carolbuckles (carolbuckles) wrote,

New Newport News News: Baltimore to the Caribbean: St. Thomas edition

I doubt that there is any more perfect island.  [Note the play on “Doubting Thomas].  This is one of those places that just being there is a privilege.

Our ship was last in a line of 3 at a l-o-n-g dock.  Since we were in no hurry, we passed by all the jitneys, despite the blandishments of the drivers.  As we reached the shore, we realized that all the jitneys were blocking each other in a gridlock that made LA look efficient.  So, last to leave, we were among the first ashore—hey, like the Kingdom of Heaven!

We had simple plans for the morning and a bus tour for the afternoon.  As we docked in Charlotte Amalie, we could see a tramway and made it our destination.  We walked through countless high-end jewelry stores set into the old warehouses along the dock.  Actually quite charming, but I am simply not drawn by precious stones.  Perhaps you have noticed my engagement ring.  Or not, since I don’t have one.  Pearls are my thing and semi-precious stones from local areas—coral, garnet and now larimar.

The tram features standing room cars for maybe 6, but we had our own car.  The view grew more stunning with every foot we gained.

Paradise Point is a charming tourist trap, with many shops and a huge bar.  Wonderfully painted in turquoise and coral, the prices were actually quite reasonable since you pay the tram to get there.  We bought some gifts for loved ones and Ron treated me to a larimar ring.  Called “the Caribbean gemstone” it is the blue of sky and sea.  It is considered to add to a person’s communication skills and strengthen the throat.  Can you hear me now?  If you want some, visit <>

We settled down for cokes at the patio of the bar, relaxed in the sun like cats, watching tiny white moths dancing in the trees below.  Hummingbirds flitted and what I called a “mockingroadrunner” dashed past.

Walking back to the ship, we lunched and rested before debarking again for our bus tour of the island and visit to “Secret Sands.”  St. Thomas is very mountainous and the roads precipitous and twisted.  The shore is cut with bay sand peninsulas, with islands of all sizes just offshore.  Dwellings range from castles on the ridges to shacks in the valley.  But the mood is laid back, whatever your lot in life.

We were amused to find out that “Secret Sands” is in fact named Smith Beach, equivalent to a state beach in the US.  But beautiful and secluded, a perfect bay with islands on the horizon and a reef just past the swim area buoys.  We got cokes from our tour guide, settled on loungers and suited up with our snorkel gear.  The waters were so clear that we could see a 2’ sea turtle some dozen feet below us.

Most of the sand was a desert and, though we swam out to the buoys, the current was pretty rough and I decided I wasn’t strong enough to swim it.  Ron reported that there wasn’t much to see unless we went quite a bit more.  We swam ashore to rest a bit and watched frigate birds wheel above us.

The seabed did a funny little thing in going out 2 feet, then dropping off by 2 feet.  So coming ashore was a bit tricky, with a riptide and shelf.  I got knocked down and finally crawled ashore, crablike.

We went out again twice, but the last time coming in, I decided to climb the shelf by digging my toes in, rather than crawl.  This was a really bad decision that ended with my right knee giving a loud pop and collapsing under me.  I knew exactly what had happened, as I injured my left knee 10 years ago [while running down a ramp at the train station in LA. “Running!! At YOUR age?!?!” said the doctor.]

I found I could limp along and did so, first to see a 3’ iguana close up and to get on the bus.  But that evening, after dinner, I stood to leave the room and simply could not walk on the knee.  Ron arranged for a wheelchair and he took me to sick bay.  A young man [RN?] examined the knee, gave me a pressure bandage and recommended icing and elevating the knee on a life vest in my cabin.  Does this count as my first emergency use of a life vest?

BTW, the sick bay had aloe gel, ibuprofen, cold & sinus meds; I was embarrassed to be there with a bum knee; I could not imagine going in for a sunburn.  But I have learned never to judge another’s pain.

I also filled out a form where I could have blamed them and the shore excursion company, but, of course, I didn’t, as it was my own foolish pride at fault.  As it turned out, they didn’t charge for the sick bay visit, the bandage or the wheelchair, which I thought was most generous.

It is an interesting thing to be in a wheelchair.  There are folks that smile; those who condescend; those that try to help and those who cut you off to get ahead of you.  There was a veteran on board permanently in a wheelchair, but with the most amazing outgoing nature, clearly determined to live life to the max.  I only wish I had that kind of courage.
Tags: caribbean, new newport news news

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