Caribbean Trip. Quick Update

Hi Everyone, we have been out of contact now for 10 days in the B.V.I, which was very unexpected.  Since the last post we spent 3 days in the Dominican Republic in an ecovillage, which was great, although we had some colourful experiences!! More to come.

After this we went to the British Virgin Islands for 10 days, which are very beautiful, and we camped on Tortola, the main island on the beach, and also on Jost Van Dyke, a slightly smaller island just off Tortola, which was also very stunning, but where we also experienced some of the nastier remnants of British colonial rule, regarding the lingering resentment that is clearly still felt by a number of the locals.

More will be written tomorrow, and there will be longer entries!! Dom

Caribbean Trip. Feb 19, 2010

We got up early and sacrificed breakfast, much to Olli’s dislike in order to pack up the tent, and get to Jost Van Dyke, a small Island of 200 inhabitants, just off Tortola. Miche and I went into Road Town, where we bought $120 worth of food, which we hoped would last us for a few days. We then returned to the campsite, picked up everything and went to the ferry at West End. We got to the Ferry within 20 mins of it leaving which was great timing considering it only goes 4 times a day. The trip cost $25 return, which is fairly reasonable. The journey took around 20 minutes, and we arrived in great harbour on JVD. From here, we headed to the fabled Ivan’s ‘Stress Free’ Bar and Campsite, where we were to camp for the next 4 nights.

We were expecting peaceful beautiful tranquillity, with our campsite just off the beach, with its white sands and brilliant blue water supposedly providing the perfect backdrop to a superb 5 days. This picture postcard place, however deeply masked a deeper undercurrent of bad feeling that emanated from many of the locals. They were from our impression rude unfriendly, and as we would find out 2 nights later racist, with the wounds of colonial rule, clearly not healed for a number of the inhabitants.

We very much enjoyed our first night however on Jost, meeting a nice chap by the name of Tyrone at the bar, who is currently living in San Fran, although was born in the UK. The Bar was surprisingly quite for a Friday night so we could sit and drink our own rum. We made friends with a number of Residents from St Thomas (US Virgin Islands), who were roughly the same age if not older. (On a side, not it seems as if the places we have been thus far are dominated by the older generations, which has not been a massive issue, as we do for the best part enjoy our company, but we are perhaps surprised by the lack of people our age.)

Caribbean Trip. Feb 18, 2010

Another lazy day on the beach, interspersed with a couple of trips for water and lunch.

The afternoon was more interesting however; as we noticed that, there were hundreds of minnows near to the shore. Tom got his mosquito net from the tent, and we proceeded to improvise a fishing net, catching over 500 minnows. We planned to cook them that evening in oil and garlic, but could not muster the ability to do so because they looked horrible, and therefore did not eat them.

Caribbean Trip. Feb 17, 2010

Today started with the usual breakfast of eggs and bread, and proceeded to be a lazy day. Although there were clearly a lot of fish just off the shore, accompanied by a large amount of ravenous black pelicans, who would periodically sweep down into the water, collecting the fish as they went. Tom made a fishing reel with a bit of drift wood, failing miserably to catch anything, with one big wave putting paid to any ideas of fish on the evening menu!!

late afternoon, and we decided to go and check out Road Town, BVI largest settlement. Myself Ollie and Miche set about exploring the town, where we found an old pirate bar, and the square 200m, a place where all the banking industry lies in the BVI, and where many have wealthy westerners have offshore accounts. Meanwhile Tom went and checked out the plane, which he thought had a rudder problem. After a few fly around it turned out to be a brake problem, which was noticed on his last landing when they failed, and he rolled to a stop at the end of the runway. Simple repercussion of the hard El Paso landing and simple to fix however!

That evening we had a really nice meal at a local yacht club before returning, armed with fresh supplies of rum to the campsite. 1 and 3/4 litres of rum were drunk between the 4 of us, and we were to say a little enhibriated.

We then had an incident with a digger which will be explained, but not on this blog.

Caribbean Trip. Feb 16, 2010

So we are now 2 weeks into our trip, and the time actually seems to be going very slowly, as it now feels like we have already been away from the UK for along time. After our usual breakfast of eggs and toast, we did nothing apart from throw a tennis ball and a Frisbee around. We spent the evening drinking rum on the beach looking up at the stars, which with no light pollution, are incredible!

Caribbean Trip. Feb 15, 2010

We were awoken to the sound of ‘Morning, Morning, Morning, you are not in the campsite man!!’ We had at night actually pitched our tent out of the parameter of the campsite!!!’

I and Tom moved the tent while Miche and Ollie went to the main town on the Island ‘Roadtown’ to pick up supplies.

This is the first day that we tried to cook for ourselves, and the trangea cookers we had bought in the US either went from out to Nuclear, which made cooking an issue. We decided it would be best to cook on a campfire, and collecting wood from the surrounding forest we made ourselves some really good burgers!!

The location of the campsite could probably not be more perfect, with the beach literally 10 feet away from the tent, and the noise of waves very loud!! Usually Brewers bay is like a pond. On this day, however the waves were 15 feet high and we had a good time riding the waves!!

Caribbean Trip. Feb 14, 2010

after another surprisingly good nights sleep amongst nature we arranged after some hassle, some loose translation, and the use of some local expertise we got in contact with a taxi, which took us to the airport.

On the way to the airport we stopped at a local supermarket to restock with the necessary resources that we would need for camping in the British Virgin Islands. Of course Tom was much more concerned with our supply of Beer and Rum!!

At The Airport we got talking to a couple of Doctors who were flying out to Haiti, and were going out on their week’s rotation! One of the lady’s we discovered that she had all her sons facebook log on details, and had changed it so that all his updates came to her blackberry!!! I was asconsed, and suggested that her son would not be too happy about this!!!

After a 2 hour flight we landed at Beef Island on the BVI, watching out on route for the ash clouds that had been thrown up by the recent Eruption at Montserrat. On clearing customs, the rather grumpy customs man found the arnicas that mum had left in my rucksack. He asked me what it was and I explained. He seemed unamused, and proceeded to carry out a drugs test in front of us, and the awaiting tourists!! I was a little worried, as you really never know!!!

From here we got a taxi to the camp ground at Brewers bay at dark!! We pitched our tent, and then famished went to the local burger bar, where we had what seemed like the best burger, although I am pretty sure that this was very much to do with our hunger!!

Caribbean Trip. Feb 13, 2010

our last day in the Dom Rep was spent enjoying the views and tranquillity of the ecolodge. We just chilled out in the surroundings, and then ate a really good dinner at the lodge consisting of beef tenderloin, rice, and really good mashed potatoes with garlic!!

Caribbean Trip. Feb 12, 2010

After a greasy breakfast we put on our most sturdy trainers, and then met in the bar area with a Dutch post grad student, who is doing her masters on the impact of ecotourism on local communities, Dave, who is living there helping build the economy’s of the local communities, along with Mike and Michele, friends of Dave, over from Florida to see what Dave is doing. Our destination was a beautiful series of waterfalls, about an hours walk away. The first 30 minutes of the walk was down the road, and then across local farmers fields, passing a number of local communities, where Dave explained about the local economy depending largely on the trees, which they burn for charcoal. It appears that this is very unsustainable, as the steep sided valleys, lose all their nutrients to run off, when the trees are decimated. As a geography graduate, I was understandably excited!!

After this we walked up a river, through the water, and over rocks for about 20 minutes, where we came to a series of waterfalls, which we could swim and jump into, and which were very picturesque! We lounged here for an hour or so, and then returned back through the river to the ecovillage, understandably completely drenched.

In the evening we went for a trip to the local town of Sosua, which is on the coast. Initially we had been told that if we walked down the road for 20 minutes we could pick up a taxi at the next village. Unfortunately that estimate had been by car and not by foot. This meant that we were a little footsore, and ended up jumping in a taxi with some French tourists, who were happy to accommodate us.

We got to Sosua, and my first action was to find the only professional hairdressers in the Town, where I tried to explain in broken Spanish that I wanted my hair shorter, but not too short, which you may imagine did not translate too well, and my hair got cut to what I assume is a one of only about 3 or 4 that is on offer. I imagine however that I actually did well not to get a complete shave!!

From here we went and had well needed big meal in one of the local restaurants, before heading to try and find a couple of local bars. We had not however banked on what would come next. We found a strip of bars just after our meal, and we stayed here to have a couple of beers, and rum and cokes. However as the night wore on, we rapidly realised that the strip of bars more resembled their name sakes, than the type of bar we were hoping for. This was emphasised, when myself and Ollie were constantly being approached by a number of local ladies of the night touting for business, to my severe unamusement. This is for me the least enjoyable part of the trip thus far. We wanted to make a night of it however so we stayed, tom Ollie, and Michele ignoring more than myself, the seedy old men, and their following harems of willing others……..

On the way back we witnessed another part of Dom Rep society that is still prevalent in more developed countries, but less on show. As we took the Taxi back to the Eco Village, having managed to impressively barter the price down to a lesser price than was going rate we pulled up to a lorry in front of us on the coast road. As we approached I noticed vaguely, being in the front seat, that the left backdoor of the lorry was wide open. What I did not expect was what was inside. Perched on the ledge of the van was a man, swaddled in a balaclava, wielding an Uzi (big gun). Looking beyond this I could see the silhouettes of a number of small persons, packed into the rear of the lorry. It hit me straight away what it could be, and as the taxi pulled back as a result of a nonchalant wave of the man’s gun I turned to our driver and asked. ‘Senor. Estan chicos de Haiti no?’ He turned back and nodded before placing a finger to his lips. They were children trafficked out of the stricken Port Au Prince, and were clearly not up for discussion. I did not press the matter further….

A little stunned by our experience and contemplating what we had seen we turned in for the night.

Caribbean Trip. Feb 11, 2010

Checking out at 10 AM we left McDuffs to clear customs at Exuma international, the main island in the Exuma chain. It was real easy going, and after a quick refill, we headed to the Dominican Republic on a 3 hour flight. Low cloud on the approach meant we had to try and find a path through the mountains, which seemed not to be too much trouble for tom. As Ollie pointed out from the air it looked more like England than a Caribbean island!!

Our lodging for the next 3 days was to be Tabagua Ecovillage and plantation, which rested high in the mountains that make up the central area of the island. The mountain roads that led from Santiago, the airport to the ecovillage, were definitely what you could describe as dangerous. (For those of you that have seen top gears latest soire through the mountains of South America, our experiences were not that far detached!!).

Arriving late at night we could not see the view from the lodge, which we had been told was spectacular. Instead we were treated to some local cuisine consistent of fish rice beans, and to start homemade salsa and chips… mmmm…

The ecolodge was very well crafted, and hats of to Tim, the kind man who runs the place. He has moulded basic provision with home comforts to create a good mix of adventure and comfort, with a bed and pillow available overlooking the edge of the mountain, with no mosquito netting, and no walls, just sheets to guard from the jungles inhabitants!!