Our last port of call was also one that we’ve had the pleasure to visit before. We stopped at St. Thomas on our Honeymoon, and had a blast on our eco-hike. So this time, we didn’t book an excursion beforehand, for a few different reasons. First, there wasn’t much that sounded like fun. Two, we thought since it was the last day of the cruise, we may enjoy napping and doing last-minute “ship things” instead of being out on an excursion. And third, we thought that after kayaking, spending 4 hours at the beach, and hiking through the rainforest, that we may indeed be a bit too sore, tired, and burnt for much else. But alas, after finding the Fountain of Youth in Dominica, we walked down to the Explorations! desk that on the ship at 9pm the night before to book a last minute tryst.
We narrowed our options down to two. A voluntourism experience at the Virgin Islands National Park, or mountain biking. Since we visited the National Park before, and we would have been the only ones on the tour (fear: being left behind!), we decided on the mountain biking.
Bad. Bad. Bad idea. You see, the biking tour was on Water Island. Water Island is a small island just a 15 minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. Once a nice resort island, with tennis clubs and restaurants, the island is now…nothing. At one point, we visited the site of an old resort tennis court and looked at a brochure from the 80’s to see what it used to look like. We happened to be there on “gas day” and everyone on the island brought their cars to the dock to get gas. They also have to bus water over, so the tour guide so informatively told us that unless “you go # 2, you don’t flush”. Hurricane destruction also added to the nothingness. One of the guides shared her personal story of an insurance scam after a hurricane—the company just boarded up and moved away because they couldn’t cover the claims for all the damage. Perhaps most interestingly was our first stop. During WWII, troops were stationed here, so a bunker was built. However, the war ended before the bunker was finished, so now they use it as a hurricane shelter.
But the fact that the tour was a bit bland was nothing compared to the insect problem. This island should be renamed Mosquito Island. I have never NEVER seen so many mosquitoes, or such big mosquitoes. Nor did the trip guide give any indication that this was problem UNTIL we got to the island and there was no turning back. It seriously ruined the experience. If we kept moving, they didn’t land on us, but they did fly up our noses, into our eyes, and in our mouths. If we stopped (to hear about history or just to breathe), we were swarmed and eaten alive. Seriously. Between the two of us, we counted over 60 mosquito bites before we even got back to the ship.
The biking itself was a blast, although my bike was broken. Besides a quick ride with Eric in college a few times, I haven’t been on a bike since I was about 14. So when the gears kept catching, and it was really hard to get up the hills, I thought it was just me at first. Then I had someone look at the bike. Then at the end (oh, I’ll tell you about the end in a minute…), the tour guide finally admitted that my bike was stuck in 3rd gear and he couldn’t believe I’d made the whole trip! Uh, thanks! I TOLD you I was dying.
(I look lost, but I think I’m asking the tour guide where they want me to pull over so they can look at my bike.)
So after biking 3.5 miles up and down very steep hills, the option was given to go to the beach and swim, or continue for another 20 minutes or so. Being the nice wife that I am, I followed Eric as he continued the ride. This did me in. This was off the beaten path (although there was not really any paths to begin with), riddled with mosquitoes, and my legs completely gave up. At one point, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or throw up. I think I did a little of all three. I walked the last half mile, with Eric laughing seriously worried about where I was. You see, he was waaay ahead, and had no idea that I was upon death’s door. The nice old tour guide stayed with me. And decided to try to talk to me. I’m dry heaving off the side of the mountain, and you want to talk about your tenure at Ohio State. Thanks, buddy. After making it back to the rally point, we had to make our way to the beach…down an extremely steep hill. I almost died. Again.
(Yes, the guy in front of me is falling over.)
Then, it was off to the beach. But, wait. This is the same mosquito-infested beach where we started our trip. So after stripping down and sprinting to the water, we stayed almost entirely underwater until the bus came back to pick us up. Surprisingly, the salt water did wonders for the itchy mosquito bites, but it didn’t help the new ones we got while getting on the bus. I was trying to stop myself from being munched on, but there wasn’t much I could do…
When we got back to the ship, we still had time to walk around the Havensight Shopping Mall right on the dock. We were the only ship in port that day, so things weren’t crowded. The tour guide did tell us that during peak season, there will be 9-12 ships in port, and when Oasis of the Seas comes in, that the number of tourists on St. Thomas equals 1/3 of the normal population. The only thing we bought was some perfume—I’ve been looking for Ralph Lauren Rocks for months now, and was happy to find it TAX & DUTY FREE (that’s a joke). I have a hard time understanding why people get so excited about going to ports to shop, and how excited they get about diamonds, gems, and watches. This island is just too “touristy” for me. I’m so ticked about the mosquito bites that I don’t even care to talk about the history.
Just a quick shout-out to the hubby, who finished the whole trip without even breaking a sweat. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but seriously–watch out, Lance Armstrong. Eric seriously has some biking skills. I heart him.