My last day in St. Croix, I decide to take my friend for a tour around the island. We start of that morning and head along the north shore stopping at planned locations like Columbus landing beach and a plantation ruin site. The beach was so beautiful I could not just drive past. I was a lil short on time for the tour because I had scheduled a sunset photoshoot with the former Miss Virgin Islands for that evening on the west coast.So contemplating my options, I make a executive decision.
.. I rip my clothes off as I run to take a dive in the sea that was begging for me to come in... Great Choice.
I pack it up and move on to the next location, the mill. So the drive continues along the north shore as we pass more
beaches and rum bars. We Take a few pics and continue the journey up a north shore mountain. After stopping at a few lookouts points to take pictures, we roll up on the inevitable, an unknown dirt path off of the main road close to the top of the mountain. We both look at each other, both our eyes light up, and we know what the other is thinking...
On this road we pass some older white men walking and immediately after there is a clearing in the brush. Too small and treacherous to take the SUV, so I pull off and park. And it begins...
The 2 men turn into the same clearing, so we make small talk and inquire about our location. They point us up a very rough, steep hill to a sugar mill ruin. We jog (because if we walked we would slip back down due to how steep it was) up the hill to what seemed like the highest point on the island. At the top we arrive at the ruins... But the real treasure lay inside...
Thru one of it’s windows was the impeccable view of the north shore, south shore and clear across the island to the mountains on the east coast.We finally pull ourselves away from the view only to meander down another path that our new geriatric buddies recommended for a great view.
Now 25 minutes of walking later, we come to a clearing with a radio tower that’s partially fenced off. So with no “keep out” signs or warnings, we make our way to the tower that has stairs leading up to the roof. Whatever risk we took it was worth it. Complete 360 view of the place I call home from a vantage point that I have never seen in my 26 years on earth.
As we go to leave we vaguely remember the guy mentioning a dirt road that will take us back to where we parked quicker. Confident that they have been accurate about everything else so far, We head thru the weeds to find a dirt road and we begin our trek back...
About 20 min of no sign of other human life later, we start to rethink our decision. We walk a lil more to realize the the car should be about 200m north of where we are but with dense forest between us, we cant get there. Then there is some hope.. sounds of an approaching vehicle. Then a white couple in a jeep wrangler appear from behind us and you know what we do next.... Just wave and let them drive by!? The male ego had gotten the best of me an she looks at me like, “why didn’t you at least ask how far to the main road?” and I respond with a look of clueless stupidity. So we are at a cross roads, walk an hour back the way we came from or keep going to some unknown main road that I am convinced can not be much farther.
Then not too long later another car rolls up from behind us... And determined not to make the same mistake, I give my warmest smile, purposely show off my tourist-like camera, and calmly wave down the 1986 Isuzu trooper with 4wheel drive(I’ll explain how I know this later). A friendly guy opens up the door as I inquire about how far the main road is ahead. as he literally LOL, he explains that we have a long way to go and encourages us to jump in. Hesitant (as anyone should be jumping into a strangers car in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal) but happy to get some relief for my feet. About 3 miles up the road we finally hit the main road. Damn! we are in the rainforest, not even close to where I parked.
He explains that he happened to be taking this path because he just got off and had time to kill and likes takeing unknown roads. Hey! we something in common. I am crazy, but not stupid, so I am looking around the car, feeling out body language and probing for information to insure that I am not with a crazy psycho serial killer. But then he turns and says.. “by the way my name is Angel”.... I smile, he can’t be serious. So we tell him our names and he remarks that his son is named Alex and is the same age as I am. This immediately puts all of us at ease. We needed saving and who better to do it than an Angel?
He tells me he lives in town on west side. Not wanting to take
him out his way, I tell him that I can go into town because I have a photoshoot there in a couple hours instead of going to find the car. In the middle of this conversation, he pulls up to a dirt road. He looks at me, I look at her, she looks at him... and... “Why not!?” He has time to kill, my shoot isn’t for another 2 hrs. Let the adventure begin!
We run all thru the rain forest, taking roads that I have never been on before. Until we arrive to a road that even in my sister’s SUV, I dare not attempt to drive. Bushes, craters, cliffs and rocks lace the path. Thats when I learn that this a an 86 Isuzu Trooper with 4 wheel drive.
With every near stall or cliff dive me and my friend get more excited. Surprised by our reaction, he is convinced that we are both crazy. Then the moment of truth...
We arrive to a road that has a large trench down the center. We carefully straddle the ravine until we reach a point where is just perpendicular to the path. I jump out to see if it will be possible to navigate. I look at every angle, and I yell out “it’s not gonna happen man”.
To which he responds, “let’s find out”... Now, I am feeling bad because I left my friend in the car and this is clearly a bad idea. He takes it slow against my recommendation. As the driver’s side tires slip into the ditch, the trooper begins to tip. and tilt. and lean. And then it goes to tip over. And in tru Sanchez fashion, instead or running to the opposite side to jump on and add weight to it, I pull out my camera.
Now that it goes up on 2 wheels, I am preparing for the worst and my friend grabs the top bar in the car and pulls herself to the other side and braces herself. And by no reasonable explanation the car comes to a stop, tilts back and doesn’t tip over. Looking surprised himself, Angel punches it and makes it pass the obstacle. I get back in the car clearly shook, but more-so excited...
the adventure continues!
At this point, I am convinced that this man is nuts! He just risked his car and life for people he just met. I am looking at him skeptically, because something isn’t right in his head. Now all the bumps, ditches and trees in the way seem like nothing compared to what we just pulled thru. But we reach a dead end. a fork in the path with both ways leading down an exceptionally steep hill. So we jump out, leaving Angel with the car, and hike down the trail to the edge of a cliff to find uninhabited beaches on either side of us. Miles away from any main road access. Beautiful! the sight is intoxicating. But on the hike back to the car, we are quickly sobered by the realization that we are gonna have to go back thru the same trench that almost ended our journey.
As we are being sobered, Angel is doing the opposite. Now showing signs that the wild ride is wearing on him, he searched the car for a bottle of wine cooler that he knew he had. Claiming he doesn’t really drink, but needed something to take the edge off. Needless to say, I am not feeling this, but we are at each others mercy.
So now more cautious, I am asked to go ahead to guide the trooper around the obstacle course... The clutch starts to act up. His speed becomes jerky and the trooper is showing its age. Now I am jogging up the hillhead of the trooper, pointing out the directions to go while trying to avoid being hit by a possessed vehicle. the path clears, I am sweating like army balls, and out of breath, so he pulls ahead.
The paranoid side of me starts thinking, shyt, he is kidnapping her and I am stuck out here in the wilderness with no phone and no idea where I am... yup, I’m an idiot. So i start running after the car (stopping only to slip and buss my ass a few times) until I see them stop. Finally catching up, worried and tired, I realize we are back at the point of doom that we have been dreading.
I try to navigate but we are clearly not on the same page. There is only a matter of inches between success and flipping the trooper. So he pulls a couple of feet off the path and all hell breaks loose. He starts to slip and tilt. Stopping will cause him to either flip over or go down the cliff, so he decides to punch it. did I mention that I am in front of the car!?
So now I find my self running for my life.
As the truck gets right on my back, I jump to the opposite side of the trench. Not loosing
a step, the Trooper is now on the side of me. the tires hit the ditch and it starts to tilt. Feeling th
e shadow of the trooper falling closer, the adrenaline kicks in. I am running as if my life depends on it (because it does). I don’t understand how people trip and fall in scary movies because there was nothing that would cause me to miss step. a few seconds felt like an eternity as the trooper finally comes to a rest after clearing the trench, magically still upright. I get back in the car and I don’t even know if to laugh or cry.
As much as I love adventure, I have had enough for one day and it’s time to find our way out. With neither of us knowing exactly where we are, we continue to guess until we finally make it to a main road. And by some miracle, it is 4:45 and we are right at the beach where I have the 5:00 p
hotoshoot scheduled. I invite Angel to the beach bar to share a drink to toast to our adventure. He gets a cup full of straight scotch. no chaser... and I get the strongest rum punch ever. We laugh at how crazy we all are and stay in awe of the moment. With not much more than my camera, unclear on where I left my car, I am very tipsy as my model shows up. Feeling full of life, we manage to pull off and incredible shoot as the sun sets on an unbelievable day in the life of Sanchez.