Special to The Washington Post
By Remar Sutton
Little Apple Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands—I have both wicked and wonderful matters to report to you, starting with an uncensored account of the goings-on at Bomba's Beach Shack last evening, a mile down the north shore from my home.
Bomba's is a Salvador Dali painting gone bad and tropical, a ram-shackled lean-to haphazardly built of beach detritus seemingly held together by women's unmentionables used as rubber bands and bungee cords. Virtually all of Bomba's hand-scrawled enticements for women to contribute these items are unprintable in a family newspaper. The Shack is not politically correct.
All of this and more make the place wildly popular of course with both rogues and rogue wannabes, especially on every full moon night when the gallons of free psychedelic mushroom tea come out.
In an odd quirk of law, psychedelic mushrooms are not illegal here. Smoking pot will quickly land you in jail if you're a local, and have you instantly deported if you're a "continental." A mere trace of harder drugs can get even continentals sentenced to our beautiful new mountaintop prison for life. But mushrooms currently are not considered an illegal drug. They have traditionally been considered "bush medicine," the makings of a medicinal tea. Hence Bomba's by definition becomes a health Mecca, in a twisted way, every full moon.
By eleven last night about a thousand people were partying up and down a quarter-mile stretch of the North Shore road. All traffic on this side of the island came to a standstill while at least four megawatt bands competed simultaneously for the opportunity to burst your eardrums and a dozen roadside vendors sold everything from Frank Sinatra records to conch fritters to freshly picked mushrooms.
The BVI government is wary of the image all this mushroom mania may bring to the country, and is concerned that users of illegal drugs will be attracted by the very mistaken belief that drugs are tolerated here. That's why rumor has it that the mushroom issue is being studied "at high levels" by the government.
As a responsible reporter, I for years have considered it my job to study dozens of these full-moon gatherings myself. For the record I do not partake of the tea, though honestly I've thought occasionally about finding some way to "smoke but not inhale," if that analogy makes sense. And I do dance a lot and occasionally have one too many rum punches.
But the real pleasure of Full Moon night is the healthy sport of people-watching. In fact, that's what the vast majority of people at Bomba's do: they don't drink the tea, they watch others drink it. Virtually all the tasters have a look of amused and slightly guilty anticipation on their faces as they partake. I imagine the expression is brought on by the thought, "Hey, it's legal here!" or the memories of college days or both.
Other than planned and unplanned wet t-shirt contests, occasional flashes of flesh, and a lot of milling around, that's about the extent of evil at Bomba's. I'll probably be banned from the place for saying this, but last night was a lot more like a Dude Ranch for Decadence rather than the real thing. I was home by 11:30.
While Bomba's rocked, fourteen beltway kids slept soundly miles away aboard fifty-foot sailboats in the great, silent Bight of Norman's Island. The beltway contingent are part of the 140 young people from around the world who are attending a very up-scale live-aboard summer camp called ActionQuest.
I watched James Stoll, ActionQuest's founder and director, as he greeted his latest batch of campers in Soper's Hole last week. Stoll is a rugged athletic leader who quickly established his authority and the kid's responsibilities without using a drop of condescension. This program has absolutely zero tolerance for any drug. "One whiff of tobacco or alcohol on your breath is your instant ticket home," is the way Stoll put it.
The young people, from fifteen to nineteen, have a grand time, anyway. They spend three exotic weeks honing their skills as scuba divers and sailors while roaming our islands, gaining self-esteem, and creating some pretty spectacular memories. But you can bet any memories about mushrooms will be about those used in spaghetti sauce, not the Bomba variety.
At sunrise this morning I struck out for a nine mile hike up and down our precipitous mountains, anticipating my first two-footed tour this year of Cane Garden and Brewers Bays. Bomba's was deserted as I passed it, save for one very haggard person sprawled on a sandy bench. I couldn't help but think that my day and the ActionQuest kid's day would be a lot better than his.
Every day serves up the consequences of previous ones. That's why crafty people like you and me try to do a few good things today to bring us a better tomorrow. And that's why we offer you right now another chance to join us for a walk! Here's what you do: head to www.walkwithremar.com. Our cookie-free and advertising free web site will ease you into a healthier and more interesting lifestyle.
Then mark your calendar: Sure, you're enjoying the summer. But this December the third to the eleventh, when its cold and miserable in the beltway, we'll be dancing at Bomba's, sailing to Norman Island, and hiking to Brewers Bay.
Where would you rather be?
PICTURE BY REMAR SUTTON
Left to right from the front
First row: Katie Wiaek, Jackie Hill, Amanda Coe, Santini Real
Next row: Drew Fleeter, Michaela Doyle, Erin Leibowitz, Ann Burger-Gohl, Cynthia Donger
Standing: Elliot Rubenberg, Elisa Nobel, Braden Lake, Andrea Jenkins, Julia Ridder, Sam Wheeler
The adult in the picture is James Stoll