Antigua/Barbuda/Montserrat Trip - February 2009

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I was not going to do a Caribbean vacation this year. Like everybody finances aren't as good as they have been in the past. But I had a bunch of carried over vacation days that I needed to use up. So I designed a short trip. I have been to Antigua, but it was during Sailing Week and I never made the side trips to Barbuda and Montserrat. I planned this so half the time would be spent on these other islands. And for various reasons much of Antigua I didn't see.

Queens, NY

Friday, February 20, 2009

The flight down started on an incredibly windy day. It was the jerkiest takeoff I've ever had. We were being jerked side-to-side as we taxied down the runway. The flight itself was non-eventful, except for the woman in front of me rarely stopped coughing. I was glad that she was in front and not behind.

Antigua

We approach Antigua at around our scheduled arrival, but there were planes ahead of us. We circle for 20 minutes or more. The problem is not the 20 minutes lost in the air; but that the other planes put more than a thousand people ahead of us for immigration (Virgin Atlantic brings in a 747). But then at the beginning of the humongous queue a woman takes the people with connecting flights and puts us in a very short line.

The fellow in front of me has a Verizon phone. Verizon is not GSM. He tries and tries to get a connection. And then he tries again.

At the baggage carousel my bike is the first bag out! I go and check in at Winair. But I keep the bike. I change to shorts. I call Nedd's on Barbuda to say I'm on my way. I try to get cash from a machine. It rejects my card. I did bring some cash, but I need to find another bank that can give me cash.

I head out for a bike ride. I pass the Stanford International Bank. It is now only three days since the news of their fraud broke. They have a tower observatory. I bike towards it. A woman stops me saying it is closed. Apparently it is closed for good, like the bank.

I decide to bike around the airport. It seems to have grown since I was last there. I'm halfway on the other side and the road is cut. I bike on a road going around. A Rasta fellow approaches. I stop him. He says with the road cut to continue would be longer than going back. But I don't have enough time even for that. I ask for a ride. His name is Mumba. I fold up the bike and we put it into the trunk.

Arriving back at the airport I comment on how much fancier it now is with all the landscaping. He says it was all paid for by Stanford Bank, including the new cricket field. People think well of Sir Allen Stanford. Mumba's kids and their mother are in Australia. In a few weeks he will join them there. It will take him three days. I tell him I'll be staying at Murphy's Apartments in five days for five days. Maybe he'll stop by.

I drop off the bike. The immigration line for departures is still hours long. But as I am not leaving the country I can walk around them all and go straight to security.

I hang around waiting for the 6:15 flight. At a record shop I ask about a zouk CD. He recommends one for EC$60 or US$23. I tell him I'll buy on my way out, though I'm sure I can find it elsewhere for less.

I chat with a woman that was on the plane down. She, her husband, two kids, and two friends of the kids have a house on Barbuda that they got in an exchange. They were down before, though not for a couple of years. On the plane, and upon arriving in Barbuda, they know many people from before.

Barbuda

I bike away from the airport and ask instructions to Nedd's. I sign in. I'm the only guest. It appears he hasn't had anyone for a month! I buy some groceries from his store underneath (on credit) to make my own breakfast. And water. This is an island with only cistern water. Mcarthur Nedd drives me over to the "center" of Codrington where there are a couple restaurants, and many stands selling barbecued things. The place is crowded. This is where everybody is hanging out. I am the only white.

I get some barbecued chicken from I-Shadeka's. He chops them up with a hatchet. It is messy eating all the chopped up pieces, but less so, as I need get only one hand all covered in sauce.

I have an excellent map that I picked up at the Barbuda Airport. I decide I'll walk the long way back. This so I can pass the bank. It is the same Antigua Caribbean Bank and it will not take my Chase card. I need an international bank. And the next day is Saturday and the bank is closed. Back at Nedd's the store is still open. Mcarthur says he will exchange some US dollars in the morning. I'm in bed around 9:30.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

While the room has screens there are gaps and some mosquitoes get in. In the middle of the night I got them all. The next morning I'm up before 7:00. I find the gaps. I fix one of the spots. I can get the others later. And the one under the door I'll block with dirty clothes for the next nights.

I make breakfast. I have to do with the limited utensils. I get Mcarthur to exchange some US for EC at the exact rate. I decide my first day will be in the south direction. I head down River Road. I check out the Martello Tower. You can get inside it, but the interior structure is gone and you can't go up.

I headed east on Coco Point Road. I forgot my sunglasses. And I forgot to put a Larabar in my camera bag. I eventually reach one of the gates for the K-Club. The place has been closed for 4-5 years now (though the web site is still up). I continue on. The property is huge and is all fenced in with chain link fencing that has been covered with bamboo (which is falling off). I find the main gate to the K-Club. It is all locked up. I wait out a little rain.

Past it is the Coco Point Lodge. I can't bike in, but there is access via the beach. On the British Caribbean islands all beaches are public. From the beach I could walk into Coco Point Lodge, but it would be a very long walk in the sand. However the K-Club ends there. I walk into that. The problem is this is the end, and it is a long walk to get to the main buildings. I settle for seeing many boarded up cottages.

I continue on to the Castle ruins on Spanish Point. The road is getting rough. I drop my bike and walk to the ruins. A white truck passes and goes out Spanish Point. This means to me that something is out there worth checking out. I walk on. I'm hoping at the end I'll find the white truck heading back and I can get a ride to my bike. I never found the truck out there, though I did go to the very end. I did see a white woman with six or seven black children and a couple of men fishing. I end up walking back to my bike.

Just after I bike a little ways the white pickup truck appears. I stop it and ask for a ride. I heft the bike inside. The bike ride would have given me a tailwind, but the road was rough. Besides it was past lunch-time and I was hungry.

I get dropped off at the sand mountain. I wanted a picture. This is sand that is sent to Antigua to keep the tourist breaches pretty. I then bike out the wharf. This is where the cargo comes in and the day trippers from Antigua.

I consider biking to Palmetto Point, but I'm hungry. I head to town.

First stop is my room for more water (plus the sunglasses and Larabars). While I bought a 5-liter bottle of water, the small bottle I bought is only 710 ml. This is not enough for the bike, but there wasn't a larger one until the 5-liter one.

I decide I'll eat lunch at Jackie's. Now this is what everybody calls the place, but the real name is Wa O'moni Best Restaurant. Mcarthur gives me directions, but I still need to ask. A young boy walks me to it. I tell Jackie what I can't eat, and she suggests a meal. It was quite fine.

There are three wells to the southeast of town. I go to try to find them. After asking many times I find two of them: Beazer's Well and Jam Well. I couldn't find Sam Spring Well. Along the way I found the sanitary landfill. It was one of my sources for directions. A fellow was repairing a vehicle. My front tire had been rubbing on the brake. Before leaving Brooklyn I had tightened the brakes. Mcarthur did not have the #6 Allen wrench that I needed. I asked this fellow. He didn't. Maybe most of the vehicles were American? He did pop open the front brake disabling it. I had tried but wasn't able to squeeze it enough. Now I can put off repairing it, though for the hills of Montserrat having two-wheel braking would be useful.

I gave up looking for the third well with two hours of light left. I head to Palmetto Point and to check out The Beach House Hotel. In front of the Martello Tower there is a big intersection. I head towards the right and take the left-most road. The road is wide with very loose sand. It was hard going, but I have a tailwind to keep my speed up and not sink in. Finally the road ends at a sand pit. No hotel. No Palmetto Point. I head back, but now with a headwind it is real slow and I have to walk my bike half the time.

I see a house, not completed, sticking up on the dunes. I first walk to it, the side road to it wasn't bikeable, and find that there is another road parallel to the one I'm on, but closer to the water. And the dirt surface is hard! I return to get my bike and bike out it.

I come to a gate saying closed, no trespassing. It looked like hotel buildings beyond. I go in (it was the service entrance) and bike around. This was clearly The Beach House Hotel. I bike out the main entrance. It is locked with no way around. But wait. The padlock isn't snapped shut. Out I go, leaving it the way I found it.

I bike a little more to Palmetto Point. It is quite deserted. Not just because it is near sundown, but the beach has no footprints. I try to get a picture, but it is kind of dark.

I go to leave and see that a part has fallen off my bike. This is a part that holds it together when folded. It was there when I arrived on the island, but with the rough roads it fell off. On my way back I look for it, in case it just fell off.

Approaching town I pass Its A Bit Fishy. This is an outdoor bar and barbecue. I had noticed it earlier. It is nicely done with palm leaves used to make an enclosure. I go and chat with the chef. The prices are reasonable, but he has put butter on everything and everything is pre-prepared.

Back at Nedd's I take out my Rough Guide Directions Antigua and Barbuda. I go through the restaurants with Mcarthur and cross off half that are now closed. The book is only two years old, but the information dates from before then.

I head to CJ's for dinner. Everything has either wheat or dairy in it; except for the fried chicken. She says it is not breaded. No. It has white flour on it and is wheat-free. I argue that white flour is wheat. She disagrees. If she had jerk chicken I could have that, but not tonight. I return to I-Shadeka's. This time he offers me French Fries. Nothing else is in the oil. He will have to heat it up. While eating his jerk chicken again he prepares the fries. Nothing exciting, but I want some carbohydrates.

I bike around town in the dark. I haven't really seen much the town yet in the daylight. But there is a lot less to do north of town, so I should have time the next day.

I have to write my entire day's journal in the evening. I am not in bed until after 10:00. I seal up all the cracks, but I know one mosquito already got in. And I swapped my non-working fan for a working one. Hopefully it will protect me some.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm up at 6:20. No mosquito bites! (It must have been male.) I plan to time myself to see just how long it takes to get ready, so I can plan my getting to the airport for my Monday morning flight. Breakfast takes too long. The frying pan is thin stainless steel. I can't turn it on high. On low the wind blows the flame. I will have to get up earlier. I have to be at the airport at 7:45 AM.

As I wrote I'm going to the north today. The map shows many roads heading north. I'm to make a 90° right turn. Well no. The road goes straight with no turn. I learn later that this is a new road that is not on the map. I find a road that must lead to the Highland House. It does. When taking the picture of the information plaque I discover that the switch on the camera body got pushed and the camera is in manual focus. This is a design problem with Nikon DSLRs. Just grabbing the body in a certain way and you can push this switch unknowingly. It has happened to me before. I now wonder how many of my previous pictures are out of focus. [Not too many I later find out, so only the previous has to be trashed.]

I wander around the ruins. I go back to get the previous picture. It was only a short ways back. But the sun is behind a large cloud. Without the sun the entire meaning of the picture is lost. After waiting a while I head on. Then the sun comes out. As there is a stiff headwind I haven't gone far. Now with a tailwind I speed back. But there is a fellow that is shooing away all the horses clustered under the tree's shade. So no picture retake is possible.

I turn around. He catches up with me and we chat. He's building a house. He is balancing two boards on his bike. His wife has a gallon of water on her handlebars. He explains that I just keep going until I reach the sea and I find the caves.

At the sea is an information plaque. But there is absolutely no guidance on how to find them. I check out a lot of paths. I see a lot of overhangs. But none like the description of Indian Cave and certainly no sink hole. I walk along the cliff for a long ways. There is no one around. I pass a motorbike. I shout hello a couple times. No response. When I get back to my bike there is a truck. I decide to wait. I eat a Larabar and hang around for almost an hour. Then four Rasta guys show up. He explains where along the cliff the sink hole is. And he says the Indian Caves are where the truck is parked. I go back to where the sinkhole is. I see nothing that leads to the top of the cliff. I return to the truck. They are up on a cliff. One points out how to get up to join them. You have to climb up the outside to get to the entrance. Compared to the overhangs this is a cave. I bang my head on the rock. Good thing I have a hat on. I do bang my head often. My hat will be red soon. Good that I brought a spare hat.

The fellow explains that back at the spot for the Darby Sinkhole I have to climb up inside an overhang. I had seen that hole, but I didn't realize you could climb through. Then a fellow on a mountain bike passes by, continuing on past where we parked. I bike to follow. At the overhang with the hole I find him, and with the fellow with the motorbike. I go climb up through the hole. There is a rope and a makeshift railing that I did not see before. I get to the top of the cliff. There are no paths. I wander a little; then I realize I have no idea where the way down is! All the scrub looks the same! I had not paid attention to any landmarks when coming out of the hole. After a fair amount of time looking around I find it. I figure I'll go down and ask the guys. The only one left is the bicyclist. He rents mountain bikes and kayaks. He says to get to the Darby Sinkhole I have to follow a path from behind the Highland House. He explains how to find it. He says it should take no longer than 30 minutes.

I return to the Highland House and find the path. With a stick I mark arrows in the dirt to find my way out. After about 30 minutes it splits into many paths. I try a couple. One problem is my hip is stinging and numb. This is very strange. Some of the paths are blocked with Christmas Bush (Comocladia dodonaea). No way do I want to touch that. I give up and head back. Even with the arrows it wasn't easy. And I figure I bumped my head on branches at least a half dozen times. It is good that I have the hat. I have come to the conclusion that of the over 40 Caribbean islands that I have been on Barbuda ranks at the bottom for self-guided tours. The problem may be that there are no tourists! There are two isolated all-inclusive resorts, but those people stay put.

Heading back towards town I come upon the fellow that is building the house. He asks if I have a bicycle pump. I don't. I ask about the All In Well. He explains that it is on the old road. This is the new road that is not on any maps.

I find where the old road branches off. It is just a single track road that is grass with two ruts. I ask a fellow that is walking. He says I will find it. I do. All three wells that I have found are basically the same: a stone wall with an opening that could be gated. Inside is a long trough with water that the animals can drink from. At one end is a well. The wells aren't functioning. I don't know how the water gets in them.

I return to town. I need water. I have gone through the 5-liter bottle (plus the 710 ml small one). I finish off my orange juice. There is a 5-liter water bottle in the refrigerator. It is full, but it has been opened. I taste it. It tastes different. I suspect it is catchment's water.

I head out to find a supermarket that is open. Mcarthur Nedd is very religious and he does not open on Sunday. I find one open over at Madison Square. They have half gallons of Tropicana orange juice. Besides being too big the last sale date is 17 days before. I buy some sweet mango juice and a 1 1/2 liter bottle of water. This is the size I should have on my bike. I will keep it. I go to CJ's. She has made rice without butter for me. Plus she has jerk chicken for me. I have a filling late lunch. We chat. She lived for a while in Brooklyn. She has kids up there. I give her my card for when her kids want to buy cameras to bring down.

I bike to get a picture of the Duck Pond. There is no water, so no ducks. I get a couple pictures of the in town wharf. I stop by the airport. I learn I must be there by 7:45 AM. And there will be an immigration officer there, so I can pay my departure tax and check through to Montserrat. I can use the receipt, so I don't have to pay it again.

Back at my room I go to Mcarthur's house. I know he opens the store around 6:00. I wanted to know if a little before. No. He did when he had fresh bread, but now not until 6:15. I will have to get myself up early.

Back in my room I write my entire day's notes. Now I can go get some dinner. It has only been a few hours since my late lunch. I'm not that hungry, but I need the food so not to lose too much weight from all my activity.

I head to CJ's. She has closed. Though I called the meal a late lunch maybe she figured it was also an early dinner? Over at I-Shadeka's he only has fried chicken and some breaded fried things. He was out of French Fries. Over at Burton's Depot there were nuts. I buy a small can of mixed. Then I find one grill set up. On the grill she was putting chicken, burgers, and rolls. In the celiac community that grill is considered contaminated. Yes, getting dinner on a Sunday night on small islands can be a big problem. At least my next Sunday night will be on Antigua and that won't be a problem. I head to my room and bed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm up at 5:00. This is plenty of time to leisurely get ready. Only one mosquito got in. I see how. As I was packing I only used one shirt to block under the door. The wind blew it away at one end.

I get to the airport early. I meet and chat with Blackfoot Murray. Yes, he's half Native American and half Irish. He's down for an interview at Lighthouse Bay Resort. They are in an isolated part of the island and need a technician that can maintain the three generators, the reverse osmosis water generators, and all the other equipment. Back in Virginia he does this as a contractor and work is slowing down.

Antigua

At the Antigua airport all is quirt. There are no jets on the tarmac. The plane that brought me here will be the same plane going to Montserrat. We told them to not take the bicycle off. When in the air it starts to rain in Montserrat. We circle in the air some, waiting for the shower to stop.

Montserrat

As I got off the plane I take a picture of the terminal. The fellow removing the baggage says no pictures. Huh? I know airports don't want pictures taken of the immigration area, but the outside of the terminal?

At the airport David Lea meets me. He gives me a short tour as he picks up his mail and we both buy groceries. I learn that north of his place is hillier than to the south. He and his wife Clover are American and have been there 30 years. Back then people couldn't understand why they would buy land in the undeveloped north. Now they are lucky, as they escaped the volcano's damage. I get oriented in my room at Gingerbread Hill. David had shown me how to walk up to The People's Place for lunch. I was able to get baked chicken and potato salad for EC$15. I chatted with a couple that moved there from Texas. They found Texas to be too cold.

I return to my room and head out; then I remember that having a front brake would be useful and David probably has tools. While he didn't have metric Allen wrenches an American size sufficed. I loosened it up and got the front brake to work and not rub.

I headed south (the less hilly direction) to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. I was able to bike the hills without walking the bike up. It started to rain. This is the rain forest side of the island. I was at Runaway Ghaut. I waited under a tree. As it stopped I took off. Just a short ways down the road I find a Montserrat National Trust (with Philatelic Bureau). I would have rather stayed in there while it rained. The woman running the place lost her house to the volcano. It is still there, but the second story is damaged. Her kids are in Brooklyn and have no intention of ever moving back. I head on to Salem. I take the road up the hill at the first sign I see to the MVO. I walk my bike up. The road I chose went up, then down, then up again. Not the most efficient.

At the MVO I arrived at 25 past the hour. The 20 minute informational movie starts at 15 past. (Though, as no one was there, the movie wasn't actually started.) She was told she could not restart it for a single person. What if a large crowd came in? As the EC$10 was for the movie they didn't get my EC$10. Oh well. I read the informational posters. I looked at the volcano. Its top was in the clouds. Not much to see. I got someone to identify Garibaldi Hill and St. George's Hill. What looked like a lava flow was the Belham River mud flow. As it is not lava it is cold. If it rains a lot, the mud and stones will flow. There are people living on the other side. They can be trapped for a while.

I went back into Salem. I knew these were my only possibilities for food south of where I was staying. But Desert Storm and Wilson's are lunch places and now out of food. They said to get food I would have to go to the north. I did learn that I could go down to the Belham River. First one road was suggested. Then some fellows said taking the road down Happy Hill was better.

I was able to walk on the dried "mud." It was quite something. I walked down the river. I took many panorama pictures. I then came up the road in front of the entrance to Isle Bay Plantations (a housing development). With some directional help I made my way back up the hill. On my way I passed Mariet's Gourmet Gardens in Olveston. She had some food! She was closing for a week (a daughter was getting married in Jamaica). So she didn't have much food. But I was able to have lettuce and rice soup, a hamburger patty (with no garnishes, the lettuce was in the soup), and a side of French Fries. All for EC$40.70!! A total rip-off!

I get back to the main road and return to my room. I realized I should have taken a picture of Salem. Everything on this side is so new, except that village center had some old charm.

On the web it stated that ferry service to Antigua would be starting before the date I was to leave the island. As my destination in Antigua was in town where the ferry docked, I decided I would take the ferry and I did not buy a plane ticket off the island. I have since learned there is no ferry. I go up to the main house and ask for help in getting a flight reservation. Clover calls the local travel agent and books me a flight.

I wait for the sunset. There isn't any. The sun goes behind some haze and disappears. I did get to watch a hummingbird at a feeder. Then the Italian woman (she, her husband, and young daughter are staying in a cottage down the driveway) comes up to get the clothes off the line. We chat. They do research on various islands. Hers is on protected areas. His is on volcanoes. I write my notes, then go into the apartment above to watch David Lea's volcano story video. It was all dark up there. I got a chance to try out the pen-sized travel flashlight that I put in my bike bag. It was nice and bright. I watched the video and three of the bonus tracks. Then it was getting late.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I did not have a good night. I got food poisoning from either The People's Place, Mariet's, or the canned orange juice. I'll pour the OJ out and not eat at those places again. I make my bacon and eggs.

I see a mention on a tourism brochure for a walk in an old banana plantation. The housekeeper appears. She doesn't know where it is, but calls up to the main house and finds it is towards Salem. I'll get to it the next day.

I head north. My first stop is to pay for my plane off the island. Somehow the reservation got mixed up and she put me on a later flight. I change it to 4:00. Had I brought an extra set of clothes I could have left earlier in the morning, but for what I brought Wednesday has to be my wash day and I can't leave until after the wash is done.

After paying for my ticket I head towards Little Bay. Along the way I pass a Montserrat National Trust office. I go in and look at the hiking trails map, but don't buy it.

In Little Bay I see where they are building the new main town. A concert hall is already built, thanks to George Martin. I find the festival site. I don't know what it is used for. I find Mamba's. It isn't really lunch time, so no goat water yet. But he can steam some fish for me. I have a Ting. It really is the best fruit soda.

I take a walk on the black sand of Carr's Bay. Only while writing these notes did I notice that there is an historical site in Long Bay I could have seen.

My next objective is to hitchhike up to Jack Boy Hill. I decide I'll get up to the airport before I start to hitch. I push my bike up a long hill. I put the bike in a service station. The first car stops and informs me I'm on the wrong road. He takes me over to the right one and says I'll have to get a ride on a sand truck. A fellow hanging out on a porch suggests having a drink for the driver. He points to a convenience store. I buy two Tings for EC$6. I stand and wait for a truck. Four trucks pass full of sand heading to the waterfront. Then a truck comes by and stops. He drops me off at the entrance to the Jack Boy Hill Lookout. He suggests getting a ride with another truck into where they dig the sand up. He opens one of the Tings and gives it to me. I almost decide to take the unopened one for the next ride, but didn't. I drink the Ting.

After my pictures from the viewpoint I go back to the road. A truck stops. He says he's not supposed to take people in. But he will do it for a drink. I no longer have one. He says he'll take the money for one.

We go in past the airport. Four scoops of unsifted sand and stones and he's out of there and back to the sifting area. I pull out my money. All I have is small change and a 20 EC bill. He wants that. By not carrying small bills the trip into the dig cost me seven drinks!

Now I need to get a ride back. The first vehicle leaving the site is a car. A fellow from Florida is being shown the operation. I get dropped off by my bike. Of course now that I know how this works I should not have pushed my bike up to the airport. I could have left it at Carr's Bay where the trucks unload and gotten a ride directly from there. And I would bring several Tings to give away.

I head back towards Gingerbread Hill. I figure I'll get some food along the way. I'm pushing my bike up a hill. A white woman is waiting for a ride. I ask her about food. She suggests Tina's. Just then a car goes by and she says that's David Lea. It was a different car than the one I know. I head on. David passes again and offers me a ride. I decline, as Tina's is just up ahead.

At Tina's I chat with Tina telling her of my dietary requirements. I sit on the porch. She comes up with baked chicken and salad. (Both vegetables and rice have butter.) Out comes the plate. It also has plantains. But there is a sauce on the chicken. I ask Tina if it has flour. She takes it back and brings a new chicken on a new plate. It is only two small pieces of chicken. No American sized portions down here.

As I'm taking my money out for the meal I drop a dime. I reach over and bang my head on a louver; without my hat on. I hadn't banged it in a couple days. It was about time.

It is 4:15. I have two hours of light left. If I go to Salem now I'll have nothing to do on Wednesday.

I decide to backtrack and buy the trail map. On it I know there is a trail on the way to Salem. I go back. It wasn't too far. On my way back to my room I pass Soft Freeze. Among other things French Fries are listed out front. I walk in and see fried chicken. I ask. He uses separate oil for both. It is his place and that is the way it has always done it. I ask about fresh juices. He has both passion fruit and tropical punch. I end up drinking both.

I head back to my room. I spy the base of an old sugar mill. I get a picture.

Back at the room sunset is approaching. I watch. It is better than the night before, but not very good. Too much haze above the water. I settle for a picture of a common agouti.

Clover Lea is finishing up grass cutting. (One of the things I like about row house living is no grass to cut.) We chat. She says the old banana plantation I asked about is off The Cot Trail that I was planning to take. I mention the old buildings in Salem. She says there are a lot of them on the inland road to the airport. And it isn't too hilly. After pushing my bike all the way to the airport I could have returned by that inland route. I would have seen any old houses and it would have been less hilly. I also see on the map I missed a fort at Carr's Bay.

I go to the apartment above and finish the volcano story DVD. I get to bed at 8:15.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm up at 6:30 as usual. I first shower so I can have everything ready to put in the washing machine. I want to run it while preparing breakfast. By 9:10 the wash is dried, folded, packed, and I'm ready to head out for the day.

I head to The Cot, one of the easiest hikes on the map, and one where the end is a short walk from the start. The walk takes less than the listed hour and a half. I did pass a couple of farmers along the way, but no other hikers. I find the ruins of "The Cot," but there is nothing to see. Whatever is left is overgrown. This was the summer home of the Sturge family, but it was destroyed in the hurricane of 1899.

I get my picture of Salem and bike to the Belham River. I make one wrong turn and end up in Old Road Bay. I can't get to the river from there, so back up a hill and then down again.

On Garibaldi Hill I can bike part of the way up and walk the rest. No one passes, so no hitching. When the concrete road starts I leave my bike and walk. It is too steep at this point to trust my brakes on the way down. At the top I find a threesome. They never passed me! I find that they have been there for a while. They left their vehicle back where the houses end. Yes, they can give me a ride.

The views are better than from Jack Boy. Jack Boy is closer to the volcano itself. But from here you can see the destruction of Plymouth. They leave ahead of me, but I catch up. Then two SUVs come up. They are deciding whether to tackle the concrete part.

My bike only has to be partly folded to fit behind the rear seat in their SUV. On the way to Salem they show me where George Martin lives. He still comes there for a few weeks a year.

In Salem I start with Wilson's for lunch. No baked chicken. There is chicken and rice, but there is soy sauce in the rice. The woman behind the counter suggests Mervin's Deli. I had seen it before, but it looked like a bakery. I go over. There is no food on display. There is no flour on the island. But she has cook-up rice for me (rice, beans, oxtail for meat). After lunch they pose for a picture. It seems dark. I change to spot metering. Then at the next picture I discover the camera was set wrong.

Back at my room I rinsed off my bike. I went up to the Lea's house and settled up. We chatted. I learn that a Turkish Airline plane went down in Amsterdam. I ask to be taken on the inland road that I missed.

On the road to the airport there were not really many old houses. Mostly there were new ones grafted to the side of the hills. No way would people be doing this if there wasn't such a shortage of land.

At the airport the Winair agents are sticklers for the rules. Only one bag can be checked. On my other Winair flights they took my carry on. The problem is there is no overhead storage on these Twin Otters and very little under the seats. Only if I can get the back row will there be storage.

I process immigration as we wait. It is almost 4:00 and no plane has arrived. Then the agent makes an announcement. He asks us all to come to the desk. He explains that both the 4:00 and 5:30 planes have been cancelled and replaced with a single plane that only has six available seats. The cancelled Twin Otters have some 17 seats each. He asks about connecting flights. Those people get priority. Some connecting flights they can change. One couple claims they have a medical reason and his wife is to start treatment early the next morning. Then that fellow learns that the replacement plane actually has nice seats and the other seats are being taken by the Winair owner and his colleagues. Then the owner arrived. The husband of the woman with the medical issue laid in on him. The owner didn't give in. The irate husband called the police. He called the radio station. Technically the irate customer is right, but Winair has a monopoly on all transportation to the island, so they don't have to treat their customers well.

I told Winair I had no place to stay. So they made arrangements for those in my situation to be taken to the Tropical Mansion Suites and be picked up at 5:30 AM for our 6:30 AM flights. Immigration gives us our paperwork back and our departure fees are refunded.

At the hotel I sort of get an idea where I am. It is only 5:00 and I have time to do something. I go for a walk. I see the service station where I left my bike the day before. I go in and tell the two women that I now know where I am! They say I'm at home. A fellow is getting gas. I ask for and get a ride down to Carr's Bay. I get the pictures of the cannon that I missed. After the picture I walk over to Little Bay. I figure I can find some action at Mamba's. Along the way I see the ruins in Little Bay that I missed.

At Mamba's there is no action, but Moose (who owns the place) is chatting with a couple fellows. I ordered a rum and Ting, "the Caribbean" drink. Moose, a.k.a. Positive, gets a chair for me. We chat and check out the sunset. I point out the positives of my delay. I get a free dinner. I save a night's accommodation charges. I will go through the Antigua airport at a time when no one will be in front of me at immigration. And it was pointed out to me that I will be able to see the sunrise at the airport while waiting for my flight. One of the fellows, David Ryan, is now a Bostonian. He went to America, as that is where the money is. He is a carpenter, electrician, plumber all in one. He educated his children and they now have high paying office jobs. One very smart thing he did was to buy eight acres just after the volcano for very, very little. After the sun has set he drives me back to the Tropical Mansion Suites.

We had tried to call my room in Antigua, but we were getting a message that the person was unavailable. This time the desk agent didn't hang up and it continued that one could leave a message, so I did, saying I'd be a day late. As my pickup will be at 5:30 she programmed a 4:45 wake up call.

I went down to Ida's, their restaurant. I had learned that it was one of the best on the island. I settled for a salad and kingfish with lots of vegetables: plantain, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes. With a service charge it was only EC$66. I didn't try to run up Winair's tab.

Back in my room I find CNN on the TV. Lou Dobbs is on. Not having a TV I know his name, but not his views. He's horrible. His bias to the right is amazing. I knew that Fox News was right wing, but now I learn that CNN, or at least Lou Dobb's, is even further to the right.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It was not a good sleep. The room had a/c, and it was too large for the somewhat cool Montserrat in February. So it was cold and clammy. Then a light outside shined through the gauzy curtains. After a while I propped up a pillow on the bedside table to block it. Then the pillows were way too thick to use.

The wake up call comes. I get ready. The cab is waiting to take me to the airport. There I find my fellow passengers waiting for Winair to open. Eventually the staff arrives and they check us in. I miss the sunrise as it is when I'm standing in line. Two planes arrive. First is an Islander, and then a Twin Otter. Six of us are assigned to the Islander. I ask for the jump seat. The pilot replies he has stuff on the seat. It can seat nine and they leave the other seats free. We take off a few minutes before the other, so we are first for immigration.

Antigua

As I leave the airport I ask for directions to Murphy's Cottages. I get a left at the Toyota dealer. Then take a right and a right. It doesn't seem correct. The two rights would bring me back around. The second right brings me into town and I pass Bike Plus. Clearly I have gone too far. I get instructions and I end up heading out of town on a lightly traveled road. I ask some construction workers and I get the reply that it is up ahead. After a ways I realize this is clearly wrong. Murphy's is on All Saints Road which is a main thoroughfare to English Harbour. I ask a fellow making a turn. He asks if I have a map. He turns his car off and gets out. He explains I've gone down Bendals Road and I'm in Green Castle. He gives detailed instructions on how to find it. And I do. The problem is Murphy's doesn't have much of a sign. (One is being made.) And I realize that in the original directions the second right meant to turn right into the side street leading to Murphy's driveway.

I find Boris, one of the owners. The woman that runs the office isn't in yet. So he will check me in. He mentions $79 for one night. I tell him my e-mail had $65 per night. And that I assumed that was because I was staying for five nights. He charges me $65/night for the remaining four nights.

He takes me to my room. It is not the same as the rooms were back when I stayed there in 2000. He tells me the new management has renovated the rooms. (The woman that ran it before died.) The first thing I notice is there is no longer a stove. They seem to think one can cook with a microwave. He tells me there is a restaurant around the corner.

I bike towards town and stop at Bike Plus. In my room I had noticed I was about to lose a screw holding on the rack. They loan me an Allen wrench. I tighten all the rack screws. Then I ask for one for the brake. The mechanic looks at it. I explain that the caliper is off center and rubs. He gets a very small Allen wrench. There is an adjustment screw that centers it! I learned something. I need to travel with all these Allen wrenches in the bike's tool bag. The only one now there is the one that adjusts the fenders.

I head down to the wharf. There are three large cruise ships in. The place is mobbed. I bike up St. Mary's Street. I stop in King Roti. No lunch yet, so I settle for a homemade passion fruit drink. I continue on to St. John's Cathedral. It is mobbed with cruise ship people. I then find the National Museum and go in. I then see on the map the Coates Cottage, so I go get a picture. It is now lunch time, so I head back to King Roti for baked chicken and rice, plus a side order of French Fries to make up for the skipped breakfast. Then I take a walk through Victoria Park.

I decide I'll do Five Islands peninsula this afternoon. It shouldn't take too long. On my way I pass through the market area. I pass the slums. I had heard that there had been a riot there recently. I find Ballast Bay. The road is dirt. As I get to the far end to get a picture I see that my guide book and large map have fallen off the rack. I had not put them under all the straps. I back track. Fortunately only 500 feet back I find them.

I am getting confused. None of my maps are accurate. The large one is the most inaccurate. Roads that are paved are shown as dirt. Dirt roads are shown as paved. Roads are shown that do not and never existed.

I make it to what appears to be Fort Barrington. I cross over a bridge and find a beach. I ask and learn that it is Deep Bay. It is a popular sailboat anchorage. Now I know exactly where I am. I go climb up to Fort Barrington. A neat fort, but all the cannons are gone.

As Deep Bay is a public beach I figure I can push my bike over to it and get out the other end without going all the way back. I do. Then I find there is no motor vehicle access. One can only get out by going through the Grand Royal Antiguan. The security woman says the only access is through the lobby and I can't take my bike though. I ask about that other road. She says it only goes to the restaurant and the restaurant takes its food through the lobby.

I start to push my bike back. I chat with a fellow relaxing. I learn that the guard lied. That other road is a back road that she could have let me through. He says that back at the Grand Royal Antiguan entrance there is a dirt road that will save me from going all the way around.

I bike that road into Five Islands Village and head to the hill between Hawksbill Beach Resort and Galley Bay Club. Like in 2000 I do not go down the hill to Hawksbill Beach.

On the maps there is a road that heads to the south of Five Islands peninsula. I plan to take that to check out the Old Battery. But I find that it isn't a road, but a private driveway with a locked gate.

I return to town stopping for some pictures along the way. I have two hours until sunset. I figure I can go visit Fort James. On my way I stop at a place advertising pepper pot. She's sold out, but she says it is gluten and dairy free. I ask about tomorrow. She says they only make it on Thursdays.

I make it to Fort James. First I stop at Bab's Beach bar. He has no fresh juices (not enough business), but does have potato wedges. And like everybody else while he does sell breaded fried items he never puts the fries in the same oil. He peels, cuts up some potatoes, and fries them.

At Fort James I'm disappointed. It is so overgrown. The cannons are buried in brush. Brush growing outside the fort walls is higher than the walls, so no really good panorama of the harbor.

I bike just a little towards Runaway Bay. Then I head into town. The cruise ships are leaving. I head to a pier along the north and watch. I chat with a fellow. Among other things I learn that Chutneys, the Indian restaurant I ate at several times in 2000, went out of business.

I head into town and look at the suggested restaurants. I decide to check out Joe Mike's. It is a steam table service. The rice has butter, so I buy chicken by the piece. The place nickels and dimes you. Sales tax is tacked on extra. An exact 10% service charge is then tacked on, even though there is no real service.

I return to my room. I take a walk to check out the recommended restaurant around the corner. I find Kashake. They will have breakfast around 7:30 all seven days of the week. They have more steam table choices than Joe Mike's. And there is no butter in the rice. And I bet cheaper.

Back in my room I write my notes for the entire day. It is time to wash up. But there is no water. I go find Boris closing up. He says the island sometimes shuts off the water. He says he will switch to catchment's water, but it will take time to build up the pressure. I do have some water in my bottle which I use to brush my teeth.

After a while I can get a dribble from the sinks, but nothing from the shower. I do have washcloths. I wet one. I go look for Boris. He has disappeared into one of the houses. But then nothing from the sinks either. I use the wet washcloth, no soap, to clean off some grim, but not much. I don't get to bed until 9:55.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sometime in the middle of the night I hear the water coming back on. The empty toilet tank hisses and fills.

I had planned to get up at the first light. It is light at 6 AM. I get up. My surprise, or maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, is there is no hot water. It is plumbed for it. After letting the hot run for 10 minutes I take a shower. It seemed the cold was a little warmer. Maybe it is all plumbed backwards?

I head to Kashake on foot and arrive there at 7:25. It is closed. I return to my room, brush my teeth, and head out for the day. My route passes the place and at 7:45 I find it open. I go in and have a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, salt fish, and salad.

I head towards Jolly Harbour. Along the way I get a white man, white man from a young woman carrying a baby. I got it more than once, as I stopped at a red light and she caught up. I also got this a couple times the day before. This is now as often as I got in the northeast section of Grenada. Not a sign of a friendly populace.

The map and guide book highlight Green Castle Hill. About where the road to it should be I ask a woman at a variety store. She says it is just a path. To bicycle I need to go back a ways to the bridge and turn there [on the road to Bendals]. I do. I stop at the intersection. A bus driver stops to help. He doesn't know. He's not from around there. I head down the road to Bendals. A dirt road heads towards the hill. A woman is in a field. I ask her. She says that from where I asked I could go up, but easier to continue on this dirt road and then when in a big field to walk up the hills. I do this. At the top of the hill I see I am now just a five minute walk from a road back to where I first asked. I continue bushwhacking my way up the hills. There are some paths that peter out. After basically creating my own path through the reeds I get back down. I'm sure I did not make it up the correct hill. I did get to wander some fields and I did get a couple of views. But not worth the hour and a half out of my day that this all took.

I stop at a roadside stand asking if she has homemade juice. She doesn't. I stop at another and she does.

There are some beaches along the way that are a long ways from the main road. I do not go into them. I do go into Jolly Harbour. I walk around the boats. I find the field where we partied during Sailing Week when I was there is 2000. I walk over to Jolly Beach and get a picture similar to the one I took in 2000. On my way out of Jolly Harbour I stop at a huge supermarket. The Tropicana orange juice is not packaged in a single serving size. I buy some other fruit juice which wasn't very good.

As I'm heading south I come upon Vermanita's Little House of Cooking. I stopped and had a beef curry. She gives me a card and asks that I promote the place.

A little further on I see a sign for Victoria Park & Nursery, Ffryes Estate with a smaller sign saying entrance with an arrow pointing up a side road to the left. I bike to the end and find nothing.

My next stop is Ffryes Beach and the Cocobay Resort. As I turn in to the right I find the Park & Nursery! It is all locked up, but I can see through the chain link fence.

At the top of the hill the road forks and each goes to a beach. I stop to decide. A fellow named Jackson stops his dump truck to help. He tells me there is a road connecting the beaches, so I can go down one and up the other. He then asks about my picture taking. He's an aspiring cinematographer. This is not something I have any knowledge in. I tell him about David Lea on Montserrat. I give him my web info.

I bike down to Ffryes Beach. Then I go over to the beach at Coco Bay. Then back up the road and on to Darkwood Beach. This is a popular beach with lots of cruise ship people spending the day. There is an American restaurant serving American food at American prices. I buy a homemade juice.

I continue on. I pass more beaches. I come upon an unnamed roadside stand selling food. I ask about butter in the rice. There are a bunch of men hanging around. They start laughing and making fun of me. Then I ask about flour in the curries. Then one starts haranguing me. I lay into him and say that if he continues I'll leave and the women will lose my business. He calms down some. I get a conch curry and homemade guava juice. It comes to EC$30! Is conch that more expensive or did she take me for a ride? The earlier beef curry and bottled water was EC$17. I go and sit on some rocks at the beach to eat it.

I continue on. I pass more beaches. At Turner's Beach I stop. This is another beach popular with the cruise ship people. The parking lot is filled with taxis and buses with the drivers hanging around waiting while their customers sun themselves.

I continue on. I ask a fellow where the road to Boggy Peak is. He explains. Of course, like Green Castle Hill it is unmarked. My plan is to hitch up and down. Initially I stop near the start. No vehicles at all. Then I decide to bike the level part and walk. The guide says it is an hour up. I am a good ways up the hill before the first vehicle passes. It is a truck with some workers that are going to the top to take measurements. So not only do I get a lift the rest of the way, I get to go inside the chain link fence. On the way down they drop me off at my bike.

I continue on. I see Cades Bay from the distance. I bike down to a rocky bay, probably Morris Bay. I see some sugar mill ruins on what appears to be Curtain Bluff. I walk a dirt road to see if I can bike through. After having walked most of it I decide to not bike it.

I return to the road and into the next beach. This is the beach with Curtain Bluff Resort. I walk to the up sun end and chat with a threesome that is about my age. One woman was saying where her parents were coming down it wasn't an all-inclusive and that abandoned building was a beach bar where they could eat. But it has been closed for at least 20 years.

I was thinking this was Carlisle Bay. Then I realize it wasn't. I head to that. I miss the entrance to it. I continue to see bus stops. I ask a couple of fellows. Ah, back in 2000 the buses did turn around at Carlisle Bay Beach as I remembered, but they have since extended the route a little.

Back at the beach I get an up sun picture. I'd like to replicate the panorama I took in 2000, but the sun is very low in the sky. I wait until it is behind a cloud. Then the two fellows that gave me directions arrive. They admire my bike. I describe its features and what I do with it.

It is now 5:15. I only have an hour of light left. I have to head over Fig Tree Drive. I'd like to stop at The Culture Shop. The fellows think it will be closed. I bike until the hill gets very steep. I push my bike until it gets even steeper. I decide I'll hitch, but I need to fold the bike so people can see that it will fit in their car. Not many cars pass. The few that do are often small cars. None stop. Then a woman with an SUV stops. I put the bike in the back and sit up front with her. Her two small sons are roaming in the back. (No child seat law down here.) She is heading to her home in All Saints, but she drives me all the way for my room. Of course we chat the entire way. She suggests I visit Freetown.

Back in my room I get my things so I can write these notes at Kashake. I go ask about the water. It was island water that came back on in the middle of the night. It was Boris's brother that I asked. He calls Boris. From what he said he confirmed that I'm the only transient guest staying at the place.

Over at Kashake I get the lamb curry and homemade tropical juice for EC$20. I complete my notes for the day while there. Their chair and table are better for writing. As I leave I ask about exchanging money at the rate the bank gives them. He asks how much. I say I'll give him US$30 and he gives me EC$80. He says no and pulls out his calculator. He will give me a rate of $2.60. That is what they exchange at. I reply that is taking advantage. I asked that he give me what the bank gives him and not to be taken advantage of. I walk out. (The fixed exchange is 8/3, or 2.6666..)

Back at the room I see if I have hot water. I run both the hot and cold taps for many, many minutes. I take another cold shower.

I turn on CNN. For at least the third night in a row they are railing against the proposed reinstatement of the so-called assault weapon ban. Other pieces are clearly anti-Obama. When did CNN become so right-wing like Fox?

I get to bad at 9:00.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm up at 6:00, when it first gets light. I turn on CNN. It's octuplet mom news. Should they be in foster care?

I make it to the restaurant at 7:15 with my bike and ready to leave (in case they weren't open). But they were, and at 7:45 I was heading into town to find a cash machine. I ask and find a Canadian bank.

I head up Friars Hill with Sunsail Club Colonna my first stop. I have a soft spot for this place. They are one of the most sailing oriented resorts in the Caribbean. (The Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda is the only other that I can think of.) But it has changed. Security is now much tighter. I had to ask for permission to get to the beach. I had just biked to it before. But where they let me ("the beach") was down sun and not good for a picture.

My next stop was Jabberwock Beach. It now has a kiteboarding operation, but the fellow only brings the equipment on windy days. Or maybe I was too early in the morning.

I bike around the airport making a couple stops along the way. My next destination (I'm following my Rough Guide) was St. George's Parish Church. Then I head to Parham. I find the Octagon church (St. Peter's Anglican Church) and I go in. I go down to the waterfront. It didn't seem as special as the Rough Guide says it is.

On my way out of Parham I see a small restaurant that looks familiar. I know I must have stopped there in 2000, though I don't recall what I bought. It is now 11:00, so I get lunch #1. I have steamed snapper, straight from the Parham fishing docks that morning. It was just EC$18. I also got a carrot, orange, mango drink that was dreadfully sweet. Each of the major ingredients I'd eat with no added sweetener, so why does it have to taste like syrup when they are together?

My next stop is Betty's Hope. As I bike in there are a couple of Island Safari trucks. I have seen them a couple times before. They had come from Potworks Dam, taking a dirt road to come in the back of Betty's Hope. They did not stop. They simply drove in and out. I, on the other hand, walked to everything taking pictures, reading the plaques, and seeing the displays inside the museum building.

After Betty's Hope the guide notes St. Stephen's Anglican Church. It gets noted as the pulpit is in the middle. I stop for a picture and look in the window and see.

My next stop was Seatons. I had not gone off the main road to visit there in 2000. But knowing that I was not biking back into town I had more time. My first stop when I reach the village was for lunch #2. The village has two attractions: Stingray City Antigua, where you can swim with the stingrays, and a kayaking place. They were down different roads. I decided I would go downhill only once, so I went to the stingrays. Since the stingrays are penned up offshore the only thing to see was some caged monkeys and birds. Some locals were checking them out. Of most interest was the about a month old monkey and a white Sulpher Crested Cockatoo that could produce a ruffle on the top of his head.

I headed towards Devil's Bridge. I missed the turn, it was unmarked, and I ended up in Long Bay. No problem. I planned to visit Long Bay anyhow. Unfortunately my Long Bay picture had to be taken from down sun. I get directions from a couple fellows on how to find Devil's Bridge.

At Devil's Bridge a couple arrives in a car. The fellow was holding a GPS. He comments on how nothing had signs and he suspected that it was to encourage guided touring. I told him it was even worse on Barbuda (which is the same country as Antigua).

The Rough Guide mentions a dirt track to a tiny but gorgeous bay and how it can be litter-strewn. No more! It is now the beach for The Verandah, which opened in the Fall of 2007, shortly after the guide was published.

My plans are to bike to Harmony Hall and Half Moon Bay and then get a bus from Freetown. It is a long ways from Devil's Bridge to Freetown.

Before turning on the road to Freetown I see a sign for an historic Methodist church on Zion Hill. It is across from the church I stopped at earlier. I look across the street and see that was an Anglican church. I bike the dirt road up to Zion Hill and get a picture of the Gilbert Memorial Methodist Church.

Along the way, at 4:00, I stop for lunch #3 at an unnamed roadside restaurant.

By the time I get to Freetown it is getting late. I've asked how late the buses run. I get conflicting answers. The road to Harmony Hall is dusty dirt with speeding dump trucks every few minutes throwing up enormous clouds of dust. (Apparently there is road construction out there.) I then find a bus driver. He says buses until 7-8. I decide to head for Half Moon Bay. One couple that asked me for directions in Freetown beat me down to the bay. He offered me a ride up the hill, but he was leaving as I was arriving. I wanted to get a picture. After my picture I asked around for a ride. Many were leaving. Some were afraid I had a gun. A French couple claimed they were going to stop by the bar first, but they didn't. I pushed my bike up the steep hill.

Back at the intersection with Freetown I folded up my bike and waited for a bus. It was 5:35. Two buses passed in the other direction. One headed into Freetown and the other towards Half Moon Bay. Neither of them returned. So after 45 minutes I stuck out my thumb. The third car, the first SUV, stopped. It is a local woman again. Her name was Melinda and she also lives in All Saints. She dropped me off at a bus stop on All Saints Road. That is the bus route to English Harbour where are more buses run later. A few buses passed and didn't stop. Maybe they were full? Then a small one stops. We squeeze in the bike. I chat with one of the fellows and get dropped off right in front of Murphy's driveway. I did learn that on Sunday night (the next day) these buses will run to 10-11. I tell him I plan to use the buses both ways to get with my bike to English Harbour.

On my way to the restaurant I stop at Murphy's office and ask about the hot water. There isn't supposed to be any.

At Kashake I try the turkey stew. I again write an entire day's notes. After finishing the notes after the first meal I order another. I'll do my best to not lose weight on the trip. I leave stuffed.

Back in my room I wash my high-tech sandals in the kitchen sink. No soap. But I'm sure they will be much improved. When I get back home I'll try putting them in a top loading washer.

I get to bed a little before 10:00.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I turn on CNN. They talk of a snowstorm hitting New York that evening. I hope I'm not arriving in a snowstorm with my plans to take public transportation and bike the last bit to my house.

I'm up and at the restaurant at 7:20. He made up the salted cod for me. And he brought a bottle of the unsweetened orange juice, though at EC$6 it was expensive.

While waiting for breakfast I read my Lonely Planet pages. (I photocopied the Antigua pages from their Caribbean guide.) I see that I forgot to pick up the walking tour map of St. John's from the museum. It would be a good thing for Monday morning.

I get my bike and head to the bus depot. I know that when they pass Murphy's they will be full. I find the larger buses don't run on Sundays. So we figure where I can put the bike and pay for three seats. [Had I solicited someone going the whole way to get in first and sit beside me, I could have paid for only two fares.]

I get off in Liberia, as the guide mentions two historic churches. By mistake I get a third before I find the second. Being Sunday the churches are all open with people around.

The main reason for getting off the bus early was to get the view from the hill before descending down to Falmouth Harbour.

Down in English Harbour I head to Nelson's Dockyard. There is a lot there, but it is mostly commercial. I'm the first to pay. It is now a little after 10:00. I wander around the dockyard. I check out the museum. I take the walk to Fort Berkeley. Then I walk part of the way to Middle Ground. My main interest was getting to the top of the hill.

After Nelson's Dockyard I head to Pigeon Beach for a picture. I got a piece of chicken from a vendor on the beach. It was a little expensive. Then I go for fries at Bumpkins. It is now 1:30. I will have difficulty seeing Fort George and all the things in Shirley Heights before the day ends.

I head to leave English Harbour. It starts to rain. I pull under the overhang of a small bar. I chat with a couple of women on the porch next door. After a few minutes the rain stops. I bike on to Cobb's Corner. I start on the road up to Great Fort George. There is a fork. A car is coming down the right one. I ask which to the fort. They reply the left (which looking later the guide so says). They said it is a rough road and after I tell them I haven't seen any of Shirley Heights they recommend skipping it. I head to Shirley Heights.

I have a lot of pushing the bike up the hill. First stop is the Clarence House. It is fenced off and undergoing a slow renovation, I can walk over the fence and go in and get a picture.

Next is the turn off to Galleon Beach. It would be a big push to get my bike back up to where I was then. In hindsight I should have taken the water taxi over from Nelson's Dockyard.

I continue on and show my ticket at the gatehouse. I pay a visit to the Dow's Hill Interpretation Center. Following the guidebook's recommendation I skip the 15 minute film. I didn't see the shell collection, but the views are stunning all around.

Next stop was the ruins of the Royal Artillery Quarters. Then up to the Blockhouse, with a picture stop along the way. The guidebook mentions Eric Clapton's enormous house. There is only one such house, with property that covers the peninsula. I eat my two Larabars. I have more than enough for the next day's plane ride back. There are not many people there, but there is another couple. I point out Eric Clapton's house to them. We chat. They (Claudia and Peter) are from Westfield, NJ. They are also planning to attend the Lookout Party. They offer me a ride back to my room afterwards.

Over on the road to the Lookout I first see a couple of walks. There is a 3/4 mile one and a 1 mile one. I walk in each a little ways, but clearly there is no time. I find the Officer's Quarters. As it is now 4:45 they are charging for the Lookout Party. I pay. Inside I find Claudia and Peter. They do not plan to stay much past the sunset. That is fine with me. Looking at my guide I go back and find the Officer's Cemetery and the ruins of the hospital. Back at the party Claudia and Peter have secured some decent seats. I check out the food. The prices are high. A salad alone is what a curry costs at Kashake. Then the veggie burgers are cooked on the same grill as everything except the fish. But the fish costs three times what I paid for the fresh snapper in Parham. I pass on the food. I already planned on dinner at Kashake.

I get some crowd pictures and sunset pictures. Despite having been overcast for a while it clears up and the sunset is quite decent. After it is fully dark we leave.

I fully fold the bike. I had not brought any bungee cords to hold down a truck lid. But it fit with no problem in the Toyota Yaris trunk. It helped that there was nothing else in the trunk.

I get dropped off at my room. To get to Dickenson Bay, where they were staying, they had to pass where I was staying. I head over to Kashake for dinner. There is a catered party. They are noisy. I stay anyway. I much prefer eating off china with metal flatware. Plus it is the right table height to write my notes. I try pork. (It has been a different meat each night.) It was quite good. I again order a second plate. I look in my Rough Guide. I see that the museum is open on Monday. I had been thinking that it wasn't. I should be able to get the walking tour map. I had been considering three options: visiting Dickenson's Beach, going down to Hawksbill Beach and walking to the fort, or trying again to get to Green Castle Hill. Now, assuming the map exists, my plans are finalized.

Back in my room I turn on CNN. The storm has not yet reached NYC. It is expected to overnight. It is expected to be a whopper. That could delay the flight down, which would delay my flight back. If I am delayed I have no clean clothes left.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm up early to check the news. When I leave for breakfast 4.5" of snow has fallen in Newark. After my breakfast at Kashake I find Boris. I tell him we'll need to check my flight around lunchtime. I don't want to bike to the airport only to have to return.

I head off to downtown St. John's. At first the museum didn't know what I was asking for. Then a fellow finds a bag of the maps hidden away. It is US$1. Good. I still have the EC$15 I'll need for lunch.

I follow the tour taking pictures. Some places are missing. I either find an empty lot or a new building. Independence Avenue is called East Street on the map. Clearly the map is old. Some locations are a little off, but each has a small picture to help identify them.

Along the way Mamba (the fellow that gave me the ride the first day) passes and stops. He asks how Barbuda was.

After finishing the tour it is 10:30. This is time for a quick run up to Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay. For the later I have to settle for a distant picture from Corbison Point. I need to get back to call the airline, and if there is a flight I need to shower, pack, and eat lunch.

Back at Murphy's Boris is having trouble with the Internet. He has a wireless connection. I call. The automated message just says cancelled. I wait for an agent. I get put on a Thursday flight! They do not put on extra flights for weather related problems. They do not put you on other carriers for weather related problems. And re-booking is first come first served. Never having a weather related cancellation I did not know this. And as the flights are full I have to wait three days. I can check back for cancellations. I send an e-mail to work and to my father.

Murphy's has a washing machine and will do my laundry. (But there is no clothes dryer, as they currently have no gas.) I'm asked for advice. I give them suggestions and show them how they have to get listed on many web sites. I give Jennifer my laundry and head over to Kashake for lunch.

This time I have goat. This makes five meals with five different stew meats. This one has more bones than meat.

I need money and I'm almost out of suntan lotion. I head into town. I go to a cash machine. I stop at Roti King for a roti innards and passion fuirt drink. All the pharmacies there are small. It was suggested to head to Wood's Mall. It is not far out of town and no problem with my bike. I find the brand I like, but only in 30 SPF instead of 55. And it was almost twice as expensive, which I expected.

I decide I would try to get to the Old Battery via the Hawksbill Resort. The security fellows let me in, so I can bike as far as possible. This is part of the Rex chain of resorts. They were very nice to me in St. Lucia, and they were nice to me here.

I learn that Hawksbill has four beaches. The one I had to walk down, the furthest from the entrance; is the nude beach. At the end it is all rock. The rock is too sloped to walk around at sea level. I climb up to the top. It wasn't easy. From the top I look down at Pinching Bay Beach. The Old Battery is past that. I did not want to climb down the other side. I settle for a picture of a beach that is only accessible by boat (and that private road).

On the ride back to my room I pass a burned out car on the dirt road very near where the map and book fell off my bike. I go inspect it. A fellow passing says it was burned the day before.

A little ways further I pass a pay phone. As Continental is an 800 number I can call from one. There were no cancellations for Tuesday, but the fellow says I'm on the Wednesday flight. This is good, but I distinctly remember my flight date was to be the 5th, which is Thursday. I will try again in the morning.

I return to town via a slightly different raid. It doesn't take me along the water. Instead I go through the slums. But on the positive side I avoid going up and then down a hill.

Back at my room I find my clothes on the clothes line. They are not dry, but there have been showers on and off all day. It starts to shower and I quickly bring them inside. With the a/c they should dry there.

I head to Kashake for dinner. I get turkey stew. It was almost all bones and fat. I ask for some pork. Just the pork I ask. I get pork ribs, not stew. There is no pork stew that night.

Back at Murphy's I try Continental again. No Tuesday openings, but she says my Wednesday flight has open seats she can sell. So the Tuesday and Wednesday flights must have been light enough to absorb our full Monday flight.

In my room I turn on CNN. This is an early night so far. I get the news. Then I get Lou Dobbs. And for yet another night he rails against the proposed assault weapons ban; in two different pieces. Plus another article against revealing who has gun permits. And a closing selected e-mail quote promoting gun ownership. That's four pro-gun things in one evening report. This makes this at least the fourth night in a row (excluding weekends).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My earliest start yet. Over at Kashake he has pre-started my breakfast. So at 7:40 I'm on the road to Green Castle Hill. I've studied the guide book. I see that the first woman giving me directions was right. Maybe also the second, but hers did not match the guide. It has rained some during the night. It rains on and off all morning. I waited a while under a shelter. I could see the mountain covered in rain. Behind me was all blue and clear.

I pass again the second woman. I tell her that I didn't make it. At the quarry noted in the guide I don't see any road next to a brick-making factory. One person I ask suggests going through the yard. The security people at the gate did not offer this. They directed me to a road just outside the yard. I went to it, but it was a rather steep climb up. Plus it was muddy. Both my sandals and bike got quite muddy. I stopped at the food shack across from the quarry entrance and ordered French Fries. They took forever to prepare. I returned to my room via Bendals Road, as people said it was shorter. It did seem so.

Back at Murphy's I called Continental again. Not only was Tuesday's flight full, but there were now 13 on standby. You mean I should have biked to the airport and put myself on the list? Biking to the airport without luggage is no problem. I just didn't want to bike with my luggage both ways.

Boris has loaned out the hose. So using a pan I rinse the mud off my bike and sandals, and get rained on while doing it.

Back inside my room I turn on CNN and try to dry off.

A little before 12:00 I call Continental again. The standbys don't get a cancellation. Someone like me calling would get one. I'm thinking about renting a car for 24 hours. If I bike to the airport to get it I could return it there. Jennifer calls about a car. Her brother said someone up the street in a green house rents them. I go up and there is only one green house. He doesn't rent cars.

I head to Kashake for lunch. I try the turkey stew again. There is even less meat than the night before. Again I complain. Again nothing is said. And again I'm charged full price.

I look into my guide for car rental info. A driver's license is US$20 plus at least $50 for a car. That is a bit much just to see Harmony Hall and Fig Tree Drive. Actually only Fig Tree Drive requires a car.

I plan to walk up Monk's Hill to Fort George and take the water taxi from Nelson's Dockyard to Galleon Beach. I know getting an outbound bus so near to town will be difficult. They will be passing full. It did take almost a half hour. Several passed full. I could have taken one in the very beginning that only went part way. Then the ones going all the way would have room. Then a big one showed up and I and another fellow just squeezed in.

I got off in Cobb's Cross. I climbed up Monk's Hill to Fort George. The views were spectacular. On my walk to English Harbour I pass a young goat (goats run all over the island) that had stuck his heat through a piece of wire fence. With the slant of his horns there was no way he could pull his head out. I try to approach him. He runs away.

I passed a lunch place. I was really looking for homemade juice. Nope. I settled for a roti innards. It was a bargain.

As I walk towards Nelson's Dockyard I spot a sign for Caribbean Taste. I ask about homemade juice. I have a passion fruit one. It was not as sweet as at Roti King, which was good.

At Nelson's Dockyard I ask about not paying, as I just wanted to take the water taxi. Neither of them were the woman I had dealt with on Sunday. They said ok. Then the woman from Sunday appears and we both say hi. I tell her that I'm still here as my flight was cancelled.

I find the water taxi man. He's getting ready to end his day. He offers to take me on a grand tour of the bay. He sets a price. I then learn he has to take the boat back to Falmouth Harbour. I said I'd go along. He takes me to one pier at Galleon Beach. I get off and meet him at the other. I get a few pictures. Then on the way to Falmouth Harbour he slows so I can get pictures of the Pillars of Hercules. Over in Falmouth Harbour he does not reduce the price. So he ended up getting generously paid to return his boat to its nighttime resting place.

I walk over to the Antigua Yacht Club Marina and walk around. I then head to the bus stop. I sit in the back of the bus.

Getting out from the back I bump my head. It was about time! It had been a few days since the last one. My hat did cushion it some.

Back at Murphy's it is 5:45. I settle up my tab. It is now a little later; too late for a ride into St. John's before dark. I walk around the Murphy's compound. I chat with Boris. He points out that the building with the conical roof had been a Burger Queen. The building with the waddle walls had been a bar. It didn't exist back in 2000. I tell him about the goat. He says all goats have owners. If the goats don't go back home, the owners will find them. The goats will let the owners approach them.

Back in the room I put on CNN. There is a preview of Lou Dobbs. And guess what is on? A fifth day of harping on the proposed assault weapons ban.

I head over to Kashake. I order the pork stew. She gives me a generous portion, but the portion had more fat than meat. At least pork fat is tasty and edible. At lunch I was told that homemade fruit punch was included. I asked about it and that I should have been given it. She brings me a pitcher. The problem is it is awfully sweet. At least it is sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. And after drinking it I'm sure I lost no weight on this day.

Back in the room we get to the Lou Dobbs report and his pro-gun piece. The piece is based around the drugs coming from Mexico and the violence down there. His solution is real simple: secure the border so no drugs can flow north and no guns can flow south. Problem solved. Now they are trashing Obama and blaming him for all the stock market problems. I have had enough. I turn it off.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I have decided against a trip to Harmony Hall. It would be a great effort for possibly little. My guide pictures a cat in the art exhibition. If a closed room I would not be able to stay. The bus could possibly use up my EC$, leaving me short for lunch. And I could be pressed for time in getting back and to my flight. So instead I will take it slow and do a walk on Dickenson Beach.

I bike through town. There are four cruise ships in this day. But it now being 9:00 the mobs have already dispersed to the beaches and whirlwind tours.

I head to Fort James again. Along the way, for the second time now, I am literally run off the road. They saw me, but were impatient and pretended I wasn't there. Had I not left the road I would have been hit.

At Fort James it is a shame that it is so overgrown. I take a couple of pictures.

I bike towards Runaway Bay. I pass a large group of horseback riders. It is one of the activities available to the cruise ship crowd. All the guests are wearing helmets. At Runaway Bay I wait for the rain to stop so I can take a picture into the prevailing wind.

I stop again at Corbison Point. When taking my distance picture of Dickenson Bay I failed to notice the Old Fort. I easily found it. It is being surrounded by a new large structure. Maybe it will be a house for a foreigner?

At Dickenson Bay I walk the beach. I go out Warri Pier for my best pictures. I head back to my room. And yet again I'm considered to not exist. He sees me, but pulls out right in front and forces me to jam on my brakes and swerve off the road. [Note all of these incidents are north of St. John's.]

Back at my room I give my bike a quick rinse and head to Kashake for my first lunch. Then I go shower, pack, and with a loaded bike eat a second lunch.

I knew the ride to the airport would be slow. Besides the weight of the luggage I have a stiff headwind the entire way. At check in I learn the plane coming down is delayed. So we are delayed. At immigration there is no line. I ask why. It is because I'm early.

I sit and wait. First I have a group flying to Philadelphia next to me. They bought their tickets eleven months in advance (they own a place and come every year) and paid $1000 per ticket. I paid $364. Then I have a woman that like me was supposed to leave on Monday. Also like me she was originally rescheduled for Thursday. She said her daughter got an e-mail telling of the change to Wednesday. They must have increased Wednesday's plane size.

Brooklyn, NY

It was very cold back in NY. I do not take warm clothes with me to the Caribbean. The subway stop with the elevator is a little over a mile from my house. My ungloved hands were cold.

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