Sunday, 28 August 2016

Maho

Yesterday we went to Maho Beach.  Nathan and I have been there once, but we didn't like it much.  It had a very shallow beach and seemed kind of rocky.  However, on Friday at the library Eden and I spent a few minutes talking to a local guy who was at the library with his two little daughters.  When I asked them what their favorite beach was, they both immediately said, "Maho!"  Their dad affirmed that it is a great beach, so we decided to try it.

Turns out they were totally right.  We went first thing in the morning.  There weren't many people there when we arrived, and, best of all, the tide was out!  This left a beautiful white sand beach to play on.  Maho is a north shore beach, so it has the typical beautiful water, but it's a deeper bay than the others, so it's not as windy and has hardly any waves.  We ended up having a great time, especially with a particularly bold seagull!





The seagull did eventually eat from Z's hand as well.

And today, after church, we went to our last beach of the vacation.  So sad!  At Eden's request we went to Cinnamon Bay and it turned out to be a fantastic choice.  The Cinnamon Bay campground seems to be closed for the season as of today, so the place was absolutely deserted.  We had lots of fun swimming and jumping around; we even had a contest to see who could stand on Daddy's shoulders the longest.  Even Mama played -- it was quite the scene.  We also went snorkeling a the very end of the beach, which has some good rocks and coral.  We saw a wonderful variety of fish, including a big old puffer fish!

It's been a great vacation, but I think all of us are ready to head home tomorrow.  Sioux Falls, here we come!

Pretty Island Girl


The Hill

There's a bit of a hill from the main road up to our house here.  The reviews said as much, but I assumed it meant the typical straight up/straight down with a hairpin curve in the middle type of road.  No, that's not what it is.  It's pretty much straight up the most rutted trail you can imagine.  We've all found that the best way to get up it (especially the last part, which is particularly bad) is just to scream as loud as you can.  Z and E have then taken to fake barfing at the end, and then yelling "Jinx! Jinx! Jinx! King Jinx!" at each other as loud and fast as they can.



5:00

During this vacation, Nathan and the kids established a tradition called "Yummy Drink Time."  It's at 5:00 every day of the vacation (starting sometime near the beginning of the second week).  The three of them whip up a yummy drink and then we all enjoy it.  It's a very good vacation tradition!



Saturday, 27 August 2016

Invest 99-L

Invest 99-L is a tropical disturbance that has been making its way across the Caribbean and towards Florida and the Gulf of Mexico for the last few days.  Everyone from NOAA to the Weather Channel was predicting tons of rain, strong winds, and the potential for it to turn into a tropical storm or even hurricane while it was over the Virgin Islands.  So on Tuesday evening we resigned ourselves to the last few days of our vacation being very rainy, indoor days.

However . . . nothing of the sort happened.  Every morning we woke up to blue skies with scattered clouds (sometimes white and puffy, sometimes gray and gloomy), and each morning we decided we might as well go do something as long as the weather holds.  So we did something Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and today!  Fantastic weather all around.  (Ok, we did get rained on on both Wednesday and Thursday for about 10 minutes, but swimming in the rain is actually pretty fun.)

So on Wednesday, because we thought the weather could turn bad at any moment, we stayed close to home and went to Hanson Bay.  We found a fun ball to play with (it bounces on the water!) and I finally had a close encounter with a sea turtle.  Yay!  Nathan was snorkeling and saw one.  He called me out, but by the time I got there it was gone.  So disappointing.  However, I decided to just swim around a bit and see what I could see, and after about 10 minutes, I spotted one on the bottom, munching on some sea grass.  He was big!  His shell was probably 2 feet across, and there were a couple of fish (remora maybe? This guess is based on extensive knowledge gleaned from Wild Kratts.) swimming underneath the turtle.  I called Z over, who was out snorkeling, too, and we both watched him for a few minutes.  The water was fairly deep, so he was probably 20-30 feet below us.  Just as we were about to swim away, he decided to swim away, too.  He worked his flippers and just seemed to fly through the water -- so graceful.  Z and I immediately followed and both of us got within a foot of touching his shell.  He was absolutely gorgeous, both in his looks and his movement.  We followed him for a couple of minutes, then he pooped in our faces and got away.

Hanson Bay

You can't see it, but there's actually a pelican sitting in the tree just about Eden.

This is how both children are spending their days.

Face down in the water.
 
Getting on her mask
Remember the girl from the old Coppertone ads?  So adorable.


On Thursday we went back to Brown Bay.  We had to go at least one more time!  At the beginning of the hike we saw a beautiful family of deer.


And once we made to Brown Bay we did our usual things -- collect crabs and conchs, snorkel, lie in the pristine water and pretend the the rest of the world doesn't exist.  Good times.


Nathan also discovered some ruins, so we explored those a bit.  The area was very jungle-y, which wasn't really my thing, but Nathan and the kids enjoyed it.











And of course, we had to have fun with the hermit crabs!




The best thing about the weather reports is that we were TOTALLY alone both days and had these gorgeous beaches entirely to ourselves.

How to Eat on a Budget in St. John

Here's a word to our future selves (and to friends who will follow our sage advice to go to the most  blessed isle) from Nathan.

1. Bring a suitcase of food with select items.  A well-selected collection of foods will save you over $100, even after the luggage checking fee.  Recommended: special diet foods, spices, snacky items (like granola bars), chocolate, luxury items.  The pricing scheme on St. John is set to gouge tourists on items like these.

2. Find the in-season produce.  Don't suppose that everything is in season in the Caribbean.  It's not.  And hardly anything is actually grown on St. John.  So, for example, this last time limes were three for a buck, but (browning) avocados were $3.50 a pop.  Prices change weekly.  We saw pineapple go up 50% one Monday.

3. Go for close-dated sales.  If you’re only there for a week, you’ll use items before they truly expire.  Cheese can be marked down by 70%.  We found Bugles, my arch-vacation-food, for $1.99.  Should have stocked up and risked the instant heart disease! 

4. Eat out early, during happy hour.  A lot of places have food specials along with the drinks.  That means timing meals (or ditching the dinner schedule), shooting for 3-5pm.

5. Beyond these principles, set a budget and ignore mark-up.  Who cares that peanut butter is five bucks, or that a store has that bag of rice jacked up by 300%, or that you can get that exact kind of chicken strip at home for half the price?  Everything is expensive here at the edge of the world.  Set yourself a budget, eat well, and enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

This and That

Our time is getting short here on St. John.  We've been spending the last week exploring beaches, snorkeling, and swimming.

A few days ago we went to Trunk Bay, which is beautiful, but a little more crowded than we like.

I know it doesn't look crowded in this picture, but it was actually crowded (for St. John).
We've seen some iguanas:


And went for a hike on the east end.  There were gorgeous views but a very precarious trail (if you could even call it that).  We ended up at a small little bay that seems to have at one time been a construction site (although nothing was built as far as we could tell).  The place was full of trash, which the children were delighted with, and coconuts, which they tried desperately (and futilely) to open.  It was like watching Castaway starring my children instead of Tom Hanks.














Yesterday we went to Waterlemon Bay, which has a cay in it (a very small island just off shore, usually with good snorkeling).  You have to hike to Waterlemon Bay, but it's a beautiful, flat hike which follows the water line.  Waterlemon Bay is a rocky beach, but the snorkeling was gorgeous!  Z and Nathan went out to the Cay and saw lots of great fish and color.  Eden and I stayed closer to shore, but still saw so many different fish of all sorts of colors and sizes and shapes.  It was amazing! 

Walking the trail to Waterlemon Bay

The view alongside the trail.  Breathtaking!

Panoramic of the view from the trail, with Z on the left and Nathan on the right.

That's the Cay.

These little red bugs were everywhere.  Eden spotted this pile up.
The hike home.
I can't resist these end-of-the-day pictures.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Skitty

Eden caught a little, tiny lizard in our bathroom this evening.  She named it Skitty because it skittered around so fast.





Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Catherineberg Ruins

Today we stumbled across the Catherineberg Ruins.  They are the ruins of the Catherineberg sugar plantation and mill, built around 1718.  This plantation had the only windmill on the island and became the headquarters for some of the leaders of the 1733 slave rebellion on St. John. (Incidentally, we had just been at the library and I found a book by Scott O'Dell called My Name Is Not Angelica, which is about the 1733 slave rebellion.  The kids and I are going to read it together.)  We've never seen these ruins before, and they are in fantastic condition, so it was a great find!  The kids loved scampering all over the old buildings, and it's incredible to imagine the lives that centered on this little plot of land over the centuries.

The remains of the windmill

The windmill

A storage bin

Underneath the windmill.  I'm having trouble finding good information about these ruins, so I'm not exactly sure what happened here.  I assume it was the mill -- the windmill above turned some apparatus to crush the sugar cane (maybe?).

Z underneath the windmill



Eden inside the body of the windmill

Stairs going up into the body of the windmill


Looking up out of the windmill


Inside the body of the windmill.  I don't know what those grooves are about.


Our first family picture of the vacation!

Brain coral used in the construction of the walls.






A panoramic of the windmill and the structure underneath it.



These ruins are just down the hill from the windmill.  They look like the plantation house, although there were no signs, so I'm just guessing.


It was hot!