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Thread: Anegada Trip Report (non diving w/ a little geography thrown in)

  1. #1
    Grouper
    Join Date
    10/14/2008
    Location
    Hollywood, FL
    Posts
    826

    Anegada Trip Report (non diving w/ a little geography thrown in)

    12/20 Sunday

    An easy travel day to reach the world’s end: on time out of FLL arrives early in San Juan. We meet the charter and barely an hour later are touching down in Anegada. Keel Point is on the north side of the island; our closest neighbor is Cow Wreck, two miles to the west. The cottage is charming with a separate bedroom and king-size bed. Our view is the ocean, steps from our front door; the only sound the waves crashing on the reef, 1/4 mile off shore.

    Three miles before Keel Point the paved road turns to hard packed sand, deeply rutted like a washboard. I can’t help myself. I break into loud song: “Away in a manger …” letting my voice hold the notes in a long vibrato over the bumpy road. Tall Guy sings harmony.

    Back home we grab our masks and snorkel and head out to the reef. There isn’t much to see this time of day but the water is clear with little current. We see a few fish, including a large lizard fish camouflaged in the sand. The beach is littered with conch shells. We could fill our suitcases ten times over and still not make a dent.

    After supper we carry our wine outside. The sky is so crowded with stars it’s difficult to find a familiar constellation.

    12/21 Monday

    I wake to sunshine and the gentle sound of waves breaking on the beach. I walk east along the water’s edge. The sand is white powder beneath my bare feet. The sea is flat, crystal clear and the air is still cool. Ghost crabs scurry sideways ahead of me. I see something moving: a ray grazing for breakfast.

    I will not dive this week. There is only one operator and they do not offer Nitrox. But the waters are shallow inside the 18 miles of horseshoe reef that surround this remote island. The snorkeling and free diving are good enough. I have seen sharks, turtles and rays just standing along the shore, much more with my mask a short swim away.

    I see no one, no houses or cars. My phone shows a signal but I cannot make calls. There is no internet. We are unplugged from the outside world.

    After lunch TG naps while I head back to the water. I swim out to the reef. I startle a large cowfish. I spy a sea biscuit 15 feet below me. I dive down, examine it as long as my breath will hold and then carefully place it back on the ocean floor where I found it. Later we walk along the beach to Cow Wreck. You reach that point on every vacation where time seems to stand still. On Anegada it takes about 24 hours.

    12/22 Tuesday

    Anegada is home to two indigenous fauna: the Rock Iguana and the Roseate Flamingo. The iguanas are so ancient scientists believe they are one of two species from which all others evolved. They were almost made extinct by the island’s feral cat population. But about 12 years they created a Head Start program where the juveniles are kept in captivity until they have grown large enough to survive in the wild. We drive into the only town, the “Settlement”, to look at the iguanas in their wire cages. This is the only way we will ever see them. They are too shy to let any but the most dedicated researchers near. The one time we tried, years ago, the only thing I had to show for it was a very bad scratch from clambering around in the dry scrub.

    The flamingos are another story. They are always in the salt pond that takes up much of the center of the island. This morning as we drive by they are close to the road. They are elegant and regal.

    We set up yoga mats at Loblolly Bay. The baking sun and shifting sand turn our arms and legs to jelly. We rush into the water to cool off and snorkel out to the reef. The biggest lobster I have ever seen is hiding under a ledge. Later I say “dinner for two.”

    12/23 Wednesday

    The Christmas winds have arrived. The breakers on the outer reef roar like a continuous freight train. But the sun is shining warm and bright. We pack a picnic lunch and drive to Cooper Rock. From here we will walk east. We have hiked this stretch of Anegada many times. You never see another soul. We’ve never even seen another soul’s footprints. We walk for about 2 ˝ hours. Tall Guy finds six beautiful sea biscuits along the way, each more perfect than the last. The smallest is larger than my palm. He narrows down to three finalists and over peanut butter-banana sandwiches we debate the merits of keeping those.

    I stop to look at something in the bushes. A snake slithers away, like a strip of butterscotch. I poke his tail and he disappears. We hike back to the car. Five hours in the hot sun and a cold Red Stripe make naptime easy.

    We have company. There are three little cottages at Keel Point, two one-bedroom and one two-bedroom. The owners live in the small house closest to the road. There is a beautiful covered gazebo where I have taken to having my morning coffee, looking out at the ocean. The sea is an impossible shade of blue. Up until today we were the only ones here. Now there is a car parked next to the two-bedroom.

    12/24 Thursday

    The plan is to run to Neptune’s Treasure for breakfast and then walk home along the beach. We run the five miles in an easy 45 minutes. After breakfast we start walking. Three times our efforts are thwarted: the seas are so high we are forced to detour back to the road rather than wade through neck-deep water. We pass the Cuan Law, anchored in the bay at Pomato Point. Years ago I sailed with this trimaran. It is a beautiful way to dive the BVI’s. We finally give up and stick to the road. Three hours later we are at Cow Wreck.

    Fortified, we walk along the beach back to Keel Point. The breakers send high rooster tails into the air. My feet hurt: I’ve had enough of this sea- sand-salt pedicure. Tall Guy strips. The water is cool and refreshing.

    Anegada is part of the BVI chain. It sits about 15 miles northeast of Tortola. It is ten miles long and less than three at its widest point. There are approximately 200 residents and just as many loose cows, goats and donkeys. The people accommodate the animals: fences surround homes and access from the road is across a trench with pipes. Cars and people can easily cross but not so little hoofed feet. Stateside we would corral the animals. On Anegada, people make the concession.

    We are back at Neptune’s Treasure for dinner. We have ordered lobster. The plates are overloaded with the fresh meat. We stay long after dinner. TG has splurged on a cigar. There is a festive crowd here tonight, some guests from the hotel, many off the sailboats anchored in the bay. The stars are bright. The local version of carolers, called “serenadors”, stop by to sing island Christmas songs. Everyone gets up to dance. Randy pours a round of eggnog. I think about this beautiful, peaceful island and the fact that is it Christmas Eve. I am surrounded by wondrous nature, with a man I love. Silent night, holy night indeed.

    12/25 Friday

    Christmas Day. We wake at 5:00 to a monsoon. The rain is furious, pummeling the roof of our little cottage. We pull the covers over our heads and go back to sleep. Next time I wake the sun is shining and the air is calm. Even the breakers are quiet: nothing more than a gentle lull.

    The Soares have invited us to Christmas dinner. This is the third year we have celebrated with them in their home at Neptune’s Treasure. We met in 1997 when we first visited Anegada and over the years have become part of the inner circle of regular guests now treated as family. It is good to see Vernon, Dean, Linda and the rest. We have not been back in two years and there is a lot of catching up to do along with traditional ham, turkey and all the trimmings. There are four new babies, two marriages and a divorce. I let Linda do the talking and try not to ask too many questions.

    12/26 Saturday

    We do yoga in the gazebo before the sun gets too hot. The family in the two-bedroom watch us from their porch. After a quick swim we drive to Windlass Bight. To get there you can hike along the beach all the way from Cow Wreck or you can drive. If you drive, take the narrow dirt road that runs through the center of the island, past the round house and then left after the green fence. There is no one here. The white powder sand stretches for miles in either direction. TG sees something moving. I watch carefully until a little head pops up. A turtle I cry! And another! And another! And there’s a baby! I wade thigh-deep into the water to get a picture. The baby disappears. We snorkel for hours and see many turtles and baby lobster. Later Linda tells us she has seen spotted eagle rays and nurse sharks at Windlass. We will be back.

    But now we must go home and pack. Tomorrow we move to the upstairs apartment at Neptune’s Treasure for the remainder of our stay.

    12/27 Sunday

    It is raining as we pack up the jeep. It rains on our way across the island and rains as we carry our things upstairs. But the apartment is every bit as cozy as our seaside cottage. It has a beautiful view of the bay and we can see the salt pond through our bedroom window. It rains off and on all day. I put a dent in my 1,000-page Clavell.

    Later in the afternoon we walk along the beach to the Reef Hotel. We see bone fish, tarpon, brown jellyfish and pipefish swimming in the shallow water just off the beach. I walk to the end of the dock. The clouds have parted, bathing the moored boats in sunshine. A splash in the water. A yellow dorsal fin cuts the surface. I watch and wait. Sure enough, the shark breaks again. This time I see his back and tail. It is a lemon, about four feet long.

    There is a buzz in the restaurant tonight. The BVI’s governor, the honorable Sir David Pearey, his wife Susan and daughter Poppy are having dinner at Neptune’s. We share a cocktail with Vernon and Rhonda, away from the main dining area. The governor introduces himself to Vernon. After they go he looks at me with raised eyebrows. I say, “If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.”

    12/28 Monday

    We are back at Cooper Rock. Today we will hike all the way to the east end, past Pelican to East Point. The seas have picked up: the waves roll fierce and mighty. The air is filled with a fine mist from the spray. We take our time, searching for whatever treasures have washed ashore. We climb a small dune and look towards the center of the island. Another salt pond; this one so undisturbed it feels primordial. There is a large black heron sitting in the middle of the pond. We find the perfect place for a picnic lunch. A sea grape so large there is a clearing in the middle and a canopy over our heads. It is nice to get out of the hot sun. TG is collecting wonderful old buoys. They will look nice hung from the banyan tree in our backyard. I am collecting sea shells. I plan to arrange them for a photo: next year’s Christmas card. I will return them to the sea when I am done. Perhaps I will keep just one. It is a simple half shell, yellow tinged with violet on the outside. Inside is a dark purple, except one perfect, white, five-pointed star. Painted by the hand of God. I am, as always, astounded by the beauty of Mother Nature.

    We reach the final turn around the east end of the island. The sand gradually gives way to sea grass and mangroves. We see the peaks of Virgin Gorda to the south.

    The only way back is from whence we came. It took us three and a half hours to hike this far. We did not see another soul. After an hour of walking we feel the wind shift ever so slightly. The temperature drops a few degrees. There is a huge storm brewing on the horizon. TG says, “I don’t want to get caught in that, let’s pick up the pace.” He plows ahead. He is 6’5” with long strong legs. I stumble behind, trying to keep up on this Bataan Death March across the sand. I am exhausted and dehydrated but we arrive at the jeep 40 minutes sooner than expected. We have outrun the storm.

    12/29 Tuesday

    Just as you reach that point on vacation where time stands still, you also reach a point where time accelerates. We have only three more days to do all the nothing we still wish to do.

    We are back at Windlass Bight. I can’t get enough of the turtles. The bay is full of them: their little heads popping up every way we look. The rough seas have churned up the sandy bottom. We try to snorkel but it’s like swimming in warm, green milk. We are content to turtle spot from the beach.

    Vernon and Rhonda have invited us to dinner. It is his 78th birthday. Vernon had been recently widowed when we first met 12 years ago. He and I have always adored each other. In spite of TG he used to beg me to stay with him every time we visited. I have always called him the “Silver Fox of Anegada.” He and Rhonda were married last fall. It is good to see him so happy.

    12/30 Wednesday

    Another rainy day. I cannot begrudge this island their rain. I suppose if I was returning home to the cold, gloomy north I would not be so charitable. But we live in South Florida and know the importance of rain.

    We use the time to drive around the island, taking photos. We stop at Cow Wreck for lunch. The rain has stopped for the moment but there are ominous black clouds brewing on the horizon. We are in luck: the kite surfers are just down the beach. This is a Belgium family spanning three generations of professionals, many world champions. They holiday here every year, setting up camp on the far west end of the island. We have watched their aerial acrobatics many times in the past. It is amazing to see, some no more than ten or twelve years old. They ride the crashing waves fearless, sailing far past the reef straight into the storm clouds. Before long there are eight, twisting and twirling. The rain has started in earnest. It is difficult to get a good picture but the sight is thrilling.

    We want to explore a new road. We think it may end at Soldier Wash: a desolate outcropping of solid rock on the north side of the island. We park the jeep and hike into the scrub. Anegada is a coral atoll, one of only three in the Atlantic. The coral is visible here: we walk on a flat pathway riddled with pockmarks and sinkholes. It seems solid enough but I would not want to drive a vehicle this way. We hear the roaring waves but cannot get any closer to the water. I am not wearing appropriate shoes for scrambling around in the cactus. Soldier Wash will have to wait.

    We have invited Linda to join us for dinner in our upstairs apartment. TG is making spaghetti. It seems appropriate for this rainy day. After dinner we wander back down to the bar for a night cap. A loud party of 32 has just left and the only remaining are the regulars staying on property this week. There is friendly camaraderie among our group of no-longer-strangers. TG is chided for not making spaghetti for everyone.


    12/31 Thursday

    Randy has given us driving directions to Soldier Wash. “Take the secret road just before Big Bamboo and turn right at the green fish net in the tree.” I love this island.

    We are stopped by fighting goats. Normally skittish, the animals have locked horns in a turf war. We wait for them to notice us and then drive on. We park the jeep and walk to the beach. Something warm wraps around my ankle. I look down, just in time to see the snake slither away. Another strip of butterscotch. TG and I collapse in hysterical laughter, mostly from the surprise.

    Anegada is desolate, windswept and fierce. She does not give up her secrets easily. But once you have discovered her soul, you are captivated. Soldier Wash is one of those special places. It is littered with hundreds – no thousands – of conch shells. But these are different: the hard rock and pounding waves have polished away any sharp edges and they are so pink you’d swear they can’t be real. We find helmut conch, large cowries and a neptune’s trident: all incredibly rare. My pocket is full of smooth sea glass. Photos will not do justice to this magical place. TG calls me with a whistle. He has found a small waterproof wallet. Inside is $78: seed money for our trip back. The sea has been generous with her treasure on our last day.

    Tonight we dine with Dean and his family. We sit outside under the full moon. Later we stroll down the beach to the Reef Hotel. A local reggae band is playing, the party in full swing. Chuck finds a mop and we use the handle to limbo. On the third try I blow out my knee. I will pay dearly for this tomorrow but for now I just wince back to my chair. Others have joined the line – my absence is not noticed. TG and I dance on the soft sandy beach. The moon is bright, the air warm and the waves gently lap against the shore. At midnight we watch the fireworks on Virgin Gorda. It is hazy but we see well enough to welcome in the New Year and say goodbye to this beautiful island. For now.

  2. #2
    Shark
    Join Date
    08/01/2007
    Location
    Temecula CA
    Posts
    2,356
    Great report...thanks....sounds like a relaxing vacation...have you dove there before? if so what is the diving like!

  3. #3
    Grouper
    Join Date
    10/14/2008
    Location
    Hollywood, FL
    Posts
    826
    Thanks Scott. So relaxing sleepy Hollywood (FL) seems frenetic.

    I've only been to Anegada in the winter months. And every year the Christmas winds keep the dive boats docked. Every year I bring my gear home as dry as I've packed it so the last couple have not even bothered. I've heard it's incredible and if the snorkeling is any indication, I have to agree.

    TG and I are already planning to go back in July. I will most likely get to dive then - and will definitely let you know.

    By the way, there are now two dive shops: We Be Divin out of the Reef Hotel and another dive operator out of Big Bamboo at Loblolly. Both shops were closed the past two weeks.

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