Posted by: yachtcrewsing | December 23, 2011

Exploring Antigua on Our First Day Off

Sunday was our first day off after a week at sea and our crew planned to make the most of it.

The day started with a hike along the Goat Path, a little trail leading from Pigeon Beach up along the bluffs and over to Nelson’s Dockyard. The slightly hidden path is a ruggedly beautiful method of experiencing the vistas of the island; the trail leads from lush green hills to the eighteenth century fortress and down into the old British naval base at Nelson’s Dockyard.

After returning to the boat to change into our bathing suits (and for a few of the boys to grab their surfboards) we rented a car. Here, this endevour is not cheap- with insurance and ‘obtaining’ an Antiguan driver’s license (which in the islands just means paying $20. If only it were that easy in Canada…), it came to around $100 US for the day. Nevertheless, we managed to squeeze seven of us into an economy-sized vehicle, mitigating the slightly extortionate price.

In Antigua they drive on the left hand side of the road… theoretically. But as my captain so succinctly put it, on the island, as with most in the Caribbean, ‘anything goes.’ taking cultural sensitivity into account, we trundled our way up and down dirt roads, past small stores that epitomized the ‘we sell anything’ philosophy, stopped for cows wandering across the road and eventually ended up at Galley Bay Beach.

Antigua is known as the island of 365 beaches- one for every day of the year. Although I am sure that some of them are a bit of a stretch in constituting a ‘beach,’ Galley is one to be saved for a special date in the year. The beach begins by a small cliff with a stunning villa perched atop, at the bottom of which a ribbon of golden-white sand extends for a few miles and slants down into the gorgeous blue waters below. This little paradise is a haven for surfers and hedonists, with the exclusive Galley Bay Resort claiming the privilege of sole accommodation in the bay.

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While the South African and Aussie surfers tried to catch some waves, the rest of us luxuriated in the sand under the cover of a large palm tree. Beyond this, the day was spent swimming in the crystalline waters and enjoying iced drinks on the multi-colored lounge chairs of the beach bar.

Upon getting home, we showered and changed for the main Sunday event- Shirley Heights.

Shirley Heights is somewhat of a quasi-tourist, quasi-local institution in the form of an old mountain-top embattlement. Every Sunday the sun sets on the small yachts at anchor in the bay below, and the place comes alive with steel drums, percussion, guitars and singing. Glasses of a delectable spiced rum punch flow from the bar; as their staple, it is purported to be the only socially acceptable beverage for everyone save children.

The music and the beat is infectious, irrespective of the effects of Antiguan rum punch. Everyone dances and mingles; the multitude of fellow yachties, local Antiguans and British holiday makers both young and old alike. It is impossible not to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

So far, my second year in Antigua is shaping up to be even better than the last…

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