Backpacking in Virgin Islands
The United States Virgin Islands acts as a playground for big players. Big players like Obama sailed to St. Thomas in the islands to take a breather from the campaign trail. And why not? The U.S. Virgin Islands is crawling with Danish heritage, French sophistication, American modernity, and Caribbean simplicity. After all, when Columbus ‘discovered’ the islands and saw simplicity and purity, he named it for St. Ursula and her virgin followers. The tours, transport, dining, and lodging may come with a price, but there also are sensational experiences awaiting the backpacker on a budget. So visit this beautiful and sparkly Caribbean gem, and when you’re in the Virgin Islands, be really here.
The Virgin Islands (18 20 N, 64 50 W) possesses a diverse terrain that’s mostly rugged with hills and mountains and contains little flat areas. In fact, the highest point is Crown Mountain, just 474 m above sea level. Here also lies the Anegada Passage, which is a key shipping route for the Panama Canal. Also called the Virgin Islands, the islands are smacked right in between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, just east of Puerto Rico. The territory of over 50 islands is geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles and has an area of 346.36 km2.
With a subtropical climate, moderated by the easterly trade winds, the weather in the U.S. Virgin Islands is fair with so much less humidity than the majority of the Caribbean. There are two seasons, wet and dry season. The wettest months are September through November while the hottest are June to August. Within that, the peak of the hurricane season is between August and September. Weather-wise, November, December, and May are good months to visit.
The original Virgin Islanders were the Carib, Arawaks, and the Ciboney. The 15th century brought in new blood through European powers such as Spain, the UK, Netherlands, France, and then Denmark-Norway. Nowadays, with a population of 109,666 (July 2011), the ethnic make-up thus is composed of mostly Black who originated from African descendants enslaved by Europeans to labour in sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Then follow Whites, Asians, and Hispanics, particularly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.
The Virgin Islands have 3 listed individual languages: ENGLISH, VIRGIN ISLANDS CREOLE ENGLISH, and NEGERHOLLANDS. Only two are living languages. Negerhollands has no known speakers and is therefore extinct. English is the official language, however the Virgin Islands Creole English is the most widely used, spoken by around 52,300 islanders. SPANISH CREOLE and FRENCH CREOLE are also in use here.
Similar to most Caribbean countries, European occupation has embedded Christianity, which is currently the primary religion in the Virgin Islands. Protestants comprise around 59% of the population in particular Baptists and Episcopalians reflecting its Danish colonial heritage. Roman Catholics on the other hand involve around 34% of the population.
For a country with a tiny population and area, the Virgin Islands is a rather busy place. Tourism is way off the charts. Sun, sea, sand, and surf are the main economic activities, and with the splendor of the sparsely developed islands like the Buck Island, the unblemished beaches as in Trunk Bay, and the lushly veil of rainforests render little surprise. The main islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix reminisce on its strong Danish heritage from names of places such as Christiansted, to the architecture in this town including 18th century structure, the Fort Christiansværn, which medley into the cultures, advancements, and landscapes, of the modern times.
One would also easily find nature refuges like the Nature Park Reserve, the St. George Village Botanical Garden, Croix Aquarium or the St. Thomas Marine Sanctuary throughout the islands. In fact anyone can find and do anything in the US Virgin Islands from rum-tasting on land to sailing out in the blue. But it is not a bad idea to wander through the backstreets and get lost, say in the streets of Charlotte Amalie in St. Croix, where in a maze of cobble-stoned alleys, the Market Square is the a sweet prize.
Food is treasured deeply by the Virgin Islanders who find food worthy of celebration during a week-long food festival in April in St. Croix called the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience. Celebrity chefs like Rocco DiSpirito and Richard Reddington join in the fun while dishes from 50 restaurants thereabouts of St. Croix are showcased. Fresh seafood are the island specialities like lobster, tuna, grouper etc. But the Caribbean is not just all about seafood.
For the sake of culinary traditions, the islanders swim against the tide to preserve their cuisine which is a delicate symphony of French, Danish, Dutch, African, Caribbean traditions. Kallaloo (stew of veggies, meat, seafood, and spices), sause (pork stock), and fungi (cornmeal and okra) are traditional fare, but don’t be surprised to find Chinese restaurants here too. Generally, food is hearty and spicy but what’s really takes it is fusion cuisine as the Virgin Islands is a cultural melting pot showdown.
Backpacking Addictz is a website set up by backpackers for the use of backpackers. On this site you will find a lot of very valuable backpacking information surrounding different destinations, countries and experiences from people’s different backpacking adventures throughout the world.