Today we decided to go to St. John. It is supposed to be beautiful and have great snorkeling. Last night I couldn't think of anything but sitting on the beach but this morning I had energy again. I suggested the hike out to Waterlemon Cay. So we were off. First we took a cab to Red Hook to catch the ferry. We were hoping to be quick enough for the 8:30 ferry, but I was too slow and we only made the 9am ferry.
When you get to St. John they have the taxi/busses lined up, but I wanted to visit the National Park headquarters. So we asked where it was and were pointed down the road. In a very short time we were there. We picked up some brochures and a nice map of St. John, with all the trails marked.
We took the quick walk back to the taxies and asked to go out to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruin. We took the quick tour around the ruin. It was nice, but small. Then we went down to the bottom of the hill and took the dirt road/path out to Waterlemon cay. The trail was lined with manchineel trees and some were blooming. They are pretty but since they are kind of like poison ivy, we tried not to touch them.
I expected Waterlemon Cay to be pretty empty but it wasn't. There is only a small pebble/broken coral beach here; no sand except a small bit on the cay and it requires a hike to get in (albeit easy). And we were told that it would be empty from the forums on the internet, but there were quite a few people here for an empty beach. When we left we even passed about 5 couples coming in for the afternoon.
Anyway the water was relatively calm and the current was practically nonexistent. The fish however were lovely. As we swam across the bay to the cay we saw a two holes in the sandy bottom with heads sticking out. The holes were about 4 inches across and the heads looked a little like turtle heads. We tried to figure out what they were. They didn't have the same snout as eels but that is what they must have been. They were kind of cute. I dived down to check them out and they ducked their heads back into their holes. Their heads were spotted and gray brown. Maybe they were spotted moray. The sandy bottom was covered with starfish. The starfish migrate and are only here at this time of the year. I keep trying to remember what the name was (the ranger told us) but Joel keeps telling me the name is "Fred". Why do I not believe him?
When we got to the cay we swam around to the back and, wow, it was beautiful. Probably my favorite part was the huge schools of small fish, maybe 1-3 inches long. They are glittery blue and silver. They let you swim right into their school and it is like swimming with a million jewels with the sun glinting off them. We saw tons of fish of all kinds. The blue tangs and yellow snappers were quite large. I also saw a fish I had never seen before. They were about 18" - 30" long, and light blue streaking on the top. Their front fins stuck straight out from their body and they had a serrated edge along the top and bottom near the back of their body. I think it is a Wahoo, but I will have to look it up when I get home. It is not in a any of the reef fish books I brought. (Late note: I still think they were Wahoo, but they didn't match up perfectly with the pictures in my book, but they were closer than any of the other fish in the book. I wish I had gotten a photo of them.)
Besides all the normal fish we saw (and we saw tons of tangs, damselfish, parrot fish, wrasse, butterfly fish, file fish, puffer fish etc) we also saw a lot of flamingo tongue. They are the most beautiful mollusk, bright orange with spots. The best specimen of a bristle worm that I've ever seen was here, about 5 inches long and crawling on the sand. And on the way back a ray glided by below me.
While we were there we had a lovely chat with Elaine. She was visiting from New York and says she comes to St. John every year. Joel always starts up conversations with the people around him when we travel. On the taxi ride back to our hotel we were talking to two girls from Kentucky.
After we hiked back to the road, we met a tour group in one of the taxi busses. And the taxi had the same driver as the one we came out with! So we had the same tour back to town as we had coming out. Our driver was very nice, but they must train them to repeat everything twice. He would tell us what was national park (75% of the island is national park according to our guide) and what was a "private location".
He dropped us off in Trunk Bay. We weren't sure we wanted to be there because of the crowds but we wanted to get a feel for what it was like. Since it was 2pm and we hadn't had lunch yet we got in a long line for food. After a little while we got our hamburgers, typical snack bar fare.
Trunk Bay beach is very beautiful, except for the crowds and the lifeguards shouting at people to stay off the reef. The sand was very fine and the water a beautiful turquoise. We snorkeled out to the underwater trail, which was worth missing, at least if you know what any of the things in the water are. The coral was pretty and the fish nice, but not nearly as nice as Waterlemon Cay. We decided to snorkel out around the cay. The water at the back of the cay was a little pushy but not bad, but the visibility was only about 10 feet, very murky. Also there was no real coral or fish there. All the best snorkeling was right around the snorkel trail and the left side of the cay.
I was tired so we swam back in. We thought about going out to the point across form the cay, but it was a long haul for a pooped out gal. We took off our snorkels and fins and played in the water's edge, until we found out our waterproof camera case had sprung a leak. One ex-digital camera. There is no way a piece of electronic equipment like that can survive. A sad moment for a camera that had taken so many beautiful picture. It would have bothered me more if we weren't about to replace it anyway. Since digital cameras are really computers (and ours had some serious flaws), they be come obsolete after about two years.
We caught the 4pm ferry back to our hotel. I wanted to stop for a fruit smoothie at the fruit market but Joel said "No time, No time!" We probably did have time, but he didn't' want to risk it and have to wait another hour.
Back in our hotel room we made reservations for the Carribe Festival (or something like this) at the Sunset Grille. The show started at 8:30, so we made reservations for 8pm and rested in our room until then. The food there was good (not four star but decent), with the ribs and chicken barbeque the best. The festival was nice. It had Bull the fire eater then one of the guys that stand on stilts (I forget their names) and then Bull came back to do the limbo. They tried constantly to get the audience up to participate. I was just too tired from the long day, but quite a few others got up for the conga line and the limbo with Bull. he kept having us shout "Lower Mon!" when he did the limbo. And he went very low. He had his stick resting on two glass beer bottles (which you know are barely off the ground) then he lit the stick on fire and limboed under. It was pretty amazing.
We stumbled back to our hotel room and collapsed.
The trip to St. Johns was fun. As always, Daphne picked the best place to go. It pays to research on the internet before you leave.
The cab rides were funny. The guide kept repeating the same things over and over. But he did stop to let us take pictures at the good overlooks.
The morning snorkel was great. Highly recommended. Trunk bay is worth going to because of the beach but it is crowed. Yet with the gently slope and fine sand it was great just standing in the water.
After we lost the camera, I was depressed. Fortunately we had just switched compact flash cards so we did not lose too many pictures. Funny, we lost a camera, which cost us 650 dollars, but we were only worried about the 100-dollar flash card with our pictures.
Red Hook was not much too see so we just took the cab back to the hotel from there without spending much time in town.
When we got back, I asked Daphne to wash the camera out to rinse out the salt water, but I couldn't watch. (The next afternoon the battery contacts were already starting to corrode so I have little hope for the electronics.)
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