Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 5 - Little Dix and Bitter Ends

Brock started Wednesday on the Monkey (Sea Monkey), Tiff slept in till10 AM …

Slowly but surely … I’m (Brock) is learning “the ropes” on a dive boat literally … it seems so simple to tie a boat to a mooring or a dock … but it really does take practice and experience … today I helped Chris and Jude w/ 4 men from Italy … just as I was getting comfortable w/ things, these guys threw the metric system at me … damn if I know how to convert Bar to PSI … so these 4 middle aged Italian men wanted nothing but to be under water … forget the details like having enough air … having enough weight to stay under water or even having fins … these guys were all emotion and no brains … but it was a great learning experience … every day I learn more … oh yeah, today I saw the rare jawfish - (see pic) ... i've never seen one before ... I also had the pleasure of diving w/ a reef shark w/ this morning ...

... After a morning working on the Monkey, Tiff picked me up from the dive shop w/ a picnic lunch … we went to a close by resort beach called Little Dix Bay. It was perfect … we were able to pose as residents of Little Dix and found a seat under a straw umbrella with and table. We started our afternoon eating homemade sandwiches by Tiff, and noticed just beyond the shoreline that a few turtles were breaking the surface for air. Tiff set her PB sandwich down and ran out to snorkel w/ the turtles. After all, she’s been deprived of diving all this time, so she was really excited. We both ended up playing w/ the turtles … so much fun … they are so graceful, friendly, and they epitomize our island existence … because they don’t give a shizzle about anything but eating their grass … no matter how many rich tourists over-anxiously bob and weave around them … what a great afternoon …
We left the beach around 5:00 pm and headed back to the condo to clean up for dinner. Tiffany is getting better at driving on the wrong side of the road up and down these steep hillsides … but tonite was a challenge … we were heading to the ferry on the far end of the island (Gun Creek) to the Bitter End Yacht Club … where all the yachters anchor and congregate … The ferry pushes off at 6:30 and we left our Condo at 6:10 pm with a 13 horsepower Suzuki and a half intoxicated Brock taunting Tiffany to drive “with intent”. She made it … burning brake pads and all!
We discovered all sorts of things at the “Bitter End” of VG … it was kind of like going to the zoo for us … imagine hundreds of yachts named silly things like “hypnautic” and “golden times” … w/ hundreds of filthy rich people … human behavior is quite strange … even though you are wealthy, it’s still possible to act like a bafoon … we ran into some strange things … like a sailing school for children … the public restrooms were lined w/ teak wood … bookoos of 15 year old boys running around w/ their turned up polo shirt collars and six packs of Caribe beer with their head on a swivel ... guess they don't card here … apparently, tomorrow there is a regatta so there were teams of guys w/ matching sailing uniforms on, getting schnockered and stroking each other’s egos the night before the race … for dinner, we had conch fritters and split a cheeseburger … enjoyed a few rum drinks and we headed back to the condo …
… Confucius say, better to be a “happy turtle” than a “drunken rich sailor” … hmmm … maybe I’m a drunken turtle right now … who cares … we had another great day in paradise.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 4 - Hiking & Shells

Brock started his day at 7:30am aboard the Sea Monkey with Chris and Jude. They dove the Rhone, a well known wreck dive that was a 300-ft English royal mail ship and the first ever iron-hulled boat…it wasn’t supposed to sink, but in the 1860’s it hit the tip of Salt Island, which they now call the “can-opener”. Over 300 people were on board, and all but one of them died…that lucky survivor stayed in room 26, and legend has it that when you dive down you’ll find the #26 port hole, and if your rub it 3 times clockwise, it’s good luck. So of course Brock rubbed the hole! Other than diving, Brock helped out and learned what it really takes to work on a boat…filling tanks, tying off boats, etc…

I on the other hand, had a very relaxing morning…slept in, came down to the pool for some sun, and otherwise relaxed…again, tough life. I picked Brock up about 12:30 and we came back to the condo for a left-over lunch & to get ready for the rest of the day.

We decided since we had been doing a lot of eating, it was time to get a little activity in…so we took on Gorda Peak. It’s the highest point in VG and takes about 30 min one way to hike to the lookout platform. From there, you can see a 360-degree view of the island and all the surrounding islands that share the Virgin Islands waters…it really was worth the hike! On the hike, we saw a hermit crab (have no idea how that guy got there!?!), a couple of lizards, a blackish-gray snake that scared the begeezus out of me, and some pretty butterflies that looked like bumble bees because they were black and yellow striped. Side note: have you ever tried to take a picture of a butterfly?? Practically impossible!

Then we headed down the road to Nail Bay…I think this is the only road on the island we hadn’t been on yet, so we wanted to see what was down there. Apparently a bunch of wealthy people live down here, because the houses are out of this world! (and the road was in really good condition…had to be privately commissioned…) We stopped at the Sugar Mill ruins, but there wasn’t a ton to see, so we went to a beach called Mountain Trunk Bay Beach…we had the entire thing to ourselves! We just walked up and down the beach looking for shells, and ended up finding some pretty cool souvenirs to take home. It started sprinkling on us, so we decided to head back to the condo. Since we had been pretty active this afternoon, we decided to keep the evening simple, and just ate at the pool bar at the condo. Fell asleep watching “Couples Retreat”…another tough day in VG…

Day 3 - Diving & Such

Today was our first day with Dive BVI. We showed up at the shop around 8am and were introduced to Chris & Jude, the instructors Brock would be training under, and Rudy, the DM on the boat. The “Sea Monkey” – Dive BVI’s nicely outfitted boat – had 3 groups on it…one were a group of 4 guys traveling together, all certified, who dove with Rudy. There was a guy and his son who were on dive 3 & 4 of their open water training diving with Chris…they would be certified by the end of the day. And a couple – Bruce & Susan - from NH who were on dive 1 & 2 of their open water certs. This was the group Brock helped out with . He was just to be an extra set of eyes for Jude…so he followed them and helped out where needed, even grabbing the guy and pulling him down because he was having a little trouble with his buoyancy. I snorkeled and saw a few critters at the first dive site, but only got in the water for a few minutes at the 2nd site…not as great of snorkeling as the first. Just a side note…snorkeling sucks compared to diving. Brock says the diving here is definitely not the best we’ve done, but the visibility is great, and it sure beats Clear Springs Scuba Park for getting some of the DM credits out of the way!

After 2 nice sites – Ginger Steps & Alice's Backside – we went to a local place for lunch – Dixies – and had a great lunch! I had an awesome cheeseburger while Brock had a fish sandwich…both were delish. We headed back to the condo to cool off and to take a little nap. Being on vacation is tough.

Later in the afternoon we finally got the energy to go out exploring some more, and we’re glad we did. We drove down to Spring Bay beach, which is right next to the Baths. The beach was beautiful with huge rock formations and little paths and crevices you could squeeze through to get to the next beautiful area. If you’ve never been to the baths, there are amazingly huge boulders the size of trailer houses (to put it in terms people in TX would understand J). We found the hidden path to the Crawl, a kind of secret beach where we got to have the whole place to ourselves. Brock took some amazing pictures, and we hung around until sunset…it seriously has to be one of the most gorgeous and stunning views in the world.

Then back to the condo to clean up and head to dinner at the Rock, a really nice restaurant that was recommended by a local. It was built near the baths, so there are huge boulders surrounding the backside of the restaurant, and 3 levels of dining. It was a beautiful place, but the food was only OK for the price. Glad we went though…it was a nice little romantic evening.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 2 - Waking up to Paradise

The sun shone brightly through our bedroom window at 6:30 AM ... because we got in late, we were pleasantly surprised to see the amazing views we had when we woke up to the sunrise on Sunday Morning. We decided to take a walk before breakfast, made it to the ferry dock, and on the way we ran into Security Jeffery (a local security guard riding home on his bicycle after his night shift) … who was thankful for the USA because we saved him from Hitler … he also asked how many terms president Theo Roosevelt served? … um, no idea…Brock had made friends w/ the chef last nite after the bbq who said to come down for breakfast, that he’d hook us up … so we did…and it was very good! Tiff went w/ the mango french toast, Brock had scrambled eggs, mushrooms and smoked salmon. During breakfast we saw C asey at the pool, Dive BVI owner, she was on her recovery day from being sick with laryngitis. Afterwards, we walked to Speedy’s Car Rental and rented a Suzuki for 3 days (kinda like Suzi-Q from our honeymoon) In VG, the steering wheel is on the same side of the car as in the US, but they drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. Tiff was driving, and when we left Speedy’s, I told Tiff to turn right and she turned left … this was going to be a dangerous day. We ended up driving the whole length of the island over the course of the day … stopping … exploring and looking at the beautiful sites … for anyone who hasn’t been to BVI, they have a chicken problem…lots and lots of chickens and roosters just roaming the roads. Oh, and goats…not as many, but more than we’re used to seeing in a normal day. We decided to come back after some driving around the north part of the island to pack sandwiches and grab our snorkel gear…it was off to our first round of beach time! We headed down to Savannah Bay beach, which is the closest beach to our condo…some locals were having a big party with loud music & lots of food, so we walked down the beach quite a ways until we had a nice quiet spot all to ourselves. After sunblock-ing up and eating our lunch, we had to get in the water to cool off…we noticed the sand changed as you went down the beach…parts of it were really rough and coarse, while other parts were so fine it was like walking on flour ... how queer. We had a great time at the beach, but were worried we’d gotten fried by the sun, so off to our next adventure…on a side note, we picked up two friendly hitch hikers and brought them back into town, accidentally. They were waving, tiff stopped to say hello and they jumped in Suzi-Q ... ooops, don't tell our moms! After a quick stop at Speedy’s we headed towards the Baths (huge boulders on the beach). We didn’t actually walk down to the Baths (we’re saving that for another day), but we had a couple of fruity frozen drinks at The Top of the Baths restaurant and watched some kids play in the pool. We’ve noticed there are not many tourists here who actually stay on the island…most are rich yachters and sailors who stay on their huge boats with their rich wives and kids…so especially in the evening, we feel like it’s just us and the locals…which is fine by us! On the way back, we took a wrong turn, but it ended up being a great detour…we found Coppermine Point, which is a really cool stone structure that used to be a – you guessed it – copper mine. To finish the day off we came home and went out to The Bath & Turtle for dinner. We shared a chicken pineapple pizza and coconut battered chicken tenders. The restaraunt had a sweet reggae band. Somehow, we found another place with no toursits. I wonder if we sometimes stray too far off the beaten path. The food was excellent and going to sleep at 9:30 was even better. Tomorrow is Brock's first day as of training at the shop as a DMT (DiveMaster in Training).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 1 - Headed to "VeeGee"

Our 5th Year Anniversary Trip to Virgin Gorda of the British Virgin Islands ...

"VeeGee" is what the locals call Virgin Gorda ...

We left our house @ 5:30am for a FULL day of travel - 2 flights and 2 ferries later, we finally made it to VG. A couple of highlights of the travel: we met Deon on the flight, a nice Tortola native who represents BVI in tennis. He gave us his number to call in case we visit Tortola this week....the ferry experience was interesting - super long lines at customs in Tortola, then the ferry to VG was mostly in the dark. Tiff made friends w/ a 5 yr old that was so cute & talkative & happy that she sang me 3 songs - "If you're Happy & You Know It", the "Hokey Pokey" and another song I didn't recognize. But she was adorable and even offered to help carry our bags for us, which probably weighed more than her! We we arrived in VG, we were greeted at the ferry dock by Casey & Jeff, owners of Dive BVI. They were so nice & friendly, took us to the little grocery store & then to our condo. (I can tell we're going to be friends with them!) Now back to the was HUGE! Casey rented it for us from a friend who lives in the same complex as they do. I was under the impression it was just a small one-bedroom...but NO! It's a HUGE 3-bed/2-bath penthouse with 2 porches...I mean we could have had 10 people with us and all fit in there comfortably. We told Jeff & Casey that we'd at least have to host a dinner party the last night so as not to let the space go to waste. After we got settled, we came down to the pool bar area where they were having a BBQ dinner w/ 2 guys playing/singing island music. The food was AWESOME! Tiff had ribs, Brock got jerk Chicken...we both cleaned our plates. After a few beers & an impromptu dance party with the locals who work the bar, we headed to our penthouse suite for a sound night's sleep.