Compared to our 14 hour flight from Turkey a few months ago, a 3 hour flight to Puerto Rico was over in a blink. My favorite things about landing in Puerto Rico:
- People clap when the wheels hit the ground. It feels homey and old fashioned.
- The immediate culture shift. Things become simpler. Slower.
- The food gets real. Rice, beans, hunks of pork. Some kind of fizzy fruit soda that’s way too sweet and possibly mildly alcoholic but goes with the food perfectly.
- It’s not uncommon to see a woman in tight leather pants and 6” stiletto heels pushing a double baby stroller while texting and talking on her phones. Yes. 2 phones.
The adventure really heats up on the short flight from Puerto Rico to Tortola. We often fly Air Sunshine (aka Air Sometime). You have to fax your reservations to them. Enough said, I guess. Their planes are cute little 8 passenger Pipers with a tropical scene hand painted on the tail. After a rainy takeoff, the sun broke through and created a rainbow that followed us to the Spanish Virgin Islands. We dodged a few clouds, then eased onto the runway on Beef Island, on the east end of Tortola.
We have important contacts on the ground in all of our locations, and our most important on Tortola is our driver Albert. In addition to driving us and our guests to and from the airport, Albert also takes care of our BVI cell phone, getting SIM cards and re-upping our plan. He’s one of the most reliable and generous people I’ve met. He calls Heather “Baby”.
We met up with old friends Rich and Lisa at the Village Cay Marina, where they’d been hanging around with equally old friend guide Will Thomas. Rich and Lisa were our Captain and steward on our very first SwimVacation, way back in 2008. They quickly picked up on what I was trying to create, and helped us find most of the swimming spots we still use today. We had some beers and walked to The Chicken Van for dinner. Locals only scene. Smoky grills with heaps of pork and chicken. If you want to avoid waiting a very long time for your food, you bring the grill guy a Red Stripe. The best part is the sauce, perfectly spicy and unique. We sat on crude benches built from scrap lumber, with chickens and feral cats and kids underfoot. Local men and women of all ages were dressed up or down, mingling, eating, drinking, dancing. It’s scenes and sounds and tastes like these that scratch my travel itch.
Sticky with sauce, we walked through the annual christmas in the streets celebration here, which was in full swing. We were the only white faces in a crowd of hundreds. Performers on stilts, a local west indies rhythm band, guavaberry wine served over ice in plastic cups. Rich kindly delivered us via dinghy to the Yacht Promenade, our home for the week. Tomorrow we receive guests!