Friday, February 1, 2008

St. John Adventure - Day 4 (Saltpond Bay)

Since we made everyone wait yesterday because of our tardiness, today we borrowed a watch from Cheryl to make sure our adventure for the day began on time. With us - Cheryl, Jeff, Priscilla, Ken, Eva, James and Christine. I was quite paranoid that the long ride (~30 minutes, I was told) on the windy roads would make me carsick, but I was quite fine. The trip was indeed long and had to go up some pretty mad hills and sharp turns to cross over the island's top and come down on the other side. There is a small town here called Coral Bay, which as far as I could see has more boats in the harbor that houses. I counted maybe 20 buildings, and that's that!

The sun on the South side beats down hotter and brighter than on the North, we are told. Indeed it was quite hot on the beach and we hid in the shade of some leafy trees. In the trunk of one of the trees there was a hole or a crack and Husband found three soldier crabs inside, two large and a small one, as if a small family was living in there. I wonder if the crabs climbed up on their own or were placed there by some prankster. Just in case, we let them be.

All maps of St. John suggest that the coral is on the eastern (left) side of the Saltpond bay, but it turned out that the best snorkeling was in fact on the west, about half way out of the bay by a rocky outcropping. Snorkeling here was a little different from yesterday, with coral being larger and more like small underwater islands, with tunnels and lagoons between them in which you could swim as if in a labyrinth. You could also swim up to the rocks and watch as the water rushes into the crevasses of the rocky outcropping, seaweeds and urchins and small fish being tossed to and fro in the current. It was, of course, beautiful beyond words.

Excitingly, we saw a shark. It was a nursery shark, I believe, a bottom feeder without teeth, but it was big, bigger than a meter long, and let me tell you, a shark is a shark and after taking a close look I swam as far from it as I could. Husband, more curious and braver than me, hung out and watched it for a while.

Swimming back to shore was a little tougher because the current seemed to be heading towards the ocean. We walked a little bit and took a look at the Salt Pond, which gives the bay it's name. It is like a still, empty lake, with foam all around the edge and not a breeze or a bird in site. Knotty bushes and cacti grow around it's edge and only bees make any sound. It was quite beautiful in in it's own right, and there were trails you could take to Ram's Head, which is the very tip of the bay and Drunk Bay, which is on the Eastern shore, but it was time for us to go so we could not explore further.

On the way back we made some stops in Coral Bay. First we stopped at a mini-market and bought some papaya and also pasta supplies. Then we stopped at a place called Skinny Legs, which is a bar/restaurant surrounded by gift shops and quite popular on the island. Everything was remarkably expensive in the store and the only thing I could afford was a post card. Ken and Eva checked their emails and Priscilla bought a hot dog for lunch. A little further out of town where the two roads that are on the island (route 1o - northshore road, and 20- centerline road) cross we also stopped for smoothies, but they weren't all that great, and were, just like everything else here, remarkably overpriced ($7!!!)

After we got back, Husband went out to swim again and snorkeled all the way out to the Cinnamon Cay, where he said at one point he was surrounded by an entire school of fish who darted around him like a cloud. And eventually we made our way over to Ken and Eva's, with whom we had made plans for dinner. They are a lovely couple, both of them architects, just a little older than us. Eva is a beautiful Polish woman with elegant features and Ken is a really intense and inquisitive person. They are both athletes and in obvious good shape, though they did not have much camping experience prior to this one. Husband cooked us dinner, which is something he has been doing every meal since we got here, and it was, of course, delicious (pasta, tomato sauce with canned veggies and tuna). We had a great time, chatting about our lives, our plans, our hopes, and ended the evening with a coconut opening tutorial - Husband is really quite an expert now!

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