Friday, February 8, 2013

My Tropical Birthday Vacation!!! - U.S.V.I Part 2

January 19, 2013
We’ve arrived! The weather is warm and tropical, and the easy sound of an island accent floats in the air. The man working the taxi area officiously takes charge, informing me that there’s not enough time to catch the ferry from Charlotte Amalie, so we’ll have to go to Red Hook. Taxis are done differently here; instead of a meter charging you for the duration of the ride, each passenger pays a set price depending on your destination. So, taxis accommodate eight to ten passengers going to the same destination or somewhere along the way.

Cruzy Bay, the main port of St. John, is filled with shops and restaurants, but it’s a compact town and easily walkable. After picking up some food and drinks (we plan to fix our own breakfasts and lunches to save money as well as prevent interruption of our beach time) at the Dolphin Mart, we pick up our rented Ford Focus. It’s easy to drive around the island, since there are only a few main roads, as long as you remember to stay on the left side of the road. In case you forget, they’ve considerately painted arrows on the street every so often to help you remember.

And I would definitely recommend a car on this island; while not large, the towns and bays and beaches are separated by steep, twisty roads that makes everything not as close as it would seem if you’re just looking at the map. There are taxi services available, but if you are planning to spend more than a day here, I think you’ll appreciate the flexibility of deciding where and when you want to go.

Along the way to Cinnamon Bay Campground, we stop to walk the short distance to the top of Peace Hill, where we’re treated to a beautiful view, and to check out Hawksnest Bay, where we’re treated to a beautiful beach (you’ll begin to notice a theme soon, if you haven’t already). 

The amazing view from Peace Hill

Hawksnest Beach

We’ve rented a furnished tent for three nights (campsite # 21), and we’re delighted to discover its close proximity to the beach, a short path maybe twenty yards long. The tent is sparse, but it has the necessities: four cots (our biggest surprise, we laughed when we realized we wouldn’t be sharing a bed), a bin and a cooler for food storage, and sheets/towels. Outside, there is a picnic table, and a propane grill with a lantern attached. Cinnamon Bay has it’s own beautiful beach, of course, so we doze in the sun for an hour or so, feeling a little tired from our lack of sleep the night before.

It’s late afternoon when we drive out toward the east side of the island (Cruz Bay is on the western point). The road is crazy steep with hairpin turns and barely enough space for two vehicles to pass each other. Feral donkeys are moseying around and munching grass on the side of the road. We take the road to Salt Pond Bay and watch the sunset from the empty beach, the silhouettes of moored sailboats swaying in the sea, black against an orange horizon. 

Driving back to Cinnamon Bay later that night, the radio plays the electric slide, reggae-style. Laying on my tiny cot, the coqui frogs are singing in full force, and that’s when I realize that they’re actually singing, “coo-kie, coo-kie, coo-kie.” I  must have been one of these frogs in a past life; it explains why I like cookies so much. Another voice adds to the cacophony; it makes me think of a woodpecker banging against a steel drum - tink tink tink tink. The crashing waves lull me to sleep, but every now and again I’m jolted by a thunderous, booming wave.

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