Bored in Antigua ? You’re not trying hard at all !
I tried to fit a bit too much into my day and missed the donkey sanctuary by about 30 minutes. It runs Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. I didn’t know what time it did close and this being low season of course it was taking a chance; on the one hand and always a sure bet on the other – adventure. This is Antigua.
I got my fig tree drive fix in on the way and all went ok it’s never fast! That fix starts as you round the tamarind hill developments after passing Jolly Harbour and approach darkwood beach. You get a fantastic view of the Caribbean Sea over arguably one of Antigua’s best beaches. More incredible vistas await rounding the points and bluffs that characterize this part of the isle. It does start to cut back in and until the beach at Curtain Bluff you have amazing views of the mountains to the left that cocoon the colorful villages here, an often overlooked feature of Antigua. The village here after the speed bumps has provided me with the following:
Abandoned cars just left it would seem for decades on the side of the road judging by the foliage and pillaging that has happened.
A guy pressing what appeared to be coconuts for oil by the roadside.
Meandering people – there are no paths and if there are Antiguan’s prefer to walk in the road. For black people in the dark this is either a) Suicidal b) Ignorant c) Macho d) Without choice. I have met all 4 on a single pass through here !
Friendly villagers who wanted their picture taken and for them to take mine.
It has left a lasting impression. In both directions this village signals a change in the road ahead. Today it was the start of the winding road up to the pass. The start of Fig Tree Drive. In one 10m stretch of foliage here you can find mangoes, bananas, bread fruit, figs (of course) and more. Otherwise it’s a sometimes potholed road to the extreme with the possibility of rolling off the edge into a Gully or worse down into a drop of certain write off and a possibility of serious injury. It charms one moment and scares the next. At night the former decreases in favour of the latter, Antiguans don’t help with full beams and fog lamps coming into your path. It’s not that bad though if you take it steady; Antiguans swerve a bit before finally at the last moment missing you. During the day you may find the locals washing their cars and trucks here in the natural streams that pass by, the canopy providing a break from the sun as they toil – Antiguan’s are not stupid. You will see the rasta plaques which speak of something profound nailed to certain trees, the size of dinner plates in various colours. On my next visit I will expand on these. A Rainforrest zipline tour tops close to the pass and signals my decent and a couple of speed bumps. Passing a couple of hikes on the right hand side just before the Gallery (often closed) you are approaching the end of Fig Tree Drive. Again another village a bit less crazy and you shortly arrive at the big pink church Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. I almost always turn right here otherwise (towards Falmouth) I don’t know why I would have taken as a tourist FTD. One notable church for its sheer beauty is the sole attraction until you arrive at Falmouth. I needed to talk to the car rental people in English harbour and passed through Falmouth where my Antiguan (mini life) began this time.
Time was ticking after doing something I may have achieved by phone if it were not for the fact that their phone is unbelievable soft and at best titi is hard understood, no that was a job in person. So time ticks by even if in Antigua they have time, where you come from you have clocks. And It was just taking me forever to get to the donkey sanctuary, was it really this far away from Falmouth – I should normally have taken a different route but drawn by FTD. [I love annoying those who say you can’t start a sentence with the word-and.]
And then it was winding bends on the other side of the island, we have crossed the whole of Antigua ! Past Willoughby bay some interesting construction (see images)and further on I saw the big sign not clearly saying you have arrived but that’s what has happened or have you ? I turned inland and started down a roughened road – it said 1 mile to the Donkeys.
I picked up a local lad who was going to work in the fields around here and I couldn’t understand him well at all ! We made very small talk. I wondered if he was a migrant worker I figured he was under 20, long pants cap and a dick Whittington type pack with what I figured was his supper as it was getting late to start a days work. After some really bad roads and the guy saying yes they did get worse and me knowing what a mile feels like I realized that I must have passed it and the guy knew it but he wanted the ride to last – Ok he said when I arrived immediately at his field. A woman 20 yards ahead informed me that I had passed it, the cute goats had distracted me (if ever you need a distraction take a cute goat. If your buying a used car make sure there are no goats around) as this was where the turning was. What goats you say oh yes on the way I saw a goat farm. A WAY TOO SMALL sign signals your arrival at the donkey sanctuary. On turning back I found the sign goats laughing at me and the road I had missed. Note to you – if the road gets real bad turn back. I was in the non 4×4 rio not at all ideal bring on a Top Gear challenge sketch ! But really it wasn’t all a waste (never is) some of the interior views of the fields were simply beautiful. So beautiful, annoyingly beautiful I had to keep stopping getting out and getting another green and blue polaroid. These won’t do justice to the air of peace and nature that sat there hugging me. See for yourself. So the Donkey Sanctuary was closed but I felt I had arrived. There was an awkward donkey in a paddock left of the gate, my daughter being only marginally harder to take a picture of. I was due to meet up at tradewinds hotel for a special happy hour and I hadn’t even got home to change ! Onwards Tonto, donkey or Rio.