Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crab Hunting

 After dinner one Sunday night, neither HB nor I felt like heading home, so he surprised me by taking me to a relaxing spot he knew. Near the cruise ship dock, there's a large dirt parking lot, usually filled with vendors tents when a ship is in port. Lately, though, it's been empty, and apparently it's a popular place to hang out.

Families come and set up semi-circles of cars, break out the grills, and have a relaxing Sunday evening by the water. The soft, plush grass that lines the rocky coast here makes it a pleasant place for children to play, and for seagulls and terns to gather, too.

Beyond the appeal of the spot as a place to hang out and pass the time, HB especially thought I would enjoy spending some time here because the breakwater makes for an excellent location to find crabs. As excited as I am by all wildlife, spending the evening hanging out on the rocks looking for crabs was right up my alley.

HB spotted two or three crabs immediately upon our arrival, but my eagerness to scramble over the rocks and get closer to them scared them out of the open and into crevices, so I had to content myself with taking pictures of these marine organisms. Can anyone give me a clue as to what they are?

Finally, after waiting patiently and quietly for about 15 minutes, a crab poked first one leg, then another, out of his haven, before emerging fully onto a flat rock surface, where HB managed to capture him on film. Or, in pixels, I guess.

Shortly thereafter, it started raining, forcing an early conclusion to our peaceful seaside crab hunt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nice Ride

After my walk down Station Road the other day, I ended by taking a breather sitting on the wall. Watching the traffic go by, it occurred to me that a lot of the vehicles I was seeing may not be regular sights in other parts of the world, and so I made a point to photograph all the non-US spec vehicles I saw.

My task became a little trickier when I realized that I'd been here long enough, I was actually uncertain whether some of the vehicles I was seeing were uncommon in the US, as they are so common here. Like this Mitsubishi Pajero. Do they have those in the States? Where else are they common?

Small- and mid-sized SUVs are the cars of choice in the BVI, as the rough, steep roads demand clearance, and occasionally, all-wheel drive. Suzuki Grand Vitaras are the most popular option, by far, but for non-US-spec, the Daihatsu Terios, pictured above, is probably most numerous.

Suzuki Jimnys, like this, are also very popular and one of the smallest options available. Despite their apparently diminutive exterior, HB reports they're awfully spacious inside, both front and back, although trunk space is sacrificed in the interest of passenger space.

Moving on from the standard passenger vehicle category, the rides get a little more unusual. This Suzuki Carry has been converted from a more van-like structure to make this open-bed truck.

Non-US-spec "buses", like this Nissan Urvan, are by far the most popular options for taxi drivers in the BVI. They carry as many people as a standard minivan, but take up less space, being considerably narrower, and usually with a shorter wheelbase.

 Unusual even by BVI standards is this Peri, from the Chinese "Great Wall Motors". These electric vehicles still have too many safety concerns to be permitted for sale in the US, although market entry has been rumored off an on for about five years now.

Some of the vehicles on the streets of Road Town are unique to the BVI.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Station Road

I took a stroll down Station Road the other day while waiting for HB to get out of work. I completely neglected to take a picture of the Police Station that gives Station Road it's name, but I managed to snap a few other shots of the busy buildings that line Station.

Near the western end of Station Road, Althea Scatliffe Primary School always astounds me at how it manages to look so closed and so open simultaneously. The imposing concrete block is punctured by open-air hallways, and slat windows that are nearly always fully open to catch the breeze. 

Across the street from Scatliffe School is the Multi-Purpose Sports Complex, which name aptly explains its role in the BVI. There's a basketball court inside where the high school basketball games and league basketball games are held. A full-size track and soccer field are outside, and I'm sure rugby and cricket are played here quite often, too.

This banyan (I think) tree is probably the largest on Tortola, spanning the entire distance between the multi-purpose sports complex and Scatliffe School. The immensity of it is awfully impressive.

Also across the street from Scatliffe School is Barba's Kitchen. It may look closed and unassuming in this photo, taken well after school hours, but during the day, there is a continuous progression of children from the school to this food truck. At first I thought it was so popular merely because of location, but other food trucks that locate near the school are not nearly as successful. I have yet to try it to find out what it's power is over hoards of hungry schoolchildren.

Towards the eastern end of Station Road is the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works. Originally built by slaves in the late 1700s, the site has been reconstructed to be historically accurate, and now houses a permanent display regarding the cotton and sugar production that occurred here, as well as temporary art exhibits.

Nearby the Sugar Works is Scout Association Building, and across the street from that, the Red Cross.

 With their white exteriors and bright, colorful accents, these buildings make an aesthetically pleasing group at this end of Station.

We conclude our exploration of Station Road with a picture of the Other Stoplight, not to be confused with "the stoplight". The Other Stoplight marks the end of Station Road where it intersects with James Walter Francis Drive -- the road most people refer to as "the coastal road".

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Acting the Tourist

HB and I have often commented to each other how the best way to spend time off in the BVI is to act like tourists. We find that our favorite days together usually involve something like going on a daysail, visiting a neighboring island, or going out to breakfast and dinner, with a stop at the beach in between. Unfortunately, acting like a tourist in those ways tends to get a bit expensive.

I feel like we lucked out last Monday, when HB and I were off together and we went beach hopping so I could take pictures and prepare for Beach Week. Going to all the beaches was not only fairly touristy, but also a rather inexpensive way to spend the day, and by the time we got home in the afternoon, we felt like we'd successfully spent the day as tourists. 

Ultimately, though, the most satisfying thing about last Monday was not the time we spent acting like tourists. Our favorite part of the day was the time we spent sitting on our porch in the afternoon sun, drinking ice water, and playing with the dogs.

Sometimes it's good to enjoy the BVI by remembering what a nice place it is to call home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Appealing Appellation

When I took these pictures in the middle of June, I intended to use them in a post about how the Flamboyant Trees were just starting to bloom. At the time, none was as far progressed in its flowering as this one, near the Red Cross on Station Road.

Now that the season for Flamboyants has progressed by 10 days or so, this tree looks downright sparse, as others are literally covered with blossoms to the point where you can no longer see any green leaves. 

I first encountered Flamboyants in Florida, where they masquerade under the name of "Royal Poinciana". While "Royal Poinciana" is perhaps more true to the taxonomic relationship the tree bears to other vegetation, I prefer the aptly descriptive "Flamboyant", as in the summer-time, when the hillsides of Tortola are aflame with their blossoms, they are truly the most ostentatiously flamboyant thing you've ever seen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beach Week 2011 - Long Bay Beach West

We conclude Beach Week 2011 where we started - at Long Bay. Today, though, we're at Long Bay West, home the best sand on Tortola. 


Finely-powdered, sugar-white sand makes Long Bay West an awesome place for beachside strolls, and as one of the longest beaches on Tortola, stretching over a mile to the sugarloaf mountain at Belmont, there is plenty of strolling to be done.

While Long Bay West doesn't really have surf like Josiah's Bay, the northern swell coming into the bay usually keeps the water pretty lively, with a strong undertow. In the winter, especially, swimming is probably not recommended for young children or inexperienced swimmers. There are a few small coral islets scattered through the Bay, so snorkeling is decent for strong swimmers. 

The large Long Bay Beach Resort stretches much of the length of Long Bay West, and there are plenty of guest houses and small hotels clustered at either end of the Bay as well, making Long Bay somewhat busy during high season. Still, it's hard to resist the perfect sand and lovely scenery. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beach Week 2011 - Capoon's Bay

Something I've failed to mention about BVI beaches up to this point is that all beaches in the BVI are public. There is no private beach ownership, and so even the beaches on private islands, like Richard Branson's Necker, may be used by any resident or visitor of the BVI, although if access is over privately-owned land, it may be difficult to actually get to the beach.

It is not necessary to remind anyone that Capoon's Bay Beach is public -- the presence of Bomba's Surfside Shack is more than enough to encourage plenty of visitors.

Not having enjoyed any of the late-night offerings at Bomba's Shack, I will point those curious to this page, which does a better job than I could of explaining what the Shack is all about. The Full Moon Parties have an infamy all their own, and are known throughout the Caribbean for their raucousness. Hallucinogenic mushrooms (legal in the BVI) and semi-naked women seem to be the big draw for these not-so-serene shindigs.

Like Josiah's and Cane Garden Bays, Capoon's offers good surf in the winter and spring, and there are usually a few surfers hanging out, waiting for the swell

Capoon's Bay in the daytime is more my speed. The beach is not large, it's a bit rocky, and takes a little climbing to get down to from the roadside, but it is my favorite place on island to watch the waves roll in, especially early in the morning.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Week 2011 - Cane Garden Bay

Located near the center of the island on the north coast, one of the best-known beaches on Tortola is Cane Garden Bay, which is as much a beachside community as it is a beach. Lined with restaurants, apartments, hotels, and watersports vendors, Cane Garden Bay is by far the most populated beach on Tortola as well. 

Cane Garden Bay is a well-known surf spot. In the winter, the waves usually run six to eight feet in height, but with the break far out in the middle of the bay, it's not for amateurs.

Being the closest beach to Road Town (only about 15 minutes' drive), it is also popular with cruise ship visitors who want to spend a day on the sand, and so in winter, this very wide, very long beach can be packed with people.

CGB is also popular with the boating crowd, as it provides the best and safest mooring on Tortola's north coast. While the north coast is littered with coves and bays, Cane Garden Bay is one of the only ones deep enough to accommodate sailboats.

While I personally don't like to visit Cane Garden Bay on super-busy cruise ship days, you really can't beat it for a place to spend the day at the beach. Beachside bars and restaurants like Callwood's, Myett's, Rhymer's and Quito's provide good views, good food, and good relaxation.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beach Week 2011 - Josiah's Bay

Day 2 of The BVIs Beach Week 2011 finds us at Josiah's Bay, near East End.

Josiah's Bay is usually one of the more populated beaches on Tortola, owing largely to the surf, which is one of the best breaks on island, and the available facilities, which include umbrella'd tables and a beachside bar. It's also quite close to several hotels, including the Tamarind Club and the Near the Beach Hostel.

In the winter, the waves are often six feet or more, and there's a powerful enough rip current, caused in part by the rocky ledge at the east end of the beach, to make swimming dangerous for inexperienced swimmers. On the day we were there, though, the waves were just big enough for some kids to enjoy a little bodysurfing -- quite successfully I might add.

While we were there, HB and I also got a little physics lesson. Can you tell where the quicksand is in the photo below?

We couldn't either. If you notice the two dark grey lines that run more or less parallel to the water, those are the rough boundaries of the quicksand. Both HB and I stepped right in it in our turn.

Thankfully, it was only about two feet deep, and so easy enough to get out of under our own power. Once I discovered it, I enjoyed playing with it, seeing how it changed as I continued to step in it, or as I left it alone.

Josiah's Bay has its own contribution to the BVI motif of staircases to nowhere.

And a gratuitous pelican shot, since in my opinion, no trip to the beach is complete without a pelican sighting.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beach Week 2011 - Long Bay Beach East

Welcome to Beach Week 2011 here on Basset's View of the Islands!

With the cessation of the rains (finally) and the start of the warm summer, it seemed like the ideal time to profile some of the amazing beaches Tortola has to offer. The lack of residential A/C means there's no better way to keep cool in the BVI from June through September than going to the beach.

And so I'll be bringing you info and photos on a different Tortolan beach every day this week. We start Beach Week 2011 with Long Bay Beach East. There are two Long Bay Beaches on Tortola. This is the one at the East End, near the airport. Truly, Long Bay Beach East is located on Beef Island, connected to Tortola by a short bridge.

In a former life, the bridge between Beef Island and Tortola was a toll bridge, but as the shuttered look of the tollbooth can attest, that is no longer the case.

Once you cross the bridge to Beef Island, look for a sign pointing you to the left to Long Bay Beach. You'll drive through a marshy area with a brackish pool, a good spot for bird watching, although I saw nothing more than a few cow egrets the day I was there.

Past the marshes, there's a broad, sandy parking area under some trees, and once you cross the barrier of sea-grape lining the beach, you emerge onto a perfect, mile-long crescent of white sand and blue-green waters.

Long Bay East is popular with locals for catching a few rays after work, and it's clear why. The beach is vast -- one of the longest on Tortola -- and was pretty empty, even on a holiday weekend. There's little shade, so if you're sensitive to sun, like me, you might want to take an umbrella. But if you're looking for a great place to lie out, you could hardly ask for better. The complete lack of surf and the shallow sea floor provide a nice place to take a dip to cool off when the sun gets too intense.

For those looking for a bit more excitement, the eastern tip of the beach at Long Bay East is rocky, and offers a decent reef a few meters out. Even from shore, there were a ton of urchins visible, and while I didn't try the snorkeling, I imagine the reef would offer some interesting sights.

All-in-all, Long Bay East was a pristine, near-empty stretch of tropical sand, that I wish I had explored sooner. I don't think it's a stretch to say that HB and I will be back, especially in winter when the sun isn't quite so strong.

Search This Blog