St. Croix Trip
- Island time! Jan 5, 2024
- Beautiful long beach! But not our beach! Jan 5, 2024
- There is the island of Abaco! Jan 5, 2024
Brings back memories of my great friend Ted who grew up there and of course of that evening last year we were sitting with our dear friends Dipanjan and Parijat on a beach down there wondering what that light streaking across the sky was all about … only to realize that we just saw our first rocket launch of our lives!! It was a SpaceX.
I know all the clouds are pointing to the airport at Marsh Harbor, but today, we will skip further to a different island.
- Last island before we start descending for St. Croix Jan 5, 2024
- First view of the island of St. Croix Jan 5, 2024
- Airport #163 Jan 5, 2024
- North view from the room Jan 5, 2024
- West view from the room Jan 5, 2024
- Like gold melting into the water Jan 5, 2024
- Done fishing! Jan 5, 2024
- Our secluded beach this morning Jan 6, 2024
- The mountains meet the sea Jan 6, 2024
- Torrent of blue colors Jan 6, 2024
- That is our destination for tomorrow Jan 6, 2024
- Point Udall Jan 6, 2024
This is regarded as the easternmost point of the USA (at least that you can travel to). Interestingly the westernmost point of the USA (that you can travel to) is also called Point Udall. That is in Guam. These were named after two brothers.
Now, technically, these are NOT the easternmost or westernmost points of the USA. That would be a part of uninhabited Alaska which is actually on the other side of the 180 degree longitude.
But I was not going to pick up a fight with the local inhabitants!!
- We did not make it down to that beach Jan 6, 2024
- Daddy daughter beach explorations Jan 6, 2024
- Found on the trail Jan 6, 2024
- For once, we had other colors than blue!! Jan 6, 2024
- Carnival!! Jan 6, 2024
Turned out today was St. Croix Carnival day. People here take it really seriously. The women’s accoutrements were off the charts. They loved nothing more than posing for the camera.
One interesting side observation. The two last vehicles in the parade were two trash trucks. People were taking turns to pick up every bit of plastic glass, beer can and confetti left behind. That is some serious fun followed by some serious civic duty!
- Sandy Point Beach Jan 6, 2024
Remember the picture I had posted of spotting St. Croix for the first time from the plane?
We went to that beach after lunch to relax in the sun!
- The palm tree was bursting in flames! Jan 6, 2024
- A different pallet of hues from the sun Jan 7, 2024
For a few minutes before it all became dark, the sky took a very interesting spread of tint – almost purplish/pinkish color. I guess “Violet” is still one of the seven colors of the sun. To the eyes, the pigments looked more pronounced than depicted in this picture.
This is from my iPhone 11. I wonder if a later iPhone or my mirrorless (which I was not carrying) could have done an even better job.
- Any coral reef expert? Jan 7, 2024
- The “Mist of Fury”! Jan 7, 2024
- The girl does make me proud of her Jan 7, 2024
Nikita and I were walking around the property when I spotted that interesting coconut tree.
“A recalcitrant tree,” I told her.
Well, the rest of the trees went up for sunlight. This one said “Nah, I am going the other way”.
Nikita looked at the same tree and gave her verdict – “Cotangent!”
That is nerdier than me! And something that makes me very proud of her!
[If you do not remember your pre-calc from high school, google up “cotangent graph”]
- Gateway to bliss Jan 7, 2024
- Waiting for our boat Jan 7, 2024
- We have not done that in some time Jan 7, 2024
The last time we were in a sea plane, we were going to Vancouver Island in Canada. Nikita was not even born. But she had no interest in trying out one today. She is totally a water person!
As a young child in fourth grade, I was totally taken in by the concept of a sea plane when I first saw it in a cartoon series. How many of you remember Tintin and the Crab with the Golden Claws and the yellow colored seaplane in it?
- Those fish were big Jan 7, 2024
- Off we go to Buck Island Jan 7, 2024
- The girls were having too much fun at Buck Island Jan 7, 2024
- A cactus, the like of which I have never seen before Jan 7, 2024
- The story of two snorkelers… Part Nikita Jan 7, 2024
Like I had mentioned before, Niki is the fish in the family. She can be in the water the whole day and never tire of it. Even as a small child, she would get into the pool by herself and play with her imaginary friends. All we had to do is keep enough supply of food and drinks by the pool table.
She put on the snorkeling gear and got out of the boat before I could cry “Fish”! Frankly speaking, she was getting out so far from the boat in the high waves that I was getting worried a bit but I encouraged her to explore as long as she could. Knowing that I do not think I will ever experience what she was experiencing. (See Part Rajib)
- The story of two snorkelers… Part Rajib Jan 7, 2024
Now when it gets to water, I am the polar opposite of Nikita (see Part Nikita). 25 years lived with a pool in the house – never quite figured out how to swim. Well, I can swim for a few yards, as long as somebody guarantees me that if I want to stand up, there will be ground under my feet. Moment I realize that I cannot, I start panicking.
When I retired, it was one of my goals to get comfortable with swimming in 2023. Of course, then I went back to work and all my plans – pardon the pun – unceremoniously drowned!
Decided to give snorkeling a shot. The first thing I realized is that you cannot put the gear over your glasses. Which is a bit of a bother for a person like me who is blind as a bat without the glasses. And then being under water without being able to see will immediately cause me to panic.
Anyways, once the girls had quite finished laughing at me with my gear on, I waited for all the snorkelers to leave the boat. Sharmila stayed on board with a few others. I decided to give it a shot by myself. I will hold on to the boat, I had reasoned. Little realizing how difficult that flapper thing will make it if I did not know the technique.
Before this, we had a trial in shallow waters without the flappers. It was only a few feet deep. I did well with the breathing and exploring. Except there were no fish around.
When the real test came, it was a whole different question. The waves and winds were high. And somebody had made the mistake of asking the captain how deep the water was. Moment I knew it was 9 feet, all sorts of fear psychosis started setting in.
I was still going to do it.
So, with nobody around and Sharmila keeping a watch out, I got down and held on to the boat stair. Breathing was fine. I was able to get away from the boat for a couple of feet. And saw a blue tang! (Remember Dora from Finding Nemo?”.
A few minutes later, I got a little more brave. Tried to swim away from the boat – all the while facing the boat to make sure I could make a dash for it if I panicked. Raised my head once to realize that the waves had drifted me to the starboard side.
I started swimming to get to the original position. Which is what I managed to do. But I think since I do not know how to swim well, I was exerting a lot of pressure. In about another two minutes, I thought I took in some water in my mouth.
And that is when I panicked. At that point there was no trying to reason with my mind. My amygdala had completely put me in a fight or flight mode. The feeling was similar to when I get claustrophobic attacks in small airplanes. Kept thrashing my way around. Sharmila realized this and called the Captain.
I signaled that I am okay. In reality, I had taken off my tube to raise my head to breathe. This made swimming more difficult. But I could thrash my way to boat parts, mooring buoys which were within a feet.
Eventually, reached the stairs of the boat and sat up. Somehow I was determined to conquer this one. In the meanwhile, all that thrashing meant my calf muscles had started cramping up. Between the captain helping me with a different gear and more helpful tips, I still could not get out of the vicious cycle of getting into the water only to get some water in my mouth immediately and panic my way back to the stairs.
After half a dozen attempts, I decided that I was at too high a level of panic to succeed. This is where having 5 feet water nearby would have helped to practice again to calm down.
So, there was my short attempt at snorkeling. One blue tang deep!!
For a person who loves the isalnds so much, I wonder what has stopped me from getting comfortable with water.
- Island people are contented people Jan 7, 2024
This is another thing I appreciate about island people. They are always contented. Poverty, storms, sufferings seem to bind them together ever more strongly. Rhythmic music (reggae anybody?) and impromptu dance follows a hard day’s work like… to quote the Bard of Avon, “as the night, the day!”
We were done with our adventures for the day. Now for the ride back home. With some “Mutiny punch” and reggae music blasting. At some point, the first officer took over the wheel. And the captain (in blue) joined the rest of the folks on the deck in dancing!
- Starlit night sky Jan 7, 2024
This was not at the same level of experience I had in the Gobi desert or the Jordanian desert, but being on the secluded side of the mountain afforded low light pollution. The cloudless sky was lit with millions of stars.
Niki and I were in the parking lot and this picture was taken with an iPhone 11.
- It takes a little getting used to… Jan 8, 2024
As I took the sharp turn and saw the gate in front of me to get out of the hotel property, I noticed this and had a chuckle.
“Why would they close the exit but have a free entry?” I asked Sharmila and Nikita.
Then, I realized that I was on the wrong side of the road !!
In St. Croix, all the vehicles are like in the USA (steering wheel on the left) but you drive on the left side of the road!!
- So many shades of blue! Jan 8, 2024
- Columbus landing Jan 8, 2024
One of the questions that trip up most folks is “Where all did Columbus land in the continental US?” The answer is actually “nowhere”. What was named the “Americas” during the four trips he made then is today mostly the island countries of the Antilles, the Lower Antilles, the West Indies and parts of Central America.
Why we celebrate “Columbus Day” in the USA is a bit puzzling.
Technically, after US bought the three islands now called US Virgin Islands from the Danish for $25 million in gold during the First World War, US did acquire a spot that Columbus had landed in. This was during his second voyage, after leaving the island of Nevis, he landed at this spot in St. Croix on Nov 14, 1493.
- This island is overrun by roosters everywhere Jan 8, 2024
- Maybe the peacock felt there is not enough blue color in the island Jan 8, 2024
- A different kind of pool setting by the beach Jan 8, 2024
- Those Big Ass fans!! Jan 8, 2024
I had first noticed the name in Liberia airport in Costa Rica in 2013. Huge fans. When I strained my eyes to check which company makes them, I saw “Big Ass”. Had a hearty laugh. Found out later that it is a US based company (Louisville, Kentucky in fact). And it has a very funny story how it got its name.
Now, anywhere in the world we go as tourists, we seem to notice them. This was in Landings restaurant in Cane Beach!
- তালগাছ Jan 8, 2024
তালগাছ এক পায়ে দাঁড়িয়ে
সব গাছ ছাড়িয়ে
উঁকি মারে আকাশে।
মনে সাধ, কালো মেঘ ফুঁড়ে যায়,
একেবারে উড়ে যায়;
কোথা পাবে পাখা সে?
তাই তো সে ঠিক তার মাথাতে
গোল গোল পাতাতে
ইচ্ছাটি মেলে তার, –
মনে মনে ভাবে, বুঝি ডানা এই,
উড়ে যেতে মানা নেই
বাসাখানি ফেলে তার।
সারাদিন ঝরঝর থত্থর
ওড়ে যেন ভাবে ও,
মনে মনে আকাশেতে বেড়িয়ে
যেন কোথা যাবে ও।
তার পরে হাওয়া যেই নেমে যায়,
পাতা কাঁপা থেমে যায়,
ফেরে তার মনটি
যেই ভাবে, মা যে হয় মাটি তার
ভালো লাগে আরবার
– রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর
- Another beautiful sunset on the Caribbean Sea Jan 10, 2024
- Post sunset view Jan 10, 2024
- Team dinner! Jan 10, 2024
- Morning time by myself Jan 11, 2024
- There is another interesting intersection point! Jan 11, 2024
My first trip day before was unsuccessful. But, I had decided to keep trying till I left the island. So, there I was today again – pulling into this parking lot of a small food shack called “Diane’s Roti Master”.
There was nobody at the front. Decided to go inside the kitchen. There was a lady working by herself.
“Hello? Are you here to pick up food?”, she asked.
“Not exactly. Can I talk to Diane?”
“I am Diane.”
“Oh! I had come yesterday to meet you. You were out.”
“Sorry. Do you want to order something?”
“Ummm… no. I came to meet you.”
“About what?”, she asked wiping her hand as we both walked back to the front.
“Well, I am a friend of your granddaughter in New York. She could not say enough good things about you. I had promised her that I will visit you and send her a picture of you when I come to the island.”
“Oh!”, she was a bit relieved and confused.
So, I laid out the whole story to her.
“See Diane, I have a daughter in New York City. I was visiting her a couple of weeks back. I was in a coffee shop. And this young girl made my coffee.”
At this point, I pulled out a picture from my iPhone.
“Oh! that is my Tsuni!” she exclaimed.
Two weeks back, I was in New York to drop Natasha and Tuy in Brooklyn. I had stayed over in the city for a day. I had befriended the young lady (you can see in the bottom right picture) who made the coffee for me.
“What is your name?”
“Oh! Where is that name from?”
“I grew up in St. Croix”
“REALLY? I will be there two weeks from now for the first time in my life! Is your family there?”
“Well, my dad lives in Atlanta …”
“That is where I am from!”
“… oh! and my mom is here in New York. But my grandmother is in St. Croix”
“That is awesome! Did your grandmother grow up in St. Croix?”
“Well, she was born in Trinidad. She has a restaurant in St. Croix now.”
“Do you know the name?”
“Her name is Diane. I think the restaurant is called “Diane’s”
“Let’s see if we can find that place,” I said furtively looking into Google Maps. I thought I got a hit – “Diane’s Roti Master”.
“Is it called Roti Master?”
“Yes, yes, that is the name!” she said excitedly.
I flipped thru the images in Google Maps. There was one with a lady in it inside what looked like a kitchen.
“Is this your grandmother?”
“Grandma!!!” she said visibly energized looking at the picture.
“Ok. I will tell you what – I will make it a point to meet her there two weeks from now. And I will send you a picture of her from there!”
We took a picture together that I was going to give her grandmother and exchanged our contacts. Then I left.
Coming back to today…
“That is Tsuni indeed!!” I told Diane as I told her the story of how I met her.
Diane pulled me to the next store (which also belonged to here) and all excited about showing the picture of Tsuni to another lady sitting there. Later, I found out that was her sister in law.
We sat down and I got to learn her life story.
Born in Trinidad, she had moved to Louisiana. Tsuni’s mom – her youngest child was already born by then. In Louisiana she had three more kids – two of them twins. She then moved to Miami. And once the twins finished high school and left home, she was not sure what to do. She came to St. Croix where her parents were. As a single, she lived with her parents and was trying to figure out what to do in life.
Then she got herself a red truck (you can see it in the picture) in 1999. She and another lady (turned out later to be her sister in law who I had just met) started making food out of the back of the truck and selling from one construction zone to other. Slowly but surely, that hard work paid off. Eventually she had three small stores and finally consolidated everything and built out this food joint that I was sitting in. She got featured in one of the Youtube Influencer’s video too (the URL of which is proudly captured in a QR code she showed me in her menu card).
We had probably talked for over thirty minutes when the customers started coming in again.
We took some pictures together. And I promised her that I will send her picture to Tsuni and for sure will visit her next time I am in the island. For good measure, I got her phone number too.
You can never go wrong calling up an elderly lady once or twice a year to check up on how she is doing.
Self made folks – especially women – are to be specially recognized!!
- Double rainbow in St. Croix Jan 11, 2024
- Have you ever seen anything like this? Jan 12, 2024
That race car that seems to have mistakenly ventured into the waters is actually a boat. In this picture the “Jet Car” is in about ten feet deep water. It seats two, has an accelerator pedal, a steering wheel and a shift for forward and reverse gear! That wheel looking things are not wheels at all.
Talked to the guy who rents out two of these. Born in St. Croix, he grew up in Maryland and moved back to the island to start a water adventure business.
Looked very cool. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time left in the day to try one of these out!
- One last look from our property Jan 12, 2024
- Picked up some local stuff Jan 12, 2024
- You know it is cold in Atlanta! Jan 12, 2024
That is the plane that just came in from Atlanta and is going to take us back. It is miserably cold and wet in Atlanta right now. You get an idea of it when you notice that the Atlanta based crew, taking advantage of the few minutes of rest between cabin cleaning and emplaning, simply decided to come out of the plane and sit or stand in the staircase to take in some sun!!
- We are up in the air! Jan 12, 2024