Tag Archives: donkeys

Maho Morning Walks

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 part paved, part dirt entry road up to Maho Bay Camp taken in the unrelenting heat of September 2012!
The entry road up to Maho Bay Camp taken in the heat of September 2012!

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.

Early morning view of pelicans at Maho Bay beach.
Early morning view of pelicans at Maho Bay beach.
Early morning at Maho Bay beach with the shadows of the palm trees on the sand and water - So Lovely!
Early morning at Maho Bay beach with the shadows of the palm trees on the sand and water – So Lovely!

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!

Dirt road heading out of Maho Bay Camp that began my morning walks.
Dirt road heading out of Maho Bay Camp that began my morning walks.

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.

Delicate pink coral vine blooming along the dirt road up to Maho Bay Camps.
Delicate pink coral vine blooming along the dirt road up to Maho Bay Camps.
Road heading past the mangrove swamp to Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins.
Road heading past the mangrove swamp to Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins.

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!

 

Island donkeys walking along the road at Big Maho Bay while out on one of my morning walks.
Island donkeys walking along the road at Big Maho Bay while out on one of my morning walks.
View of Whistling Cay from Big Maho Bay beach!
View of Whistling Cay from Big Maho Bay beach!

 

Island Creatures

Found this frog hanging out in my roll down in VipE at Maho Bay Camp. He left during the day and would return during the night.
Found this frog hanging out in my roll down in VipE at Maho Bay Camp. He left during the day and would return during the night.

While staying at Maho Bay Camp, whether you were prepared or not, there were always plenty of land creatures nearby. When I was observant, they were everywhere; and when I was oblivious, they were still numerous! During the time I more or less “lived outside” I realized the buggy-versions of these island creatures bothered me less when I discovered them inside. In many ways I was invading their space, not the other way around.  Although there were still limits to what I cared to deal with on a regular basis! I’m sure many guests discovered their limits over the course of their visits also. Over the years since my first visit in 1995 I have seen:

  • Wandering peahens on the Maho boardwalks.
  • Braying donkeys under my tent-cabin, walking along the road to town, and hanging out on the beaches.
  • Zigzagging fisher bats dipping in front of my car headlights as I drove along North Shore Road.
  • Large grey-green iguanas sunning themselves on the beach and falling out of trees, sometimes chasing after me if they saw my orange camera (looks like food to them since they eat red hibiscus flowers.)
  • Small island deer chasing each other around my tent. My nephew had his first meeting with a deer by coming literally face to face with it as he was walking out the door of the bathhouse in the C-Section!
This deer was watching me from the bush in the Maho Bay staff section as I walked to work.
This deer was watching me from the bush in the Maho Bay staff section as I walked to work.
Oooops!  This island lizard is unknowingly hitchhiking his way to town with me.
Oooops! This island lizard is unknowingly hitchhiking his way to town with me.
  • Maho’s cadre of adopted island cats enjoying their good life.
  • Anoles (tropical lizards) working feverishly to keep the mosquito population in check in my tent, doing push-ups to attract a mate, dodging hundreds of feet walking up the boardwalks and steps, or watching me take a shower (that was always weird!)
  • The endearingly tiny, black and yellow banaquits looking to be fed some sugar, and the opportunistic pearly-eyed thrashers trying to steal food from an unoccupied table at the Dining Pavilion. Hummingbirds were always around if they had a feeder nearby.
  • Trigger-happy tree frogs jumping from trees onto people near the store, hiding in the roll-down in my tent or hanging out in showers and toilets!!
  • A tiny grey mouse sitting on his haunches watching me cook spaghetti from a safe distance. Smallest I’ve ever seen, his fur was all standing out stick-straight, as if he had some electrical current running through him. He was a living, breathing cartoon character.
The adopted Maho cats had a pretty nice island life and they consistently seemed to enjoy it! This is Ralphy laying on the boardwalk on the way to my staff tent.
The adopted Maho cats had a pretty nice island life and they consistently seemed to enjoy it! This is Ralphy laying on the boardwalk on the way to my staff tent.
  • Pie-sized land crabs crossing the road near Big Maho Bay in the evenings, their white shell reflecting my oncoming headlights.
  • Herds of island goats with cute baby goats in tow, roaming the roads near Coral Bay.
  • A huge wall-sized beige-colored cow that wanders the west end of Centerline Road. (just yesterday he spent the entire afternoon eating grass in front of the health clinic.)
  • A chicken that would not leave the air conditioning of First Bank!  After the security guard spent 10 hilarious minutes chasing it around and finally putting it out, it turned around and came in with the next customer who opened the door!
  • Roosters in the trees in Cruz Bay (it must be cooler up there?)
Looked up one day and saw the Cruz Bay roosters high up in the trees near the park!
Looked up one day and saw the Cruz Bay roosters high up in the trees near the park!
Chicken enjoying the beach at Francis Bay, St. John.
Chicken enjoying the beach at Francis Bay, St. John.
  • A white lamb that found its way to Maho looking for a home. He or she was later adopted by a neighbor to Maho Bay Camp.
  • A cute baby donkey rescued from an old well near the beach shop, who later lingered for days in the parking lots. I think he’d lost his parents.
  • Quarter-sized acid spiders hanging out on the ceiling of my tent or on counters. My first tent as a 4Hr Workers had them everywhere and at one point I killed one. That night I was bitten on my neck while sleeping and woke to a quarter-size blister. Our security guy, Bobby Ray, said that every acid spider has a mate and I was bitten in retribution. Who knows? But I never even bothered another, and I was never bitten again…
  • A scorpion falling onto my bed as I pulled a pair of shorts off the shelf to wear.
  • Fredericka the Iguana who generally hung out at the Activities Desk to be fed lettuce and hibiscus flowers.
As I was walking down the steps from the Dining Pavilion at Maho Bay Camp, this iguana scurried out from under a step! Glad I had my iPhone with me!
As I was walking down the steps from the Dining Pavilion at Maho Bay Camp, this iguana scurried out from under a step! Glad I had my iPhone with me!
As I was walking down the steps from the Dining Pavilion at Maho Bay Camp, this iguana scurried out from under a step! Stopped me dead in my tracks!
As I was walking down the steps from the Dining Pavilion at Maho Bay Camp, this iguana scurried out from under a step! Stopped me dead in my tracks!
  • Hordes of termites flying everywhere after their papery nest was destroyed in a heavy rain, invading any tent that had a light on or a candle burning. My roommate and I turned out the lights and jumped in our beds. I pulled the sheet completely over my head only to find it covered in termite wings the next morning. Termites at Maho can be an unpleasant and overwhelming experience.
  • Large (3 inches wide) nearly black Luna moths around camp at night, usually in the store (probably because of the bright lights) and once in my tent.
  • Coming home to my tent and seeing my screen door covered with a couple hundred small green roaches!
  • Small biting ants, which kept returning to my bed for weeks before I found a decent ant killer. Not fun.
  • One season (2001/2002) the mosquitoes were so thick that I wore shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeve shirt, a hat on my head and put the mosquito repellant on my face and hands while working at the Activities Desk.  I had had dengue fever the year before and was probably more afraid of mosquitoes than anything else on this island!
  • Little pink bugs called “Love Bugs” piling up in heaps along my hike out to Waterlemon Cay.
  • Migrating solider crabs under my tent in the fall. More often I would see lone soldier crabs and hear the groups migrating. They would create a constant rustling sound in the dry leaves and brush under my tent. It took me a couple of days before I registered the sound against all the others I was hearing and remembered what it was!
Soldier crab on my front steps on morning.
Soldier crab on my front steps on morning.

 

St. John Love Bugs!!
St. John Love Bugs!!