14 April 2019

As I am leaving the village shortly, I have resigned as the secretary and committee member with FOCAL. As a leaving present, the remaining committee members realised that I was a bit tired of trudging round my three mile walk in the village most weekday mornings. They therefore sent me…and my wife….on an all expenses paid trip to Antigua in the West Indies, to kickstart and re-discover my blog writing skills. “What! Are you joking?” Well, yes. Mostly. I have spent the last two weeks in Antigua. But no. FOCAL did not fund the trip. I just thought I would be mischievous in the first paragraph.

One of my clients is a bit of a globe trotter. I have attended “board meetings” in central Leeds, Headingley, St Remy de Provence in the south of France, and Winter Park in Florida. He now resides just outside English Harbour in Antigua. He recently moved to a new house but had to continue paying rent on his old house for a couple of months. He therefore said I could stay there FOC. All I had to do was pay for the flights there and back. So off I went. And as walking in Antigua is slightly different from my normal walking locations, this week’s blog concentrates on here rather than where I am on my virtual walk.

Let me start with a general introduction to the island. It is a nine-hour flight from Gatwick and their time zone is five hours behind the UK. Its economy relies heavily on tourism and this industry is located all round the coastline. The beaches really are wonderful, and the temperature was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit all the time I was there. So, if you are looking for a holiday destination where you can just sit on a beach all day, this is the place for you. Unfortunately, we want more. We like to go out and about. And to this end, bearing in mind Antigua is a small island, we have probably exhausted everywhere of interest to us and therefore one visit is sufficient, and we can now tick it off our bucket list.Regular readers of this blog will know I seek out the quirkier facts about where I walk, and this week will be no different. But to do this, I must firstly explain something. The people of Antigua are poor, extremely laid back, and very easy going. They are also very friendly. I had the impression they could achieve more, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of their character. Chris Gayle is probably the best one-day cricket batsman in the world at the moment. He is West Indian and just about only hits fours and sixes. Running ones and twos is just too much hard work. And when he bowls, he has no run up. Two steps and bowl. That’s it. Why exert any more energy. This approach typifies the Antiguan way.

With this in mind, let me start with my first gripe. I will never, ever……..ever….complain about potholes on UK roads again. Antigua roads do not have potholes. They just have holes. In fact, the general road system on the island is diabolical. Just about every tarmac road looks like it has strips of Elastoplast on them where it has been patched up, but in general, once the surface has broken down, it is just left. If you are driving, you cannot admire the scenery. You are too busy watching out for the next obstacle. And if that was not enough, they then insert unmarked sleeping policeman as a traffic calming measure, as well as installing large (and deep) drains which stretch right across the width of the road. You are constantly slamming on your brakes and going up and down more times than if you were in a lift.

And there are no road signs and no white lines. This is a combination of comments we received when asking directions. “Good morning. Can you tell me how to get to Devil’s Bridge?” “Mmmm. Certainly, man. You go down here until you come to a shack on your left which has a Heineken advert on it. Take a right there. Then, after a while, take one of the turnings to the right.” “How long is “after a while” and which right turning?” “Oh, it’s not too long at all, and then one of the right turnings goes to Devil’s Bridge.” “Thank you. But which right turning?” “One of them.” Needless to say, we got lost on numerous occasions.

And there are no road signs and no white lines. This is a combination of comments we received when asking directions. “Good morning. Can you tell me how to get to Devil’s Bridge?” “Mmmm. Certainly, man. You go down here until you come to a shack on your left which has a Heineken advert on it. Take a right there. Then, after a while, take one of the turnings to the right.” “How long is “after a while” and which right turning?” “Oh, it’s not too long at all, and then one of the right turnings goes to Devil’s Bridge.” “Thank you. But which right turning?” “One of them.” Needless to say, we got lost on numerous occasions.

If you wanted some additional fun, you can always turn off the “main” roads onto the more minor roads. In particular, the two mile dust track leading to my friend’s house was quickly named the “road to hell”. Forget tarmac. That would be a luxury. It was two miles of undulated peril. In England the road would be condemned. And the further you went the worse it became. The last quarter of a mile was just daft. You had to have a big car to manage it. Normally you get to know where to drive to avoid the largest holes, but in this case,  you just got to know the shallowest holes and hoped for the best. But even then, there was more to come. When you finally turn into his driveway it is a 45 degree downwards angle. Turning in was like being on a rollercoaster as it climbs to its highest point before going over and then down. As you turn in, all you can see is sky before the car finally dipped down to eventually reveal the way ahead. I drove this road about twenty times during my stay there, once at night. My friend says I qualified for a certificate. Here is a photo of the final driveway, taken from the bottom:

And then there was the currency. The official currency of Antigua is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. But for whatever reason, this currency was not available in the UK in the week leading up to my departure. Luckily, the US Dollar is also accepted. Fair enough. So I took a load of US Dollars. What happened whilst I was there is best illustrated in the following true examples which occurred in the local supermarket called the Crab Hole. The first example is for a cash transaction. The second example is for a credit card transaction.

“Right, sir. That will be 90 Eastern Caribbean Dollars”

“Can I pay with US Dollars?”

“That will be 38 US Dollars.” (I soon realised that everything converted to US Dollars was rounded up to the nearest dollar).

“Thank you. Here is 40 US dollars.”

“No problems, sir. Here is your change. Five Eastern Caribbean Dollars.”

Now I am an accountant and deal with exchange rates all the time. But I soon gave up trying to keep up with what was what.

But now let’s pay by credit card.

“Right, sir. That will be 90 Eastern Caribbean Dollars”

“Can I pay with US Dollars?”

“That will be 38 US Dollars.”

“Can I pay by credit card?”

“No problems. But forget the US Dollars. You must pay in Eastern Caribbean Dollars.”

“That’s fine.”

Now that does seem straightforward. But I had a Sainsburys Multi Currency Card which had some old Euros on and some US Dollars. When I got back to England, the credit card transactions had been initially charged in EC dollars, converted in the shop to US Dollars, converted back to EC Dollars before finally being paid for in Euros. It sort of sums up how things are done in Antigua.

The island does offer some very nice spots and here is a selection of photos to prove that:

The latest cruise ship hits town
View of English Harbour from Shirley Heights
Swimming with stingrays

I can also put one myth straight to bed. Lord Nelson was stationed in Antigua for several years. The Nelson Dockyards is perhaps the island’s biggest tourist attraction. Reading all the splurge in the museum there, he did indeed have one of his eyes damaged by shrapnel in a minor skirmish with the Spaniards, but contrary to popular belief, he never wore an eye patch.

One last thing on Antigua. Data roaming there is very expensive, especially when you are with EE. I could not measure exactly how far I walked whilst I was there. I am therefore estimating 20 miles. It won’t be far out. And this means I am approaching the Cairngorms National Park. That will be fun, but more on my virtual walk in the next blog update.

I finally leave the village on 25 April so next week will be my last week of walking round the village early in the morning. It has been a pleasure and I have always said that if I could relocate West Adderbury into the Yorkshire Dales then I would be very happy. Perhaps I can do it “virtually?”

My actual walking after that will be all over the place for the rest of April and most of May but wherever I am I will continue to knock up the miles and the blog will continue to be updated until I reach John O’Groats.

And finally, something that made me smile this week, even though it is something I said. My daughter has flown off to China again on a business trip, so we have her Schnauzer, Gandolf, staying with us again. He is without a doubt a grumpy miserable dog who often annoys me. I have therefore nicknamed him Brexit. Perfect. )},{

2 comments

  1. Very best wishes for your move to the Yorkshire Dales on the 25th April – have enjoyed your various reports over the months. Thank you!

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