Fellow WWLOR contributor Kate recently posted this link to a Caribbean Journal article on her Facebook wall, questioning whether the author of the article had actually ever driven around Tortola at all: Caribbean Road Trip: Tortola, BVI.
After reading the article (which you should do too or my post won’t make all that much sense), I’m more than a little inclined to agree with her. I’m pretty sure the guy (or gal) never left the comfort of his sun lounger, setting aside his alcoholic, tropical-themed drink only for the 15 – 30 minutes or so that it took him to look at a map, a guidebook, and slap that article together. Oh – and to find stock photos that don’t actually coincide with what he’s writing about.
Here’s a more realistic Tortola road-trip write-up for you, based on what the author has mentioned in his article:
The very idea of “road trip” is not something you think of doing on Tortola at all. Not only is the island a mere 12 miles long, but Tortola is exceptionally unsuited for this type of adventure. Few places are more precarious, infuriating, or downright silly for a road trip than here. But, if you feel you must…
Don’t start at Maria’s by the Sea. There’s really no point in going there unless you’re on-island for a conference and I think that Caribbean Journal (CJ) article is the first and last place I’m ever going to hear it being called a “local favourite.”
EAU DE TOILET
You may indeed be better off walking around Roadtown; parking is a nightmare and can add an extra 5-20 minutes to your journey, depending on the day of the week, time of day, and general level of moronic driving activity you encounter. However, walking around town in itself isn’t quite the quaint experience you may have been led to believe by CJ. There are few places on Tortola that are hotter than Roadtown, and you’ll soon find yourself becoming a sweaty mess, sunscreen (if you’ve remembered it) running in your eyes. Not to fear – no one, not even you will notice your own stench, thanks to the semi-permanent stink permeating through the dodgy sewerage system that runs through town. Perhaps in your meanderings you may see it gushing like a fountain out of a manhole in the middle of the road. No, kids, that’s not water.
NOT QUITE MAIN STREET
There certainly are a few things to see on Main Street and a couple of places to buy trinkets, as well as a bite to eat. However, most of the places mentioned by CJ aren’t even on Main Street at all. I would never advise someone that J.R. O’Neal Botanical Gardens is within walking distance of Dolphin Discovery unless I really didn’t like them.
COAST ROAD OBSTACLE COURSE
As you leave town, it is likely that you have narrowly avoided being side-swiped, rear-ended, or slamming into someone with no brake lights, and you most definitely have been beeped at and been the recipient of rude hand gestures more times in the space of 15 minutes than you have in your entire driving life. As you head towards West End, CJ seems to have forgotten all the other islands you can see before Frenchman’s Cay even comes into view. There’s Virgin Gorda, Ginger, Cooper, Salt, Peter, and Norman all staring back at you. But don’t take your eyes off the road for too long!
Now that you’re out on coast road, you need to watch out for rocks and landslides that have yet to be cleared, gaping potholes, and the infamous taxi drivers who like to drive at 10mph and overtake on blind corners. You’ll also have to slow down every few seconds as you drive through Sea Cow’s Bay, due to the myriad of speed bumps. There are 10 of them in the space of one mile.
Shortly after Sea Cow’s is Nanny Cay (pronounced “key” not “kay”), which according to CJ doesn’t appear to warrant even a mention. It’s a nifty little spot, full of sailor types (unsurprising – it’s a marina), a pool, a beach, and….four bars! The resort’s hotel bathrooms are pretty great too, so if all of those speed bumps brought about the call of nature, now is the time to go.
EAU DE TRASH
Moving further west along the coast road, things might start to get smelly again as you near the incinerator in Pockwood Pond. Should you be so lucky, you may catch it on a day that it “spontaneously combusts”, setting all the garbage ablaze in a plume of rancid black smoke that moves west with the weather to piss off our not-always-so-friendly neighbours in St. John and St. Thomas.
GET YOUR PICS STRAIGHT
Soper’s Hole in West End, which also more or less got passed over, is also a nice little spot. You might want to stop in and check the other Sunny Caribbee location here (the one that’s actually pictured in the article, and not the shop on Main Street, as implied).
CJ now recommends that you go “up the hill” to Bananakeet Café. Well, that’s not a bad idea… only there’s another couple of hills and a couple of bays before you get to that hill. THEN you get to the hill. You begin your climb immediately after going over a speed bump and make your way up the mountainside, navigating rather steep switchbacks all the way up. Watch out for heavy loads such as concrete mixers, dump trucks, or over-confident pick-up drivers as they like to lay on the horn heavily while they take the turns as widely as humanly possible. Parts of the road at the cliff’s edge may have also fallen away. If you’ve survived, have a tipple at Bananakeet. It better be sunset. Everyone knows you do sunset drinks at Bananakeet. If not, you’re gonna have to do that drive again.
WHERE DID I PARK?
Cane Garden Bay is definitely nice for a stop, but I’m afraid there’s just the one beach (and not beachES, a la Caribbean Journal) that encompasses almost the entire bay. There are tons of beachfront restaurants and bars and you may want to explore a little and then hunker down and snooze on the beach. If you hadn’t already realized this far into your road trip, the number of bars relative to the size of the island isn’t exactly conducive to road-tripping. Besides, why would you want to blitz through any of these places in a car when you can get out and spend most of the day there?
There’s lots of Ridge Road (the “scenic route”) to navigate between Cane Garden and Trellis. You’ll be really tempted to look at the view, but the road is narrow and windy with dips and holes and cars parked half way into the road so you’ll want to exercise caution. People who are more used to the roads won’t appear to slow down for anything either (especially if you’ve got a rental plate slapped on your car), so you’ll want to be VERY careful.
Nothing happens quickly in Trellis bay, so picking up a quick bite may not be as swift as you anticipate. As for the spot behind the HIHO Surf Shop? It’s closed.
Buy a souvenir at Aragorn’s, grab a drink at the Cyber Café (see what I mean about all the bars?), and head back to your hotel. Take the Ridge Road; it may be sketchy, but no one should drive through East End unless absolutely necessary.
The next day, pick one or two spots to see and just stay there (like the author of that article clearly did). Or, better yet: go sailing. You’re on an island in the Caribbean for goodness sake – do yourself a favor and get the hell out of your car.