The whole of our stay in the BVI is described here (long entry!)
Miami airport is chaotic with enormous queues, but we are luckily directed through the "passengers who need assistance" gate at security where Heidi again has her broken arm and sling swabbed and the pad put into a machine that decides she isn't hiding anything explosive in her sling.
The journey to the BVI is remarkably smooth and easy, via San Juan in Puerto Rico where we had a little over an hour to wait for our onward flight to the Beef Island in BVI. This last flight was on American Eagle, part of American Airlines.
Ron has never flown on a big plane with propellers before, but while he starts to get a bit nervous, Heidi reminds him that they have flown on teeny tiny seaplanes in the Maldives, and on one occasion the plane was piloted by a fellow guest! Luggage that is too big to go in the tiny overhead lockers is taken away on the tarmac as you clamber up the steps into the aircraft, and is packed into the plane (hopefully).
We arrive in the BVI, and after a quick trot across the tarmac into the airport, a kind official seeing Heidi's sling, puts us at the front of the queue for our luggage, but alas, when all the bags have arrived and all the other passengers have gone, we are still one bag short...
We approach an official who is apparently part of customs, and he starts telling us this is not unusual, stops, asks us if we have ever been to the BVI before, and when we say we haven't, he starts again, this time with a huge smile ... "Welcome to the British Virgin Islands !", before going on to tell us that this is a common problem in the BVI and what to do next!
We go outside, meet our driver "Sandman" who has been sent to collect us, and charming gentleman that he is, he tells us to relax, don't worry, go over there and tell them, get a cool drink, take your time, and we feel the legendary Caribbean chill-out settling on us both!
A quick chat to American Airlines, and they assure us that the bag is still in Puerto Rico, that it was not loaded because the plane was so full, and that they have 3 more flights that day, so the bag will probably be on one of those, and that they will deliver it to our accommodation.
Sandman drives us to Cane Garden Bay, we enjoy the precipitous hills (like a roller coaster!) the lush island flowers and trees, the odd cow, chickens, donkeys wandering across the road ! We round one hairpin bend at the top of a steep hill, to find three young men playing cards on an upturned crate.
Finally, we turn down a tiny lane to the Mongoose Apartments, and there they are, painted all the beautiful shades of the Caribbean sunset, turquoise, pink, lilac, orange and sunshine yellow. See the apartments (and Sandra and Elroy!) here on http://www.mongooseapartments.com
We are here!View Larger Map
A note had been left welcoming us warmly and describing where to go to find our apartment. It was just as described on the website and reviews, spacious, comfortable, cool, and amazingly well equipped with everything you could think of.
The bed was incredibly comfortable, but we resisted it, and unpacked Ron's bag, checked where everything was in the apartment, and wandered down to Myett's restaurant as per Sandman's recommendation.
The walk to and from Myett's was made to the accompaniment of an almost deafening frog's chorus, street lights that flickered on and off (spooky when it happens as you walk past the graveyard!) and the occasional local pooch that lolloped along beside you. No feral dogs here, all are well fed, some collared, and although they do beg at your table in the open restaurants on the beach, they are content to just sit and keep you company. One did make off with Ron's flip flops at the beach, leaving Ron in hot pursuit, but that seemed to be exactly what the dog had in mind!
We have a wonderful night's sleep, lulled by the sound of the frogs, and the cool breeze through the coconut palms.
We met with Sandra (one of the owners of Mongoose Apartments) the next morning who made us feel so welcome, and she got on the phone and checked out the lost luggage situation for us. Heidi's bag finally arrives at the apartment at 13:00 the next day - fortunately because she is smarter than the average bear and well advised by Sandra by email before we arrived, she had packed t-shirt and shorts, sandals and a swim cossie in her hand-luggage so had at least those with her. Because of the restrictions on liquids etc. in hand luggage, she didn't have any of her girlie conditioner and stuff like that with her though and next time she will pack some of that in Ron's suitcase (and vice verca for him).
Sandra assured us that this happens a lot, and that it was fortunate we had flown with American Airlines, as at least they delivered the baggage, other airlines make you go back to the airport and collect it!
We went back to Myett's many times during our stay. They had live music most nights, that ranged from the sublime (MJ Blues, and a singer from LA, KC something or another) to the unfortunate (single steel drum and poor renditions of Christmas Carols). The food was super, the mango daiquiris delicious and the service warm and affectionate.
On calmer sea days Ron would hold Heidi's hand so she could wade through the surf into the gently undulating waves beyond, and gently bob about in the ocean. Ron was hardly out of the water, and would float for ages, watching the pelican's diving for fish, sometimes within just a few feet of him!
We carried on the theme of Ron having to do the things that Heidi wanted to, but couldn't because of her broken arm, so he learned to body surf and use a boogie board (not easy to teach when you cannot demonstrate!) and duck dive with the board through the wave out. Ron now understands the thrill that keeps surfers out in the ocean for ages, waiting for the right moment on the perfect wave. Other people complained that the water was a bit cool, but we thought it was the perfect temperature. A couple of overnight storms meant the surf was really gnarly but that's when it is most fun dude!
The arrival of cruise ships changed the bay completely, being such a popular destination on the island with it's fabulous beach and plenty of restaurants and bars, there would suddenly be sunbeds on every available bit of shore.
Fortunately the area that we sat in, in front of Sandra and Elroy's home (the charming and hospitable owners of the Mongoose Apartments) seemed to denote the start of an area of beach that no vendors patrolled. This did not stop about 200 Italians clustering onto "our" bit of beach however (they didn't want to pay for a sunbed it seems) but they provided tremendous entertainment for people watchers and the dog who stole flip flops! Sandra always had the up to date info on when the cruises were arriving and how many people were expected so it was possible to plan ahead and get away from the Bay for the 11:00 til 15:00 period that the crowds would come.
We were again fortunate, and cruise ships only came in for 4 or 5 days out of the 12 we were there, and we arranged through Sandra to take a day sail on the White Squall II (see separate entry) and to hire a car for a couple of days when several ships were in.
We took a whistle stop tour of the coast of the island in our hire car from Del (a local in CGB), taking in several sights of note, including Bomba's Surfside Shack in Apple Bay overlooking Jost van Dyke in the distance.
Bomba's is a notorious island institution. It is made of driftwood, left-overs from construction sites and hurricane debris, built by Bomba himself, a large bushy-bearded man. It is decorated with faded business cards, photographs and a bizarre collection of women's underwear. Best known for its Full Moon Parties and magic mushroom tea, surfing (right offshore here), beer and basic BBQ.
We stopped in Road Town (the capital of Tortola) but as ships were in and everywhere was crowded, we only took advantage of having the car to go to a larger supermarket and stock up on heavier essentials such as bottled water, red stripe beer and wine!
We sussed out where to park the next day when we went for our day sail, and then a steep climb up out of Road Town and we decided to head for Brewer's Bay for lunch and a snorkel for Ron. Although this too had a lot of cruisers, all were efficiently dealt with and we had a cool drink, coconut shrimp and shade in no time. Listening to the cruisers on the next table we heard the eternal cruise question being discussed, do you pay all that extra for a room with a balcony, or save your money for shore excursions as your room is just somewhere to sleep ? Everyone had their own opinion - for us we would rather be under sail than motor any day.
A highlight of our stay on the island was walking along to Miss Elaine's house in the Bay, on a Saturday lunchtime, where she and her family had set up trestle tables with bain-maries keeping delicious local dishes warm.
For 5 bucks you could take away your choice of curried chicken, braised oxtail, two kinds of fish, pork chops, ribs, and rice, plantain (fried and boiled) cassava, pumpkin, corn on the cob, breadfruit, mixed veggies, coleslaw and potato & pineapple salad.
We also bought one of her pineapple tarts which served as breakfast and afternoon tea snack for some days! There was a mix of residents and visitors eating here, and a few kittens and chickens kicking around our feet!
All in all the living was charming, warm, sunny, delicious and easy during our stay on Tortola, and we will both be very sad to leave...