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Tuesday, 01 November 2011

Maho Bay Camps: An Endangered Species? - Page 2

Written by Janice Anderson
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Mahobay3A screened-in square about the size of a two-car garage, our cabin had four sections. One quarter opened to a deck with a clothesline. In another, the kitchen with a set of rough-wood shelves with a two-burner Coleman stove,a blue cooler, pots and pans,two plates, two bowls, a basin with biodegradable soap,and the empty water jug. The third section had a waterproof sofa, and the fourth – twin beds, six hooks, a few skinny shelves, and no drawers. Three spiral light bulbs were wired in, as were two electrical outlets to charge our phones, (which didn’t work) and our laptops, which they advised us not to use due to unpredictable power surges. Other than opaque rubber on the ceiling and lower half of the bedroom, the walls were screens and the screens had patches.

Being a bit of a bug-o-phobe, the gaps in the screens and open slats in the floorboards caused my stomach to sink as panic and dread welled up. In retreat, I went to bed early, pulling the sheets up to my chin. Pat turned on her flashlight and I used a tiny reading headlight so we wouldn’t attract insects with the brighter room light, but a gnat kept dive-bombing my face anyway. I extinguished my light and tried to focus on the sound of the surf. I hoped the chirps and cheeps between the steady low-pitched buzz came from night birds. I fell asleep concentrating on the stars between swaying trees – that’s beautiful, right?
I knew I had to embrace a better attitude, and knew I would. But that first day, I felt like a squeamish well-off American from the city; wishing I’d gone the way of my older sister. She travels to a Caribbean with padded beach chairs that have flags on top to notify staff when her rum-based drink needs a refresher.

The next morning, I opened my eyes to a big white spider. Really? I thought, followed by, I wonder if the Westin has any rooms, and finally, How can it sit on the clothesline like that? I put on my glasses and realized it was only a frayed knot in the rope.

We choreographed unpacking – you take these hooks, I’ll take those – and then set out for morning yoga on the beach. This had sounded lovely from the comfort of my Pittsburgh living room. But having gone without breakfast, the long hike down the rocky Goat Path to the beach and the ten-minute walk on the beach gave me the hypoglycemic shakes. The instructor had nuts, which helped, but my internal judging, always judging, even judging the judging, kept me discouraged. This place was beautiful, sure. Gorgeous. Cliché even: the feel of soft white sand, the sound of gentle surf, pelicans played in the clear green water. Still, as I worried about the climb back up to camp, my yoga poses wavered and the knot in my stomach tightened.

Working against last call for breakfast, Pat scrambled ahead on the rocky path to save me some oatmeal. On my more leisurely hike back, I tried not to lose the effects yoga may have had on my frayed nerves. I noticed the trees. New since the massive clearing for sugar plantations in the early eighteenth century, these second-generation trees had grown thirty to forty feet. None were a type found in my Pittsburgh neighborhood. Geckos sunned themselves on the rocks and boulders that jut up from the hillside between the labyrinths of walkways. I even watched one of the ever-present iguanas move in thick underbrush in the distance. We had heard that iguanas regularly fall out of trees. Some thought it happened when they fell asleep, others said iguanas underestimated the strength of distal limbs.

By the second day, I began to look around with eyes that weren’t darting from one fear to another. I made friends with the bedroom first – for reasons of familiarity and attraction to rest, I suppose – the mattress was comfortable, with clean white sheets. Slowly, the vistas and clean air quieted my soul, helped me appreciate life beyond my trepidation and discomforts. The bay turned deeper blue as it reached westward toward the Caribbean Sea. At night, the sun dropped behind the comparative metropolis of St. Thomas in the distance. Hours later, a waxing sliver of the setting moon followed. The best part? I could take in that entire vista by simply sitting up in bed.

I gathered my nerve and snorkeled off Little Maho Bay. At first I kept my head above water, preferring to track the large bird on the beach, which may have been a Brown Booby. But I stayed in, half submerged, for fifteen minutes. I listened to the rhythmic tubular sound of my breath as I swallowed against my dry mouth. Pat pointed out small but starkly colored yellow and blue fish and another one, plump with polka dots. Tangs, we found out later, and a Trunkfish, respectively. The sea urchins – basically black balls of needles – stood out as the hardiest. Pale coral of interesting shapes hugged the rocky shoreline on the side of the bay.

(Page 2 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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