After a Sunday landing in which we despaired with the establishments of the capital Road Town closed, towards the end of the afternoon, we found that Monday would be the same or worse.
It remains for history that, when faced with these places at the beginning of his second incursion into the Americas (1493), the fleet of seventeen ships and more than a thousand men of Christopher Columbus was surprised by a profusion of small islands that they could not see. end. To the devout Christian Columbus, the archipelago recalled the medieval legend of Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins.
According to this legend, Ursula and her companions were supposed to travel to Ursula's future husband, the pagan governor of Armorica.
But the travelers decided to postpone the meeting and inaugurated a long European pilgrimage that included a visit to the Pope in Rome. The religious deviation cost them dearly. Ursula and the virgins ended up being slaughtered in Cologne by the Huns who were then surrounding the city.
There wouldn't be eleven thousand islands that we had around there, or anything like that. Of the several that make up the Virgin Islands today – both the American and British neighbors, two or three stood out from the rest.
A Almost-Forced Retreat at The Baths of Virgin Gorda
Faced with the inertia of Road Town, we simply stopped wanting to know. We are dedicating the holiday, Santa Ursula's Day, to the second island of the BVI (British Virgin Islands), which, according to their imagination and the soon-mapped profile of a paunchy woman, Columbus will have named Virgen Gorda.
Having managed to wake up early in the morning, at eight o'clock in the morning we boarded the ferry that connects Road Town (the territory's capital and the only city on the island of Tortola) to Spanish Town, the city of Virgin Gorda.
The ferry bears the name “Sensation”. Shortly after we set sail, the windy seat of its upper deck captivates us with successive sensory rewards: the massage of the trade winds on our faces. The swaying in the serene Caribbean Sea.
The jagged and verdant coastline highlighted by the navy teal blue. The frigates that fluttered against the sky above. And the lively conversation of a group of Tortola friends spiced up by a strong Caribbean accent.
Landing in the British City of Spanish Town
After three quarters of an hour of navigation, we dock at the port of destination. In Spanish Town, as we had seen in different areas of Tortola, we found a new large cemetery of yachts, catamarans and other vessels caught by hurricanes Irma and Maria that, between August 30th and October 2nd, 2017, devastated the Virgin Islands, Porto rich, the Dominican Republic and several of the surrounding Lesser Antilles.
Since then, the BVI, in particular, have done everything to recover, to live up to the scenarios and reception that had made them famous and desired, in a long era of pre-hecatomb.
Dodo, the driver of an open-box taxi cab adapted to transport a few good visitors at a time, did his bidding. "Are you going to the Baths?” he asks us with an accent even thicker than the ones on board the “Sensation".
We replied that yes, we had already come with this little trip purchased from Road Town. "OK, I could take you there.” The parole he employs leaves us behind. More talk, less talk we realized that this was just another of the countless grammatical “modes” of the Caribbean.
That the man, in addition to being slow to our reticence, was in good faith and more than willing for us to confirm his service.
On the way to Devil's Bay (The Baths) National Park
We confirm that we are the only passengers aboard the van. Certainly still as a consequence of the Irmaria, this is how the natives treat the pair of hurricanes that coexisted in time and that, for a substantial part of their lives, shared the same Caribbean trajectory of devastation.
Dodo drops us off at The Baths National Park ticket office. On tiptoe, hesitating for fear of tripping and falling into the cactus forest that flanks the path, elderly people coming from the cruises that anchor in Road Town were delaying their scheduled visits in touch mode and fleeing Virgin Gorda.
Even masters of our day, we feel the same eagerness to exchange that labyrinth of piercing vegetation for the mysterious inlets and trails of the Baths.
The Caribbean Dazzle of Devil's Bay
After completing a final sandy meander, we enter a Devil's Bay and, at least in our imagination, an extension of the western hemisphere of the Seychellois island of La Digue.
A gentle sea somewhere between emerald and turquoise erupts in curved lines through huge granite boulders, polished and yellowed with age. Moved by the trades, a caravan of nebulous sculptures flies over them and – it amuses us to think so – renew in the captive stones a millenary envy.
From there, we can only see a tiny part of the colony of related rocks that, by geological whim, occupied the west coast of Virgin Gorda.
Attentive to the movements of one of the local cruise guides, we learned how to climb one of the rocks. From the top, in panoramic format, we can see better how two peninsulas closer to pebbles closed the inlet against an abundant coral sand.
We soon noticed that one element was missing from the typical Caribbean ensemble: once upon a time, secular coconut trees projected from the middle of the cliffs to the sky.
These impressive plant extras were also ripped off by the destructive power of the hurricanes, in the chaos generated by low record pressures, few natives will know whether by Irma or by Maria.
A line of buoys sets a prohibitive threshold for sailing owners from the surrounding Virgin Islands. Unhurriedly, we appreciate your careful transfers. From small boats to tiny dinghies that tie to buoys to complete the ultimate aquatic swimming route, with backpacks and waterproof bags on their backs.
The Baths Time
We descended back to the beach, installed our own gear, safe from the waves, and underwent the first salty and sacred thalassotherapy of that marine sanctuary. When we feel re-energized, we dry up. We then pointed north and the amphibious trail leading to The Baths itself.
We snake between rocks planted over the sea and the vegetation that accompanies them, always within reach of the waves cushioned by the succession of stones.
Wooden stairs and rope handrails give us access to real tunnels, antechambers and granite chambers where we unveil natural pools that are permanently replenished.
We came across Spanish Town and Road Town natives delighted with those immaculate moments of evasion.
Walk through Successive Bathing Galleries
We descend a new staircase, enter a large chamber and listen to the echo of different voices. In the middle of the bathing-granitic heart of The Baths, lying in the turquoise water that the oscillating solar beams seemed to radiate, women and children of one family chattered and played in absolute rejoicing.
We asked two men who, outside and in the dry, were sharing another conversation and a bottle of whiskey to store our backpacks. We returned to the dark interior and sunk in the water, delighted with the spiritual richness of both the cave-lagoon and the affectionate fraternization that took place in it.
Returning to the tongue of sand where we had left our backpacks, we thank the two men. We had already noticed that, like them, one of the women inside the pond had Indian features. Curious about a likely relationship, we got into conversation.
Vicky's and Roj's answers clarify our suspicion. “We were born in Guyana but we moved here to Tortola about eighteen years ago. Inside, they're all our family. Why did we move?? the things there in Guyana they went from bad to worse.
The economy, security… We took advantage of an opportunity to come here to work and it was confirmed that we were earning much more and having a quieter life. We stayed and opened our own business. Now we are really better.
Anyway, when we miss the good, Guyana is not that far away. We just take a plane and go there.”
On the Antipodes of Devi's Bay: Spring Bay's busiest
We say goodbye. We took up the trail that continued to wind from the Baths towards the relief of a Spring Bay, comparable to Devil's Bay but, at the foot of the main trail in the park, much more frequented and welcoming.
Stuck in its picturesque "The Poor Man's Bar”, Moses Carrier and his family serve rum punch after rum punch to a group of customers sitting at a table in the shade.
In Caribbean manner, these guests chatter at such a high volume and in such serious tones that they seem almost ready to inaugurate a drunken brawl.
When we walked between the bar and the sea, over almost embers, well sorry that we started it barefoot, we flattened the noisy group's table.
We scrutinized them with the attention they deserved and found that they are the same ones with whom we had shared the upper deck of the “Sensation”, that the rum and the excess of testosterone tempered by the sun and the absence of mates had made them shrill and triple, just as unconcerned with the discomfort their argument was causing.
Spring Bay in Exclusive Mode
The park closed at four in the afternoon. An hour later, the ferry set sail for the last trip of the day to Road Town. That apparently pre-rumpus group has already disbanded half of these. We let ourselves stay a little longer.
We climb a new scenic cliff and swim between adjoining boulders. Then, we walked halfway up the park trail in search of views of other coves.
On the same route, we passed a set of blue letters placed at the base of a boulder that read “One BVI”. There we ended up photographing three friends delighted with the unexpected role of models.
The Unexpected Metamorphosis “ONE BVI – BOVINE”
We descend back to the cove for one last dip. When we resumed the ascending path, possibly already late for the reunion with Dodo and for boarding the “Sensation”, we found that the park's happy visitors had stopped and entertained with a malicious game of Scrabble. Instead of “One BVI”, the lyrics were now “Bovine”.
The "Sensation” sailed forty minutes late, in full twilight. We disembarked in Road Town late and in a bad time but with the absolute certainty that we had spent one of the best bathing days of our lives.