The kids, as I will now call those college students next to us, proved to be as silly as I had expected. When I got out of the tent they were walking around gathering little sticks, with the plan of making a fire to "boil some water". I explained to them that it was not very clever or efficient, and perhaps even not allowed in a National Park and told them to go to one of the vacant sites and use their propane stove. So off they went. I wonder if I was quite that clueless five years ago...
Today's trip was not entirely what I expected. We had made plans to go to Pelican Rock, which none of us could locate on the map but we were assured was the coolest, best kept secret on the island. Our troop today included both Priscillas, Cheryl, Jeff and us. Today was really the last day for Jeff and Cheryl because they will be departing tomorrow.
It had rained a bit but was fairly warm when we set out. The long ride in the taxi, with our trusty Ana behind the wheel, took us all the way to the East End of the island, literally to where the road ends. It is the furthest you can go to the east away from Cruz Bay, and involved some pretty crazy up and down and twisty turns, which is by now a familiar occurance. Still, we saw an entirely new sight of the ocean and new islands that I had not seen before. East End itself is almost like a separate island from St. John, attached by just a narrow spit of land.
The bay was immediately unimpressive, probably because the weather was really quite overcast. There were only two women on the beach (actually they were in the water) who were locals and very surprised to see tourists this far out of the way. They told us that the coral around Pelican Rock, which is a rock outcropping in the middle of the bay, was quite dead now, but that there was some decent snorkeling at the eastern most part of the beach. And that is where we trudged over the very rocky, or at least corally beach to try to find a spot with some sand and maybe sunlight.
One cool thing is that we finally got to see some of the famous St. John donkeys. Donkeys, chickens, goats and other livestock wonder around St. John basically wild at this point. I don't know if anyone eats them or tries to keep them, but we heard a lot of stories of caution about donkeys trampling tents and eating all the food at the campsite, but until now have not seen a single donkey at all. And here there were two, one white and obviously male as he had a gigantic black penis hanging down almost to the ground when we saw him (which he unfortunately retracted when I tried to take a picture).
We set ourselves up under a tamarind tree (and even got to eat some tamarinds, which was cool). I decided not to go into the water today as I was cold and feeling a bit out of sorts. Everyone swam quietly, probably aware that this was not quite what we expected. In the meantime, I explored both sides of the bay, which is always the areas rich in rock outcroppings and coral. On the east side I could not go far, but on the west I climbed over some cliffy parts, which were littered with pieces of crab and other creatures, and to a really tiny private beach from where I could see some really lovely rocks and corals. So I think that was quite worth it after all.
Also, I finally sat down and did a painting, my first out here. I was a little intimidated because there was a professional artist in our midst and had to remind myself that technically I am just as much an artist and she is. So I tried to not make a big deal about it and showed the picture only to Husband. He said it was nice and we spent the rest of the time watching the pelicans bomb dive into the water and gobble down their catch. Good times...
Eventually it was time to go, though it was not Ana who picked us up but another taxi driver. He was really quiet and surly at first but Cheryl quickly got him laughing and talking. He stopped the taxi several times to show us different plants, like the one they make maracas out of and one called moran which can heal rash. And just a little bit down the road we stopped to eat at a place called "Vie's Snack Shack", which I thought was fantastic! Vie is a little older lady who sells deep fried chicken and rice and beans literally out of a shack in front of her house. There are two or three tables under a tree, which itself is decorated with ceramics and orchids. Her little grandson was around and the taxi driver was entertaining him by playing all kinds of musical instruments - three kinds of maracas, some thing with beer caps, another one with grooves that you run a stick across and lots of others. He showed Husband how to make a simple instrument by grabbing a giant pod from a nearby tree and hitting it until the seeds come loose inside but the husk does not break. You can then shake it and the seeds rattle inside. He then had Husband sing to me something like "I promise... Not to bang you... With this stick....But to love you... With it" which I thought was both hilarious and inappropriately funny.
We didn't really get anything to eat but both of the Priscillas ordered the deep friend chicken, and both felt that it was undercooked, send it back for refrying, several times even, which I think really irritated Vie. By the end I think the driver was quite glad to take us away from there, and I felt like a stupid tourist again. As we drove through Coral Bay we saw two of the silly kids from the campsite waiting at the bus stop. We waved but they did not want a ride.
While Husband made dinner (rice and beans) the silly kids came back. One of them had stayed behind while two went exploring and had gotten fish to cook. I listened as the girl who had stayed behind told the other two about how she had passed out on the beach after too much drinking and did not know how she had gotten there when she came to. Then they started collecting sticks again to make the fish, and I offered them some charcoal that I had, though we warned them that it was a bit wet and needed some fuel. Husband tried to help them start a fire but it was a lost cause and they wondered away once more to use someone else's stove.
Priscilla the neighbor (as opposed to the artist) had dinner with us tonight. She told us stories of her travels (mind you she's 71!), among her favorites being England and Guatemala where she would like to go every year. She has also been to Honduras and bunch of other places where she likes to volunteer time with underprivileged kids. The woman is a powerhouse! The way she talked about Guatemala made me really want to go there.
The biggest event of the day, however, happened after Husband had gone off to take a shower. I climbed into the tent and was just rearranging his sleeping bag, which I don't even normally do, when I saw a HUGE spider scuttle out from under his pillow and under mine. I lifted it carefully, not wanting to believe the movement that I had seen and sure enough, there it was, hairy legs, huge hairy body and all. I wanted Husband to see it, and I thought that perhaps he may have some interesting method of getting rid of it, but I did not want to move and get a 'weapon' myself because I did not want it to run off and hide where I would then not find it right away. So I sat for the 15 or so minutes that it took Husband to shower and watched the thing. I am not usually afraid of spiders, but a thing this big next to my pillow, and having to watch it so closely, I tell you, it gave me the hibby jibbies. Eventually Husband came back and I called out to him that there was a huge spider in the tent. He could not see it from where he was and told me to just kill it. I did not have anything other than my water bottle nearby, so I took aim and smashed the hell out of that spider. As pulled the bottle away the damned thing was still moving so I beat it around some more until it was still. Only then did Husband take a look at it and I swear he almost shrieked - he had no idea it was this huge and thought that I was just exaggerating. So then we were a bit paranoid because how, after all, had that thing gotten into the tent. So I went through all our stuff before we finally settled in for the night. And you know the imagine runs wild when you turn off the light!!!