Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Escaping Insanity: A Cruising Trip Report. Day 5: Tortola! - Spending our 20th Anniversary in a Bath(s) in Another Country, Part 1

I'm going to preface this post by mentioning that I am writing this only a few days after Hurricane Irma devastated many of the islands that we visited on this cruise; in particular, the British Virgin Islands, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands, received extensive damage.  While I write this day's events with the same style that I have thus far done so with the rest of the report, you may notice that there is a significant increase in the pictures included.  This is intentional: while these islands begin the rebuilding process, I want people to remember the way it was prior to the damage rather than remembering the impact that Irma had.  That being said, please keep in mind that it will take time and money for the residents of these islands to attain some semblance of normalcy.  I do not want to include any one particular organization; if you feel so inclined, I'm sure that any donation will help the people of the islands that so many love.

With that...let's get going!

Need to see the previous day?  Please click HERE.

Daily Planner for Day 5

I set my Garmin Watch to start vibrating around 5:45, and I quietly got out of bed soon after.  Following the same protocol as the previous day, I grabbed the GoPro and mounted it outside on the left balcony divider.  I started the time lapse just in time, because the pilot’s boat was heading towards us.  The other three were stirring, so I got ready first while they worked on waking up.  I think it was around this time that both Sheri and I realized that today was our 20-year Anniversary.  We exchanged cards and read them for a couple of moments…quick kiss, and then back to the grindstone, as we had a tight schedule in the morning.

Don’t worry…that wasn’t the extent of our anniversary celebration.  More to come later on that.

We flew up to Garden CafĂ© around 6:30 and found it to be eerily quiet.  We felt like we could have run around the entire buffet area naked without anyone seeing us.  Still, we opted for a quick grab-and-go with some fruit and headed back to our stateroom for final prep for our excursion to Virgin Gorda and the Baths.  Sheri was bust getting a day bag prepped, while I worked on getting everyone’s waterproof phone cases set up for the day.

Coming into Tortola:

At 7:00, we were at our meeting point for the excursion…the Escape Theater.  We received a few quick instructions and were soon following an escort off the ship.  It was a short 5- to 7-minute walk from the gangway to the area where our ferry was waiting for us.  I contemplated sitting up on the open-air top of the ferry, but I had previously read about how rough this passage could be; 30-40 minutes of constant slamming into the swells might have done Sheri and Aaron in, so I suggested we headed to the lower level indoors.

Yeah…that was a good decision.

Once we were full, we left the dock and floated slowly by the Escape, which made for a good photo opportunity.  Once we cleared the primary waters of Road Town, they opened up the throttle, and the sea started throwing her swells at us.  Immediately, Sheri looked for the nearest life saver and contemplated putting it on.  Aaron did his best to not turn green.

Eric and I put our hands in the air and treated it like a roller coaster ride (complete with an occasional, “WHEEEEEE….GO FASTER!!!  LET’S GO UPSIDE DOWN!!!”).

One of the employees handed out wrist bands for all of those on the excursion as well as liability waivers.  We received some more guidance on what to expect once we got to Spanish Town, which was where the ferry was to dock on Virgin Gorda.

After about 25-30 minutes (to Sheri and Aaron, it probably seemed more like 2-3 hours), we felt the engines slowing down, and we started catching glimpses of the Union Jack flying over the island we were approaching.  We all thought that was pretty cool – though none of us thought about looking for it at Tortola LOL.  We docked, and the two motion-sickness-prone members of the Mushfam kissed the ground soon after we hopped off.

There were members of the excursion team guiding us to open-air taxis.  As one filled up, it headed out.  We were fortunate enough to be the second or third taxi out, and, about ten minutes later, we entered The Baths National Park and hopped off the taxi a few steps away from the Top of the Baths Restaurant.  There, we sought out our “contact” for what to expect next.  We were to first head down to Devil’s Bay and enjoy the beach there for a little while; then, guides would gather us together, and we would all head into the maze.  The guy giving us the instructions also pointed out the flags flying nearby: Yellow and Bluish-Purple.  Yellow meant that the waters were a little choppy and that boats mooring should not leave their boats unattended.  Blue/Purple?  Well, that meant that jellyfish were present in the water.

Grreeeaaaattttt!!!!!!  Oh, and, yes, there was at least one Spongebob Squarepants joke mentioned when the guide told us the reason for the flags.

Sheri and Aaron, having been jostled around for the better part of an hour, made their ways to the restrooms.  I grabbed Eric, and we headed into the restaurant and got 4 waters (yes, they took U.S. Dollars).  Sheri met us as we were heading out, and we started our way down the path to Devil’s Bay.

Inside Top of the Baths

Slightly backed up here

It was a longer walk than I had anticipated, but there were excursion guides along the way to help make sure we were headed into the right direction.  When we arrived to Devil’s Bay, I think all of us took a look at others’ wrists to make sure that we didn’t miss the entrance into the rock maze.

Despite it being the longest day of the year in the middle of summer, the water was surprisingly cool!  We walked around and people-watched for about 15 minutes before starting to get a little nervous about the tour.

The color of that water...WOW!

Luckily, we overheard another couple talking about it, too, and they were heading to the maze.  We quickly decided to follow them.

About 50 feet into the path back towards the Top of the Baths, a sign pointed us to The Baths.  We jogged left past one of the guides stationed on the path, who didn’t object to the direction we were going, and we soon found ourselves at the exit of the maze.  Yeah, yeah…we were going to do the Maze backwards, even though hours of research assumed we were entering from the North side.

This ended up being an amazing decision – we honestly were not sure when (or even if) the tour group was going to start going through, but we knew that we wanted to catch an earlier ferry back to Tortola and also knew that the Baths crowds increased as the morning progressed.    We had minimal waits for pretty much the entire walk through, and, other than the Cathedral (which was expected), there weren’t too many people at all in there!

Obligatory Picture in the Cathedral

I made sure to include several clips in the video from this day.


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