So we have landed on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. This is the largest of the 60 island chain that makes up this British commonwealth territory. Only a few of the islands are populated and to put the population into perspective it is about 3/4 the size of El Dorado Hills just west of our home in California at just under 30,000. Their are two economic pillars which support the BVIs. Financial services make up 60%. Basically this is wealthy persons and/or companies who park their offshore accounts here to minimize taxes as the G20 considers it a tax haven. The other 40% is tourism. Now with that other 40% you would think they would be clamoring to re-open, but yes and no. They have for the last year walked the delicate balance of their livelihoods or their lives. And the later has clearly won out with the islands being shut down to cruise ships and even tourists until in the last few months. And even now the steps required for anyone entering the country are nearly full-proof in keeping COVID out.
Done, we exit, sanitize our hands (#3) and return to our chairs. Here we wait until they amass groups of ~10 and then we are escorted to immigration where we sanitize again (#4) before entering the building. Standing on our spacing floor markers in our cohorts we complete our paperwork and go through immigration again verifying our quarantine accommodations. We pick-up our bags and head to customs where we answer the standard questions about fruit, food, etc.. After paying a $10 per person environmental fee we exit the doors. There is a woman in a booth behind plexiglass with a sanitization station to her left (yes, #4). Here's where we misread things... We read we would be transported from the airport to our quarantine accommodations in government approved vehicles. Well, you still have to pay for these. Our cab fare was $85 for about a 45 minute ride to the other end of the island. A fair price for the distance, family, of 4, and luggage.
The taxi booker guides us outside to another woman behind plexiglass who dons gloves before maneuvering from behind the glass where she squirts sanitizer on our hands (#5) before placing bright green wristbands on each of us. Making them quite tight, so they won't be easy to slip off. You have read about the University of Georgia woman jailed for 4 months in the Cayman Islands for slipping off her bracelet to go watch a boyfriend in a competition while visiting. This is serious business people. We also were given a black box in a water proof bag with a lanyard. This is our GPS monitor which must stay charged and in our vicinity at all times.
Next we are led to our driver, Max, and his beat-up van. Maybe 1980's...but it did have a shiny new piece of plexiglass installed between the passengers and himself in the front. After loading our bags we went to open the door...and got a firm "Wait, Wait"...yep hand sani #6. Inside we would place our names on a clipboard so they know who rode with who and can contact trace if needed.
We all settle into the leather seats for the curvy, bouncy 40 minute ride to our quarantine home. We message our host we are on the way and of course on this small island our driver and our host know each other, so no GPS or directions needed. We wind our way along the islands coastline ever so often shooting in and up into the hills. Last time we were here was before Hurricane Irma in 2016 where we visited friends residing on St Johns which we can see off in the distance on our drive. This Cat 5 hit the islands in 2017 and it's toll is still obvious today. Many boats are still scattered about, half sunk in marinas to on the land itself.
Just outside Fort Recovery we turn left onto a gravel drive and we pass a couple of bright colored bungalows which is our host, Bonnie Dougal's office. Then a little round drive approached a wooden gate and in the middle of the drive lay all our pre-ordered toys (SUPs, Kayaks, etc.). Also is a auburn-haired woman, Bonnie, who greets us with a smile keeping her distance. She informs us everything is inside, including pages of instructions, our food delivery...AND welcome beverages of a couple beers, bottle of Prosecco, and bottle of sparkling cider.
We haul our bags through the gate into the bougainvillea and palm courtyard and into the house where large glass windows and our view and site right on the ocean will be the perfect backdrop as we settle in for our 4 day quarantine and one more PCR test.