Sunday, October 21, 2007

Greatest show on Earth

So... there's this:

Me and teh shmoop had the extreme privilege of spending a week in the most beautiful place on Earth, the Virgin Islands. In particular, we stayed on the gloriously uninhabited St. John (below, right).

Out in the middle of nowhere, especially in the off-season, this is the perfect place to keep from killing all the neighbors (or Estonians, if there are no neighbors handy). We flew into the big island of St. Thomas (left) and disembarked from a cross-channel ferry in the harbor town of Red Hook.

The boat chugged off on a 15 minute ride to St. John, accessible only by boat -- no airports, and shit, barely any roads, either.

This is Janice riding high in life on the top deck, moments after the crew brought us some rum. The people to our right, from New Jersey, were already nattering about unimportant bullshit, apparently impervious to the natural wonder around us.

The resort is built on an entire fucking peninsula, which is to say the grounds were huge. Rolling hills, palm trees, mangroves, all sorts of greenery -- the fragrance was amazing. The Caribbean is an entirely different world. You know, some people say you have to see Hawaii. Fuck Hawaii -- there's the Virgin Islands. Talk to me about the Great Barrier Reef if you want me to fly for 18 hours...

Here's our daily walk to breakfast, like a morning stroll through goddamned paradise, 90ยบ by 8 a.m. and drenched in hot, hot sun. Butterflies kept buzzing us, like something out of Garcia Marquez.

We don't go to relax, however -- we go to snorkel. We swam miles each day, practically mapping the seafloor of all its coral, fish, and crustaceans. This shot is a place called Leinster Bay, a remote beach inaccessible by car, so you have to drive off-road for a quarter of a mile on a washed out road and hike into the jungle for another mile-and-a-half just to get to the beach.

Here's Janice, preparing our snorkels on the hood of that neat lil' Jeep Wrangler. This bay, like all the others, revealed an orgy of tropical sea life, from parrotfish, hawksbill turtles, southern stingrays, sergeant-majors, triggerfish, barracuda, and tarpon. (Sorry, no underwater camera to document evidence of those claims).

This little unassuming cut is a place off Grass Cay called "Squidville," the first place Janice and I ever scuba dived. The only way for us to suck up any more grandeur of the USVI's beauty was to go under, and we gave it a shot with incredible results. We have to get certified, immediately if not sooner.

We always stopped to smell the musk of the cooling sea grape trees that grow seaside, sheltering the sugary beaches from the hottest part of the day. A hammock was in order for that chill-out.

Each day at 4 p.m., they threw an afternoon tea where you could eat scones and slurp Earl Grey as non-native mongooses (mongeese?) skitter around your ankles trying to steal crumbs of the sweet treats.

The last sunset -- so beautiful, so sad, that you'd weep into your Cruzan rum thinking about flying back to New Jersey the next day.

Totally relaxed and mellowed, here are two loving marrieds glum at leaving but feeling that we throttled every last bit of life we could squeeze out of the Caribbean... this month. Watch for breaking news in this space about how I'm quitting the publishing biz and compelling the wife to wait tables in a scallop shack in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Those'll be some good times, begging for PayPal donations to keep my snorkeling-while-rummed-up addiction afloat.