With 21.5 square miles the mountainous island of Tortola is the biggest in the group of the British Virgin Islands. A few days ago, I arrived by cruise ship as the second to last stop in a 7 day cruise. Traveling that way means, time at any of the islands visited is limited and therefore I had to make a choice what to see and what to do.
Like many of the other Caribbean islands, Tortola is well known for its beaches, bays, snorkeling and diving spots, but as always, I was on the look out for more unknown places. And I found three: the first is a tiny but lovely botanical garden, easily reached by foot from the cruise ship dock. Admission is $5. You can look at tropical plants at your heart’s content and listen to the many birds twittering in the trees. The garden reflects the first impression of the BVI when stepping ashore: time stands still in Tortola.
From there I walked back downhill towards downtown Road Town, the capital of Tortola. Back Street and Main Street have the greatest selection of multi-colored Caribbean wooden houses. Many of them are small shops, art galleries and cafes. My favorite is a book store. Step carefully though! Both roads are narrow, winding and mostly devoid of a side walk. You have to step in and out of shop entrances to avoid being run over by cars, which, by the way, drive on the left. I think the entire island has about 10 traffic lights, but watch out.
The third attraction I discovered is an equally tiny Folklore Museum, which can be found by following the twists and turns of Main Street until you come upon it. Then its up seven very steep stone steps and you find a collection of artifacts, such as straw dolls and many photographs of Old Tortola. Frankly, it doesn’t look all that much different now.
The custodian, if you can call her that, is a friendly young girl who is willing to tell you about her cousin Ninde, one of Tortola’s “originals” or anything else you want to know. The museum is closed for lunch from 12 – 1pm and you are not allowed to take pictures of the art work. But you can look all you want.
Walking back to the dock along Main Street, I happened upon a rickety stall selling freshly mixed fruit juice of the most extravagant combination, lovingly spiced with cinnamon and so thick, you can hardly suck it with the straw provided. It costs $6 but you get a generous top up.
Even without beaches and water sport it was a fantastic way to discover secrets and backstreets of a Caribbean island.
Inka is German and used to be an international attorney with offices in London and Spain. Retired two years ago because I wanted to be a traveler and writer and now live between Didim/Turkey and Miami with plenty of travel in between. Next destinations: Istanbul, New York and Petra/Jordan. Inka’s first novel has just been published and can be found here