Sunday, April 25, 2010

St. John (Day 6 - Part 2)

Last time, we left our intrepid explorers at the junction of the trail to the petroglyphs...

We did the extra .3 miles to petroglyphs over much easier ground.  As you could tell from the photos so far, everything around us was very much about forest and dirt and tree roots everywhere. When we got to the petroglyphs site, it was a very different story. We came to a natural spring that has been there for over a thousand years and, all rising all around it were these wrinkled walls of stone.  Some vines dangled down from the tops, but otherwise these walls and much of the ground were now solid rock. So the environment was completely unlike the rest of the jungle. In the picture above, the pool is behind Jim and some petroglyphs are in the lower right.

The pool is fresh water according to a placard there, but I wasn't going to test that out! The water had a dark red tinge to it and was home to dozens of big dragonflies with bright red bodies that were flying all around.  I honestly felt like we'd stepped into a different and fairly surreal place. This was only heightened by the petroglyph carvings.  While they're not something that really knocks your socks off, they were pretty interesting and added a feeling of tribal primitivism to the already 'Land of the Lost' setting. Again, there are petroglyphs alongside me in this picture. If you click the picture for a larger view, they are fairly clear.

Per a placard at the site: "Archaeological discoveries at Cinnamon Bay [another bay on St. John] confirm that these petroglyphs were carved around 900-1500 AD by the pre-Columbian Taino and their ancestors. The carvings exemplify the designs found on ceremonial Taino pottery. The pool and symbols were sacred dwelling places and ritualistic sites for the spirits of their ancestors. This spring-fed pool stays at nearly the same level despite rainfall, causing an interesting and perhaps intended mirror effect of the petroglyphs - a duality of the spiritual and living worlds often reflected in Taino art." Of course, from the Park District office displays, we know that the Taino were wiped out by Columbus and the Spanish, who introduced diseases to kill of most of them. Those who survived were exploited, enslaved, and/or killed.

After that we started the long hike back up (and I do me up, as in on an incline) the 1.8 miles back to the jeep. It was pretty humid by this point, so we were sweating pretty good. At the jeep, we had out ice chest with fresh supplies of cool water waiting. Tasted so good!

After that we drove to the East End to try and find Haulover Bay, but it wasn't easy to locate parking or a path down since locals mainly know about this place. Since it was pretty late, we were a bit too tired to make a huge effort.  And, since we knew the pool was waiting, we thought: "Let's go home!"  Plus we were getting hungry and tonight was Uncle Joe's BBQ for dinner.

Uncle Joe's is in Cruz Bay. It's an open air stand where they cook ribs and other food and, since the kitchen is open air too, it's not unusual to see wild chickens running around. Despite the lack of ambiance and the revolving door of grouchy young people who work there, the BBQ is amazing! We actually had it twice while we were on the island.  Spent some time that night, staring up at the stars. I remembered enough of astronomy to pick out Sirius, Betelgeuse (the red supergiant that - when it explodes - will be visible on Earth even in the day!), and Rigel (a massive blue star). Nice quiet way to end our - unfortunately - last full day on St. John.

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