Friday, 6 November 2009

The Caribbean under water - Part II

I know Puerto Rico is part of the Caribbean, but IMHO, the island's way too big to properly qualify :D. When we headed off further east though, towards the Virgin Islands, now that was definitely more like it! :)
We landed in Beef Island and given the general lack of public transport and the spread out nature of our interests (namely the hotel, restaurants we wanted to eat at and the diving place) decided to rent a car. What we got, was this!And then of course, there was the omnipresent injunction: "Drive on the LEFT!!!" Which wouldn't have been an issue, except for the fact that over 90% of all vehicles in Tortola are left-hand drive :). Yup! Welcome to BVI! Took me a while to get used to what could easily be termed the worst supposedly off-road vehicle I've ever been in :P. And the rather tortuous and hilly route we took to our beach side hotel definitely didn't help. But thereafter, things got better :).
Idyllic is probably the word that best describes the place we were staying in, way out on the West End, at Little Apple Bay. That's a real bay, by the way :). It's like that all over the place, fruity bays all along the coast :D.
Sadly enough, we decided to go have a look at the only town on the island to see if there was anything worth seeing. The absence of a things to do part to Lonely Planet's online guide on Tortola should have warned us. Well, let me tell you, there is nothing. And I mean absolutely nothing to do here, but for diving and surfing and sailing and having an awesome holiday on the beach. But none of that requires you to visit Road Town, so don't! Seriously! It's depressing :|.Next morning, however, we were up for the best couple of dives of the entire trip!! The wreck of the RMS Rhone! An iron hulled wooden Royal Mail Ship that had sunk in a hurricane back in 1867! I'd been a little worried that my rather non-extensive experience might be a problem. Thankfully, the divemasters were totally awesome!!So let me say this straight away, we did 6 dives off Tortola and St. Thomas, and all of them were wreck dives. I was hooked right from the first one! The fact that the Rhone is probably one of the world's most renowned wrecks (and it is indeed worthy of that title, really!) may have had something to do with it. But there's more to it than that. Wrecks, by their very nature attract a hell of a lot more marine life than your average reef!To add to the experience the visibility was simply awesome! So taken were we with the place, that we decided to add another two dives the next day. (Well, okay, the fact that there was really nothing much else to do may have contributed to that decision a little. :D) The rest of the day we spent cruising the coast and managed to get a fair taste of that other Caribbean thing, rum :D. No, we did not over do it, and yes, we were responsible :). The thing with this place is that every restaurant or inn almost, has their own rum!!
The last two dives in BVI were in Wreck Alley and here there were a whole bunch of boats sunk mostly by design, in varying levels of ruin. But at least you could tell these things were boats, with bows and sterns and bridges and masts and the whole lot :). Plus, by this time I was beginning to get half way decent at the whole diving thing :D.
Sadly enough, we were off to St. Thomas pretty much straight after those last dives. We'd been warned, but we had to see it for ourselves. Charlotte-Amalie, the main town on St. Thomas, is extremely busy and crowded! It's quite nice, but is a bit of a shock when you've just landed up from West End, Tortola :). But we'd managed to find ourselves a pretty decent place to stay and a place to dive!
We wanted to do the WIT Shoal, the ~400ft WWII Loading Ship Tanks vessel, but of course the weather had to be too bad. So we settled for the Miss Opportunity, an ex-hospital ship. The cool thing here was the penetration dive! You actual swim through a rather narrow passageway through the middle of the reasonably preserved ship! Very cool :D. What was also very cool was this turtle we managed to annoy a bit, probably :).The last dive wasn't supposed to be particularly awesome or anything, just your average beat-up broken down barge. But that's where we saw the stingrays in the sand!! Even managed to pat one on the head :P.
But with that our diving trip was more or less over. With visibility and conditions not really the best, we decided against more dives on the day we were leaving. Plus, by that time, we'd more or less been saturated with diving for a bit :). And then onwards it was just getting that residual Nitrogen out of the system and slowly winding my way back out, through Tortola and San Juan and all those flights back home :).
Now if only I can find a way to keep at this!!! I am really really hoping I manage to add to these figures soon! 11 dives, 6h 28m, max 133ft, 4 reef, 1 wall, 6 wrecks! :) Okay, mostly just the wrecks. And maybe do the Advanced Diver course at some point. Who knows, maybe what felt like a dream far far away from the real world might not be that hard to recapture? One can always hope.

Currently: looking for dive partners!
Listening to: Gui Boratto - No turning back

Underwater pics courtesy of Vishnoi.

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