We arrived later than expected to US Virgin Island of St. John, after a very rough three-landing attempt into St. Thomas that included two last minute aborted landings, an insanely scary amount of turbulence through ‘swirling winds’ and an unscheduled stop in San Juan to wait out the rough weather.
We arrived to our little jungle cottage after dark, and thankful our landlord insisted on hiring a greeter service to help us get settled. He had our rental Jeep waiting for us at the ferry dock, took us to a local market to get some basics and then lead us over the 133 curve, wet, dark, hilly Centerline Road to Coral Bay.
We had to make one stop, to allow a family of baby pigs to cross in front of us. We could really see nothing however, which made our senses even more aware of the loud beautiful song of birds echoing amongst the trees and cliffsides.
After moving our luggage in and preparing a quick meal – we slept our first night listening to the sound of rushing water falling outside our window. We slept like a rock after a long day of travel.
We awoke in the morning to survey the area, and were hanging around on the dirt road that leads to our house. Recent heavy rains have caused landslides throughout the island, including our parking area – which is the source of the running water that cradled us to sleep. The road leads down further into the mountainside, and is muddy, rocky and now water rushing over it. Just as we were thinking to ourselves ‘Surely no one is able to use this road right now’ – a small old beat up blue 4WD mini SUV comes crawling up the rocks, splashes through the running water and comes to stop next to us.
The vehicle is driven by an adventurous looking solo female, with her dog sitting shot gun.
She proclaims – ‘Welcome to the Frontier!’ as we exchange neighborly introductions. If she had a cowboy hat on, I’m sure she would have been waving it in the air.
And that my friends is our introduction to life on St. John.
A frontier it is. Sure, the tourists are driving around in shiny brightly colored 4WD rental SUVs on nicely paved roads – or being shuffled around on taxi buses between the popular beaches and their resort accomodations. However the people drawn to live here full time seem to be a friendly, strong and hardy breed. While they relish the warm temperatures, trade wind breezes, beaches and amazing views – it’s definitely not a full time vacation life here.
The roads are extremely steep and narrow (and you drive on the left, in American-style left driverside vehicles), and only those going to public places seem to be paved. Most roads include pot holes and rough spots. Yes, way worse than California roads.
The weather takes it toll on everything here. It takes the land from beneath your feet, road and house. It corrodes your vehicle, and what is left is shaken apart by the roads. Anything mechanical is bound to be rusty soon. Humidity is always high, and everything you own will have a damp feeling to it.
Food is extremely expensive – not much at all is local, as most everything is shipped over. And while food may be expensive. Rum is cheap. Cheaper than a bag of tortilla chips. And somehow, that makes everything go much smoother.
Since arriving, we’ve hardly seen the sun. An unstable weather system has been lingering over us, continuing to dump rain on us or leaving us with grey skies. Which is fine, we’ve been busily squaring away essential logistics such as our getting our internet hooked up (4G WiMax for the win!) and securing transportation for after we turn in our rental Jeep (we bought an island suitable 1998 Jeep Wrangler 4WD that we’ll pick up later this week). We’ve been experiencing island time and a bit of island life, and now that logistics are settling down, we look to exploring our home for the next 5 months.
The adventure has begun… and despite the challenges of living here, we’re extremely excited!