Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spanish Point, the Baths and Beyond

[Kyle]We arose early with a plan to head to "The Baths", the BVI's best known attraction. We had originally planned to get up earlier still, and use one of the day moorings at The Baths, but the prior evening a local had shared that we were only about 20 minutes walk away, hardly worth pulling up the anchor to move to the next bay! We were a little apprehensive knowingly approaching such a big tourist site (we don't like crowds, especially the cruise ship magnet points). However as Chris (fellow Gemini owner on Gypsy Cat) reported in his blog, "Not going here when in the Virgin Islands is like going to Paris without going the Eiffel Tower". So we went. We were glad we did; it was beautiful, it's in no way obscenely commercialized, and the crowds really were not that bad.

The Baths, and Devils Bay

Basically its just rocks on a beach, but this doesn't do it justice at all! From the park entrance, a winding path leads through 6' boulders down to a lovely tan beach where house size boulders partition the beach into several little pools with blue surf coming in. The day we chose, the conditions were still rough, and the park was flying the red flag (mooring field closed and no swimming, although everyone seemed to be ignoring the warnings. The mooring field was already full and there were swimmers and snorkelers crashing through the surf).

We got there early-ish and the beach was scattered with tourists - not as bad as we'd expected. We wandered from end to end (taking LOTS of pictures) before deciding to take the path to what I'd assumed to be the more secluded Devils Beach to the South. From reading the description in our guides, I'd mistakenly thought that the attraction was Devil's cove and the path was merely the means to get there. However, it was the path was a grand attraction in itself. The start involved crawling on our hands and knees into a cave formed from boulders resting atop each other - into a "room" with a beautiful pool of blue water, welcoming us to the other side. The path continued in and out of caves, around giant boulders, and through more pools. Some spots were narrow, with just enough room to squeeze through, others were steep with wooden steps or ropes placed to aid the walk. Each little cavern was beautiful. Every corner we turned opened up into an abstract vista of carved rock, light and shadow. I'm surprised our camera didn't overheat, we certainly had to change batteries out a few times! The trail eventually opened to Devil's bay and a beautiful pocket sized white beach, crowded with locals and visitors, splashing around or lounging and reading books; still a bit too crowded for our taste. We noticed a trail extending southward from the beach and set off to explore further. After yet more spectacular scenery, we eventually spat out onto a deserted little sandy beach - here we took our dip, splashing around for around 30 minutes with the place to ourselves, enjoying the water, the surf and the sun, before deciding to explore further south - you never know what is around the next corner.

[Maryanne]Just to be clear these "caves" are not real caves, but these giant boulders have been tossed in a pile, and landed on top of each other; you can crawl, walk and have a party in the various "caverns" left in the gaps between the boulders - it's really amazing, and as usual our pictures can never do the scene justice.

Beyond Devils Beach there is more and more stunning scenery and beaches, but this time the tourists don't follow. We spend hours here, and Kyle finds a crab to befriend

While Maryanne Discovered this guy - petrified - and stuck in the rock

[Kyle]The next beach was also deserted and composed of fist size (and larger) pieces of coral of all different shapes. The huge boulders here were just as dramatic as The Baths. Eventually, I scrambled to the end of the beach and got as far as I could before finding a vertical face there was no chance of me passing. After yet more photographs, we returned on the path back to Footprint. Our guidebooks had told us that the crowds tend to thin out after 1pm. However, we found the beaches and caves busier than ever at 2pm. At one of the choke points on the trail to the Baths, we had to wait for a chain of 40+ people passing in the opposite direction. By that time we were starting to feel like elephants in the circus, each holding on to the others tail - time to leave.

On the way out, we stopped by the shack of a local artist who makes jewelry from Conch shells. Maryanne and I particularly liked the necklaces, so we decided to splash out and purchase one. Arthur was low key, friendly, and a pleasure to give a sale too - he even charged us less than the already inexpensive ticket price (without us even asking), and gave us a spare lanyard to hold the conch pendant.

Maryanne, being a "non-standard-issue" type girl, reacted the way most women would have to a diamond; (which is definitely the opposite to the way Maryanne would react to diamonds). I must say it does look beautiful on her.

On the walk back to Spanish town we passed by the entrance to Spring Cove, and decided to investigate. What a wonderful detour! With the same swimming holes and rock structures of the baths, but filled with a smattering of locals celebrating the commonwealth day holiday at the main entry part of the beach (with Picnic tables and BBQs), but otherwise deserted - we had loooooong stretches of pristine beach to ourselves. The water was what the British call more-ish, like when you get a craving for something and just can't stop gobbling it down - I could not stay out of it; it was so warm and beautiful.

Exploring Spring Cove area

Kyle and Maryanne Find a dinosaur footprint, and Kyle scrapes himself somehow scrambling around on the rocks

We could find no return to the road, so we walked back to the beach where we'd entered. Here, Maryanne spotted a guy hiding among the rocks counting out money; she deliberately spoke to him and smiled, but certainly felt it peculiar. She suspected (but did not want to accuse) that he'd "found" a wallet. We returned to the boat, all aglow from our wonderful day, amazed at the beautiful life we lead and with each other. We still had a few hours before the sun set, so we decided to sail to our next stop - Trellis Bay. Mostly so I could sleep in guilt free the following morning.

As we turned the corner into the bay we were shocked at the huge mass of moored boats. Memories of Block Island and Cuttyhunk came flooding back. We were not sure if we'd find space at all, let alone to anchor. We eventually did what always seems to work for us, we found a spot too close to shallow water for most other boats to dare, and were able to get the anchor to set well (2nd time); I double checked the anchor by snorkeling on it just before the sun set. Safe and secure in the busy anchorage and pleased with ourselves and our lucky life, we enjoyed a home cooked meal and went to bed late, knowing we had no timetable for the following day.

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