Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fischer's Cove

If there was ever a lame posting it may be this one.  With the house's refrigerator getting a bit empty, and not seeing the need to stock up on supplies, we went for a walk, and Shelly said we would surely find a good break-y at Fischer's Cove.  Not only was the food good, it also offered great views of the Caribbean and accompanying islands.

As nice as people are down here, and they are super nice, I haven't found the restaurant service to be all that impressive.  Not much chit chat which is fine, but very little secondary service like asking if you want more coffee, another drink perhaps, asking how the meal was, and things like that.  But maybe down here that is normal, but I do eat out often enough at home to know that there is a bit more effort elsewhere.  Plus I have been in the industry, as I love telling this one lady I work with = Hey Susan!

I have had an incredible number of views on the blog this month.  Nearing 1,000 actually, which is generally 975 more then most months.  I don't get anything out of it, just the satisfaction of getting these adventures and pictures posted for people to enjoy....  I still go back every now and again and reread and review the content posted years ago.  As it stands the blog will turn 30,000 views before the new year.  Just another neat milestone.

Sometimes I worry if what I write is every going to come back and not be understood, or taken out of context by someone, and I know it will.  I haven't ever posted any pictures that were suspect, but even so offense may be taken with a photo or two.  I know there are grammatical errors and sloppy sentences at times as well.  I can tell you that ever effort is made to keep things written (well/good?).  As of yet I haven't been called out on anything - so that is good.  But 5 years and 266 postings later, I am trying to keep it up.  I think I am more then satisfied with this blog.  Proud, in a weird, developmental way.

Last night we went over to the Fox's for dinner.  Simon Fox owns a construction company down here.  Housing is his game.  Not naming names or locations, but he said there is one outfit down here that is building high end, real high end villas at $1200 a square foot.  Keep in mind the property alone is tens of millions for 3 acres or so....  You know, a bit more dear then prime southwestern Ontario farmland.

Certain costs are obviously more expensive due to geography and getting things in.  Regardless that was rather, maybe extremely expensive.  Simon took nearly 7 years to build his house as he did it all himself, and thought he hit just north of $240 or so a square foot with some real high end ($30,000) sliding doors, and extra high end costs that were special to them, but maybe not quite necessary.  Their house is as nice as anything we've been in here, or at home....  I know Scott would understand a bit about $ per square foot - maybe more then he would like to know, seeing as though he just built a new house a few months ago.  Plus our neighbours Dave and Susan, who are just days away of getting into a freshly built house, would know all too much about costs and time over-runs regarding building a house.
Christmas is actually a big deal down here and in the Caribbean in general.  Decorations are plentiful, trees get put up, and you can just feel it.  There is a mall in Puerto Rico that falls synthetic snow from inside an area of it.  The Fox family orders a real tree, and has all the complemental supplies.  (GE mini X-Mas lights, 30ft length?, were $25 at the grocery store, so maybe $1200 a square foot for building a house is par for everything else...)

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Baths, BVI

I probably saved the best location to the end of the trip.  The Baths is a gem of a place about 2.5km from the house.  It has become my de-facto out and back running loop, which I have managed about 4 times since being here!  Anyway this would be the most iconic tourist place on the island.  It is also classified as a National Park.  The Baths is separated into two areas; a main beach, and then a 400m hike to Devil's Bay which is through caves, and across many obstacles.

One of the main ingredients of The Baths are the humongous rocks.  They are bigger and more plentiful then the ones at Spring Bay.  The rocks create this natural cave-like pathway to a secondary swimming hole called Devil's Bay.  The water was quite rough, and I wouldn't say there was an under tow, but there is quite a strong current that will keep you on your toes.  To be honest it got a hold of me and dragged me out 10-12 feet passed where I would rather be...  But it definitely wasn't pulling me under.  It wasn't too busy, but I got chit chatting to a few people who had arrived by boat and are staying on it.

I read an article just a week or so ago that indicated 90% of the world's super yachts or maybe just "yachts",  and/or both, only get sailed in the Caribbean or Mediterranean bodies of water.  Sure enough there were plenty of 30 foot plus sail boats and powerboats as far as the eye could see moored about this area.  It is all you see....

There was another funny thing about the day and going to The Baths.  There is a $3 admin. fee to get into the park which is not a big deal.  I went up to the booth to pay, and I had Molly with me, but the lady working new Shelly and wouldn't take our money...  There was a long-ish line of people and they looked at the two of us with a bit of local/celebrity status.  I just sort of shrugged my shoulders after it all happened and explained to them that it is a tourist fee, and since I am a local, I am exempt.  It started a bit of a conversation and I proceeded to give them directions to certain places they had questions about, and recommendations to other points of interests and such....  I am a good actor after-all.  And my tan is quite developed so that helps too.  I would have never made such bold moves two weeks ago without the aid of the sun.

 Days usually end with a trip to the local grocer for some food for dinner, as well as a swim in the pool to rinse off the traces of salt, sweat, and sand the day leaves.  We also returned the library books we had checked out, and are in the process of transitioning back home....

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Josiah's Bay

Tucked away on the northeastern side of Tortola sits a beauty of a beach called Josiah's Bay.  This is where boards get waxed and people surf and play in the Caribbean sunshine.  The waves and wind are formidable, and the sandy beach bottom provides a comfortable base for thrill seekers hanging ten.

We got going and caught an 8:15 ferry over to Tortola.  We didn't really have a big game plan in mind, but we new we would rent a car and just drive around and see were the Kia would take us.  I returned to the car rental dealer I had just been too two weeks prior, and much to my surprise the lady didn't recognize me...  I told her I would be back and bring my family, evidently she couldn't quite remember.  Evidently I didn't leave much of a lasting impression.  However we settled this transaction on a car that would ferry Shelly, Molly, Wally, me, and our provisions for three quarters of a day.

Tortola was very busy.  There were 3 cruise ships in.  1 being very, very large, and then 2 medium to smaller sized vessels.  Nearly all of the passengers would have disembarked their boat and got on a taxi-truck to traverse the island.  It took them to the more commercial, tourist beaches and locations.  How do I know this?  We passed by them as we initially headed towards them as well.  But Shelly, with her acute sense of excitement, said the place to go was Josiah's Bay.  And sure enough.  Not a tourist taxi truck to be seen, and only a handful of people enjoying this wonderful place.

We found a great spot to put our belongings and quickly headed into the water.  We all enjoyed it, but salt water swimming does take a bit of getting used to.  The waves near the shore are gentle enough and didn't really knock Molly over or cause and big problems.  The surf is quite large a 75m or so off shore.  It is still pretty shallow, in places, and I always felt that I could swim and maintain my bearings and safety.  I should have rented a body board, but rolled it old school and just rode in a number of big 4 foot waves or so in on my chest = It was pretty fun actually and I really was on top of a few of them for what seemed was a long time.  I got thrashed and tossed about a few times too, but like I wrote, it is all a sandy bottom.  There were no rocks nor reef....
Sadly, but inevitably, this area is beginning to get built up.  There were a number of new houses in the area and others under construction, and the beach had a decent bar and social area.  Locals rent surfboards and body boards, but Shelly said it looked nothing like it did 9 years ago with its consumer growth....  That is the way things go I suppose.
On the ferry ride home Shelly was recognized, again, and sat and chatted with a old acquaintance...  Molly and I sat outside/upstairs and chit chatted with others on the boat and took one last look back at this nice island.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Caribbean vs. Atlantic

There is a spot on the island where these two bodies of water are only separated by a few hundred metres. There is a fantastic lookout which puts you on top of them, pretty much.  Maybe these two pictures show the differences.
The Atlantic Ocean:
The Caribbean Sea:
The cooler is much different, and the size of the waves may pop out at you?  Also, I have never seen a boat in the Atlantic, yet in the Caribbean I would challenge you to look out and not see one.  The Caribbean seems to have sandy beaches, whereas the Atlantic is just a shoreline with rock...  Maybe the pictures don't quite do it, but it is neat to see first hand..

On this small island there is a few National Parks of course, and one of them is called Gordo Peak.  It is 200 plus acres and its point of interest is a neat observation booth at its summit.  It isn't as large as some of the structures that are built in the south of the U.S. to see forest fires, but it is high enough and you can see Coppermine Point, Beef Island airport in Tortola, and out to Necker Island and Leverick Bay....  You simply turn 360 degrees and you would see nearly to Puerto Rico too....It was rocky, and sort of reminded me of the Grouse Grind, but one-tenth as easy...  Easier even then that.
Walking up or down?
Shelly and Molly did a bit of a nature walk and hike to a different national park.  They went out to The Baths.  Shelly said the water was quite rough and not great for swimming.  Apparently they dismissed the idea of a fuller day at the park for an afternoon lunch and french fry snack, as well as a pool at the restaurant, instead....  Molly has no filter.  When they got home the first thing was dad, guess what....  we just ate fries!

A week passed without any news or information.  We are all well and keeping on in the nice weather.  The truth is everything that we did this week was a bit of a repeat of what has already been done; more swimming, more walking, more at the beach.  The thing of it is on an island that is only 7 miles square, there is only so much to do.  There is still a bit of unfinished business to do this week.  And since there is only another week and a bit here, we will go at it this week.

Last night was a bit interesting and funny.  I went to watch the national football/soccer team of BVI play a club or a men's league team from St. Maarten. As I already wrote a buddy, you really would have to be there to appreciate the humour and interesting nature of what was witnessed.  Try to imagine:
1.  Pre game had blaring Caribbean house music from a DJ with an accompanying fashion show that was suspect to say the least in terms of fashion
2.  The opposing team was titled "Willful&Skillful" - neither of which I thought was reflective
3.  The whole game was narrated by the DJ from the fashion show - live play by play
4.  The physical disposition of the soccer players from the BVI national team did not strike me as "national team-esque" - the goalie was about half my height and twice my width
5.  The national team didn't seem to have national-esque uniforms, clothing, paraphernalia
6.  The pitch was a complete joke - covered in ruts and patches on end without grass

But hey.  Who am I?  I am a joke and would appear quite out of place and sorts down here.  Even funny too perhaps.

And of course there are other subtle things that go on.  In general the cars people drive down here are just so funny too.  Many are stickered or decaled with pretty bold language and images.  The "Hoes before Bros"  is common, "$ before B@tches", and of course the middle finger salute with "F-U Haterzs!!!!"  It is all pretty common.  The taxis are funny down here.  All pick up trucks with big benches in the back.
Of course there are a tonne of really neat cars that you can't get in North America.  The most popular truck down here seems to be an awesome looking 4-door Mazda BT-50.  There are also a bunch of really cool 4-door Mitsubishi trucks too.  It isn't uncommon to see nicer BMWs and Toyotas....  The most common brand is definitely Suzuki though.  Half the vehicles seem to be Suzukis.

And the Suzuki we have been driving is:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hog Heaven

As it is in most places, an immigrant workforce is noticeable almost everywhere one goes - I would love to hear/read about some of Scott's experience of that in Africa.  So there are a lot of Hispanic workers here from Latin American and Puerto Rico.  The Hog Heaven restaurant is no exception.  It is located on the backside of Nail Bay.  The food was delicious, and the views were equally spectacular.  It was run by some Spanish speaking off-islanders, who were quite nice.

We loaded up the Suzuki and hit the road for a lunch at noon - or as farmers would say dinner.  Surprisingly there were not a lot of people there for a facility that offers very reasonably priced food and great service.  But I guess it is a bit off the beaten path too.  We ordered a rib meal, as well as a fried chicken creation.  There was homemade coleslaw, potato salad, french fries were ordered, and 3 plates would serve us well.  There was a lovely Caribbean breeze that kept my hair in my face for the duration of our time there.  As usually, Shelly ran into an old friend that she hadn't seen in 9 years.  The girl rhymed off her name and gave a big hello very quickly as she didn't think she had changed much other then the 2 accompanying kids, and yours truly.  Again, always recognized = Shelly.

This is it - Necker Island:
This is the place of places I suppose - Recreation and hospitality starts at tens of thousands a night.  I am sure it is worth it.

From reading my buddies blog as he travels through Africa he notes that his son is quite the attraction and gathers lots of curiousity and wonder from the locals.  I would say Wally is quite the charmer here.  Both the local kids and adults usually have something nice to say about how he is cute or how he smiles all the time and such....  Maybe they would like to take him for 24hrs and see how he is at night!  Anyway kids seem to be one of those global truths representing innocence or righteousness?  I don't know what it is, but it is something.

I am enjoying reading his blog and it seems like the other universal traveler's plight is "expensivity".  Oh well.  Although that isn't always true as I wrote back in January about that guy who road his motorcycle around the world for like 5 years and budgeted like twenty or thirty bucks a day....  Hey there is all ways to do it.  

This afternoon Shelly went to a church to play the piano, or maybe organ, in a pre-Thanksgiving celebration.  Apparently there are some Thanksgiving songs and whatnot down here?  We bought some tickets to the local Thanksgiving Day feast and fundraiser which isn't for another week, but I guess it is a popular event.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda

We have use of an older Suzuki Sidekick - it isn't much on looks or comfort, but it is mostly reliable and it was able to take us the 6km across the island to an area called Leverick Bay.  It is a recreation, hotel, dining, and boating area that caters to tourists.  It is pretty up-scale and definitely worth the drive out to see.  We had lunch, and a general walk around and sight see.  Shelly, again, crossed paths with someone she knew, and Molly had a swim in the beach/marina area.  The food was quite good too.
Shelly and Molly had a day in school on Thursday.  Molly went to St. Mary's for the 8:45 start of reading, grammar, printing, and arithmetic.  Shelly was going straight to the music department to see how her predecessor was getting along.  As it turned out both did a fine job at what it was they were to do.  Molly achieved a few stickers for her proficiency, and Shelly helped arrange a few musical pieces for the upcoming Christmas concert.

Wally and I just hung out for the day.  We had a solid 45 minute to one hour walk.  It would have been shorter, but I took the wrong turn on the way to the post office.  The girls didn't return until after 5:00.  It was a long day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spring Bay Swimming Hole

We all walked over and around to Spring Bay for an hour or so at the beach.  The swimming area isn't very deep, nor is it that large.  It is surrounded by an enclave of smooth boulders and rocks about 4 or 5 times bigger then most pick-up trucks.  The water was crystal clear and very warm.

There was a nice couple there as well.  I got the idea that he worked at a university and taught, as well as having a registered alpaca heard which they shear for the fleece.  He obviously had the animals, and also said he was a psychologists of some sort - he just seemed more of an academic guy rather then a clinical worker.

Things are going on fine down here.  We maybe are going a bit hard with Molly.  Maybe a bit too much walking and go-going.  Considering the heat, and again the terrain, she seems a bit out of sorts and maybe has hit the wall today.  She is just a bit tired and lethargic - not herself. 

I don't know if it is us and the general mess that we tend to leave, but the bugs, flies and mosquitoes have really picked up about the property.  I tend to think it is us, and the fallen food and all that - but the bugs have become increasingly annoying and a bit of a problem.  The kids have bites all over their legs and whatnot...  There are lots of little ants around too.
My buddy and his wife are traveling through Africa rite now and are documenting their journey.  I don't suppose he/they would mind if I indicated would be a good place to check out his insights of 40 days on the road.  Good luck on your trip Scott and Leanne - see you back at home in December.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tortola, BVI

I set off solo today.  The destination would be 20 km across the Caribbean Sea to the port of Road Town in Tortola.

I walked around for the first hour or so.  I hit the bakery, got a fantastic coffee at a place called OK Cafe, and just generally got my bearings in a one mile square area.  But there was more to see and more to do.  Tortola is much bigger then Virgin Gorda, and so I went to a local car rental shop and hired out the cheapest road worthy vehicle there was.

So my ride would be a Kia, and I didn't get too involved much with the formalities of the transaction.  Or I should say the lady working wasn't too concerned or involved - she was much more interested in the television show rather then the business at hand.  However, it was all she could do to muster up asking me for a driver's license....  It was $50, cash, which was all she wanted to hand over the keys.  There was not the formalities, and especially paperwork, one would be used to in North America to rent out a vehicle for a day.

All the driving down here is left of centre.  All the cars are Japanese imports, and the steering wheels are all on the left, but driving is on the left.  I can say a time or too I wandered over to the right.  Parking lots are a bit more difficult to maneuver in, and my natural instincts are always to look right of course.....  But the biggest challenge was the roads and the overall terrain.

The roads are all paved, but they are incredibly steep.  Very steep in fact.  There are very little straight-aways, the corners are extremely tight.  There is simply nothing comparable to these driving conditions.  This is way more challenging then driving out to Whiskey Lake north of Massey, ON....  I can't even begin to explain the inclines....  Obviously not 45 degrees or more, but man it is steep...It wasn't very relaxing at all.

So the long and short of it is I drove a hundred clicks or so in 3 hours.  I got all around the island for the most part and it was quite nice.  The highlight was getting out to a beach on Beef Island called Long Bay.  It was just beautiful....  I had a swim out there and just relaxed a bit.  But I was looking forward to dropping the car off and returning it and me unscathed.  And I did.

I managed a 4:30 ferry back to Virgin Gorda....  Walked a mile and a bit up to the cottage.  Home by 5:30 for a quick swim with Molly....  It was a decent day.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Bit of Rain

In the last few days we have ventured further from the house.  Wally isn't an issue to travel with because he is in the stroller.  He usually falls asleep as we set out.  Molly is more of the issue.  She is walking and her short legs don't propel her as efficiently as her parent's.  Plus it is quite hot and hilly, the traffic is also a bit of a problem as mentioned....  However we got to an astonishing beach  called The Baths the other day.  It is a little over a mile and a half from the house.

So more pictures of this remarkable area will come....  But The Baths also has a restaurant another 800m or so away.  So in celebration of our walk we went to this place for a pint and some french fries.  After it was all said and done it rained torrentially.  Think of the strongest adjective to describe the rain, and that is how hard it came down.  Anyway to make a long story short we got caught up in it, rather we caught it coming down, 2 miles from the house.  Molly was not very impressed.....

The locals have indicated they are in an 8 month or so drought - but it has rained quite often while being down here.  It really hasn't effected us, expect for that walk the other day, but when it rains, it rains....  Big time.

We also ventured further and sussed out a brand new playground facility that any community in North America would be jealous of.  It was The Walter's recreation complex.  The Walter's being a surname of a family who put forth the effort and $ to complete the park.  It was quite nice and we will return, even if it is a bit far.

And my far trips will hopefully start next week.  I am going to ferry off the island and head over to Tortola most likely.  It is a bit hipper and more happening perhaps, rather then Virgin Gorda, but I will see....