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Monday, December 21, 2015

"You Beer Swilling Pig!"...and Other Island Stories: St. Croix, Part 5

Previously on The World on Wheels:
St. Croix - Part 1
St. Croix - Part 2
St. Croix - Part 3
St. Croix - Part 4

History, swine, and hospitality are on today’s agenda in St. Croix.

Even though we put on copious amounts of sunscreen yesterday, we’re still a bit past done on our tans. Feeling the effects of our burns, plus the beginning of the itching from last night’s bug bites (the hotel puts a couple of cans of bug repellent in each room – use it), we commiserate over another bountiful breakfast before heading out for the day’s exploration.

While the eastern end of the island (where we’re staying) is dry and not real lush, the trade winds drop much more precipitation on the west end. There’s a rain forest there we want to go to.

Yesterday, Letty tried to navigate via maps into the mountains of the west end and after much turning and twisting through the back roads, we suddenly found ourselves back where we started at the Sion Farms shopping center.

Watch the Video!

Before leaving, I visit the concierge and get written directions. They’re more like “make a right after two stop lights, turn left at the police station, turn right at Golden Rock Shopping Center…” With the poorly signed roads on the island, these directions work better than the map.

Today, we make it. After driving along the north coast beach called Cane Bay, we make a left onto a rather infamous, steep, potholed, and twisty road.

On the first weekend in May, an Ironman triathlon is held on the island. It is called the “Beauty and the Beast” because of the unbelievable scenery the racers go through. Oh yeah, on the bikes they hit the “beast,” the road we’re on now.

It’s hard enough in a car. It looks impossible to pedal up on a bike.

A little tricky with the directions but soon we see Carambola Bay Country Club, another crucial landmark in the concierge’s directions. After that, we see a sign to the rainforest and we’re in thick jungle. Tall trees dangle long vines into the roadway. It’s a very different world from the other end of the island.

A couple of sharp turns and we’re at St. Croix’s most famous jungle bar, the Mount Pellier Domino Club.

At the bamboo bar, we sip on frozen banana daiquiris while the two bartenders sing along to Billy Idol. Finishing our sweet, cold concoctions, we get to the business at hand.

Buying a couple of cans of non-alcoholic beer, we’re escorted out back to a well hidden ramp extending to a giant green box in the jungle. The bartender opens the door where we end up on a small concrete patio with four pens.

Suddenly, a giant boar pops up, mouth wide, snorting hungrily. We’ve found the famous beer drinking pigs of St. Croix.

Yeah, it’s a tourist trap of the highest magnitude but at least it’s cheap. It’s a buck a head to get in and two bucks per beer and you get to go into the rather fragrant compound to stick a can of beer in a pig’s mouth, watch him crack it open, down it, and spit out the can.

One of the more unique attractions on the island.

Making our way down the Beast, back to Cane Bay, we saw an ice cream stand on the beach. Tim’s had a hankering for some for a couple of days now and we promised him we’d stop on the way down.

After manhandling him out of the car, into his chair, and wrestling it across the sand to the tables under the tent, I go up to the bar (yeah, even the ice cream stands have full bars here) to order the ice cream for him.

“We don’t have ice cream.”

“But your sign says you do…you even have a big picture of an ice cream cone on it.”

“I know but we don’t have any…I could make you a chocolate milkshake instead.”

So, we went with the shake while Letty and I took turns looking at sea life in the coral next to shore.

Nearby, scuba divers were swimming in from their adventure. Just off shore is the famous “Wall.” Shallow water, wading depth, extends about a hundred yards offshore until it suddenly drops over a sheer thousand feet. Divers love to explore this underwater cliff.

We spend a little more time relaxing on Cane Bay beach before packing back up and continuing on.

Before getting back into Christiansted, we make a quick left turn at an unmarked road next to the Salt River Marina. It took us a few tries to find this road but we finally found it.

About a half mile in, we find what we’re looking for, Columbus Landing Beach. The name says it all, this is the beach that the explorer landed on in 1493…520 years ago.

If you stand at just the right location, you won’t see the houses or civilization behind you.

At that point, it looks much as it did over half a millennium ago.  Just don’t look down at the litter by your feet.

The concierge had found a boat captain who was willing to take us out to Buck Island for a dive adventure. She arranged for us to meet him on the dock at Christiansted on our way back when he came back into port after the day’s tour.

After having a beer at Fort Christian Brewpub and watching the seaplanes take off out of the harbor, our boat comes in. We meet Captain Mike, and he is willing to take us, but the steep, slippery, and long landing ladder we’d have to negotiate on the island is just beyond our capacities and Tim’s disability.

Sadly, a boat dive trip will not be on this week’s agenda.

Back at the Buccaneer Hotel, we make it just in time for the weekly manager’s reception. It’s a happy hour where guests mingle, sip rum punch or wine, and listen to the steel drum musician.

The hotel owner, Elizabeth Armstrong, shows up to introduce herself to each guest and see how their stay is going. Ms. Armstrong meets us, chats, and finds out we couldn’t do the boat trip but invites us to walk with her tomorrow for an accessible walking tour pointing out the historic sites, flora, and fauna of the expansive hotel grounds.

As the giant Moku Jumbie dancers wobble their way around the guests, we decide to take her up on it.

A tall dancer high-fives Tim, straddles over a line of guests, as we wind down another day in the Virgin Islands.

We’ll be back to continue this adventure after a night’s rest. See you then…

Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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