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Archive for December, 2009

The devil’s own route to Devil’s Bridge Dec 29

The Caribbean used to have two Devil’s Bridges, but one of them broke not too long back , so now Antigua is the sole lucky possessor of a land bridge in the Caribbean. Here’s a picture:

Devil's Bridge, Antigua

That’s one of many pictures. It’s a photogenic place. When the waves are in a mood to crash, the spray can be spectacular.  The immediate area is mostly undeveloped, maintained by a Friends-of-the-Bridge-type organization. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and therein hangs a tale.

Several locals told me I ought to go find the place—off the beaten track, but definitely worthwhile. They even all gave me directions. Maybe it’s the relaxed style of life on an island like Antigua, maybe it’s that they hadn’t actually been to the place themselves in years, maybe it’s that no matter where you go on Antigua you’ll find something interesting, but everyone gave me bad directions! They were all approximately right, but they all lacked critical details. I thought I was getting close, and one fellow said, “Next left, go straight until you come to it.”  That led me to the Devil’s own road. It consisted entirely of cement truck dumpings. The puddles of now hardened concrete weren’t even slightly smoothed together.

Devil's road—looking back

At the end of that causeway I found a nice view of an unknown bay with a nice line of surf out a way,

Bay with surf

—and a pile of hundreds of conch shells.

A few of the shells in the pile

The remains of an overturned auto chassis and several broken surfboards lay nearby. Creepy.

On this sort of adventure, even wrong turns are interesting. Several more worthless directions and a couple lucky turns later, I found the place.  Yup, off the beaten path, but worth seeing. See the photo at the beginning.

Have you struggled to find something, only to encounter adventure on your way? Share with us.

Interlude for humor Dec 27

We interrupt this fascinating series on the backroads of Antigua to bring you news of someone who didn’t have quite as good a time on their vacation:

My thanks to Tony Carrillo, the extremely funny and offbeat cartoonist of “F-Minus.” Here’s a link to his site: http://www.fminus.net

Got a travel cartoon you like? Share.

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Follow your dreams (motorbike 3) Dec 26

The point of Randy Pauch’s famous Last Lecture is that you can (and should attempt to) achieve your childhood dreams. Antigua has at least one person who has achieved her (if not childhood, at least her) lifelong dream.

If you drive along the road that leads from the capital to Nelson’s Bay, then keep right on going, you can travel along the inland coast for a while (seeing some wonderful scenery, by the way, and at least two trees on the top of a hill that clearly demonstrate the nature of the prevailing winds).

one of the windblown trees

On the landward side of the road you’ll see a village or two, a church with a very old and still-active graveyard (meaning sunken grave sites with indecipherable headstones, and fresh, plastic-flowered ones)—and Aunty May’s Garden Shop.

Aunty May's

If you have an elderly friend named May, you really ought to stop in, take a look around, and snap a photo to show your friend that you were thinking of her. A visit is worthwhile anyway. It’s an interesting store, and the proprietress is a lovely lady who originated in England, lived in Annapolis, Maryland for a quarter century, then, following that aforementioned dream, moved to Antigua and set up a garden shop. She says that everyone told her that her mum would be proud of her for taking the step, so she named the shop after her mum, who was everybody else’s auntie. She says her business is too small to have a web site, but do drop by Antigua sometime, and give her a visit. Tell her I sent you.

How about your travel dreams? Tell us in the comments.

Category: Adventure  | Tags: ,  | One Comment
True vision (motorbike 2) Dec 22

Swing past Nelson’s harbor and you enter the major agricultural area of Antigua. Antigua is one of the larger Caribbean islands, so it can produce enough to compete globally, sometimes.

You have no doubt heard the story of the bricklayer who, asked what he was doing, answered “laying a wall” and his companion answered, “building a cathedral.” Antigua has at least one cathedral builder.

A crew of men were harvesting yams in a field north of Nelson’s harbor. This is backbreaking, hot work. A plow comes though to loosen up the soil, then the men dig through the entire row of dirt feeling for yams, and set them on top.

The guy in front turned out to be the cathedral builder.

The guy in front turned out to be the cathedral builder.

Here’s the difference between a sweet potato and a yam. The scrawny guy is a sweet potato.

They were happy to show me their wares, and amused that I wanted to take pictures of them

They were happy to show me their wares, and amused that I wanted to take pictures of them

We talked a bit about the process, and their roles. I commented that he had a tough job. His reply: “We feeding the world.” I’m sorry not to know the man’s name, but I would be proud to have him as a friend.

Have you found wisdom in unexpected places? Tell us.

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How to really go exploring in the Caribbean Dec 21

These instructions apply specifically to Antigua, but you’ll find similar situations on other islands. I have seen scooter rentals on several islands. And at least one cruise line offers Harley rental excursion, but it’s an expensive option, and scooters fit the island motif better anyway.

BTW—I have heard that some people don’t like the roads—too many potholes. Humbug! (to use a seasonal term) I had a fine time on the roads. Of course, I’m not a little old lady who drives only on Sundays…

  1. As you walk off the pier, grab one of the fairly nice road maps they hand out. You’ll especially need the enlarged view of town.
  2. keep an eye out for a kid holding a Handwritten “scooters for rent” sign.
  3. Express interest, and he’ll lead you through (clean) back streets, parking lots, and alleys to a short street with several 150cc motorbikes. Find out the rate and schedule before you agree. The guy will explain the operation of the vehicle–they have automatic transmissions, they’re low-slung, light, and powerful enough to climb any hill and break any speed limit on the island, which appears to be 40KPH. I think the requirement is that you have a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license, but I don’t think the guy actually cares. He’ll explain everything you need know about operating the bike, and answer any questions you have.
  4. You need to return the bike with the tank full. The helmet is a laugh, but wear it. In fact, wear jeans. If you take a tumble, you don’t want any road rash. You pay any damage you cause to the vehicle. They have insurance, but it’s a laugh; $1500 deductible. Don’t waste your money.
  5. Remember that map? Have the guy show you how to get back! Town is full of narrow, crowded, one-way streets, and coming back is different from leaving.
  6. This is your chance to participate in the casual style of driving so common on the islands. People in town will be pretty tolerant of you scooting around. Remember:  In Antigua they drive on the LEFT. Actually, they drive down the middle in the country, and swing left when someone approaches. Watch the traffic circles. They’re tricky.
  7. You’re off! The bike is not likely to be stolen, but take the key with you when you get off.
  8. You can stop about anywhere and ask directions. People like to show off their knowledge of their island, and give you advice about good spots. Only the professionals expect tips.
  9. Remember to plan enough time to get back, drop off the bike, and get to your ship. If you get an escort back to the pier, give the kid a tip.

I forgot to get a photo of my scooter or the scooter rental guy. Sorry. You’ll see plenty of nice pictures in the next set of posts. They’re about what you can see on a scooter in Antigua.

So. Have you gone off on your own like this? How did it go? Tell us!