One activity that I absolutely enjoyed was something I only did when I worked and lived at Maho Bay Camp and that was taking early morning walks that ended at Big Maho Bay. When I first arrived at Maho Bay Camp for the last season I was in a tent with an nearly full length screened-in “wall” in the bedroom, so I had much more light coming in than I was used to each morning. I found myself waking up at 5:30 am, yet I can assure you I am not a morning person, and did not have a morning routine for that hour! However what I did have was a beautiful view of Big Maho Bay from my porch. Considering the afternoon sun, heat and humidity was at its worst at that time of year, I took up walking before breakfast.
The scenery at the end of my walk was a strong motivator. Maho Bay in the early morning is possibly at its best! The water is crystal clear and calm, such that I could watch the fish swimming past in the shallows. Someone might be out swimming or walking on the beach but it was often deserted. Usually the pelicans would gather, fly around in circles and dive in for their breakfast of silversides and whatever other fish they like to eat. And during all of this the sun would be rising in the east, behind the tall coconut palms on the beach and casting their cooling shadows on the water – something you can only see in the early morning hours.
The beginning of the walk also had a distinctiveness to it, perhaps more than the view of the beach. Usually I would pass someone else coming back from an even earlier run as I started down the drive from Maho Bay Camp. And once the road turned to dirt and gravel it would hit me just how quiet it was. Have you ever heard that sort of quiet that would almost hum? Nothing but the sound of your own blood rushing in your body. I would notice how loud my footsteps sounded, crunching, crunching, crunching on the gravel in the dirt road. Sometimes I would hear a deer take off in the woods. Maybe a stray rooster crowing. And as I rounded the curve in the road I would start to hear the birds. Not a few. I could hear a hundred, maybe more, all chirping their morning wake-up song. Some were close, others ahead or behind or back in the woods. Island bird song in surround sound!
After the rains of passing tropical storms, the island was lush and green and the road to Maho Bay Camp was covered in coral vine in full bloom! When I had time I would take the extra time to walk the road to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins. The road goes along a mangrove swamp (or through,depending on the amount of rain the island was getting) with the roots growing out if the mangrove trees as high as I am tall, and the leaves creating a canopy over my head. At the end the was a view of the British Virgin Islands and a dependable cooling breeze, which was why the plantation was located there. A windmill on the top of the hill helped crush sugarcane in order to make to molasses, sugar and rum.
No air conditioners humming, car engines running or whatever generates the background hum that we consider quiet anywhere else. (The water delivery truck was the antithesis of this quiet but thankfully rare when I walked.) The roads around Maho were a fantastic place for this amazing quiet because it was surrounded by the national park. It also had more “flat” land for running, walking or biking than anywhere else, except maybe around Coral Bay. My favorite walking companions were the feral island donkeys. They are the ones who discovered the best way around the island in the first place and seem to walk the roads as if the knowledge of them is in their genes. The seem to know to stay on the side of the road, unlike the deer and chickens who always see a car and decide it is a good time to cross the road. Living here I came to understand the joke about why the chicken crossed the road! The donkeys seem to know to walk along the road but often seem to be found walking on the left side. (We drive on the left side here, with the steering wheel on the left too.) Legend says that driving on the left allowed islanders to stop and and have a friendly chat with those walking, I felt it was because it made it easier to see the edge of the road since we have no shoulder and often no guardrails, but now I am beginning to think it might have been that the donkeys passed each other on the left all those years ago when the only way from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay was on the back of a donkey on a donkey trail!