Antigua


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Published: July 18th 2019
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Thursday July 11 - I had my alarm set for 5am, but because I am who I am, I woke up at 4:15 and could not go back to sleep. I got up at 4:30 and just started my day. I spent some time figuring out what I might want to do while I’m in Antigua, and what is possible to do without a car. I finished packing, ate breakfast, the usual. At 6:30 I went outside to wait for the taxi, but he was late. I went back in to call, but he didn’t pick up. I was just about to call my host, but she called me. She said the driver was running late and would be there in 10 minutes. It only took about 5, but I was kind of annoyed. He asked me if I was on the American flight. Luckily no, because I certainly would have missed it.

I was still at the airport in plenty of time for my flight, and was able to do a little more reading in my guidebook about Antigua. The flight left a few minutes early, and we arrived well before 9am. I was again one of few international passengers, so I didn’t have to wait in line for passport control. The bag did not take too long to come out, but I had to wait a little for my hosts to pick me up. They apparently charge less than a taxi, and there are no buses that come to the airport, so they were my best bet. They are two women, one from Spain and the other from Mexico. Both nice, but it feels more like a business than with the others. I am renting one of two bedrooms in a separate apartment from the one they live in. Someone was still in the room, so I couldn’t move in until later in the afternoon, when they checked out and the room was cleaned. I quickly changed my clothes, repacked my things so I could take my daypack, and headed out. I actually had to use the bathroom in the hosts’ apartment, because the bathrooms are inside the bedrooms, with no common bathroom, and I couldn’t access my room yet. My plan was to catch a bus to St John’s, the capital, which is nearby, and then take a bus to English Harbour. It was already close to 10:30 when I started waiting for the bus, and I slowly realized that the bus does not come very frequently where I am staying in Dickinson’s Bay. I started to doubt that I could get to my destination, do the things I wanted, and get back before the buses here stopped running (around 5:30pm). Buses in other parts of the island run much later, but I clearly picked the wrong part of the island to stay on. Damn.

So, I changed my plan. I decided to just settle in today and go to the beach. First I walked to the supermarket, which is 15 minutes away. I’m having a lot of trouble deciding what to make for dinners, because most apartments don’t have the basics and it’s silly to buy oil, salt, etc every time. So I settled on more tuna and noodles, broccoli to add to it, milk and yogurt for my granola, 5 liters of water and bananas. I enjoyed looking at everything they sell, but was still surprised by the prices. I think it may be more expensive than the other islands, but I’m not positive. Because I ate breakfast at 5:00, I was starting to get hungry for lunch. I saw that the supermarket has prepared foods including a chicken lunch for about $6 US, so I decided to try that. A line was forming, but not quite moving yet, so I got in it. I soon realized they were just setting up for lunch, and everyone started getting in line. It was kind of fun. I could have two sides, a veg and one of two types of chicken. I chose sweet potato salad, rice and stewed chicken. I almost went with baked, but I made a good choice.

Walking home was awkward. I had to carry the large water bottle, hold the chicken meal in the other hand, and wear my camera because all the groceries were in my backpack. It took 15 minutes to walk back and then I sat down, ate my lunch and read my book. I only ate half of the meal before I was full, so I saved the other half for dinner. Just afterwards Sara came in to clean my room, and soon I could move in, put on my bathing suit and walk to the beach.

The apartment I’m staying in is right in front of the Sandals Resort, which is basically my whole view. I can access the beach on either side of it, and can go anywhere on the beach. But of course, the beach has very little shade. So I walked to the near end, found a place that could work if needed, but decided to walk all the way to the other end to have a look before I settled somewhere. It usually works that way for me. I have to see it all. But I’m glad I did. I found a spot that was right at the very end, under a tree, away from everyone and just worked. I had the place virtually to myself for almost 3 hours, until this guy came up and started talking to me. I think he sells taxi rides and such, but he was just showing me pictures of hotels and beaches and I have no idea what he was even on about. I started to read again but he never really took the hint. It was 5pm by that point, so I decided to walk home. I knew he would walk the beach with me, but it was fine, just a little annoying. I took some pictures along the way and we said goodbye when I left the beach.

Back at the apartment, I showered and organized a bit and then ate the other half of my lunch for dinner. I’m not overly happy with my room. It’s ok, but I miss having drawers to put things in, as the other places have had, and I had to bring a chair in from the dining room so I didn’t have to sit on my bed. Also, the room itself is awkward. The door is like a closet door, with the slats in it, so it doesn’t really feel private. Luckily the couple in the other room has a real door and is staying in their room, but if they come out to eat and talk, I’ll hear everything. Also, one of the walls is just a large glass door that would go into the living room, and is covered by a curtain. Not a fan. The other couple seemed to be smoking in their room when I went to get some yogurt and granola for dessert. There’s definitely no smoking allowed here and I was worried it would come in through my slatty door, but maybe the aircon keeps it out.

After dinner, I looked up the info for tomorrow’s ferry and tour of Montserrat. Massively expensive, it’s $100 for each of those. And that does not include lunch. But it is my birthday, and I’m using that as justification, even though it’s weak. I just have to think of this as like 6 different vacations, and then the cost will probably even out.

Friday July 12 - see the Montserrat blog

Saturday July 13 - I woke up at 6am, which is not 4am, so I feel like I’m winning. I had breakfast, chatted with Jeroen, watched a rain shower, got my stuff together, watched some tv, the usual. Halfway through the last season of NCIS LA now. I left later than expected, but still before 9am. I was heading to English Harbour and wanted to start early to make sure I would have enough time to see everything before heading back.

I waited for the bus on the main road, and soon after I arrived two other women showed up. They were from Britain, a mother-daughter team celebrating the daughter’s 30th birthday. They were nice, though slightly weird, which was fine. They were taking the bus into St. John’s, the capital. It’s also where I was headed to get the bus to English Harbour. We had a light rain shower while we waited, and stood under a tree to hide from it. After about 30 minutes, the bus still hadn’t shown up but a car passed, stopped and backed up. It was Ale, one of my hosts, and she offered us a lift into town. She was driving her mom to the bus station so she could take the bus to English Harbour, so that was perfect. In town there was a lot of congestion and it took a while to go a few blocks.

At the station, Rosie and I got on the #17 bus to English Harbour. I sat in the back row and she sat in front of me. The buses don’t leave until they are full, and luckily we did not have to wait too long. Sitting apart meant I could do some reading, rather than practice my Spanish. Rosie is from Mexico. But when enough people got out, I moved to sit with Rosie and we chatted in Spanglish, which was fun. She’s visiting from Mexico for three months and I think she was volunteering today to help with a children’s sailing race. At one point it started pouring, and we helped to close the windows in the bus. Then we moved forward so I could ask the driver if we were close. A woman in the front started to explain to me where we were, what we were seeing, the general history, and then we were at Rosie’s stop. I stayed in until we got to Nelson’s Dockyard, said good-bye to my impromptu tour guide, paid my fare ($3.75 EC) and left.

Nelson’s dockyard is the oldest and/or longest running dockyards in the world, from what I can tell. There are buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and they still work on boats today. I joined a little 8-minute tour (included in the $8 US ticket) with a group of old ladies from the states, and then walked around taking pictures. I also stopped to put some sunscreen on my arms because the sun came out, and discovered the top was open and it was leaking out into the plastic bag it was in (for just this reason). I had to stop to clean it all up, and then started to move towards the exit.

When I left the dockyard, I asked the woman selling tickets how to walk to Shirley Heights, a viewpoint that was included in my ticket. After trying to urge me not to do the walk, she gave me really good, easy to follow directions. I had initially wanted to take a hiking path up, but it seemed too complicated to even get to the start of the hiking path, so I followed the road up. The problem came with the rain. As I was walking up, it started to rain. I tried to hide under a tree with my umbrella, but the umbrella wouldn’t stay open, so I had to hold it. I hoped for a quick downpour, but it went on for a while. I kept walking when it slowed, and then hid on a closed ticket office porch. Here I closed the umbrella, and when I reopened it, it worked. Amen. Eventually I carried on and walked first to the Dow Interpretive Center, also on my ticket. And closed on Saturdays, it would appear. They seemed to be set up for a wedding, which was a shame since the weather had turned so poor. I walked through the open service gate and took a picture of the bay.

Next I continued back towards the outlook. At some point there was a split in the road, and I turned right. Luckily, this was the right choice for the lookout. I was walking in the rain and came to another closed ticket office. There was a couple hiding from the rain there, and I hid with them. They were locals, and hiking the trails. The rain stopped, and they went on and I went to the lookout to take some pictures. I could see all of English Harbour as well as the children’s sailing race. I walked out a little and found an old cemetery and just as I was going to explore more of the area, the rain started again. This time it did not let up. I took out my poncho and put it over me and the backpack (the backpack being the more important of the two as it has my camera and kindle). I waited about 10 minutes and then just decided to go for it. It was almost 2pm and I knew it would take me about an hour to get back to the bus, plus waiting time, plus the 45-minute journey, plus the waiting time for the next bus...man, I wish I had a car.

When I first walked away, it was still a pretty heavy downpour, so I was trudging. Luckily it lightened up and I moved into a slightly more comfortable walk in the rain, though I was pretty sure my poncho was not really as waterproof as I’d wanted it to be. When I got back to the main road, I saw a couple waiting for the bus, so I stood with them. We got on a bus in less than 10 minutes, and I spent the next 40 minutes or so reading my book. When I got off the bus at the station in St Johns I asked someone where the #50 was, and got on that. It took about 15 minutes to fill up, and there was a kung-fu type movie playing. The driver collected the money, and turned off the movie, before we left. There was a sign saying how much it costs to where, and I gave him the money but he never asked for the destination until everyone else got out. Then he hightailed it to the Sandals hotel and dropped me off. Distressingly, after that he turned around and went back, making me think the other buses don’t come this way unless someone is already headed out this far. No wonder I never get a bus here.

Back in the apartment I talked to Jeroen, hungrily ate my leftovers, did some research, wrote some emails, wrote the blog, showered off the day, washed my clothes, etc etc.

I give today an overall score of Meh.

Sunday July 14 - see Barbuda blog

Monday July 15 - I stayed in bed until three minutes before 7:00 - a sleep-in record! But I woke up about every hour from 3am on, so it could have been better. My roommate got home at 5am, three nights in a row. We are on exact opposite schedules. She comes in loud but then goes straight to her room, so it’s fine. From about 8:30 until I left I listened to her alarm going off. I think she leaves today and has to be out by 11am. Wonder if she made it.

I watched an episode of NCIS LA, sent a few emails, including replies to some emails about travel. The airline wrote me back and I wrote them again with another question. Still waiting for an answer. I then proceeded to have an existential crisis, wondering what I am doing here, why I am traveling for so long, what was I thinking? I searched for flights home and to Florida, thought about how much money I would be losing, feeling like a travel failure. It was all very exciting.

I finally decided to go to Johnson’s Point, the village where my friend Monika lived when lived and worked in Antigua. I left sometime after 9am, maybe closer to 10am. I didn’t have to wait too long for a bus, maybe 10 minutes, and then I switched to the #22 bus to Johnson’s Point. Once I arrived, I took some pictures to send to Monika. It’s a very small village, with a shop and some houses. I asked in at the shop, but the woman there was new and didn’t live in the village. I also asked around about another expat who used to teach with Monika, but apparently she has moved away. My next stop was the beach. It was a very short walk from the village, basically across the street. I talked to two young boys who pointed me in the right direction for making my way onto the beach. Turner’s Beach is very pretty. I thought I might look around, then walk to Darkwood Beach and then on to another, but I decided to stay put and spend the day here. I walked the beach, took some pictures, and found a spot in the shade. It was right at a little resort or hotel with several people, but they were mostly on chairs and it was not crowded. I got into the water after putting on some sunscreen, and then stayed there for about an hour. An American couple came in and I spoke to them. They were from Florida and celebrating her birthday. Then another guy came in and we were chatting. Him and his wife are from California and were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I stayed in for about an hour, and then read for a while. Later the wife came over and chatted with me when she came out, and we talked a bit about some islands in the Caribbean - Barbados and Bequai, both destinations of mine. They went to have lunch and I went back to reading. I went in again later with my snorkel and looked around. There were some rocks and they had fish around them. Not much, but it was nice to see and think of Monika and her kids swimming here when they were young. I read some more and decided to leave at 3:30 pm to start the journey back.

As I waited for a bus, I talked a bit to a boy in 11th grade. We got on the bus and chatted a bit here and there. He lives with his grandparents and aunt and his mom lives in New Jersey. He will probably go to college in the states in a year - 11th grade is the last grade they have here. At the bus station I got on the #50 to come home and it filled a little faster than yesterday. I read about Barbados on the drive, since I have made no plans for my time there and it is my next destination.

Back at the apartment, I cooked my standard - pasta and tuna. Luckily it is easy, I love it and it never gets old. Today I added broccoli to it. I could have finished it all but I left half for tomorrow. I should probably start to learn correct portion sizes anyway. There’s always yogurt and granola for dessert. I finished off NCIS LA and now moving on to finish up the last season of Modern Family so I can get to the one I’ve been saving for last - Outlander. I’m not sure if I have a new roommate, but my guess is yes. This seems to be a revolving door of tourists.

I’m glad I did what I did today. As I floated in the water and chatted with the others, I felt good about being here again. I think it’s harder when I have no one to talk to. But I need to remember that the focus of this trip is people. So I will try to continue meeting them wherever I go.

Tuesday July 16 - Another lazy day. I got up at 7:00 and spent a lot of time looking at airbnb, writing several emails, trying to figure out which schedule makes the most sense for St Vincent and the Grenadines down to Grenada. I ate my breakfast late and finally left a bit past 10:00. I walked to a beach a little past Dickenson Bay that one of my hosts told me about. I was not sure how to access the beach without going on private property, but I think I managed. It was a small beach with a couple small hotels/guesthouses. There was a perfect sea grape tree with a lot of shade, and the only people in the area were a couple with beach chairs that I could only see when I was in the water (and that I could see was that she was topless). It was a pretty good spot.

I spent the afternoon reading, finishing my bacteria book and continuing on with the one about LA Central library. I swam and snorkeled a bit. I like that there are fish even where there looks like there would be nothing. There was always a bunch of white fish right over the white sand, hanging out by my feet. And there were plenty of little fish near the rows of seagrass that looked like they had been meticulously planted, but probably just grew there where the sand made those formations.

My goal was to try to get back in time to talk to Jeroen before he went to bed. I left the beach at 2:30pm and had to walk to the grocery store, about 15 minutes away. I first stopped a small store nearby to see if that would work, but it didn’t, so I wasted time. It was hot and sunny and took more like 20 minutes to get there. I kept reciting what I wanted - bananas, yogurt, ramen, and ice cream - so I could get in and get out. I was fast, but the line I chose was not. I hoofed it home, and it was easier since it had become cloudy, but I was still covered in sweat and feeling like I would never get there. I ate my ice cream on the go, and it was like an Olympic sport, trying to eat it before it all melted and dripped away.

I came straight to the computer and turned it on, then logged in, then went to chrome. Each step on this computer takes ages, and by the time I got online, I was too late. He was tired and went to bed before I even got home, even though it was about 9:45pm there. It was quite the epic fail, since I’d worked so hard for it. I could even have stayed longer at the beach. But I was tired and hot and leaving sweat marks on my bed, so I was happy to take a shower and wash those clothes while I watched the last episode of Modern Family. Now I am left with only one show - the most recent season of Outlander. That takes more concentration, so it will be more of a treat.

I did a little packing, more planning, more reading. I ate my leftovers from last night and my standard yogurt and granola for dessert. The ramen I bought was for tomorrow night. Apparently all the cheap things and supermarket will be closed when I get in, so I could either get fast food at the airport or bring something. I’ll see how I feel, but I like having a backup, and this was the easiest.

It looked like a good sunset, for once, so I walked back over to the Sandals beach and sat down with a book and a camera. There were some low clouds, but the kind that the sun sinks into rather than lights up. I haven’t seen any good sunsets on this trip, actually, but mostly because I’m already in by then. It gets dark quite quickly afterwards. I did see some couples starting their dinners at tables on the beach with some tiki torches going in the background before I left.

A new roommate moved in tonight. That makes four since I’ve been here. I actually met this one. Her name is Emma and she is Swiss, but she lives on the isle of Jersey (off of England) and is a zookeeper. She was actually in Montserrat for 10 days on a conservation project transplanting frogs from the zoo called mountain chickens that have gone locally extinct. They are trying to reintroduce them to the wild. I was just reading about this in the book I just finished. All of the amphibians in the world are starting to get a fungus and are dying out. They think they have found a way to help this species survive the fungus, which is exciting.

A little more planning, an episode of Outlander, and the evening goes fast.

Wednesday July 17 - Sometimes it all just comes together. I woke up before 6:00. I couldn’t sleep anymore, thinking about my upcoming travel and also the fact that starting Sunday I still not have a booked plan. After a couple more hours on the internet, I finally got it all (mostly) sorted. I now know where I will stay for the rest of the trip, and that is relaxing. There are still some questions, but not big ones. I actually watched a bunch of 7am reply emails come in, which was good. There is a rogue mosquito in my room which I had to keep dodging. One of the fast ones that you just can’t catch.

I had a late breakfast, talked briefly to Emma and then Ale came to pick me up. I quickly paid her for the extras on airbnb and then we left for the daytrip, with her mom Rosie in tow. Our first destination was an old sugarcane plantation called Betty’s Hope. They have a small museum and some old buildings that you can walk around. Antigua used to be full of forest, then it was full of sugarcane, now it is has a drought, which is related to removing the forests in the first place.

Our next stop was Devil’s Bridge, a great rock formation at the ocean that the water can move through when the tide is right. We stayed for a while and I got a lot of photos and some little videos. Very nice.

Next up was Half Moon Bay, a really pretty beach that is a perfect half moon shape. But it is on the Atlantic side, so it is a bit rough, and is also now full of seaweed. There was a team of guys there who were raking it up and another with a bulldozer-like grabby thing that was picking up the piles and moving them off of the beach. That is an endless job.

Our last destination was Fig Tree Drive, a 5-mile road in the middle of the island where you can still see old forest remaining. We just drove it both ways to see the trees. There were also tons of mango trees. There are thousands of fruits on these trees. It’s amazing.

When we finished with Fig Tree Drive, Ale drove me to the airport. We were there a little before 3 pm. I said goodbye to Ale and Rosie and headed in. Inside I changed into pants from shorts, dumped out my water and checked in for my flight. The flight was at 5 pm so I had some time to kill, having only had to wait for one other person to check in ahead of me. I was hoping to talk to Jeroen, but the airport only gave 15 minutes of free wifi, and he didn’t get my message until minute 14, so it was a very short chat. I finished the Library Book and started another, as well as spent some time planning for Barbados. Three days will not be enough.

Once the flight boarded, it was delayed by 45 minutes. Not uncommon with this airline, from what I understand, but frustrating. Especially considering I was due to arrive at 6:30 pm, and I was already a little nervous about arriving in the dark and making my way by bus. But it was fine. I talked a bit to the woman next to me who was from Barbados. She gave me some advice and her card, in case I needed her. I got the bus without a problem and the conductor (something new on this island) told me when we reached my stop. The walk to the house was short but dark, and then I reached the “family compound”. I couldn’t see the way to contact the host (there was a bell), but I found someone else who called her for me. I’m staying in a tiny little room in a building with two others - one renter and cousins of the host, I think. She showed me a few things, and started the kettle for my ramen. Getting answers from her over the internet was like pulling teeth, but it was easy in person. She kept calling me dear and made me feel 12, but in a nice motherly way. Weird.

I chatted with my mom, ate my ramen, and organized photos of the day while watching The Daily Show. It was a good ending to the day.


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