we trudged up the hill to Gallows Point and our apartment. Where out on the deck we were treated to and tortured by Banana-Quits, very small, very fast, very hard to photograph, colorful, tropical birds.