Before we get going:
I have tried so hard to be concise in writing this but I had to leave so much out. So rather than write a really long post or cut out a bunch of stuff I am changing this part of the journey into a separate 2 part series, Day 1 and Day 2. If you are just joining me this is the final leg of my journey through the islands and you have missed a lot of great events. So I am going to head over to the High Tide Bay near Cruz bay and have a rum punch while I wait for you catch up. Just head over to Part 1, St. Thomas. See ya soon!
In the following names have been omitted to protect the guilty (and guilty all were).
We loaded the ferry in Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, where we had spent the last few days. I was feeling rested and ready to go but Elena was struggling a bit after a long day the day before drinking rum and painkillers. But we were off and I was excited as we pulled into Cruz Bay on what was a beautiful day. Our friends Jack and Pinky were just passing through St. John on their way to St. Thomas as they were headed back home. But as we got on the early ferry and into Cruz Bay well before noon they opted to hang out for a bit.
We went through customs quickly and headed over to a little place (name alludes me) which is just in front of the High Tide Bar and Grill. We all got some much needed breakfast and water and sat and chatted with a friend of Jack and Pinky’s that works on the ferry. The owner informed me that she had the best rum punch on the island, a big claim in such a place as Cruz Bay. But I decided I needed to rehydrate a bit first and told her I would return later and be the judge of that.
But we all finished eating our breakfast and about that time High Tide opened so we decided to go inside as there is a much better view there and a great rum punch. Once inside some of us decided we needed some more food and I changed my mind about having a drink. But we enjoyed the morning by the bay and our friends had to depart for the ferry, so we all said goodbye and mine and Elena’s St. John Adventure began.
Stranded on a sandbar.
Our plan was to stay with someone who invited us to stay on her boat in Coral Bay.. Well we stopped getting replies from her about an hour ago so for the time we were on St. John with no place to stay. But being the adventurers we are we just decided our best bet was to head to Francis Bay, which was the last place our host said she’d be. Given the distance from Cruz to Francis and the cost of cabs, knowing we’d be going back and forth, and had several bags to lug around, we decided to rent a jeep. If you are ever on St. John this is something you absolutely must do!
So we got our jeep and headed out to Francis Bay. The drive alone was worth the cost of the rental as we got to wind our way through the switchbacks along scenic roads and outlooks, and really get a feel for the island. Stopping at several places that overlooked pictures’ bays that have been in so many songs and stories that I hold dear, I really started falling in love with the island.
We made our way to Francis Bay and still had no idea where our host was so we just setup under some sea grapes and relaxed in shade for a bit after a quick swim. But eventually the reality of needing to find a place to sleep or set up the tent, as well as hunger, set in and we opted to head back to Cruz Bay to assuage both of these urges.
We made it back to Cruz and returned to High Tide for some food and a few drinks while we considered our options. After lunch we walked around to the stores in the area, spoke to some locals about the issue, bought some rum and some juice to mix it with, and made a few calls to local hotels. But on such short notice the cost was more than I wanted to pay so we pressed on. But just as I was actually starting to become concerned and was mapping a place to camp in my mind our host, who’s phone apparently died, called us back and told of her location.
Travel Tip: If you rent a vehicle in Cruz Bay there are few if any free places to park so have cash and be prepared to leave your keys so they can be moved. But if you look near the national park lot and the side road behind it near mongoose junction you may find a few open spots.
We made our way out to Coral Bay again stopping along the way to take some great photographs. At one place I even found $20 which replaced the $20 I lost just hours before; so we were off to a great start! But short of avoiding some carelss donkeys that rome the island’s roads we made our trip with little problem. There are only a few roads on the island so finding your way around is no issue.
We arrived in Coral Bay and went to the Island Blues where our host and several friends were having some late afternoon drinks. As there is little parking here we were searching around. But eventually we were shown where we could park by the local “fish” salesman and we politely declined the need for any “fish” as my sprits were high enough. Now Coral bay is on the map and there are place like Skinny Legs that are known; but this place is far removed from Cruz bay and is very much a local side of the island. The people are a mix of bohemians, sailors, Rastas, hangers on, and transients. The bay is dotted with sailboats moored off, many of which I have a feeling seldom raise sail. This was a real place where reality and the rest of the world seemed far removed and time can easily be lost in a blur of rum and sunny island days. But I would say this is not for the average tourist looking for Disney in the islands. But certainly worth a visit for the traveler who wants to get away from Cruz Bay.
Guitars, tiki bars, and a whole lot of rum.
We sat at the bar for a bit chatting with our new friends we just met. Slowly more people trickled in that was part of their group and the decision was made to go across the street to a small liquor store. In this store you can either buy your bottle or order a drink. Outside was a DJ playing a good mix of reggae. Attached to the building was another small building that was serving some delicious local fare. People were dancing and laughing and it seemed all was well in this part of the world for the time being.
A short time later we all decided to move to the house of a local man who was the “adopted” relative of our new friends. So we followed everyone back up into the hills of St. John to a neat little house nestled in the hillside far above Coral Bay. This was an average house but with a 5 star view as you could see the entire valley below. The ship lights dotted the harbor like fireflies against a black sky devoid of moon and below we could hear the party at Island Blues clearly still going strong.
Here we continued drinking rum and having a great time in the warm Caribbean night. One of our new friends, who was visiting from Michigan, brought out his guitar. This for me was a great treat as I love live music and he had a huge amount of talent. From originals to covers and even some improve songs with another person in our group, the music was amazing and for a time I was entranced as we all sang along and got lost in the music for a while.
Time came for the evolution of our night and we all decided to head down to Maho Bay. Elena opted to head back with our host and crash out on the boat, as she was still weary from the previous days activities. The rest of us piled into a pickup and headed to the bay. Winding through the island roads into the night I had one of those moments when you stop and realize you are really living life. As one local island poet put it, “French kissing life square in the mouth”; and that we were as we lauded into the night or songs and lively discourse.
Rum and sails in the moonlight.
Arriving at Maho Bay we all rushed into the warm and welcoming waves. We spent the next hour or so laughing and passing around a few bottles of rum. After the rum was gone and a few started to become weary from a long night we decided to head back to the house and ultimately decided to head back to the boat of another girl in our group. So we headed back down to Coral Bay and to the parking place by the dinghy dock. We piled into the tender and headed across Coral Bay into the night. We approached the 70’ gaff rigged vessel and clumsily made our way over her safety rails. We sat for a bit in the cockpit talking over a few beers and the last of the rum.
The owner and two others went below to their racks but I opted to remain out for a while. I decided to lie out on the deck and just listen to the lapping of the waves on the haul, and the rigging as it slightly clamored in the wind. At some point the rum won over and I fell asleep on the deck. I woke a few hours later and went below to my bunk and fell fast asleep with the rocking of the large vessel.
My head hurts, my feet stink, and….
The sun jabbed through the open hatch finding my bloodshot eyes and jerking from my slumber. I hear footsteps from the rear of the boat, a rum bottle slammed on the table in front of me, and the owner of the boat, a young 100 pound girl, saying that we must drink quickly before the hangover comes.
Good morning St. John, we meet again.
Come back tomorrow for day two of our journey as we explore the island and make our way home.