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Walking the Devil (BVI, Part II)

Every remote location, it seems, is duty-bound to have some sort of natural formation to whose name the locals have stapled with the word ‘Devil.’ Think ‘Devil’s Cut,’ ‘Devil’s Pass,’ ‘Devil’s Cove,’ ‘Devil’s Juniper Bushes,’ etc. To spice things up a little more, the locals often pair the formation with some legend involving the Prince of Darkness or one of his brimstone-spewing interns: “Walk down the Devil’s Pass at night, son, without wearing a crucifix, and Satan himself will pop out of nowhere to try to sell you an adjustable-rate mortgage.” Or whatever.

But the only disconcerting figures we encountered while walking along the Devil’s Bay Trail, a maze of house-sized boulders along the island coast of Virgin Gorda, were three mildly chunky, and incredibly perplexed, tourists trying to find their way out. “Oh, good!” the lead one chirped as he saw me scrambling atop a granite slab just ahead. “We’re not the only ones stuck here!”

Not that he should have been worried: With the Devil’s Bay Trail, there’s only one way through, a sandy and tide-soaked path weaving through narrow gorges. The sign at the trail-head recommends twenty minutes to pick your way, slowly, across the damp rock and splintering planks; you can also run the same distance in roughly two minutes and thirty seconds, if you’re willing to risk at least one ankle snapping like a wishbone. Do it at dusk, as the setting sun tinges the rocks far above your head a nuclear orange, and prepare to step extra-carefully as shadows tint the chasms a deeper shade of black.

The same confusion of rocks extends beyond the end of the trail and into Devil’s Bay. Once you arrive on the narrow, steep beach that rims that particular body of water, retrieved your diving gear from the waterproof bag strapped to your back, and dived into the bathwater-warm sea, you can see the shimmering schools of fish making hiding-places out of the boulders sunk deep in the murk. For a moment, floating there, you can imagine the scene is a primordial one, a snapshot from two million years ago.

Seconds later, though, a group of tourists – maybe the same ones who’ve just walked the Trail – splash past in their snorkels and fins, and that antediluvian illusion proves as, well, illusory as those fish that explode away into the blue.

Current Music: Bill Evans Trio, “Waltz For Debby”
Current Movie: “Daywatch” (2006)
Current Book: ‘The Master and Margarita,” by Mikhail Bulgakov

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