SEARCH THE BLOG

Mar 19, 2017

Antigua - February 2017 - Part 2 of 2


Are you ready for more vacation recap? If you missed it, you can read the first part here.

On our second day with the rental car we headed south to the English Harbour area. I wanted to go hiking and had read about the Jones Valley Trail that leads up to Shirley Heights, connects with the Carpenter Rock Trail, and then down to the Pillars of Hercules.

We found the trailhead for Jones Valley Trail on Galleon Bay Road, no problem.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

The trail is very well marked, with white paint spots on the trees and rocks every so often to keep you on track. It's a little slow going at the beginning as you're climbing over really large rocks in a dry riverbed - but it's so beautiful that you don't mind the extra effort.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We came upon a brick wall - in the middle of the forest. I believe it's part of an old dam. But it felt like we'd stumbled into an episode of "Lost". I think this is one of my favourite photos, ever.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At this point the trail splits into "Gravesite" or "Woodland". We chose Gravesite. On this path you pass by old grave stones that are so weathered you can barely read them.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At the next split we took "Graves and Cistern". Near the end of the path you pass an old cistern and sluiceway that used to feed the nearby soldiers' barracks.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

You come out of the forest and are just a few hundred yards away from Shirley Heights Lookout, one of the most popular tourist attractions on Antigua. The lookout is a former military complex with a view of the Atlantic and all of English Harbour.

Shirley Heights, English Harbour, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

The second part of the hike is Carpenter Rock Trail. At this point we were at the highest point on the island (Jones Trail is entirely uphill), and Carpenter Rock Trail leads you down the other side of the mountain to Freeman's Bay and the Pillars of Hercules.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

This trail is out in the open, running along the coast and leading down through cacti and other thorny bushes. The view is just so amazing - I don't think I can even describe it effectively. We honestly weren't sure we were going the right way, but those white dots kept leading us on.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

Carpenter Rock:
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We finally made it to the bottom, walked around the point, and after climbing over some more huge rocks and dodging the waves coming in, we made it to the Pillars of Hercules. These are natural limestone rock formations that show the weathering power of the wind and the sea. They are so gorgeous - just an amazing sight to see. Some people snorkel there, but the waves were so strong that day that I couldn't imagine it. Perhaps if we'd walked further around the point it would have been calmer, but we didn't want to take our chances.

Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua

We retraced our steps back around the point and hung out on the beach at Freeman's Bay for a bit. The bay is much calmer and we did some snorkeling here. Tom swam over to a sunken ship to have a look around, but it turned out to only be a boat from the '50s or later.

Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua

Once we were done we hiked all the way back up to Shirley Heights and then down Jones Valley Trail to the car. If you look at a map - which we did later - you'd see that our car was parked less than 200 yards from where we were snorkeling. Yeah, we're that dumb sometimes. But we got a great workout and saw some amazing sights.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
English Harbour, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We made a quick stop at Nelson's Dockyard on the way back. Nelson's Dockyard is part of the naval base at English Harbour where repairs and maintenance of ships were done. It is now a historical site, but it was a bit disappointing to find out that most of the buildings have been turned into restaurants and shops. We were pretty tired by then so we didn't stay long.

Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua

And then I was so excited about getting this shot that we missed our turn on the way back. :-)

Dogs on a wall, Antigua

The next day we rode two-person boats out to Cades Reef with Antigua Reef Riders. The boats are a cross between an inflatable dinghy and a jet ski and go up to 25mph. So cool.

Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders

Cades Reef is one of the best snorkeling sites on Antigua. We swam around for about an hour and a half, and then started the drive back.

Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders

About halfway back - in front of our resort actually - we were given 5 or 10 minutes to play around with the boats and do whatever we wanted. Tom had driven us out and back, so this was my chance to give it a try. It was fun, but I think I needed a little more time to get completely comfortable.

Antigua Reef Riders

The rest of our vacation was spent relaxing at the beach and pool, and just wandering around the resort. Antigua is a beautiful island and we can't wait to go back some day.

Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua


Mar 8, 2017

Antigua - February 2017 - Part 1 of 2

Antigua

A few weeks ago we got the heck out Dodge and headed to Antigua. It's an island that we had never thought of visiting before, mostly because it seemed so expensive. But then a rockin' deal came through last October so we jumped on it. This was new for me because, 1. We rarely book so far in advance and 2. I like to mull over a purchase for a while - comparing, researching, etc. (Shopping with me is a pain.)

But here we were - in the middle of February and in the middle of a snowstorm - the perfect time to go. In fact, it was snowing so much that our flight was delayed for 3 hours, but not cancelled thank goodness. We sat on the tarmac for most of that 3 hours - I actually watched an entire movie before takeoff. After travelling through the snow and then all that time spent on the plane, seeing the green grass and palm trees was a bit of a shock. When on vacation in the winter I'm always wondering, "Is this real or a dream?"

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

Do you know Antigua? It is a two-island country - Antigua and Barbuda - located south-east of the US Virgin Islands. It's an independent state within The Commonwealth (i.e. a former British territory.) It's known for its sailing, and we saw plenty of multi-million dollar yachts and super-yachts. Hopefully these two bumpkins didn't stand out too badly. :-)

We stayed at the Jolly Beach Resort next to Jolly Harbour. It's a lower-priced hotel in relation to others on the island, but we were pleasantly surprised by it. Great food, nice room and view, and the grounds were really pretty.

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

We chose it mostly for the beach - it doesn't matter how fancy your hotel is if you don't have a great beach, amIright? This beach is awesome. Really deep (plenty of room for everyone) and about a mile long. And the pool was just steps from the beach so you could go back and forth easily.

We wanted a mix of relaxing and sight-seeing and that's just what we got. This is the view from our room -

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

and a view down the beach in each direction -

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

Antigua Jolly Beach Resort

It wasn't all beach and pool though - we went ziplining with Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours on Valentine's Day. This was my first time really ziplining. We've done high ropes challenges before with a zip line down to the ground, but never high up from tree to tree. So much fun!

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

The staff members (aka rangers) were great too - always polite and patient. The equipment is very safe and they give full instructions with demonstrations. After ziplining we continued on to their high ropes challenge which involved crossing expanses on highwires, rope bridges, and plank/rope combinations. Not quite as challenging as the course at Blue Mountain - but still a good time. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to bring our cameras so I have no shots of the ropes challenge.

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours

There are 5 or 6 dogs living on the tour property, so of course I had to have a visit with each one. There was one that looked a bit like our Chloe and one like our Sasha, so we informally adopted them (i.e. in our minds). We even stopped back on two other days just to see them again.

Antigua Dadli dog

Antigua Dadli dog

The next day we rented a car to drive to the PAAWS animal shelter in Parham. That day was the 20th anniversary of the day Tom and I met, so we celebrated by doing our favourite thing - playing with dogs.

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs

PAAWS is a no-kill shelter on Antigua that cares for and re-homes abandoned and neglected animals on the island. And there are A LOT of abandoned animals on Antigua. Dogs are rarely seen as family pets like here at home - they're just another animal like a pig or goat, so there is a lack of interest in spaying and neutering. This leads to an abundance of unwanted puppies - called "Dadli dogs" after the original name of the island (Wadadli/Waladli). Visiting the shelter was wonderful and yet sad at the same time because it operates completely on donations and sponsorships with no government assistance. At any time there are up to 80 dogs at the shelter waiting for a forever home.

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Chloe

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
the newest arrivals

We didn't just go there to visit, we wanted to help however we could, so we offered to walk dogs for them. The dogs need to develop leash and socialization skills, but the employees are so busy that they don't always have time to walk them all. We walked the dogs two at a time and went for 7 walks that day. I was so tired! But it was fantastic. Just the best day ever. I wish we could have taken a dog (or two, or three...) home with us.

Here are the dogs we walked that day (all except Princess are available for adoption):

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Frankie and Princess

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Barney and Freddie (they've been there for 8 years!)

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Iggy and Libby

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Zac and Unity

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Baldric and Lance

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Brindle and Flynn

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter - Dadli dogs
Quincy and Archie

After saying goodbye to our new friends we went looking for lunch. Unfortunately the gas station wouldn't accept our credit card so we spent all of our cash on gas before finding a restaurant. It's a good thing I always have snacks! We drove out to the far eastern end of the island to see Devil's Bridge - a natural rock arch formed by the ocean waves eroding the limestone cliffs.

Devil's Bridge Antigua

Devil's Bridge Antigua

The history of the area is heartbreaking as it was a place where slaves would jump from the cliff edge, either to commit suicide or in hopes of swimming back to Africa, but would end up dying in the rough water.

Devil's Bridge Antigua

Tom walked across the bridge but I was too much of a chicken. There is a big crack in the rock and it's going to give out one day - I don't trust my luck. I did wear out my camera battery though. I love taking pictures and video of breaking waves - the sight and sound of them is soothing to me.

Devil's Bridge Antigua

Devil's Bridge Antigua

Devil's Bridge Antigua

It was getting late by then and I was HUNGRY, so we made our way back to the resort for dinner. I'd like to say that we stayed up enjoying the entertainment, but the truth is we just collapsed into bed. We did a lot of walking that day!

I'm going to stop here because I know I've talked enough. Tomorrow it's on to the south end of the island!





LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...