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One local islander, “Foxy” Callwood was recently honored by the British Empire and awarded the title of “Member of the order of the British Empire”. Celebrations took place on the neighboring island of Jost Van Dyke where Foxy has a famous island bar and restaurant. Lets just say, not everyone’s as cool as Foxy.
Jost Van Dyke, St. John and Virgin Gorda (The Fat Virgin), are just two of the larger islands in this chain. On the southern side of Tortola across the Sir Francis Drake Channel are a long list of islands that have all forced themselves up out of the Caribbean Sea. In time I hope to see them all.
Last week I rented a Suzuki Jimmy, and with some locals went to see one of the last stretches of Tortolan coastline to have access roads created. In the north east, Trunk Bay and Lava Flow have recently been opened up. Hiking only access has been replaced with graded 4×4 roads that lead almost all the way to the sand. Being more exposed to the wind and tides of the Atlantic, Trunk, Rogue’s and Josiah’s bay’s are buffeted with swell that rolls in and crashes constantly on azure and white. Trunk bay is particularly blessed with a forest of white barked trees that greet it’s perfectly straight sands with not a rock in sight. After spending 10 minutes at Trunk bay it was so inviting that we had to take a dip. “Ace” the Rastafarian beach warden from Cane Garden Bay said it was the first time he had swum in 3 years! Sea birds streaked out of the sky and pierced the water next to us as they dove for fish. Truly an amazing beach.
I’ve been trying my hand at fishing. So far I’ve only managed to catch small sand snapper which I released immediately. I’m hoping to catch bigger fish that I can eat. Yellow Tail, Mahi-Mahi, Bass and Barracuda are mentioned by locals. I’ve seen a school of large sleek silver fish pass through the bay. I am not sure what type they were but they looked tasty! On two occasions 3 foot long Barracuda have cruised past me whilst I was fishing off the dock. I cast a lure past one’s nose and the other I tried to tempt with some squid. I think live bait is what’s required to coax them to bite.
One of the unexpected benefits of living on an island and being away from large cities has been the wildlife. The different types of birds I’ve seen has been incredible. From land scavenging prehistoric looking things that come out at dusk, to weathered, wise brown and gray gulls that stare at you as they glide past. The birds here are amazing. The able ones dive from staggering heights straight down into schools of fish and shoot back up out of the water with their catch in their beaks. From Steele Point we saw a flock of birds follow and attack a school of bait fish for ten minutes. I’m waiting for my chance to throw a line in where the birds are fishing. Maybe I’ll have more luck.
Besides the birds and the fish, there are massive land crabs that come out at night and scavenge for coconuts and an amazing array of multicolored lizards. I’ve also seen turtles poke their heads up out of the water whilst fishing. There’s a dolphin park here where you can see around 8 captive dolphins (poor things) and of course there are numerous dogs and cats around the bay.
My apartment is perched up on a rocky rise looking down into the water of Cane Garden Bay. The view is partly obscured by trees however the water is visible through the foliage and you can see the long curving bay off to the west. The balcony is great for morning or evening relaxation and is best when there’s a breeze. I just wish someone would cut the trees back a little to reveal more of the view. I am told that the apartment was previously a dive shop that’s been converted. It gets quite hot by mid afternoon but has good air conditioning so the heat hasn’t been much of an issue.
70 days into my experiment of living on a tropical island I have mainly positive things to say. In particular the environment and the wildlife is amazing. The only problem to mention has been with the locals. I’ve had a bit of a run in with a local guy who I thought I could trust. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him hang out at my place one night and have a few beers. I woke to find my iPhone missing. Subsequently, one night at a bar I confronted him about it. Another local woman stood up for him, and in their eyes, I was the problem. How a thief can consider his victim to be the problem is beyond me. I get the feeling that this small community is not used to having someone stick around for longer than a few weeks. It’s also such a small community that you can’t avoid running into people you may not get along with.
I’ve asked for some advice from a local business owner as to whether or not I should report the theft to the police. The advice I got was “definitely”. I respect the advice, but I am not so sure that I want to start creating enemies and involving the police. So at this point I have let it slide and I’m trying to put it behind me.
I am going to leave this topic at that. Many of the people in the bay have been great. Most are just looking out for their best interests and are genuine, friendly and helpful. A friendly English guy who has been living here for years gave me some good advice the other day. His advice was “Choose your friends wisely”. I think that advice holds true anywhere, especially in small communities like this. I’ve decided if I was to stay here for a long period of time, I would definitely get a place up a hill with a view and not situated right on such a popular beach with all the human traffic. Although at that point, I would definitely need to get a car.