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Antigua and Barbuda is made up by two major islands and 45 smaller islands. It covers 440 km2 and is the home of around 85.000 citizens of which 91% are African, 4.4% Multiracial, 1.7% European and 2.9% Others. The main religion is Christianity with 76,5%.
The island of Antigua was explored by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for the Church of Santa Marķa La Antigua. Antigua was colonized by Britain in 1632; Barbuda island was first colonized in 1678. With the breakup of the federation, it became one of the West Indies Associated States in 1967 and independence was granted from United Kingdom on 1 November 1981.
Antigua and Barbuda both are generally low-lying islands whose terrain has been influenced more by limestone formations than volcanic activity. The highest point on Antigua is Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak), the remnant of a volcanic crater rising 402 metres.
The nature suffered badly from the sugar plantations, but here are round 182 species of birds, seven bat species, Antigua least gecko; Sphaerodactylus elegantulus, Cuban tree frog; Osteopilus septentrionalis, Lesser Antillean whistling frog; Eleutherodactylus johnstonei,Red-footed tortoise; Geochelone carbonaria, four species of Anolis, Griswold's ameiva; Pholidoscelis griswoldi, Underwood's spectacled tegu; Gymnophthalmus underwoodi, a skink; Mabuya mabouya, Montiserrat worm snake; Typhlops monastus, and Antiguan racer; Alsophis antiguae. The surounding sea is rich with several turtles and numerous fish.
26. I start the day, driving across the centre of the island towards Betty's Hope. On the way, I spot an awesome tree, and have to get a closer look. Despite it is invasive, I love it: It is a huge Baobab tree; Adansonia digitata. Not only is a real fat tree, it is overgrown with Bromeliads.
I reach Betty's Hope as they should open at nine, but I have it all to myself. And I can't figure what it is they open anyway. Here are the remains of two windmills, one of them almost intact, and the sorry remains of a few other buildings. As I did suspect, the windmills on these Caribbean islands are fare from as old as those in Denmark. The stonewalls are doing pretty well, and here, I can see the cast-iron machinery.
I do a bit of walking around the area, but I don't find the vegetation that interesting - and I don't get along with the Acacias! The mills make some great motives, and I find an area with some Cereus. I'm still alone, and fail to find more interesting things to see, so I head on.
I get to the coast, although pretty high up, and a bit inland. Here are some trees, overgrown with large Bromeliads, and great views to another bay. I find some of the strange pear-shaped fruits with winged seeds, which I also found in the dry forest on Puerto Rico. Besides from these plants, it is dry bush-land with a lot of thorns; not my cup of tea.
The next stop is in a dry bush-land with some yellow grass and green thorny bushes. Here are also some huge Antigua Agave; Agave karatto. Some small trails lead into the area, and head a bit inside, just to be sure, it continues the same way. Out at the sealed road, I find some African Aloe vera, and I guess quite some of the plants I find in the wild, are invasive. The Madagascan Kalanchoe are for sure.
My next planned target is Nonsuch Bay, which should offer some great views. Well, that is either if you stay at the resort that have fenced in the entire area, or before that happened. Before I make it near the beach, some huge posh homes are scattered in the hills. I find a real crappy road around, and get out to the beach a bit further on.
The beach have been altered, and is in a bad state. I follow it a bit till I reach the guard at the resort. The other end of the beach end in a mangrove, and I think the entire beach use to be that. I find a few tiny shells, and settle with that. I try to get a bit inland, but here are too dense and too many thorns. Were they sitting on Melocactus, it would be another case.
My next target is Half Moon Bay, the road to there and the National park. The road is a bit disappointing, but it is a perfect beach. Here are hardly any people, and the most of them are in the little rugged Beach Bum Cafe. I try desperately and not very successful to capture the beauty of the bay, while I walk along it. Most images look just alike, and they do not justify the greatness of the place.
Two guys are cleaning the huge beach for mainly seaweed, and they tell me; a new resort will be build here. Then the general population looses yet another beach. At the southern end, the beach end at some limestone rocks, but I find a small path, leading over. It follow the coast, and reach a few tiny bays.
It turns out to be an astonishing path, leading all the way out to the outer cliffs. The views, the vegetation, the sea turtles and the marine life on the cliffs are all great. Here are Opuntias, Cereus, succulents, flowering Antigua Agave, Burseras and a lot plants which are unfamiliar to me.
I did not bring water, and I ought to turn around, but I get dragged on. The narrow trail are hard to follow, and at some parts, I am on the slippery cliff-sides, way above the water. When I reach the waterline, I find Chitons; Polyplacophora, sea urchins and large snails. Further out, the sea-turtles are warming up at the surface, but too fare away for my camera.
When I reach the point, I find my way op, towards the top. It is real windy, but not cold at all. Some small ponds in the cliffs are saltpans. Most of the cliffs are barren at the outer part, but around the top, it turns real fertile. I see a hummingbird in a flowering Agave, but not much more birdlife.
Near the top, I find a cave where the roof have collapsed. A bridge forms an arch with a view to the blue sea. I find three small cacti, but can't determine which species. It is not Opuntias, which are found in larger size, but as here are neither Cereus, nor Melocactus, it could be something else. A species of Mammillaria?
I sit in the shadow and watch the sea-turtles a bit, before I walk back to the beach. I head straight for the Beach Bum Cafe, and they do offer a vegetarian wrap. After that have gone, I head for the southern end of the beach. Here are also some limestone cliffs, and here, the waves crosses over them. This part of the bay seem to be the swimmers favourite, to judge from the two guys, desperately trying to rent out beach-chairs and parasols.
The cliffs are home to white, red and black sea urchins. Around the corner, more pale yellow cliffs are hammered by the waves. Where the cliffs end, another resort take over with their private beach. I climb the cliffs, hoping to find some cacti-land on the top. Well, some Cereus are hiding in the Acacias, but that is it.
It is passed two, and I figure I have had sun and nature enough for one day, and head back cross the island. I pass a huge reservoir, the big national stadium and a field with cows. I head down to the centre of Saint John, to see the town. I park right outside the handicraft marked, but unless you want dress of women's sandals, here are nothing interesting.
The public market next to it is a bit empty, as it is not Saturday. It seems like everything is imported, even the bananas. The fish marked is almost closed for the day, and I head on towards the harbour. It is overshadowed by three cruise ships, and here are only a few fishing vessels.
I walk through the small shop-area, where nothing is posh. Then I reach the cruise ship docks, and things are a bit more alive. It is old streets, and some of the houses are real old buildings. I do a loop here, before I head back t the old town. I try to withdraw Eastern Caribbean dollars in an ATM, but get US$. Well, I can use them most places. At five, I head home to delete pictures... Betty's Hope, Nonsuch Bay, Half Moon Bay, St John
27. I aim for the southern part with English Bay. It is pass the central part of the island again, but by another route. I get some views to the low mountains like Mount Obama, but it is not really that interesting. Here are a few villages with colourful wooden houses, a lot of bush land and little else.
When I reach the costal regions, it helps a lot. Some of the houses get bigger, the views better and the air cleaner. I stop at one harbour, which have some ferry-class private motorboats. I find some bananas, and head on.
Next stop is Nelson's Dockyards, where I have to pay a fee. Then I get into the old British harbour, with all its old buildings. It is still very active, but now for leisure vessels. Some are huge! It actually work great that all buildings are in use, although not for their original purpose. It is mainly sailing boats that dock here, and some are beautiful old vessels.
The water in the harbour is crystal clear and teaming with fish. I walk out to the western end of the harbour, and find a little path, leading up over the cliffs; Middle Ground Trail. It look more like a garden, but it is the goats that keep the ground clear of any annuals and herbs in general. Only the cacti, thorny bushes and old trees have a chance.
The trail follow the coast, up on the cliffs, and I head on. Here are quite some juvenile Melocactus intortus, but apparently, all the adult with the red hat are sitting in pots in front of the posh houses. Later, I am able to find some on the edges of the cliffs. They have a great view from here, and I get too many photos of the coast.
Besides from the Melocactus, here are some small climbing Opuntias and suffering Cereus; Cephalocereus nobilis. A few of the Opuntias look like the candelabra type, although not big. Here are also some of the more bushy-ones. I doubt all are indigenous - if any. Here are a lot of small thorny bushes, cut into shape by the goats. It would not take much work to get them into great bonsais. I find some Apocynaceae bushes with a lot of the characteristic fruits.
The trail leads up and up, and seems to lead on for ever.
I can find it on my GPS, and follow t almost the entire loop around. But I
skipped a small part in the beginning, and head back to
Berkeley. The entire area is scatted with ruins of British defends
buildings, but outside the dock-area, they are real dismantled.
When I reach the docks, I need to sit down and absorb the great views I have seen. Not much is happening, but a guy manages to fall into the water, leaving his boat. Then I do another loop in the old Nelson's Dockyards, and see some buildings and even the little museum. In a dock, different upside-down gobbles are gardening their algae gardens, and it look great!
When I feel I have seen it all, I drive around the entire natural harbour to get to Shirley Heights. It is within Nelson's Dockyards National Park, and I'm ask to start at the interpretation centre. Well, I stop a bit before, where there is a great view, and eat lunch: Bananas and Bimbos.
In the centre, there are a large collection of seashells, and I find a name for the strange sea-like land snail, I have seen a lot of: Beaded Perewinkel; Tectarius muricatus. A hummingbird like their Bougainvillea, but not me. I see a 15 minutes presentation of the island, on several screens among dolls, models and alike.
Then I head out to one of the lookout sights. It is the old military sights, and they do offer great views. Here are a few remains of the buildings, but the cliffs and nature in general are the main attraction. I find a few short trails between the two lookouts, and the long one Carpenter's Trail. First, I make it out to Shirley Heights with its lookout, offering a great look over the complex of natural harbours.
The house is now a restaurant, but too quiet! I find a great looking greenish Anolis on the porch poles, and I kind of get photo of it. It must be a male of the Anolis leachi. Although a cup of tea is so tempting, I head back to the Carpenter's Trail.
It should only be 1,5 miles, but as I walk like a hunting dog without leach, it get significantly longer. But still as steep downwards - at first. Here are no lack of adult Melocactus! Some are huge, some sitting great places and then I find a little field of them! The hillsides are generally covered in yellow grass and scattered spiny bushes, along with a few Cereus.
Then, among the other cacti, I find some golden Woolly Nipple Cactus; Mammillaria nivosa. The further out to the edge I get, the more Melocactus and Mammillaria I find. I can't help myself; I get to take way too many photos of these cacti! Well, then I don't get too many of the cliffs - or not.
Some of the cliffs, facing the seaside look like they have been formed by the water, despite there is 30-40 metres down to it. The area turns a bit more green, and here start to be huge Antigua Agaves; Agave karatto. The trees get bigger and closer, and then I'm back at English Bay, but on the other side.
It is a long, and not least steep walk back - and I have to pass a lot of cacti. I find another, more costal-near trail for the first part. Then the vertical part is the same loose gravel. I make it back to the car, and are not ready to call it a day. I found Devil's Bridge on Google, and my GPS know it too. It is in the north-eastern corner - not close, but I don't get closer anyway.
I more or less follow the eastern coast, although I hardly see the water. I stop at a single beach, but fail to find anything interesting. Just before I reach the peninsula the bridge is found on, I manages to get some crappy photos of the genets, I have seen so many of. If it wasn't for their red eyes, they would be quite charming.
The area where the Devil's Bridge is found is a small, flat limestone peninsula, with a single little sandy beach. The bridge itself is not really impressing, mainly because it is so low and still quite incorporated in the rocks. I try to capture it, and at five, I head home to look at way too many cacti photos.
As usually, I find supper in the diner within the driveway. They have two vegetarian options; Pizza and sandwich - which is a wrap. Bothe quite good and overpriced as everything else. Nelson's Dockyard, English Bay, Devil's Bridge
It is time to crack-open Diary 2