I was sort of on a mission.
After all, my claim to their relevance in my life has to do with being a “turtle” in the Mayan calendar. That I learned ages ago on my very first trip to the lovely country called, Guatemala. This is a secret obsession that erupts to the surface whenever I’m near beaches claimed to have the sweet and gentle creatures.
Anyway, on a practical level, this trip was to avoid the evil cold winter time in DC. Two of my friends and I ventured out and indulged in some “glamping.” I did not come up with that idea. I was all for the mosquito bites and deet perfume 24/7. In the end, it was a good decision due to the fact that the campground, Cinnamon Bay, was buggy indeed. Lovely location – Cinnamon Bay beach. We certainly felt special enough that we had some Bollywood shots taken in and out of the water. That’s what happens when one of the people you travel with has a …paparazzi tendency 🙂
So what did we humans accomplish on this trip? Nothing. Just lazed around but I’m proud to say I ran at least once. That included running up steep trails and checking out a bit of the ruins left in the island. A lot of our time was also spent snorkeling. Well, we did that each day actually. You can’t blame us. Didn’t I say there were turtles? Yes, and I luckily got to swim with them, stalk them, almost petted them but surely caught them on my waterproof Fujifilm XP camera. The place to do all these is in Maho Bay. Besides snorkeling, we did kayak to a nearby island. We were the only ones there so we managed to feel like stranded tourists, albeit not starving, as we had some tuna, nuts and crackers to eat.
All in all, Cinnamon Bay campground is a decent base for wandering in the northern part of the island. To get around would require having your own car. We didn’t rent one. Public taxis came around but depending on the time, they can be scarce and hard to catch. So, car rental is a must if you wish to roam around the island. But for the popular areas like Trunk Bay, Cinammon Bay and Maho Bay, one can manage without.
I do want to air out one thing about St. John. I am a bit saddened by the fact that people in the island are being outnumbered by tourists. Many Americans are moving there with the intent to retire. When we went to the city center, there was a lack of local restaurants. We ate at one that appears to be the only one left as most of the local joints were being pushed out by American -owned establishments. Wait, that just sounded like my NE neighborhood in DC… hmm… See, not only is the island being overtaken by foreign retirees, but also by the good old cruise ship people. They were everywhere, left and right. But I must say the locals remain friendly despite the tourist take over although they have openly aired out their concern for the future generations of the island locals. The unfortunate side effect of the commercialism is the tendency of most locals to leave the island and move to the bigger island of St. Thomas. St. John is a beautiful island, no doubt but it has become too commercialized. With commercialism, comes higher costs. Indeed, it wasn’t a cheap place to visit. Meals at restaurants average $20 a pop.
Ah, St. John! I was in love with it once but never again. The first time I went there years ago I only had a day to visit but the place left a good impression in my backpacker mind- that I wanted to go back there and…(surprise, surprise) retire. Well, that’s all changed as the future appears to paint an uber commercialized St. John. That leaves backpackers like me with having to look for another low key island to consider as future home. Oh, well, and so it goes. Nonetheless, thank you, St. John, for the turtles. It reconnected me back to the importance of patiently enjoying the moment and taking things slow, just like my turtle spirit.
Some practical tips:
- If you visit St. John around winter time (Dec-Feb), chances are you may score a great deal on flights coming from U.S.
- There is a public transport on the island but at times you’ll have to wait a while. If you can afford the extra expense, opt for a car rental especially if you’re staying for only a few days.
- St. John is hilly so keep that in mind if you decide to do more walking like we did. You may try to do some hitchhiking as it’s safe enough since most people are tourists.
- Where we stayed at, Cinnamon Bay, is the cheapest place available on the island. We originally intended to stay in the tents but as it turns out mosquitoes are common. So, we were glad to have opted for the more luxurious rustic cabins. You can’t beat the location with a view of the water.
- There are grocery stores in the island but you’ll need to pay tons. I suggest you bring with you in your check in luggage some provisions as the cabin has what you need to cook your own meals.
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