Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Antigua Then Barbuda


After a long day at the airport yesterday, we were ready for some fun!  We originally planned to rent a car in Antigua and Barbuda, but due to our extra late arrival, this wasn't possible.  As such, we headed out in search of a cab.  Our hotel in Antigua is quite a ways outside of the city center in an area known as Five Islands.

[I must interject here and describe the bug situation at the hostel. There were bugs, and they were legion. I found ants on the toilet seat, and ants in the sink, all of which I sent to ant hell. I had a delicious glass of ginger beer which I finished, and set the glass on the table. I went to the bathroom and when I came out, this is what the glass looked like:]

There aren't many cabs around, so a worker at the hotel suggested that we take the bus.  We followed his advice and wandered out the door, down a steep hill, passed some horses tied to the side of the road, and happened upon a small van-bus.

We hopped aboard and rode with the locals to town.  We made several stops to pick up people along the way.  It was interesting that the bus driver seemed to know where to stop and wait for people to come out of their houses.  I guess it was sort of like a school bus.  We also got to hear some Antiguan talk radio while aboard.  We thought it was funny that the radio personality spoke American English in a radio host accent, rather than the local Caribbean dialect.

Anyway, we eventually made it to the city center, paid the guy $5, and were on our way.  We were in search of a boat that would take us to Antigua's sister island Barbuda.  We wandered up and down some streets admiring the fruits and vegetables for sale at the market stalls and eventually came across the dock.  We spotted the Barbuda Express and hopped aboard.

When I booked this trip I imagined that it would be similar to the boat trip we took in Nicaragua a few years back.  I thought we'd be sailing smoothly on a Catamaran while sipping rum punch.  Well, I was sorely mistaken.

The Barbuda Express was like a floating bus.  It was packed full of locals traveling to Barbuda for Christmas.  They had their bags shoved under the seats, their babies slung over their shoulders, and their Christmas cakes piled high. Unfortunately, it was around this time that we realized our camera was dead, so we have no pictures.  However, I can assure you it was quite the scene.  Also, let me tell you quickly about the Christmas cakes.  According to a local lady, rum cakes are eaten by Antiguans on Christmas day.  However, the cakes on board were not home made, they were store bought.  They looked very similar to the birthday cakes people buy at Wal-Mart.

 [I did manage to get a couple shots off before the camera died. I'm still getting the hang of my new GoPro.]

Back to the boat, the ride started off quite nicely, John was taking a nap, and I was reading a magazine.  The boat was smooth sailing.  However, just a few short minutes later we started bumping and turning.  It got bad fast.  The lady in charge came over to ask if we felt okay (we were probably both green) and we shook our heads no.  She suggested we move to the back of the boat.  It reminded of a time when I was little and riding one of the spinning rides at Six Flags with my dad.  I remember saying "Daddy make it stop, make it stop" over and over again.  That's how this boat ride felt.  The journey was over two hours long, and it was not pleasant.
Luckily, our day in Barbuda made the torturous ride worth it.  First, our guide, took us to the site of the home of Barbuda's first owner,  Mr. Codrington, who rented the island from the crown beginning in 1685.  Mr.  Codrington had many slaves on his island to help with crop production.  He was also a pirate.  On our tour we walked up a steep, rocky slope to Mr. Codrington's lookout point.  He hid behind the foliage and watched for incoming ships.  The view was quite spectacular.  It looked down on the bright blue Atlantic waves crashing on top of large, dark colored rocks.  On our journey to the vista we also passed by some cool cacti.  There was one that looked like a tree at the bottom, but the branches were cacti.  Very strange.
Our next stop was the Frigate Bird Sanctuary.  This is pretty much the only real touristy site on the island.  We loaded into another boat, much smaller this time, and headed out.  The area we were in reminded me of the Florida Everglades.  After a few minutes of salt water spray, we started spotting birds flying in the distance.  We also started big red circles poking out of some of the trees.  John thought these were fruits, but as we got closer we realized the big red circles were birds.  It was frigate mating season and things were getting frisky!  The female birds are black with white chests.  The males are black everywhere.  The males also have little red gobble things sort of like turkeys.  However, during the mating season the gobble things blow up into big red balloons. [They also made this bullfrog sort of croaking sound with their inflated throats]. They are pretty crazy looking!  There were thousands and thousands of birds and they all stayed within an area about the size of a football field.  There were a lot just hanging out in the trees and quite a few flying through the air.  It was other-wordly, kind of like we entered a new  level on a video game, and we were supposed to capture all the birds or something.  They were definitely the coolest birds I've ever seen.
Our guide also pointed out the jelly fish lurking in the water near our boat.  He explained that this particular type of jelly fish doesn't sting.  He even picked one up to prove his point.  I followed his lead and scooped one up myself.  It was just as slimy as I expected.  It reminded me of some sort of Gak toy that Nickelodeon made in the 90s.  It was so slimy that it left a residue on my hand but thankfully no sting!
Next our guide took us to a deserted beach for lunch.  We ate in a little shack by the ocean. The main course was rock lobster, a Barbudan delicacy.  An interesting fact is that rock lobsters don't have front claws.  We also had some Caribbean corn bread and drank Barbudan lime juice.  All quite delicious.
After lunch we had a chance to take a nap on the "pink sand" beach.  I was a little disappointed because the sand wasn't as pink as I'd expected.  It was the normal tan color with little specks of pink shell.  Finally, it was time for our guide to take us back to the torturous Barbuda Express [Vomit Express].  Fortunately, the ride back was much smoother and no puking was involved.
Back in Antigua we had an uneventful dinner at Hemingway's and then went on a search for black pineapples.  As far as I know black pineapples can only be found in Antigua.  Obviously, they are black in color and sweeter than a normal pineapple.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to find any black pineapples at the local supermarket (which was surprisingly nice by the way), but we did have a run in with a local celebrity; the Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne! [His kid kept ramming their shopping cart into me]. It was pretty epic.  He just looked like a normal guy buying groceries.  Can you imagine if you ran into Obama at the grocery store?  Crazy!

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