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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adventures Ahoy!

Since the weather has been so gray and gloomy (with the low pressure “troughing” over Antigua continuing to persist and linger) we’ve been doing what we can to get off the boat and have fun! As a result, just about every day, we’ve had a new adventure!! Fun indeed!

Monday we explored in the dinghy, running up to St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, to see what that was like. We docked up at Redcliffe Quay, where we found a quaint wharf area of restored Georgian buildings and old dockside warehouses all converted into shops. Gifts, clothes, shoes, accessories, locally made pottery side by side with restaurants and coffee shops, many with outdoor seating. It’s a fun area! We headed back south and had a delightful afternoon seeing the rugged shoreline and amazing coves of Antigua’s northwest coast.
A charter day boat at the wharf of Redcliffe Quay
Tuesday we took a helicopter tour of Montserrat, to view the Soufriere Hills Volcano and lava dome. The ash cover and rivers of ash mud – lahars – were devastating to the southern half of the island; the destruction of Plymouth and its surrounding villages is heart-breaking to see. Some homes were completely buried, others had bits of the roofs sticking out of the ash, shorelines extended some hundreds of yards and new deltas of ash and mud were created. The helicopter ride was awesome, as the pilot flew us in us close enough to feel like we were just feet away from the mountainside foliage on one side of the helicopter, and hundreds of feet up from the valley floors on the other. Wild goats and a few cattle still roam the exclusion zone, amongst the scientific monitoring equipment  of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. (Check it out at www.mvo.ms!) It was an amazing experience, and a vivid reminder of the strength and power of Mother Nature. The tour is not to be missed, if you can arrange it!
Sulphur dioxide and smoke seeping out of the lava dome of
the Soufriere Hills Volcano
Buildings and entire towns were destroyed by the ash and
 mud flows -- lahars -- that came down the mountain. Tragic.
Wednesday, we went out scuba diving with Indigo Divers on the southwest side of Antigua, on a couple of different sites on Cades Reef. While the visibility wasn’t great (in fact, so bad at the first site we moved to a second site) the reefs are very healthy here, with lots of juvenile fish and many varieties of coral on the low ridges. Ron found a couple of adult spotted drums under a long ledge, and Ally made friends with a small southern ray that was very insistent upon following her around! Always fun to see the sea creatures!
Ally gearing up for the first dive of the day
Other afternoons we beachcombed and lounged on the beaches. Antigua has 365 beaches, according to their tourist brochures and travel literature, and while we haven’t counted them ourselves, they are indeed numerous and gorgeous! We swam along several shorelines and thoroughly enjoyed the waters. The temps are perfectly refreshing – not icy cold – and the surf is great fun. Although we’ve been careful to use two anchors, bow and stern, to secure the dinghy offshore in the beautiful bays and coves, sometimes the surge is a bit much for close-in anchoring and we have to swim to shore a good distance. We inadvertently surfed the dinghy onto the beach on one occasion, and had to really scramble to get it back out again before it was damaged! (Whew!)
The dinghy, safely anchored offshore
We spent one day running about in the dinghy, doing a bit of exploration south to Falmouth and English Harbours. The 50th Annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show was taking place, with mega-yachts in abundance, all dressed with flags a-flying! It was a sight to see, but odd in that there weren’t any crowds…Miami Boat Show this is not! But the reason there weren’t any crowds was that this no ordinary show open to the public, but was only for the high-end charter brokers and their agents who do the charter bookings. Nevertheless, great eye-candy for the rest of us!
Some of the charter yachts dressed and gleaming
The latest adventure was zip-lining through the rainforest canopy high up on Fig Tree Hill north of Falmouth Harbour We spent a good 3 hours, doing all the zip lines (12 of them) and then completing the challenge course afterwards. It was so fun!! The operation was well-run and the rangers helpful and friendly -- made the experience a real treat.  The challenge course was a combination of rope and wire balance runs beneath the ziplines near the rainforest floor, which required a different sort of focus from the aerial feats. Still, we all enjoyed flinging ourselves through the treetops on the different zip lines high above, and scrambling along the different swinging challenges. It was a blast!
Ron on one of the zip lines. Great fun! 
So….weather notwithstanding, we’ve been enjoying what Antigua has to offer!

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