Friday, February 19, 2016

St. John, USVI

Friday, Day 43

We got up waaaayyy too early this morning.  I had my alarm set for 6am, but Jenifer came out of her room at 5:45.  And we were both ready and sitting at the table staring at each other at like 6:15.  Too. Early.  Anyways, we drove in to Road Town so she could get to work and I could get back out to the West End ferry dock for the 8am ferry.  The sunrise on the drive along the coast was gorgeous.

I got to the ferry early, even with a stop off back at Jenifer's place to check messages on my phone again.  There were hardly any people at the dock...just lots of boats!  So I bought my $55 round trip ticket (for a day trip), paid the $20 departure tax, and sat down to wait.

The rickety old ferry showed up a few minutes before 8, we all boarded, and were out on the open water right on time.  Thank goodness it was calm seas this morning.  (I'm not a fan of waves!)

I had no idea St. John was SO close to Tortola.  There are islands all over down here, and I don't know what any of them are just by looking.  But St. John is like a mile away!  Crazy!  We were off the water and on St John by 8:20.  Bak on US soil! (Kind of -- I'm not sure this really counts...)

I had no problem at Immigration, and for once, was not worried about what kind of questions they would ask me.  This is my country now!  

The town of Cruz Bay was just getting going.  I mean, it was pretty early.  But it had such a cool, funky, hipster vibe to it.  Lots of fun shops and restaurants.  And lots of car rental places.  Should be no problem to find a car for the day, right?  

HA!  SIX rental car companies later, I was still walking.  It really is high season here, and apparently the entire island is sold out of rental cars!  That's what not planning ahead gets you sometimes. Thankfully, I didn't waste much time on that, because Cruz Bay is pretty small and almost all of the car rental companies were within a 4 block radius.

On my hunt for a car, I saw the US Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center, and had to take a peek.  I'm not much for reading all of that stuff, but I always take a picture...and sometimes read it later. ;)

St. John is only like 8 miles long by 3 miles wide or something like that.  It's tiny.  But over 60% of the land is a protected national park! Over 7,000 acres of lush forests and hiking trails!   PLUS amazing beaches?  I had no idea this kind of place was so close to home AND part of the USofA!

I was pretty excited to get out and explore it...but still didn't have a car or means of transportation and didn't want to waste money on a taxi yet.  I had to figure out the island and decide where I wanted to go.  Enter the "dollar bus" the kind couple in the taxi told me about (the older couple I met the day I arrived).  After asking around, I found the Vitran bus stop right in the middle of town - right by the main ferry dock.  It wasn't leaving for half an hour, so that gave me some more time to walk around and check out some of the shops that were just opening.

I made friends with the bus driver, who was maybe the happiest, most cheerful bus driver I"ve ever met.  When I started asking him about the island (before we were even on the bus), he took my map and showed me everything.  And when I finally got on the bus and paid my $1 fare, he told me to sit up front by him so he could by my tour guide, haha!  And he took his job very seriously.  He pointed out EVERYTHING.  This is the hospital, this is the bus stop for this trail, this is the so-and-so restaurant.  It was so fun and so entertaining.  

He even stopped a couple of times for me to get pictures.  There were only a couple of other people on the bus most of the time, and no one really seemed to care.  I'm a quick picture taker anyways.  He stopped here because this was his favorite view on the island.  It was somewhere on the east end of the island, between Coral Bay and the Salt Ponds I think.

He didn't stop for this picture, but I got it anyways.  There are wild donkeys all over the island!  Well, I mean not like ALL over, but I saw plenty of them on the side of the road!  They used to be used by the slaves on plantations, but when the slaves were freed, so were the donkeys!  And they've been roaming every since, according to by tour guide/bus driver.

When we got to the end of the route -- we went alllll the way across the island from west to east, and then all the way down south -- he told me I had to pay another $1 to get me back, haha!  I didn't get off, I really just wanted to see the island, so I rode it back to Cruz Bay and got off.  All in all, it took a little over an hour, and was so worth it.

I was thinking about renting a scooter for the day, but after driving those steep and windy hills through the national park, I knew that was not a good idea.  I would just take a taxi and call it good.  But first things first, I had to eat!  

I found a good spot right on the shore.  Brunch with a view, and fish tacos for the win.  They were delicious!

After talking with my waiter (who was from Illinois!), I decided to check out Trunk Bay first.  I mean, you have to.  I know it's basically the most popular and touristy spot on the island, but it looked so majestic, I just had to see it.  So I waited for the next ferry to come in to catch a ride with more passengers (it's cheaper) and we took off with a van full.

The lighting is bad, but the whole jeep was full of coconuts!

The view of Trunk Bay from up above was just as perfect in real life as the pictures online looked.  I honestly couldn't believe it.  I mean, it looked fake it was so beautiful!

It took a whole five minutes, maybe, to reach Trunk Bay from Cruz Bay (the main town), and after a $5 entrance fee, I walked through some trees to this:

Yes, there were lots of tourists there, but come on.  Why wouldn't you be there?  The pictures don't do it justice really.  The water was calm, clear, and turquoise.  The landscape was ocean dotted with green islands.  There were palm trees lining the beach.  Shower facilities and a snack bar.  It had it all.

I decided to try out my hammock and spotted a couple of trees that looked like they would work.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  I tried for all of 5 minutes before I got bored with it and just left it.  Ha!  So much for that.  

While I was trying to put that together, I started talking with these three guys who had set up shop in front of me on the beach.  Jeff, Dave, and Stephen, all from Virginia and on vacation on St. John.

I ended up talking with them for quite awhile and shared some good conversations and laughs. And I might even have another couch to sleep on!  

One of the big draws to Trunk Bay, besides just the gorgeous beach, is this snorkel trail.  There is some coral right off the shore, and there is an underwater trail that tells you what you are looking at.  I had to check it out.  But first, I tried some of those fancy over/under pictures I see online.  I thought maybe I could do it with my GoPro.  Definitely a big fail.  This is all I got!

So off I went to snorkel and to see this underwater trail...  (no fins to maybe get a semi-workout in?)

I can't say I was all that impressed with the trail.  But maybe that was because I didn't follow it.  I think I caught it somewhere in the middle, and the coral near there was not so healthy.  

But further out, past the trail, the coral got better.  I pretty much love anything purple, and was totally swooning over all the bright purple coral and sea fans!  I had to fight the urge to rip some of that coral off and take it home with me. ;)


I actually snorkeled longer there than I think I ever have.  I usually get cold or bored after a couple of minutes, but I actually enjoyed this little jaunt.  There weren't a ton of people out there, the water wasn't cold, and there were purple things everywhere!  (There were fish, too...but the purple coral was obviously my favorite.)

The normal afternoon clouds moved in, and it rained for a bit.  I guess it's not always sunny in paradise.  But they soon went away and the sun came back out, just in time for me to have to head back in to Cruz Bay to catch the last ferry back to Tortola. 

My three new friends shared the taxi with me, and we exchanged numbers.  I got the invite to go with them on their boat on Sunday, which sounds pretty fantastic to me!  

I got to the ferry dock with plenty of time to spare, which is what I would prefer.  Missing that ferry would not have been cool.

It was right on time, and just like this morning, I was back on dry land (and back in British territory) in like 20 minutes.  But this time, there was quite the line at Immigration...and I had way more paperwork to fill out and questions to answer.

I went back to Jenifer's apartment, showered, and put on my new turquoise skirt I bought the other day.  I've got to get some  use out of that thing for $40! ;)  

We had dinner plans!  I picked her up from work at 7pm (remember I dropped her off before 7am -- and she sat there all day!), and we went to Capriccio for dinner.  Her friend, Walter, met us there.  He was her first couch surfer, and she ended up letting him stay longer, too!  She really is such a kind and generous soul!

So the three of us crushed two pizzas and some pasta.  I forgot a before picture, so this is a near-the-end picture.  And by "the three of us" I really mean Walter and I, because I think Jenifer had like one piece of pizza and called it good.  She never eats -- which makes me look like a pig, haha, because I really DO eat! ;)

While we were eating, some of Walter's friends stopped in to say hi.  Two of them, Taylor and Anderson, had plans to go to Virgin Gorda tomorrow, so I got their numbers and am planning on tagging along!  That's another island I've been wanting to see, so really it worked out perfectly!  I've been so lucky to meet so many cool people on this trip -- especially here in the last few days!

Anyways, Jenifer was tired after such a long day at the office, and I was tired from...laying on the beach, I guess. ;)  So we went home and went to bed pretty early.  Such a crazy Friday night we had. ;)

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