Case in Point:
Upon landing in St Thomas, the main body of land in the US Virgin Islands, I was immediately confronted with the local greeting: shots of Rum. Seeing Travi tanned and in a safari hat presented an amusing dichotomoy, as I had last seen him similarly shaggy and sun soaked, but against the backdrop of an achromatic glacier. We made it 100 feet out of the airport to a beach where we immediately hit the water. Having not seen Travi in 3 years, nor the Caribbean in over a decade, there was a certain decadence to wholly immersing myself in bringing favorite wonders of the past, back into the present.
The next afternoon, after an appropriately vacation slow/jet lag morning, we borrowed kayaks from Travi’s guiding employer and paddled out to Hassel Island. What was once a peninsula and the base for Danish, then British fortifications, intended to defend the busy Charlotte Amalie harbor in the 18th and 19th centuries, had been dug out to allow the water to flow freely and reduce the build-up of water pollution in the harbor; thus, Hassel Island.
We paddled from point to point, beaching to explore the variety of old ruins. We finally beached at Hobo/Shipwreck Cove where we set out to hike amoung the various fortifications. A massive Iguana perched proudly atop the wall of the Hazzell Family graveyard, whose land it once was. As I turned to point him out to my companions there was a sickening WHUMP.
“The poor creature must have broken his neck!”, I worried, but upon turning back, he was gone. Turns out, this was not at all odd for, as we continued along the trails, iguanas rained down gracelessly from the trees. Being just about the only people on the island, I assume we were interrupting their afternoon siesta, which was proven correct when we came out onto a rise scattered with dens into which dozens of tails whipped frenziedly, disappearing into the soft, warm earth. We dropped to Fort Willoughby, the most fascinating feature of which was the poop chute, as understood in its most literal sense. And other nonsense of historical edification.
Paddling back into the evening dark, we watched as lights came on across St Thomas. A whale spout sprayed out in the canal. It was a fantastic venture, and vacation had only just begun.
We began the next day with a sunny ride on the Ferry from St. Thomas to St. John whereupon one of the many ‘Safaris’ (open aired truck/vans with a sunshade topper which serve as the official unofficial bus system) took us to the world famous Trunk Bay, stopping at an overlook, where we could scope what was to come. Repeatedly renowned by publications such as Conde Nast Traveler and the only slightly less famous National Geographic as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we were totally entertained there for at least 45 minutes.
Upon having lapped the key (the tiny island pictured @ left and below) we set off around the far point, in constant pursuit of the next point of interest. 1) Rocky beach 2) castle on hillside 3) Next sandy white beach where we napped. Travi cracked a coconut, we drank the milk, nomnomed the flesh, then set out to return. All in all we swam nearly 2 miles, but had so many spectacular guests and the waters were with us, so we counted our blessings. Particularly as, with one dive, we encountered a Lemon Shark drifting under a reef, digesting and, contrary to his breeds generally territorial attitude, politely allowed us to pass.
Boundless beams of sunlight pierce the serrating surface of the Caribbean, casting constant refractions across Travi, diving below, and our many marine companions. Parrot Fish, decorated with streaks and colors which any disco-tech diva would desire to duplicate. Schools of shining Barracuda snacks execute Emergence Maneuvers inches below the surface. The sea floor sported coral, undulating bright sea fans, brain coral, and the ever present sea urchin. Sea Turtles in all sizes watched warily, then languidly as we flapped overhead. Sting rays glided along the sandy stretches just below, one with a tail and spine stretching at least 4 ft behind his frictionless form. A spotted ray with a discernible head shape also danced by. Such formidable company for a lazy afternoon!
As such adventures go, one lazy afternoon followed another, then another. Time became irrelevant except insofar as the movement of the sun and getting to the boats on time. A catamaran tour of the British Virgin Islands took us snorkeling into Treasure Island caves on one island and allowed us to cavort through the Baths on Virgin Gorda, where the bowels of the volcanic earth had pressed a most fascinating playground to the surface. That same volcanic nature rumbled the island to a 3.4 one night as we slept.
As with any worthy venture, the end came, unheralded and far too soon. Travi and I spent the last morning swimming and exploring along one of the several beautiful beaches just out his front door. Then, with little ceremony, he jumped a safari to work and I threw my few belongings back into my Leavenworth Penitentiary bag (which got more than one set of raised eyebrows along the way and warranted frequent bag checks) and made the 10 hour commute back up to where the air is dry and crisp, where a wholly different but wonderful summer unfolds.
* A great big Thank You to Travis & Paul: for your time, guidance, encouragement, and marvelous hospitality.