We wanted to explore as much of the island as we could and soak up some of the culture as well. We decided instead of paying those high prices to do shore excursions through the cruise we would just rent a car. Sounded like a good idea. We rented a van on Vieques and it worked out well.
A couple of little problems. The car we ordered "midsized SUV" ended up being a 5 passenger car. As Virginia and I waited with the kids for the hour or so for them to fill out all the paperwork we didn't know any of this. There wasn't any other cars at the port to rent so when the men said lets "come load up" we were puzzled at how we were supposed to fit 9 people in a 5 passenger (Jared was on the boat sick that day)
The car rental agent got very flustered, and quoted seat belt laws and safety regulations and pointed out the checkpoint we would have to pass to get off the dock. He said he would have to call his boss and this was going to be impossible....
We had been all waiting to go for awhile and we knew we didn't have much time off the boat so we just said "we'd make it work" and drove off. Some of us walked by the checkpoint and after we passed the rest of us climbed in.
There were two big boys in the back at all times and some lap sitting.
We looked like a clown car unloading and loading up whenever we stopped.
There were some upsides from renting a car and some downsides.
The downside: Being stressed out that cops were going to pull us over and the kids being uncomfortable...and trying to think backwards (they drive on the left side of the road)
The upside: We got to see Barbados at our own pace and see some of the back roads and how people lived.
The downside: There were no street signs and it was very challenging to figure out where we were going. I guess the locals said they don't feel the need to have street names or post signs like in the bigger places. Soo...the map was pretty much obsolete without any street signs to help us. Every once in awhile they would have a signpost that had some pointers on it.
The upside: We got lots of help from nice locals trying to find our way around. We got to see residential neighborhoods off the beaten path and people's random goats grazing. (They belong to someone but nobody keeps them in a fence).
The downside it took us a long time to find the Harrison Caves we were looking for. We saw a sign pointing towards it and started in that direction...but actually getting there was another thing. Someone would tell us it would be a kilometer and 1/2 ahead....that was until the next signpost with another turn not to the actual caves. While were trying to find our way Joel informed us that the car was about out of gas.
Mr. Car Rental agent who was so concerned with our safety rented us a car without gas! What a rip! We found that gas stations were not plentiful!
The upside was we got to the Harrison Caves...bought our tickets for our tour time and Joel and Jeff were able to find gas before our tour started.
Ashley was fascinated with the giant snails that were everywhere. She used to love snails when she was younger...I've never seen snails this big!
I loved the tropical flowers too.
This one was interesting, it looked like a long red pinecone with one white flower sticking out the top.
We looked like we were dropped in the middle of a rain forest. While we were waiting for our tour time we checked out the caverns and tropical plants.
Want to try out your Tarzan swing??
Before we went into the caves we saw a movie on how the island was made and an introduction to caves. A lot of islands are formed from volcanos but this one was formed from coral reefs being pushed up from the ocean floor... hence the caves.
This was a great way to see caves with a group. There was no hiking involved. There was a tram that took us through everything and stopped a few times to let us out and get a closer look.
The only downside was they overbooked a bit and some guy insisted he wanted to sit on our row next to his wife even though there wasn't room. He kept telling us to move over so we finally squeezed 6 in a spot for 4 :(
Thats OK the caves were beautiful and I was happy that Ashley and Dean didn't have to hike.
One spot we stopped off at was an underground waterfall. You could walk on a ledge until you were right underneath it. Got my feet wet and was splashed on.
After the caves we drove around some more and were trying to find a park that a local told us about where we could see wild monkeys being fed at 2:00. Sounded good.
A church on the way.
We got to the park and found a group of people thinking it was the group there for the monkey feeding. Nope they were having a church picnic.
They said they didn't know what we were talking about there was no monkeys being fed here.
So we enjoyed the view.
Ashley presented me with the present of a recently dead millipede. It was gross but I was fascinated enough with it not to be too grossed out.
On our way back to the car we saw tons of them. I just didn't want live ones crawling on my foot.
Since we were in the interior of the island we decided to start heading back down to the boat and see how much time we had left before we made any more stops. No trips to the beach today...maybe not a bad thing because we got caught in a huge rainstorm that lasted for maybe and hour.
The streets became rivers!
Our way back due to the rain and traffic was slow so we didn't make any stops.
Some of us weren't too concerned.
Again trying to follow our map we got off track but talking to a couple of locals got us turned back in the right direction...
Finally we made it back to the docks (after more directions), dropped off our rental car safe and sound and made it back to the ship in time.
In time to relax and enjoy the sunset!
That night after dinner the boys decided to go off to their various teen rooms and try and hook up with friends they found on the boat.
We went to the show which was a juggler/comedian that they flew in from the outside to entertain us. He was from Mexico and would fly around to do shows.
We watched the first show of the night and he was very funny and talented. Ashley and Jared didn't mind being in the front row for this performance!
Here is him juggling glowing balls in the dark.
We got a hold of the boys and told them they would like this show, so they watched the later version and they loved it.
For the next we decided instead of trying to navigate islands on our own with our limited time frame we would let a local show us the sights.
The cruise ship warned us that there wouldn't be much on St. Lucia in the morning...it would be a long trip to the main city...we almost were tempted to book the excursion through the ship...but not quite.