When the water taxi pulled into Great Harbor, a couple of dogs were there to greet us. They had jogged down the dock, sensing a potential handout, then jogged back up it again when it didn’t materialize.
We had arrived at Jost Van Dyke, an island I had wanted to visit since I heard about it from some folks at Cayamo last year. Great Harbor was exactly what I wanted it to be: A few beach shacks/bars/restaurants, a dirt road and not that many people hanging around. And I immediately knew I had made a mistake by not scheduling my entire vacation here.
We walked around a bit. We were waiting for the boat captain to come back with our passports after we cleared Customs, since we had come over from St. Thomas — an American Virgin Island — to this British Virgin Island. I suppose this was technically illegal, since we were bureaucratically persona non grata until we got the passports stamped, but I somehow doubted anyone minded as we headed out.
The plan was to clear Customs, hop back in the boat, head over to the nearby White Bay and swim in to one of the Caribbean’s most notorious beach/bar scenes (there’s no dock at White Bay, so the only approach by water is to anchor out and swim in). But we took one look at Great Harbor and threw that plan right out the window. The taxi’s captain came back with our passports and we told him we’d hike overland — over a road that was steep even by Virgin Islands standards — to White Bay, where we’d hook up with everyone again at the preordained time about six hours later.
And off we went, wandering down the road through the closest thing to a town on this island. We checked out the “putting green” in front of Ali Baba’s:
…and then wandered into Corsairs, another beach joint nearby. There, we met Vinny, the owner of the place and a fully tatted biker type, who told us the power was out. This is, not surprisingly, a regular event on Jost and the bar was prepared to deal with it accordingly. I ordered up a Dark and Stormy and my wife ordered up a rum and diet Coke.
The first thing you have to understand about rum drinks on Jost is that they are terrifyingly strong. That’s because the rum — which is crazy-cheap across most of the Caribbean — is less expensive than the mixer, which is shipped in. Vinny cracked open a small can of ginger beer (similar to ginger ale but not as sweet, less carbonated, often darker and sometimes spicy) and a similarly sized can of diet Coke. He set up some cups with ice, filled them three-fourths full of dark rum and poured a little soda on top. This was going to be an interesting hike.
Vinny argued some with a T-shirt vendor over his cell phone, then shot the bull with us for a while. When I told him I had punked out of booking my whole vacation here and now knew I had made a mistake, he looked at me and said, with a top-notch you-are-a-dumb-shit expression, “Why?” He then recommended the very place I had intended to book — a small development of villas on White Bay. Next time, I thought.
The soda cans drew the attention of a bananaquit, who was clearly accustomed to being around customers and was not threatened by feeding three feet from us. He hung out for a while…
…as did we. Drinks this strong demand to be sipped slowly, lest ye be visited by the Hammer of the Rum Gods. And everything slowed down in a way it never did while we were over on St. Thomas, the most developed and crowded of the Virgin Islands. We talked to Vinny some more, sipped our drinks and moved on after more than an hour.
The hike to White Bay required a walk up a road so steep that I felt like it needed a rope line. It wasn’t terribly long, though, and soon we were headed back downhill to Ivan’s Stress Free Bar, the first bar at this end of the bay:
There was a campground at Ivan’s and I had thought earlier about renting a cabin there for an overnighter. But I never could get a phone message returned from anyone there about that, despite several attempts. I wrote this off to Island Time Disease and just decided to take a day trip.
Ivan’s was every bit as great as I had hoped. The beach wasn’t crowded, a few folks in the campground were staging a hermit crab race, a bartender kinda sorta came around every now and again, and the regulars were self-pouring drinks and keeping the bill in a ledger at the bar. There was a barbecue planned for later in the day, although we would be long gone. I could have spent all day around here. I suspect I could spend the rest of my life around here. But the water taxi would be meeting us further down the bay, so we moved on.
Ivan’s is separated from everything else on White Bay by a pile of boulders. There is a hiking path across the boulder field, but the wall of rock apparently keeps some folks away. As soon as we crossed the rocks, we ran into…an adult frat party.
Now, keep in mind that we were there at the height of the day in the height of the highest of the high season, meaning things never got busier than what we were witnessing. Still, the volume of the crowd came as a surprise. The harbor was thick with boats and hundreds of day-trippers were in states of intoxication that varied from pleasingly happy to dangerously vomitous. This was not what we wanted — but there was nothing to do but head into the breach.
The next place over was the best-known and busiest of all the Jost beach bars: The Soggy Dollar. The place claims to have invented the Painkiller, a fruity/deadly rum specialty, and we had one to mark the moment. We also watched them being mixed up by the dozens:
The bar and area was just overrun with people and noise. We moved on.
Down the beach a ways was One Love Bar and Grill, known as a decent place to eat and a place where I had a specific mission in mind. We walked in, ordered some seafood and pasta (perhaps not super-memorable but perfectly good and a reasonable buy on this sometimes-expensive island), and I looked for a place to complete the mission.
One Love is decorated with hundreds of hats. They come from all over the world (although the vast majority of them, for obvious reasons, are American). I left my offering and the mission was finished:
Lunch was followed by a little beach time, and some swimming, and some shooting of the bull with the water taxi captain, who had stayed anchored at White Bay. The hours slipped by and soon we were returning to St. Thomas. But I will be back, and this time I will put aside my fear of having too much Island Time.