Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anegada Perspective

When you do a google image search for "Anegada", you get pages and pages of results like these:

Plenty of white sand, green water, and blue skies. While these images are definitely representative of Anegada's perimeter (yes, the island is pretty much surrounded by beaches), what they don't show is the island's interior, the vast majority of which looks like this:

I'm sure the town, called "The Settlement" looks a bit more habitable than this -- after all, that's where the vast majority of Anegada's permanent population (approx. 200) reside. But the other 95% of the island looks like southern Florida. At the horizon line in the above picture, to the far left, you can just make out a telephone pole -- the only sign of human habitation visible from this vantage point near Cow Wreck beach.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lobster Dinner

When we arrived in Anegada around 10:30 on Sunday morning, we noticed a lobster pot tied up near the dock for the Anegada Reef Hotel, our port of entry.

Anegada is renowned for its lobster -- huge specimens of Caribbean spiny lobster grilled up daily November to June (lobster fishing is not permitted July through October). Seeing a New England-style lobster pot in Anegada was strange, as Anegada spiny lobster are caught almost exclusively by free divers. A closer look, though, revealed that this was merely the perfect holding place for the catch until dinner time.

Our return to the dock in the afternoon brought a more sinister scene, in part due to the heavy clouds to the south, and in part due to the frigatebirds circling wildly overhead and perching on the poles along the dock.

What excited the frigatebirds so? The gentlemen in the hut were preparing the evening's dinner: dispatching the lobsters and various other sea creatures. Sometimes, a bigger knife, or in this case a machete, is simply more effective.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saharan Dust

How close is Tortola to Africa? In geographic terms, not very -- about 3000 miles from the nearest point, Mauritania. That's about the same distance between New York City and San Francisco: a continent or an ocean apart. In climatic terms, though, we're pretty close. Close enough that when there is a sand storm in the Sahara, like the one filmed here for the Human Planet series, it affects our weather. Dust particles from the Sahara travel across 3000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean and cloak the island in a golden haze, making it difficult to see the outer islands, four or five miles away. The photo below was taken as the westerly winds were helping to clear the Saharan dust -- compare the clear skies on the right side of the picture with the haze on the left.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cow Wreck Beach

As I mentioned on Saturday, HB and I took the iSpeed to Anegada on Sunday to check out the 2nd-largest and lowest-lying of the British Virgin Islands for ourselves. With a population of 200, Anegada is definitely low-key, but there are still some cool things to check out -- like the pink flamingo population in the salt ponds, and the nursery housing several critically endangered Anegada Ground Iguanas. HB and I opted to do none of these things. Instead, we hopped a ride to nearly-vacant Cow Wreck Beach, and there we stayed until time to return to Tortola.

It was a fairly cloudy day, with rain showers off and on, but it was actually pretty perfect weather for strolling along the sand and sitting in a chair with a book. Warm, not too breezy, and not so sunny that I got heat exhaustion. The water was a lovely, inviting shade of green, and the miles-long stretch of beach was empty.

The intermittent clouds kept us from swimming in the clear green water, but HB and I occupied ourselves by digging with our toes in the high-quality, sugary-textured, beautiful white sand -- probably the second-best sand I've encountered in the BVI, next to Long Bay West.

We ate lunch at the Cow Wreck Beach Bar & Grill -- you know you're in a boater's paradise when VHF channels are as prominently displayed on signs and advertisements as phone numbers.

The quiet bar & grill provided three incredible fried fish sandwiches for HB and I to gorge ourselves on, along with a steady supply of Corona and limes, and some sturdy adirondack chairs to relax in. The entire vibe was pretty much perfect, and I would recommend the spot whole-heartedly to anyone looking for a place to spend a laid back day on the sand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Naked Snail

The dogs must be used to snails, as they see them pretty much every day, or they don't put out much smell -- either way, the rash of shelled gastropods are of no interest to Flash and Roscoe. Not so this slug, one of the first I've seen in the BVI. Roscoe made a beeline to it on Sunday morning, sniffing and nosing and pestering. I shooed him away so I could get a picture, and then caught him harassing another slug further along the garden wall. The second one didn't fair so well, as it lost its grip and fell before I could interfere.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anegada Bound

HB and I are going to Anegada for the first time tomorrow, and I am super excited! About 50 miles distant from Tortola, Anegada is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands, but is very different from all the other islands in the chain. Where Tortola, Virgin Gorda, etc. are all volcanic islands, Anegada is a coral atoll, with its highest point being only 28 feet above sea level.

Up until recently, the only way other than private boat to get to Anegada was by ferry. The Anegada ferry runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It departs Road Town twice daily at 6:45am and 3:30pm, and departs Anegada twice daily at 8:10am and 5:10pm. For the day-tripper, this would mean leaving Road Town at 6:45 am, and arriving back around 6:00pm, with 9 hours on Anegada in between.

For someone with a short attention span like me, 9 hours on an island with a population of 200, with little to do but swim, sun and eat lobster, is about 6 hours too many. As a result, I've been both desperate and reluctant to go to Anegada for about year.

But a solution has presented itself. Voyage Escapes is running a Sunday special on their super high-speed boat, iSpeed for the same price as a round-trip ticket on the regular ferry. Departure is at 9:00am and return is at 5:00pm, reducing the total trip time, and the total time spent on Anegada. So HB and I are trying it out tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have some great info and pictures to share with you next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inhospitable Climate

The hillsides may be showing signs of their usual March browning, but we've had an unusually wet winter here in the BVI, with daytime rain through much of January. The last three days of on and off rain have made it an inhospitable climate for these youngsters, who have been curled up just outside my office door for the last 36 hours or so.

For perspective's sake, each one is about as big around as a pencil.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Enquiring Equine

On Sunday, HB and I went to wrangle our recent vehicular purchase out of the bush it had been dwelling in for eight months. There was someone else in the lot who was curious about our activities, and came over to check us out.

When I approached him with the camera, this gentleman moseyed right up and snuffled my hand, but I grew a little nervous at his hefty hooves around my flip-flopped feet, and he grew a little nervous at all the noise as HB started up our new car.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

La Dolce Vita

Things on Saturday night didn't go exactly to plan. As I discussed doing in my post from Saturday, I stopped by La Dolce Vita to pick up some ice cream to photograph. While I was in the store, located along the "frontage road" for Waterfront Drive, near the Glancina George Building, I tried to take some pictures of the beautiful case of colorful gelato on offer at La Dolce Vita. Classic flavors like Pistachio and Chocolate are complimented by more creative examples like the new Pina Colada, and the intriguing, bright-blue, "Smurf" (does it taste like sarsparilla?).

Unfortunately, the beers I had consumed at Mulligan's St. Patrick's Day celebration inhibited my camera skills, and all my photos turned out as blurry smears of light and colour. Probably related is the fact that I completely neglected to take any photographs of the gelato I actually purchased before ravenously consuming it. So you're going to have to make do with imagining the loveliness of the creamiest, most flavorful gelato you've ever tasted, and then realize that's what they produce at La Dolce Vita. Of the four flavors we've tried (hazelnut, caramel crunch, banana and coconut) the hazelnut was my favorite, with an intensly nutty, roasted flavor that reminded me of eating nutella straight from the jar.

I have no idea how HB and I have managed to live in the BVI for eighteen months without ever giving the place a try. After moving here and discovering that the ice cream sold at the grocery store was usually freezer-burned and hard as a brick, we just gave up on ice cream consumption wholesale, assuming we would just have to make do with the occasional DQ treat when we were back in the States. How we could ignore the richly flavored, perfectly-textured offerings of La Dolce Vita for so long, I don't know.

The point is: if you're in the BVI and need an ice cream fix, ignore the sad freezer cases at the grocery stores and make a beeline for La Dolce Vita. You won't regret it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Sadness

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday, guys. I'm dealing with a few different things family-wise that are rough, and I'm having difficulty focusing on writing about the BVI, especially as I've not been in the mood to venture much farther than the porch to find new and exciting subjects for the blog. I'm battling some pretty bad homesickness for the first time since last spring, and while I'm sure it's related to the rough family things, it feels somehow independent of that -- like maybe March is just my time to be homesick in the BVI. I'm going to attribute it to the annual "browning" that takes place this time of year, as trees briefly drop their leaves, or just turn brown from the lack of water. Somehow that seems to be a good reason for being homesick.

At any rate, the best way I've found to counteract the blues is to list some things I'm happy about:

1. March Madness generally. More specifically, KU won last night! Rock Chalk!

2. We bought another vehicle -- an old Range Rover that currently doesn't start without being jumped, but runs beautifully once it's started. I'm happy that HB will have a little bit of a project to work on here, and that we'll have a vehicle we can take on rougher roads.

3. La Dolce Vita. After a year and half, we've found what's always been there -- AMAZING ice cream in the BVI. I should probably do a whole separate post on this. Yes, a separate post. I'll have to go by and pick up some samples to ... photograph ... tonight.

4. The cute neighbor dog. He's a little black and tan short-legged Tortolan island dog, always out and happy and looking so cute when we drive past. Recently, he befriended a white and tan cat and so now he and the cat are always hanging out together in the road.

5. Goats generally. This goat picture I found from November specifically

What are you happy about right now?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Near Josiah's Bay, there is a salt pond, and an estuary between the pond and the ocean, which creates an ideal environment for shore and marsh birds. It also creates an ideal environment for the BVI Bird Watching Sanctuary, located just across the estuary from the beach. When I was in the area in November, there were a few great egrets, and a great blue heron hiding in the shade.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pale Pink

There are several different varieties of hibiscus in the gardens of our apartment building, but this one is my favorite. About once every two weeks, it puts out two perfect pale pink blooms, that last for a day, or maybe two.

For hibiscus enthusiasts, the BVI Hibiscus Society meets once a month to celebrate the flowers and compare particularly lovely examples. They also organize an annual show at the J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens in Road Town, usually in late September or early October.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Morning Shack

Had the chance to drive by Bomba's Shack this morning, and it looked so colorful and happy in the sun, so different from the den of iniquity it becomes after dark, especially on full moon nights.

Bomba's Shack on a full moon night is definitely something to try if you're in the BVI at the right time of month. It is one of the biggest monthly parties in the Caribbean, and from my admittedly limited (one-time) experience, it's a great time. Although the Shack is open from before nightfall, the Full Moon Party really starts to heat up around 10pm, and goes all night. The $50 unlimited drinks wristband is may be a good or bad idea for you, depending on your personality type. Hallucinogenic mushroom tea and a commemorative Bomba's Shack cup is $80 per person, and includes an unlimited-drinks wristband.

Friday, March 9, 2012


One of the little things I absolutely miss desperately about the United States is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's such a small thing, I know, but they're nearly impossible to find in the BVI. Every now and again, if I happen to wander into Vanterpool Pharmacy on the right day, they'll have a few twin-packs of full-size cups, at which point I will buy one and consume it before I leave the store. My favorite Reese's, though, are the miniatures, individually wrapped in foil. For these little delicacies, I have to wait for one of our infrequent trips to St. John, where I will buy the smallest bag I can possibly find.

The smallest bag?! you might exclaim in puzzlement. Why should I not get the largest bag, so I can smuggle them back to Tortola and continue to enjoy them for as long as I can restrain myself? Here is where my chocolate indulgence gets complicated by climate. As a regular reader of this blog may have discovered, the BVI is a warm place. If you have really been paying attention along the way, you also now know that there is not much air-conditioning in the BVI. And here is what I've found: Reese's are not nearly as good when they're melted.

I've tried to get around this. I've kept bags of Reese's in an air-conditioned car on St. John until the last possible moment before departure, and then stuffed them into the refrigerator immediately on arriving home. On a cool evening, the chocolates will survive the half-hour ferry ride and the half-hour drive home, to arrive intact in the refrigerator. But then, of course, they are refrigerated. And there is a big difference from an air-conditioned chocolate and a refrigerated one -- usually about 30 degrees Farenheit, and about 30 degrees of hardness, too. So I've found it is best to buy a small bag, and enjoy them all in one go, in the air-conditioned splendor of a St. John hotel room, lying on my back in bed as piles of Reese's miniatures wrappers build on the nightstand beside me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What a Pistarckle!

We are welcoming a special guest at work today, and the entire staff is in an uproar getting everything "just so" for the event. As the owners came in to the office to put on finishing touches before receiving the guest, one of them exclaimed, "What a pistarckle!"

I had heard the word "pistarckle" before, in connection with the community theater on St. Thomas, but had no idea it could be used in everyday conversation. A quick google later, and it turns out that "pistarckle" is a Virgin Islands Creole word meaning "boisterous commotion", likely a corruption of the english "spectacle."

I also found this great site with a selection of Virgin Islands Creole. Many of the words given there I haven't heard before, but at least now I have a resource should I ever encounter any other gems like "pistarckle".

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


These brown specimens are not my favorite boobies in the world (those would be the blue-footed type) but I still love that their prevalence in the BVI gives me an excuse to say "boobies!" on a regular basis. Because I'm still eight years old.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It is soursop season in the BVI. Soursop is a fruit that I may have heard of, but had certainly never seen or tasted before coming to the BVI. It grows abundantly on Tortola, and this time of year there are giant ones in the grocery stores, and plenty for sale by street vendors. The soursop flesh has a somewhat creamy texture, like a cross between a banana and a pineapple, and tastes fairly bright and citrus-like. Most of my co-workers say they rarely eat the flesh, but love to drink the juice as it's very refreshing.

Caribbean natives also claim soursop juice works as a pleasant health tonic, and there is some medical evidence that both soursop fruit and juice and tea made from soursop leaves, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. On the other hand, some research has also suggested that the high levels of annonacin in soursop, the same chemical responsible for inhibiting cancer growth, can be responsible for certain types of Parkinson's.

Whether it helps with cancer, or hurts with Parkinson's, soursop fruit and juice is delicious, and can happily be consumed for that reason alone.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Goat King

For months and months, every time HB and I would drive to Brewer's Bay beach down the western road, we would see this enormous billy goat, the size of a bighorn sheep, with horns to match -- a veritable goat king. In fact, he's so large, that the first time I saw him, I thought he was a donkey. It seemed like I never had a camera on my way to the beach, so one day, after work, I resolved to get photos of him. I drove the same direction as always, but the goat king wasn't there. I haven't seen him since.

These goats that were on the Brewer's Bay west road the other day are members of his tribe, but even the sizeable billy on the mountainside there is nowhere near the majesty of the goat king.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I had such plans for yesterday's post. I had it all written in my mind; the words, the pictures, everything. I just had to type it out and post it when I got to work. Well, the work schedule conspired against me, and I was home and hanging out before I remembered I had forgotten to write a blog entry. I really intended to post here, it's just ... you know what they say, the road to hell is paved with boulders covered in reflective tape.

I might have the road to hell confused with the road to Cane Garden Bay. After the landslides in May, rather than move this boulder out of the right of way, the Department of Public Works made the profound decision to simply cover it with reflective tape to help avoid accidents. Whatever's easiest, I suppose.

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