What started off as just a crazy idea to move to Puerto Rico, turned into a not only a new learning and living experience, but opened up our eyes to all of the Caribbean, each island with its own unique culture, charm and cuisine.
We had a WONDERFUL three days in the U.S Virgin Islands... it was paradise, truly paradise and nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a few days.
We started our adventure on Thursday morning, at the tiny airport in Isla Grande, in a tiny plane. We were 2 of just 6 people aboard! We got beautiful views of the ranch, the city, Fajardo and Vieques as we flew into St Croix. It was raining a little, but the excitement took away any disappointment we may've had. We quickly got settled into our little Ford rental and away we went! No plans, no ideas - just a map.. and we found ourselves on a coastal road heading east. I should start by saying that people here drive on the left - in the left hand side of the car.. weird, but we got used to it pretty quickly. We stopped a lot at little lookouts, stuck our feet into the (very warm!) water and collected seashells. We passed a hotel, but that seemed to the only building, other than a couple of residential houses on the east side of the island.
We made it - the most eastern point of the U.S! Of course Geoff and I had to take it one step further and jump the fence and hike down the cliffs to the VERY most eastern point :-)
On we went, the weather has eased up on us now. Our tummies were grumbling and we were ready for some local tucker.. we met a random elderly man who took us to the "best in town!". Christiansted, a quaint, historical town on the north east shore of the island, famous for its old forts and laid back lifestyle.
"Harvey's" - recommended not only by random elderly man but also Frommers in 2001 to have great food.. and so it was. Since we were out of town, we were given a sample platter with our choice of meat - Geoff had curried goat and I chose the conch with sautéed onion...along with it came sweet potato mash, rice and beans, salad, coleslaw, yucca and fried plantain - far too much to eat, but too much is always better than too little!
With our bellies full and satisfied, we went on our way after checking out the forts. We made it to Cruzan, the little local rum factory on the way to the west end, Fredericksted. Unfortunately it POURED with rain, so we werent able to do the tour (it was fully outside). We were pondering on what to do when another group of 3 people came up to do the tour, who werent able to do it either. We ended up sitting at the bar, having a drink and chat together and they ended up inviting us back to their place - what a suprise! Something we've noticed about this place though is that people are SO friendly.
We met Sunny, their beautiful Boxer they adopted. We hung out with them for a little bit and got to meet quite a few new people in the short amount of time that we spent with that evening. They even gave us some tips and advice on how to get cheap accomodation.. since we were camping we didnt want to camp in the only campground - the rainforest - so they directed us to Bogeys, a little guest house right on the ocean - for almost half the price of what the regular rate would be! Cute rooms, fully self contained kitchen, ocean views, pink walls - what more could we ask for?
The next day we wanted to meet with our new friends again but ended up having a flat tire on our car - so we needed to get that fixed. Once we did, it was back to the beautiful North Shore for more viewing and back to Cruzan in hopes of a tour - we got lucky! It was a short, but very interesting tour - followed by the offer of more free drinks, but we declined.. 10am was a little bit early for us!
Along our walk around Fredericksted, we met someone named Stephen who happened to own a little cafe called Polly's (http://pollysatthepier.com/) I highly recommend it! We ended up having lunch there and it was delicious - I had a chicken wrap and Geoff had a toasted triple cheese sandwich.. followed by locally made icecream - yum! St Croix has its own dairy farm and sell only their own milk - cheese and yoghurt too!
Fredicksted has its own fort, so we had to check that out too :-) Luckily for us they are doing all the repainting at the moment, so we didnt have to pay entrance fees!
Up into the rainforest, away from the coastal road lay Mt Victory, the campground we were supposed to stay at the previous night. It was still heavily wet with rain and the skies were threatening more rain, so we made the decision to look for alternative accomodation.. this time we found the last room left at the rotary club for a great price, so anyone that complains that accomodation is expensive in USVI, it pays to look around at the most obscure places!
The last little bit of daylight and the sun was out! We raced to the beach and went for a swim.. the water was just too inviting and the swim at sunset was beautiful. Nothing tops off a night like that than a yummy seafood dinner - which is just what we did!
We didnt want to leave St Croix - but we already spent an extra night than we had planned. It was off to the ferry terminal to head over to St. Thomas. The ride on the catamaran was smooth and sunny, but from already far away we could see the dark clouds looming over the second smallest USVI. We arrived - and it felt like we were back in Old San Juan. It was busy, bustling with cruise ship passengers and lots of taxis. 'Food' was our first thought (but then, it always is anyway) and we found ourselves at "Gladys Cafe", on a tiny little side street away from the main drag. Geoff once again ordered the curried goat and I had a mahi-mahi, jerk style, paired with Soursop and Pina Coladas. Have to make the most of it all whilst you're in a foreign place, right?
Our final few hours were spent jetskiing and driving around in the back of an open cab high up on the mountains of St. Thomas - to the right we could see the British Virgin Islands and the left was the cruise ship terminal - simply breathtaking!
A sunset plane flight ended our amazing getaway to the USVI, but St. Croix - you have not seen the last of us! We also St. John left to explore!
Yesterday Geoff and I decided to get out and about a little, since its been a while since we've done some exploring.
We had intended to go into the mountains, but found ourselves passing right through Caguas, and ending in Humacao at the Reserva Natural by the Department of Natural Resources. We just stumbled across it - and what a beautiful little spot! No manicured beaches here, but also no people, no hotels - just lots of lizards and beautiful flora!
We did a little hike up one of the bigger cliffs which opened up into a gorgeous view of the Caribbean Sea and Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island) - which is when Geoff suggested that we go for a kayak out there.
We stopped at a little stand for lunch and had freshly made fish empanadillas - yum!
Unfortunately we missed out on the last boat that left for Monkey Island that day - but then we got in touch with Barefoot Travellers, a couple run and owned guesthouse that also offered kayak and hanggliding to their guests. They happened to have an opening in the afternoon since the weather was too bad to go hang gliding, so offered to take us out to Monkey Island. Keisha, one of the owners is a dog-lover with 4 of her own, so offered to "babysit" Alpen whilst Geoff and I headed out with her husband on the kayaks.
The weather was brewing up something big - so we paddled straight to the island, splashing over the choppy waters and I jumped in for a snorkel as we got closer. There are a lot of fish, and I saw my first conch!
The island has about 1200 monkeys, all from India. The University of Puerto Rico are doing research on their social-behavioural learning, therefor the public are not allowed to set foot on the island. Plus - many of the monkeys have diseases that are dangerous to humans. It was interesting to see how the monkeys interacted and all the babies scampering around.
We made it back, but not before we got rained on! All in all a great day out and anyone that wants to check out Monkey Island, I definitely recommend the Kayak option over the boat - you're much closer to nature!
(Pics are coming later, for some reason Blogger wont allow me to upload this morning. For those of you who have Facebook, they're up there!)