28 October - 4 November 2012
From USVI I was lucky to get a ride to British Virgin Islands (BVI) on a beautiful 40 feet sail boat with some of the people we met a the pool party the day before in Coral Bay. What a treat – great weather and sailing and wonderful company with Eric, Ricky and Sheryl. It just confirmed my many, previous “encounters” with the sailing community – people are generous, easy-going and interesting to hang out with. From Coral Bay it took about an hour to get to West End where immigration to BVI was trouble free. We sailed another 45 minutes up the coast to Nanny Key where we had a goodbye beer and I was picked up by my host Karon who lives on a steep hill north of Road Town – beautiful view but a quite strenuous walk. She's originally from Jamaica but has lived in BVI for 8 years – first taking an eduction and now working with accounting in the shipping industry. Conversations did however evolve around other more interesting subjects. Like me Karon has had a challenging upbringing so we exchanged experiences on how to deal with and overcome hardship, personal development, etc. A warm hearted, hospitable, generous and lovely girl who really deserves a break in life and to be treated as well as she treats everybody else.
The history of BVI is similar to that of USVI. Columbus arrived in 1493 and by 1595 Sir Francis Drake and Jack Hawkins used it as a base for attacking Spanish shipping. Later many pirates have exploited the secure and unattended harbours in BVIs 50 islands. In 1950 BVI got a presidential legislature and in the 1980s the economy took off as offshore registration was introduced. Today BVI has 41% of the world's offshore companies corresponding 450,000 – an unbelievable number since the population is only 25,000 - of which many off course are accountants, lawyers, investment brokers, etc.
There's not a lot to see in Road Town, so I spent some time walking around the docks talking to the people preparing the countless charter boats for the season kicking off in less than a month. I also spent some time getting my homepage up-to-date and after 5 days on a small boat it was time for some practical stuff – laundry, showering, etc.
One day I did a trip around the central part of the island Tortola. Karon had told me how easy it is to hitch-hike here – only it wasn't..... unless you're a girl with big breasts (not my conclusion but the locals'). So I had to walk the 6-7k to Sage National Park over the hilly ridge on a hot day - fortunately clouds assembled over the peaks which made it bearable though I did wring some litres of sweat from my fully soaked t-shirt. The park was not very interesting – no animals are allowed, so I only saw a few birds and some small lizards. Though the forest itself is nicer than in St John – older, more pristine and lush. Still no ride so I walked all the way downhill to Cane Garden Bay – a turquoise bay with a beautiful long, beach surrounded by steep green hills. Not many people on a Thursday afternoon so I spent some hours before heading back home. Finally, I got a break as a truck driver was nice to take me half the was up the steep hill - even apologising that he didn't go further. A great day and a little more exercise than expected.
Another day I went to nearby island Virgin Gorda (VG). The tourist hoards arrive around 9am so I got up at 6am and took the ferry at 7am. VG has the biggest tourist attraction in BVI – The Baths and from there the 20 minutes walk to Devil's Bay. After docking in Spanish Town I walked determined, but as it often happens I got distracted along the way – this time by some of the enormous 70 million-year-old volcanic boulders behind a cactus field. Forcing my way through the cacti I was hoping to climb the boulders and find a path to The Baths along the beach – despite many attempts (and scratches) I had to return to the road, crestfallen. The Baths supposedly open at sunrise but nobody was there so I neither had to pay, nor be bothered by tourists. Honestly, I don't understand the hype – The Baths is just a small beach with some big boulders! However, the walk to Devil's Bay was fun – squeezing and crawling through narrow rock passageways, clambering over boulders and walking through tidal pools. Reading that it's a challenging walk I was disappointed to find ladders, etc. so I made the walk exciting by looking for more complicated paths – sometimes successful, other times not..... but good fun. Arriving at beautiful Devil's Bay, I was pleased to find it empty but for a guy resting on a rock after a swim. Knowing it would soon be crowded I continued to a nearby smaller, rocky beach where I stayed for some hours – enjoying the solitude, the waves, the sun and breakfast. Back in Spanish Town I was a bit surprised but very content that the first car gave me a ride the 10k uphill to Gorda Peak national park. From the road it was an easy walk up to the peak at 1,348 feet where I spent 1½ hour in the lookout tower – alone with a beautiful view and a pleasant temperature. The park is a bit more interesting than Sage NP – I saw 1000s of butterflies in many colours, hummingbirds, a snake, lizards and a number of difeerent birds. Back on the road it took 1 minute to get a ride back to town so I had an hour to kill before the ferry left. I walked up to Little Dix Bay which turned out to be a very fancy resort but as always nobody questions the white guy despite my trashy looks and arriving by foot – it would have been easy to use all the facilities. The key is looking as if I belong there – maybe I have some kind of eccentric millionaire look...?! All in all, it was a very nice day trip where I particularly noticed VG's laid-back island vibe compared to Tortola (the same feeling I had with St John compared to St Thomas.
The weather is still good – hot and humid and only a bit rain one afternoon and evening. When I arrived I heard about 50 cases of Dengue fever the last 2 weeks, but I never used repellent unlike USVI where it had to be used all the time.