Before I grumble about waiting for a taxi at the airport in Winnipeg and facing -38 degrees Celsius with little more than a windbreaker and zipper pants, I have to finish up with Antigua, as I’m sure you’re all awaiting more harrowing tales from the front lines. On Friday we decided to venture out since we needed food, but didn’t want to drive far so we visit Pigeon Point (also known as Pigeon Beach), which is right around the other side of English Harbour and close to our cottage. It took barely fifteen minutes to get there and since it’s a bona fide public beach, there are round wooden tables with umbrellas to be had for “dibsies.” What I found out while trying to locate it on a map was Pigeon Beach was the scene of grisly murder in 2010. A young woman visiting on a cruise went walking down a path near the beach and was fatally stabbed in the neck by an unknown assailant. For once this was not a dream, though no less horrific. I chose not to tell Julia until after she went off looking for seashells.
When we got to Pigeon Beach, there were barely twenty people so we parked about halfway down and quickly got into the water, which was crystal clear and rippling softly. I decided to do some snorkelling since I had heard it was a good spot, but I was disappointed to see little more than several crushed beer cans and small tins that looked like ships’s rations. I dove down to pick up some of these items and discard them properly, but the longer I looked around the more I saw, so I cleared away our area knowing I may have saved a gashed foot, tetanus, and lock-jaw. (Not that Julia would have minded the latter).
Pigeon Point is a favourite beach for yachties and there were plenty of boats to admire moored just beyond the swimming area, but I wondered how many of these folks dumped their garbage overboard at night when nobody was watching. Part of the problem, and this is common throughout most of the Third World, is there are no recycling programs in place, so all plastic and metal ends up in local dumps, out in the fields, on the side of the road or burned in bonfires. Short of beer bottles and some large liquor bottles that are reused for local ginger beer, everything goes in the garbage.
Friday at Pigeon Point was hot, so hot we spent most of the afternoon in the water tossing the Frisbee. By around 3:30 pm we noticed the beach was filling up with evening stragglers so we stopped at our usual grocery store, C. E. Bailey’s, picked up some steaks for dinner, cooled off in the pool then brought our fan outside to provide a breeze on the patio. It was a beautiful night–hot as Hell–but we had checked the weather back home and relished our sweat and BO. There would be no BO back home, just that dry, musty, “wearing a parka too long” aroma.
That night I dowsed the cottage with Citronella BOP, a new product, since our beloved Sure Tox was empty. I woke up the next morning after about nine hours of sleep and didn’t remember a thing. What happened? What can I use for inspiration to write all these screenplays from the previous three nights dreams? I miss you Sure Tox!
Saturday was our last day on the Island so we decided to go for a little drive. We had to get gas anyway, which was on the way to St. Johns, but thought we should tour the fabled Shirley Heights, up Lavern Road towards the Happy Days ramparts on the mountain overlooking English Harbour. I kid, there is no Lavern Road or Happy Days ramparts, and Shirley Heights is actually named after Sir Thomas Shirley, former Governor of the Leeward Islands. His job was basically to keep folks on their toes for an impending attack that never materialized, like Airport Security in Winnipeg, but for the entire Caribbean. When we arrived at the gate to the park the cost was $8 U.S. each, which included access to Nelson’s Dockyard.
“What?” Julia questioned the woman in the booth. “Last week we went to Nelson’s Dockyard and paid $16 dollars U.S., but they never told us it was for Shirley Heights as well.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but the best I can do for you is $5 dollars each.”
“This is a rip-off.” Julia cursed, but I was more concerned with the menacing looking security guard tilting back on his chair, eye’s closed and taking in the sun’s rays on the porch beside the shack. He could threaten us with his walkie-talkie.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told Julia. “We’ll see every blade of grass on the mountain to get our $10 bucks worth.”
We drove up the road, past a phallic cannon sticking from the ground, until we reached the ruins at the look-out; surely this was the heights of Shirley Heights. We were the only ones there for about ten minutes, then it was like Grand Central Station, as no fewer than five other vehicles showed up blaring radios and engaging in all manner of silly conversations.
“Tourists.” I mumbled.
We took a few photos then moved on to the cemetery and obelisk dedicated to the men from Shirley’s battalion who died from Yellow Fever and, one assumes, drunken revelry. This was the land of rum was it not? Along the fence were graves that consisted of piles of stone, old maritime style. I tried but couldn’t convince Julia to lie on one so I could get a picture. (She’s such a party pooper).
The area smelled vaguely of cilantro and black pepper, but all around us were twenty foot high cacti and huge aloe plants, plus that dagger plant we “discovered” headed to Rendez-vous Beach. We walked to another outlook and viewed the silhouette of Montserrat in the hazy distance.
There were no chains or even lines to denote the cliff edge and it was basically straight down to the ocean. We peered over the edge then headed back to the car. It was after noon and getting very hot; the water we had brought tasted like gulping from a hot tub. We moved on to the pavilion and were greeted with a tremendous view overlooking Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour. Every Sunday there’s a large party on Shirley Heights and the previous Sunday we had debated going to Shirley Heights for the big soirée, but stayed sedentary as I was concerned about driving in the dark after having a few drinks. We heard the bash from our cottage, though, and as the night went on it sounded more and more like bad Karaoke, at which I excel.
After the pavilion when headed to the interpretative centre where we were once again the only tourists around. None of the posse followed us, choosing instead to retire for more cocktails by the pool than sit in a campy presentation about the history of Antigua recited by none other than Mr. Sun, not a local Korean fellow, but the actual sun. (A little known fact is the Sun actually speaks with a distinct Caribbean patois).
After the show, which took place in near pitch-black, we were ushered out the back door and instantly burned our eyes. Wow, I felt like I was standing on Mr. Sun. Again, nice photos, but we longed to get back to our cabin for a cooling dip in the pool and some food out on the town. Yes, after ten days of suffering through my various concoctions we were going out to eat.