Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. Croix - a magical isle

We love St. Croix!

Puerto Rico is known locally as the "Big Hurry" and Vieques, which we visited in November, as the "No Hurry" and here on St. Croix they claim to be the "Little Hurry" island.

We have two days to spend on the island and we planned on one walking around the alleys and gades of Christiansted and the other hopefully driving over the island and discoving the sights, sounds and smells away from the 'city'. It turns out that the Agricultural and Food Fair is this weekend which endeavoured to change out plans vis a vis car rentals. After visiting the big agencies (Avis, Budget) we ended up with the local Olympic rentals. At first they didn't have anything available, but after much entreaty the ladies at the counter did indeed have a jeep that we could have for the day. In actual fact we could keep it til the morning! This set our plans in motion, literally, and we headed off from Christiansted to explore the corners of the island.

The east end, also known as Point Udall is the easternmost point in the U.S. and as such, they have erected a millenium, sun-dial type monument on the point. The views are spectacular over the Caribbean with only a very hazy St. John in sight to the north.

From the east point we headed along the south shore where the volcanic hills to the north slope gently into the blue of the ocean. About mid-way along, the industrial heartland of St. Croix is located with the Hovensa oil refinery and other busy-looking sights. The sheer magnitude of the refinery and the adjoining workers' estates aparently places this as one of the 10 largest refineries in the world. We rounded the airport and then not much further along the road, found the Cruzan Rum Factory - nirvana! We picked up a tour, did the requisite looks into vats of fermenting molasses and yeast, smelled the wonderful sweet sugary smells, admired the oak barrels and finally arrived at the bar where for the $5 admission we could enjoy any number of concoctions or mixes of the various Cruzan flavours. Wonderful stuff!

Fredericksted, on the western shore was next on the list and wandering the streets of this sleepy waterfront town led us to a delicious lunch of roti. The waterfront has been fabulously developed, including a massive cruise ship dock, but there is not much else infrastructure to support the influx. We enjoyed the stop but I imagine the big ship passengers head for other interests. The bay is surrounded by a wide sweep of sand to the south and we could definitely see ourselves coming back for a visit.

The north west corner of the island is covered in rain/cloud forest and the jeep that we had landed in, came in handy on the pot-hole strewn roads.

The end of the day brought us past Salt Pond where Columbus first landed on St. Croix in 1493, and killed some natives thereby cementing western relations with the locals, and then on into Christiansted where we enjoyed the sunset view from the boardwalk. All-in-all we enjoyed the variety the island has to offer from the steep uninhabitable hills of the north, to the arid, cattle-grazing slopes to the south and tucked inbetween the damp sugar plantation ruins of the rainy areas.

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