Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The unabridged version of the tourist guide

You know, like everything else what's on the tourist guide is not always the full story.  Here are the bits they leave out...

Beaches.  Most are great.  However there are many drownings in the BVI due to strong rip currents, high surf and other such dangers.  If you can't swim then stay out.  Then there are sandflys which will have a piece of your leg in no time and those things itch for days.  Then there are sea lice (jellyfish larvae) which will give you a nasty rash for weeks.  And loads of big fish (and Shark) and jellyfish swimming about.

Sun.  I don't think there is a UV index that can cope with the intensity of this sun when it comes out.  Oh, by the way it spends most of the time hidden behind a cloud, be grateful.

It goes dark quickly.  In winter it is 5:55pm and it it bright.  By 6.05 it is pitch black!  In summer same thing happens but at 7:00pm!  If you are planning to spend your evenings on the veranda enjoying dusk, plan again. 

Winds.  BVI is not famous for sailing for nothing... sailing requires one important ingredient, wind... there is plenty here!

Weather.  It rains! Even in dry season it rains... and it can go on.  Not just the 10 minute shower, no I mean really torrential rains.  And even in March it can get cold (as in a relative term not as in freezing cold).

Roads.  These are dangerous not only for the steep inclines, hairpin bends and cliff hangers but also because they are not adequately paved and people here drive too fast for them.  BTW, not many signs to tell you where to go, then again you cant get lost here. Do NOT hire a scooter unless you have a death wish.

Bugs.  Name them and you can find them. Roaches to scorpions.  Not to mention rats and mongoose and a spider that can give you a very nasty bite.

Chickens.  The bain of my life.  Found everywhere and the roosters wake you up every morning.  Otherwise known as the alarm clock of Tortola.

Cows.  Normally found in the middle of the road.  They wake you up in the morning when you are driving, turn a corner and there they stand.  Chances are that if you hit one, the cow will win!

Food.  Most eateries tend to serve BBQ Chicken (with or without jerk) - overcooked, RIBS - don't believe the hype they all taste the same, shrimp or Lobster.  Other than surroundings there is little to differentiate between one and another.

Diving.  Some of the best diving in the Caribbean is marred by very choppy seas and wind to get to most dive sites.  If you get sea sick easily, then give it a miss.

Service. What service?  At best it's rude, at worst, non-existent!

Drinking problem.  If you didn't have one when you got here, you will by the time you leave.   I arrived a tea-tottler and now can't get off the rum. 

Radio.  There are probably more radio stations than churches to tune into.  The local ones have local music on most of the time (gospel songs on Sundays).  However, if you have children, best not to tune into them as the conversation by the local presenters can be crass or downright improper especially for early morning listening when children could be listening in.  Then there is are the US VI radio stations with their US bias of music, mostly rock.  However, if you ever get to listen to a newscast try to see if there are any punctuation stops.  As far as I can make out the newscaster stop every five words irrespective of whether there is full stop or comma (or lack of them). Sentences and even news stories just continue from one to another.... fascinating to listen to, frustrating to understand what the stories are about! 

Earthquakes.  If the earth moves it was not as a result of you skills in the bed.... major seismic activity in the region means you might get woken up by more than just a rumble... I have.

Power.  It goes out, frequently.  Maybe not if you are in hotel who might have a reserve generator but I have a few of them in the time I've been here.  Apparently different parts of the islands are more affected by the outages than others.

Water.  Don't drink the tap water! Is what most people on the island well tell you.  Most locals don't.  Why? Because most of the tap water is actually collected from the roofs of buildings and fed into cisterns.  Even if these are well maintained, they are a breeding ground for all types of viruses, diseases etc.  I only found about this a couple of weeks before leaving and I have been drinking it since I arrived... so make your own mind up.

Language.  "E wat de u dink u doee?"  If you think that is English for "Hey, what do you think you are doing?", the official language of the BVI, then you are local 'cause I can't understand a word of it when they go local on you.

Tourists.  If you are reading this you might be thinking of becoming one of these people who wonder around these streets having left behind any sense of style (no, flora print shirts is not the Caribbean style, only tourists wear these), who walk onto the road without thinking that there are actually cars on them, who suddenly stop on the pavement (sidewalk if American) so that people can crash into them!  Please don't, and if you do, please do us a couple of favours [1] cover-up don't walk in town in your swimming costumes, you are to old/wrinkly/white/past it! [2] go to Cane Garden Bay with all the other wannabe lobsters and leave the other beaches alone!

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