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Easter In the BVI 2007

This is the story and daily log of our trip to the BVI in 2007 for the The 12th Annual British Virgin Islands Spanish Town Fisherman�s Jamboree 

Day 1 Tuesday: As the tires touched down in San Juan Puerto Rico, we stepped outside to be greeted by the hot air of the tarmac, but also the hope and prospect of a wonderful Easter Vacation as this was the fist stop in our BVI vacation. As Heather and I took our short America Airlines �puddle jumper� we gazed out the window at the green tropical waters below and when we landed in Beef Tortola of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the first breath of air was warm and dewy sweet�and so fresh it was as if Febreeze was invented here. We took a short walk to the ferry just down the street from the airport and with a short 15 minute ferry ride we were in Virgin Gorda of the BVI and our vacation had started.

Verne Wheatley greeted us at the Virgin Gorda Dock and took us to our accommodations for the week, the Olde Yard Village on the Atlantic side of the island where the tropical breeze blows all day keeping temps a little more to my liking but certainly more than warm enough for Heather�s taste for the hot tropics.

The Olde Yard Village was designed as both a residential and resort community enclosed within private walls for seclusion among stately old growth trees and newly planted palms. Impeccably designed condos range from 800 to 2,300 square feet and offer plenty of room to live or visit. All offer oversize patios, luxury outdoor living and housed in low two or three story buildings scattered widely across throughout the property. It really was a wonderful place to stay with air conditioning should you want to use it, cable TV, a terrific small and quaint swimming pool naturally heated next to a small and shaded mini bar where Joan made the best Bushwhackers I have ever tasted. The Bushwhacker was our official beverage for most of the seven day trip. The Olde Yard Village is a condominium type of resort with full one or two bedroom facilities,

Once settled in we head over to rent our small 4x4 for the week and while I have been here before, it does take another day or at least a few trips to the store to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. While the steering wheel is on the same side as it is in the USA, we do drive on the left side of the road in the BVI and you have to pay attention coming out of parking lots as you have to look right first then left. After taking Heather for a spin around the 8-1/2 mile long Island we hit the IGA for some supplies for the week and of course some tropical drinks with Verne and my local friends from 2006�s trip before it was time to the hit the sack.

Day 2 Wednesday. We start day two as we did the rest of the week with breakfast down at the �Bath & Turtle,� the local gathering place for most business men and women on Virgin Gorda. Here the big screen TV has ESPN�s Sport Center on and since most of the locals here are NY Yankees fans there is much to talk about, and good natured kidding as well for local businessman David who is a San Fran Giants fan and another fellow is a LA Dodgers fan. Baseball is very big here and that�s all we speak about each morning as we have croissants, eggs and coffee with the ceiling fans going as temps are 75 to 80 degrees and the sun is bright and clear and the tropics are awaiting us to take advantage of her day.

Today is the day Heather goes snorkeling for the first time and we start our trip over at a small lagoon off a small strip of land where it is only a quarter of a mile wide with the Atlantic on one side the Caribbean on the other. The Caribbean is the side to snorkel on the Atlantic can be a little rough from the trade winds and the bottom is mostly coral reefs and only for the experienced snorkler. Stepping into the warm tropical water during Easter was like slipping into a warm bath. It was refreshing yet so wonderful while up in NY temps were 42 degrees that day.

The great thing about snorkeling in the Caribbean is you have all levels and the water is so shallow even an inexperienced swimmer like Heather can snorkel and see fantastic things and still be standing in chest high or shoulder depth water! All sorts of fish like Jack Crevalle, tarpon and other local tropical fish are always visible. On good days with calm winds visibility is usually about 70 to 100 foot or more. It�s the windy days that stir sand and adjust underwater visibility. All sorts of small tropical fish are visible within a few yards of the lagoon�s beaches and we hardly saw anyone there the week we stayed as Virgin Gorda is the quiet and �forgotten� Island in the BVI. Breakfast at the Turtle and snorkeling was our main events every day of our vacation.

We snorkled different beaches of course and the Baths on the far side of the Island are truly unique. The Baths are the centerpiece of this dramatic area on Virgin Gorda�s north shore. The Baths, a geological wonder comprised of awe-inspiring granite boulders form sheltered sea pools on the beach's edge. The protected area also includes Devil's Bay which can be reached from The Baths by a series of ladders scaling the boulders. Just north of The Baths, Spring Bay is reached by a separate road and includes a lovely white sand beach.

The most striking feature of The Baths is the numerous giant, granite boulders, some as large at 40 feet in diameter. Their origins are subject to debate, but they are probably the result of weathering of softer rock, leaving pockets of very hard granite exposed. These massive boulders can be found along the southwest coast of Virgin Gorda and at Fallen and Broken Jerusalem. At The Baths, the boulders form a cave with a sand bottom pool in one area. This is one of the most photographed spots of The Baths. The Baths is a major attraction for residents and tourists alike.

Between two sets of rocks is this open pool that gets as deep as 20 foot just 5 yards off the white sand beach and it is a true aquarium. Here you�ll see everything from the fish you see in a tropical fish shop to things you would never see like BVI flounder and small rays that blend in so perfectly, if you take your eyes off the fish for 2 seconds you lose it�really an amazing snorkeling experience. Be forewarned there is a current in here and there can be ground swells depending on wind direction so please be careful.

We finished Day 2 with a dip in the pool at Olde Yard Village and of course Joan�s fantastic Bushwhackers, then it was off for dinner at Fischer's Cove Beach Hotel with Verne, Angie Flax and the Flax family with Sandy & Darnell and some really good times. Fischer�s Cove serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with fine dining at the water's edge and features flavorful island cuisine, seafood, homemade bread, soups, and desserts. P: (284) 495-5252

The Night Life: Virgin Gorda does have many clubs for dancing and drinking and it does help to learn some Spanish before heading down there. Just some simple sentences and you�ll be set, but we had a good time with drinks and the local flavor and the Caribbean music, the pace of the people and the tropical night warming breeze.

All the while this past week since we�ve been in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Virgin Gorda, preparations are being made for the big Easter celebration coming this weekend along with the Spanish Town 11th Annual Wahoo Tournament. The Easter celebration is a huge event that last 48 hours with no one on the Islands sleeping and the entertainment at the big Carnivale doesn�t even start till 9 or 10 p.m. Sunday night. More on this later.

Day 3 Thursday: We set up scuba lessons for this morning. We had breakfast in the condo at Olde Yard Village and then Heather decided she wasn�t sure if she wanted to scuba or not as she was still getting her feet wet with the snorkeling. I always wanted to scuba so I went ahead as Heather stayed behind. Remember�if you have any sort of asthma as I do or any heart or respiratory condition you need to get a doctor�s note and bring it with you and fill out a medical form off the PADI web site you can down load.

So I head to the local resort for an hour or so lesson in shallow water and the basics of diving and diving safety. We start with a 45 minute classroom session on the beach shore under the palms, then to the water we head with equipment and try some shallow water swimming and diving. When the session ends the group is picked up and we head out on the larger dive boat to a federal reserve where it is illegal to take any artifacts or anything off the bottom. It was amazing my first dive and I concentrated on easy breathing and I actually lasted as long as the master divers and spent nearly 45 minutes under water returning with the prescribed 500 PSI left in the tanks. It was like swimming in a fish bowl with 80 feet or more of visibility. I was face to face with a giant spiny lobster which I really wanted to eat that night and I saw some very large barracuda. One over 4 foot long I could almost reach out and touch as it was laying in ambush next to the fuselage of an old sunken airplane. A very exhilarating experience to say the least.

I went diving with the great folks from Dive BVI Ltd located in the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor. With three locations spread from Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, Leverick Bay and Marina Cay, Dive BVI offers lessons and tours, group rates, 34, 38, 40 and 45 foot dive boats along with SCUBAPRO full service shops, PADI 5-star rating. Their web site is www.divebvi.com or you can call 284-495-5513

I couldn�t stop talking about my scuba trip back at the Olde Yard Village where I tormented Heather about what she had missed. She had a great day too though exploring Virgin Gorda on her own and spending much of her time snorkeling. As we sat in the swimming pool, again drinking Joan�s fabulous Bushwhackers, we contemplated where to eat dinner and what fabulous Island cuisine we would sample this night.

Day 4 Friday: Heather and I took the ferry over to Beef Tortola for the day to enjoy a day of shopping and walking about and we also took a taxi tour of the Island. Did you know there is actually a Rain Forest on Beef Tortola? It is Sage Mountain National Park. This park can be found along Tortola�s mountainous ridge and at 1,716 feet it is the BVI�s highest point. Within its lush boundaries you will find mahoganies, hanging vines, enormous elephant ears, white cedars and kapok trees, thick ferns and many other local rain forest floura.

Then we passed by the Thornton Plantation, the birthplace of one of Tortola's most famous sons. Architect William Thornton prepared his first plans for the new United States Capitol building here. Ruins of the Thornton family's Pleasant Valley sugar factory still stand. J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens are a cool and peaceful refuge located in the centre of Road Town. The four-acre gardens include a lush array of indigenous and exotic tropical plants. A pergola walk, lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses, and miniature rain forests are just a few of the garden's attractions. The gardens are considered by many to be among the finest in the Caribbean. We also stopped at a local Beef Tortola small sugar plantationoa nd Rum making facility built into a cave wher it was cool and the sweet smell of freshly distilled rum filled the air. We of course sampled some of the batch and purchased a few small bottles to take home as well.

We finished our last full day on Virgin Gorda having dinner and drinks with Verne Wheatley, Angie Flax along with her brothers Darnell and Sandy Flax at the  Fischer�s Cove Hotel and Restaurant.

Day 5 Saturday: Heather and I enjoyed breakfast in our condo, some bacon and eggs and then it was off to the local white sand beaches for more snorkeling since I had to stay on the Island today to get ready for the broadcast of The Fishing Line Radio Show, live from Virgin Gorda, at the Spanish Town 11th Annual Wahoo Tournament. Here we broadcast from the docks of the tourney and interview many, many guests and captains that fish from around the world who come to Virgin Gorda to fish this tourney. You can listen to some of the interviews and most of the on our Radio Show Page of the web site.

The festivities of the Easter Celebration begins at the Fair Grounds known as Festival Village at 8 pm with a brief ceremony with officials from the committee and Government, followed by entertainment by visiting bands until about 4:00 am.
  
Day 6 Sunday: I went fishing for the Spanish Town 11th Annual Wahoo Tournament. The day was very successful and similar to the trip I wrote about earlier this year�Click Here to read the story. Heather went snorkeling and actually went driving around the Island as she likes to explore things and she learned to drive on the �wrong� side of the road. She explored the Copper Mine National Park located on Virgin Gorda�s desolate southwest tip. This was mined by Cornish miners between 1838 and 1867 and perhaps even earlier by the Spanish. Today the remains of the chimney, boiler house, cisern and mine shafts can be seen. She also saw Devil's Bay National Park, a 15-minute hike from the top of The Baths brings you to the picturesque Devil's Bay at Virgin Gorda's southwestern tip. Its beaches are a tranquil location for swimming and snorkeling. Mooring buoys and a dinghy dock allow boaters to access the beach.

For the celebration, during the day there are beach events with food and music until about 7 pm. Then in the evening? Well you better take a nap during the day because nighttime is party time!! In the evening the fair grounds continue with more entertainment including a calypso show followed by many live music groups that will take you to 5 am in the morning. Then the Easter Monday street jam called Jouvert (pronounced
"jew-way") also called rise and shine tramp which goes until about 10:00 am Monday.

Day 7 Monday: Monday March 24th is actually is a public holiday "Easter Monday" approximately 12:00 noon a street parade of troops, bands and floats gets on the way for about a mile to the fair grounds, there they will perform for an awaiting audience. Heather and I took this in as well drinking tropical drinks and hanging with the locals enjoying the parades and then some napping and again snorkeling. Monday evening is known as �Last Lap,� when things heat up and goes again until midnight. It is a weekend when there is little sleep, and if you do, you�re likely to miss out on something big.

Day 8 Tuesday: A sad day indeed and Heather was moping around like she does the week before Labor Day (she�s a teacher) knowing vacation was over and it was time to for our trip home to NY. We said our goodbyes to the folks at Dive BVI Ltd and Capt. Linda Graham, the harbor manager at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor. We dropped the Jeep off at Flax rental services and Verne took Heather and I to the ferry for Beef Tortola and off to the airport we went. The entire ferry ride we just looking back at the shrinking silhouette of Virgin Gorda knowing in a matter of 4 hours or so we would be smelling the jet fuel filled air of JFK once again arriving home. And quickly thinking of our next trip back to the British Virgin Islands.

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