Wednesday, January 30, 2008

St. John Adventure - Day 3 (Waterlemon Bay)

Today was a milestone in my life - I had oatmeal for breakfast for the first time in probably 10 years. I hate that gunky stuff and have not been eating it ever since I could feed myself. But we are roughing it now, and oatmeal is healthy and filling and easy to make, and so I must swallow my dislike, as it were. To be entirely honest, it was not quite as bad as I remembered. Perhaps with time I will get used to it?

The adventure for today was Waterlemon Bay, and it was fantastic. We were a little late getting going and made Cheryl and Jeff wait, but on the up side we have made new acquaintances - Ken and Eva from Boston who we met on the taxi to the bay. The taxi ride was far less terrifying in the daylight, and only 2 miles short with occasional views of beaches and ocean as we went up and down the hilly road. Cars here drive on the left, which is really not as weird as one might expect. The hardest part is remembering which way to look when crossing the road.

The taxi driver, Ana, dropped us off at the end of the road and we had to walk the rest of the way along the shore to the beach, the path made up not of sand or rocks but small pieces of dead coral. It was quite sad to see, though I am not certain if this was due to natural causes or damage done by the multitudes of boats moored in the bay. Regardless, I got to see and collect a few really beautiful chunks of coral. I wonder if I am allowed to take them off the island?

Snorkeling at Waterlemon was a marvelous experience, and even a little character building. Husband and I donned our wet suits, which seemed a little silly at first because the water is so warm, but proved beneficial in the long run, since we were the only ones not frozen to the bone by the end of the day. Before we even got in the water Cheryl called out to us and said she had spotted a turtle. The seafloor right by the shore turned out to be full of sea grass, and very popular with the turtles, for we spotted three within just the first few minutes. They weren't enormous, but over a foot long and reddish-orange in coloration. They were so beautiful and graceful, and not really afraid of us unless we came too close.

We proceeded to snorkel, fins and all, along the east side of the bay with the intention of swimming out to the small island (they call them cays) maybe 300 yards away from the tip of the bay (I am bad at judging distances though, so forgive me...). We saw some rays and also giant sea stars, which were as big as rocks I think, fat and colored a dull orange. All along I protested that I certainly could not make it. As we reached the edge of the bay and the waves got bigger and the island looked so far I way, I became quite annoying and whiny. There was a buoy about half way to the island and Husband suggested that I should try swimming to it and if I can't make it we would turn back. It was really unnerving the way you stop being able to see the ocean floor because it gets to deep and murky, and you just feel like you are floating over a bottom-less abyss. I have heard stories of people having heart attacks while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef because when they swim over the edge they see just how deep the ocean goes. I thought I could relate... But I made it to the buoy in no time and hung on to it for dear life while I caught my breath. I could see all the creatures that have turned the buoy's chain into a home, and it was pretty terrifying not seeing where the chain reached the sea floor.

But we swam on and made it to the the little cay. It has a real spit of a beach, just a few feet wide and coral and ocean all around. I was tired and slightly nauseous (tight suit? waves? salty water? who knows...) but I figured I am here and I might as well look around. So Husband and I snorkeled around the cay and it was so worth it! We saw the most beautiful coral, huge brain corals, stag horns, red ones and black ones and even cobalt blue coral! There were fish of all sizes and colors, turtles, cuttle fish and fish I do know the name of. It was so peaceful and beautiful and really left me with a profound sense of something or other, as they say. As we reached the far end of the cay and were about to swing around to the eastern side (the one facing more towards the ocean) the waves got to be quite scary and I was once again turning into a big baby - but I had come this far, and hadn't I learned my lesson yet? And sure enough, as if to reward my small attempts at will power and perseverance the coral on the eastern side of the cay was even more beautiful that any I had seen before.

By the time we made it back to the cay's beach I was totally exhausted. Husband, in his endless wisdom, had dragged along a Nalgene bottle with some fresh water with chunks of coconut floating in it. While before I would not have dreamed of drinking this water (I had a bad coconut water experience once and thought it was sour and unpleasant), I drank it up lustily, sweet water reviving me, easing the headache that had crept up, coconut flesh so deliciously sweet. We shared it with Ken and Eva, who were huddled on the beach trying to get warm, and began our trip back. Initially I thought I would just swim to the edge of the bay and walk the rest of the way back, but in the end I made it almost the entire way to the beach. Getting out of the water, after three hours of floating, felt like my limbs were filled with lead. I crawled on shore (no joke) on all fours and it took me some time to get walking. Everything swayed around me as I was a) blind without my glasses, and b) still moving as if the waves were rocking me. But how good everything felt! I had overcome some small fears and been rewarded with beautiful sights, and I had my Husband to thank for being so encouraging.

A quick dip without the wet suits - one feels completely weightless and free - and we were hiking back to get to the taxi. We did not have time to look at the Annaberg sugar mill ruins which are basically right there in the parking lot, but perhaps we'll come back later. And we already have plans for tomorrow - the whole crew, Cheryl, Jeff, Ken, Eva and us, will go to Saltpond tomorrow, which is all the way on the southeastern most corner of the island.

Back at the camp Cheryl and Jeff invited us to take a look at their cottage, which was fortunate because it caused us to take a trail passed the Tree Lizzard restaurant that they have here on the campsite and it turned out that they were having a welcoming party for newcomers, complete with free food, drinks and a raffle. We did not win anything, but drank some guava juice and ate some fruit, cheese and in my case chicken (Husband is vegetarian, after all) and got to the campsite rejuvenated. We did see the cottages, and they are alright (electricity, fan, cots) but I am not sure it is worth it.

Dinner was rice, falafel and stewed tomatoes, oh so delicious after a long and fun day! And we have new neighbors - James and Christine from Utah, whom we have invited to go to Saltpond with us tomorrow (along with Priscilla). In fact I am so tired now, that I almost wish we could take tomorrow to relax.

No comments: