Friday, February 23, 2018

Splendors of St. Croix include turtle preserve, mahogany trees, Danish architecture, pristine beaches


Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge on St. Croix is the longest stretch of beach in the U.S Virgin Islands.
This beautiful beach is a protected environment, home to the endangered leatherback turtle.
The port that is now Christiansted was visited  by
Columbus on his second voyage to the new world.

ISLAND OFFERS MIX OF THE STATELY, SERENE, SURPRISING; BIKING IS A FINE WAY TO EXPLORE  IT 



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Cookie takes to the bike with a
custom helmet -- then away, St. Croix.
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

'HOW ABOUT a bike ride? St. Croix will be beautiful from a bike.'' My adventuresome partner suggested the outing.
Mahogany trees, now several hundred years old, pave the way to still
stately plantations reminding of the island's Colonial and plantation days. 






"It's a beautiful island, and we could see a good share of the shoreline, plus forests and plantations.  And it's only 15 miles," he lobbied.
"Okay," said I, not wishing to be accused of cowardice or laziness. So we booked the scenic bike ride from our Serenade of the Seas balcony.  It promised plantations, rain forests, panoramic coastal views, historic city sights and an engaging commentary.
FOR OUR brief return to this lovely 40-mile long island, whose name means "Holy Cross," we wanted to explore its highlights. We hoped to see a stately plantation -- elegant even in decay or renovation -- stone walkways, historic churches with grassy graves and fascinating inscriptions, rolling green hills, coral beaches where snorkelers claim to see unparalleled wonders. 
Bikers get a brief history of the island, the only one actually named by
Christopher Columbus, who anchored off a natural bay west of
Christiansted, known today as Salt River.
In its heyday, St. Croix was among the Caribbean's top producers of sugar and molasses.  Cruzan rum is still a huge export. We wanted to see a rum factory. We saw it all!
WE HELMETED up with bikes for our size, then set off from the Danish port of Christiansted on a lovely 75 degree day. We'd just heard on our ship that most of the U.S. was again blanketed in a blizzard, so we relished our bike outing on a gorgeous warm St. Croix day.
We stopped for snacks and photos on our bike ride,
enjoying the beautiful beaches of St. Croix, learning
about the visits of the leatherback sea turtle.




Baby leatherbacks take their first steps toward the sea.
Photo Courtesy St. Croix Tourism
FIRST, WE biked around the town, a picturesque partly restored port, with vestigates of graceful Danish architecture and native peoples' imprint. The last of the Native Indian people to inhabit St. Croix were
 








the Carib, a nomadic people with wanderlust and sailing skills. Originally from the Guiana region of South America, the Carib were not the first Indians on St. Croix. The Tainos and Arawaks were there earlier, but the Carib greeted Columbus in 1493, when he anchored off a natural bay, know known as Salt River.
Our  St. Croix bike tour included a visit to St. Croix's landmarks, such as
this lovely Danish style government building, with its graceful archways. 
 ST. CROIX is a world away from the U.S. -- 1,700 miles south of New York, 1100 miles south east of Miami, near the eastern tip of the Caribbean island chain. On the same latitude as Acapulco and Hawaii, just below the Tropic of Cancer, its eternal summer is caressed by cooling breezes.  The people are relaxed and friendly, and there is a greatest tourist draw: leatherback sea turtles.  We weren't there for their egg-laying, but heard of this oldest sea turtle species with its 150-million year history on Earth.  This largest sea turtle is the fourth largest living reptile on our planet.  It can weigh 2,100 pounds and be 10 feet long.
 We saw where the females come to lay their eggs, under vigilant eyes of environmentalists.  We learned that this handsome leatherback is the only sea turtle that does not have a hard shell. It can dive up to 3,000 feet!
WE LEFT St. Croix with views of vintage fishing trawlers, barges, tugboats and thriving coral reefs, thinking of the Arawak and Carib people whose burial grounds we'd visited.  Hoping to return to see the turtles. St. Croix's landscape still seems pristine and this lovely island was fortunately spared the ravages of the latest hurricane.
We can't wait to dive again into the  serenity and beauty of St. Croix.
 
The Caribbean's oldest railway is still up and running on St. Kitts. Come
with us on a 30-mile historic rail tour with lively tales of the island's lore.

UP NEXT: Not far from St. Croix, but another world unto itself, St. Kitts welcomes us.  We hitch a ride on the Caribbean's oldest railway, listen to a wonderful vocal trio, learn of the military engineering for which the island is noted, and admire impressive volcanic rock structures built on the back of slaves.  We enjoy a spectacular view where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean and are eager to share all this with you.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend -- a novel look at travel, the arts, family and nature.































4 comments:

  1. Chicago Island HoppersFebruary 27, 2018 at 7:03 PM

    We love this calm, still welcoming islamd...so lovely to see this post.

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  2. Carolina Sisters CelebratingFebruary 27, 2018 at 7:07 PM

    We biked with you that day. Are you Fannie's still throbbing? Worth it though.....thanks! Fun recount. Loves Loves meeting you two explorers.

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  3. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.... lovely contrast from Ireland's chill with his time of year.

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  4. Honeymooned while we were in the Caribbean 20 years ago...Stayed on St. John .. nice memories of a side trip to St. Croix.

    ReplyDelete