Here we are!
Our next leg of this trip was to visit the famous Baths of Virgin Gorda! The taxi dropped us off at a trailhead near a restaurant, and we gathered under a gazebo-like structure where our guide (one of the crew members) gave a brief history of the Baths. Basically, its an area of enormous granite boulders that were formed volcanically, about 70 million years ago. A fault pushed them up from the sea floor, where they have been eroding into what they are today. This maze of giant rocks all on top of one another, forms an area of caves, pools (or "baths") and grottos next to white sand beaches and a beautiful snorkeling area. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the British Virgin Islands.
We saw this large, colorful caterpiller on the trail
We hiked down the Baths trail, which worked its way down a rocky path that was predominated by cactus plants of various sizes. A fairly easy, narrow trail, we walked single file... I hung back a little to take pictures, Tyler naturally worked his way to the front. At one point, everyone stopped and clogged up the path... and made sure to point out to the person behind them, not to step on a multicolored caterpiller that was right in the middle of the path! It was around 15 minutes or so before we arrived at a beach, which was the beginning of the Baths area.
When we got there, after hiking in the heat, they gave us a 15 minute swim break to cool off before continuing the hike into the rock formations. After that they gathered us up, did a head count, and continued with the tour.
aptly named "Whale Rock"
One of the first rock formations was known as "Whale Rock", because it lookes like the head of a whale sticking out of the water. A large crack in the granite represented the "mouth", and a well-placed depression resembled an "eye". We walked beside this rock and into an area of pools and grottos between the granite boulders. There were places where stairs were necessary, tight squeezes where you had to duck or crawl, and ladders leading to pools below. Some places the rock was so steep and slippery, they had ropes anchored into the rock walls to grip for support. Halfway into the trail, a woman behind me tapped my shoulder, and said "excuse me, I think you dropped this?" It was my wallet! I had been carrying my shorts under my arm, since my bathing suit was still wet from our swim.
some steeper parts of the trail had steps
.. and the wallet apparently just slipped out of my pocket from the way I was carrying it. Whew! Good thing she saw me drop it! My ID, my credit cards, everything would have been gone!! We then climbed down steps (more like a ladder, really) into a cavern with knee-deep water, and the trail continued on to other grottos along the path. At one point, we were in a narrow allyway, with a tall granite wall on the right. Our guide picked up a small rock (left there for this purpose) and banged it against different parts of the wall. You could hear the sound of hollow spots where he tapped the rock..it was a different sound from where the rock was solid. This is because when this spire was molten lava 70 million years ago, air and gas pockets that became trapped in the lava, remain there today in the solidified rock! He invited us (especially the kids) to tap the walls ourselves to hear the hollow "knocks".
The walls here have hollow spots...our guide pounded a small rock on the walls to detect the sound of hollow spots
.. but he asked the kids to please leave the rock behind for the next group! At the end of this wall, there was another rock formation above and in front of us. Called the Lion's head, it is so named because the underside of the rock supposedly looks like the face of a lion. I couldn't see it... but all the kids ooh'd and ahh'd!
Beyond that, we had some more tricky climbing to do. Walking up a slick, steep rock, there was a rope to grab onto and pull yourself to the next cavern. We soon found ourselves in another water-filled grotto, where two giant slabs of granite lean on eack other to form an upside down "V". It had dry sand at the end of the room, but it was mostly water, getting deeper the farther back you went.
Tyra Banks did a photo shoot here, the year she shot her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover!
(about waist deep was the average) If you have ever seen a picture of The Baths of Virgin Gorda in a magazine, it was probably taken in this room! This is the grotto where Tyra Banks did a photoshoot, the year she posed for the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and Playboy and Maxim magazines have also done photo shoots here, as well as many travel magazines. So, this room has seen its fair share of supermodels- but today it's just us!
After everyone took turns getting their pictures taken in the famous grotto, a few took a swim in it, then we continued on the trail. It wasn't long before it opened up into another nice beach, where we had another 15 minute swim break. There were also restrooms there, and a bar.
There was a bar and restrooms behind the beach
..but I don't think anyone from our group got drinks there! After this rest break, we headed back up the trail to get our waiting taxi back to Spanish Town. There was a separate trail leading up, we didn't have to "backtrack" through the Baths to get there (parts of it were so narrow, I think there's only room for one way traffic anyway!) It wasn't long before we were back at the top. Tyler sat up front with the driver again, and this time it started right up. We returned to Spanish Town, and I asked our guide if I had time to run across the street to try the bank ATM machines. He said time was tight, but to hurry and try it. When I pointed out I was only trying to get some cash so I could have a nice tip for him and the rest of the crew, he said "No problem! We'll wait!" hehe, I thought they would! Fortunately, THIS time my card worked (on the fourth machine I tried) and I was glad it gave US dollars, since I was on a British Island!
I took my cash and scurried back to the boat, but I still wasn't the last to get on.
Heading out from Spanish Town. Bye bye, Virgin Gorda!
We got settled in, and departed to our next destination. Snorkeling at Diamond Reef!