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Keeping to the Left: Driving Adventures in Antigua

January 19, 2012

We rented a car in the morning from Lion’s Car Rental that was based in our resort. Too many people who woke up way earlier than us rented all the economic cars and we were left with a jeep and an extra $30 cost. The rental agent said in her charming Caribbean accent; “The jeep is a much smoother ride.” It was not a sales pitch. She spoke the truth. Narrow roads with potholes, speed bumps and  sudden stops for oncoming traffic made the jeep more than worth the extra $30.

Dave got the hang of left hand side driving right away with only the occasion slip trying to flip the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. His concentration was unwavering. And it had to be. Narrow winding cliffs that barely fit two vehicles dominated the afternoon along the southern coastline.We followed the local map which lacked most of the street names. The points of interest were conveniently marked with a star on the map but inconveniently a legend explaining what they were was not included. So we headed to Nelson’s Dockyard first, a name of description in itself. We stopped in English Harbour and walked along the restricted access pier ogling the multi-million dollar boats. One even had a helicopter on it! Sometimes I dream of winning the 50 million dollar lottery in Canada. I don’t think the grand prize would even cover the purchase, maintenance and operating cost of these floating mansions!

We thought that “Nelson’s Dockyard” was just the pier and marina area. So we went in search of nearby Shirley’s Heights when we came across the actual Nelson’s Dockyard. For an $8USD admission we could tour the grounds of a working Georgian-era dockyard with eighteenth-century buildings. The highlight was actually following an unmarked trail. There is a set of stone stairs on the left-hand side of a stone wall. Following them we found the trail to Fort Berkeley and some great views of the bay. Having successfully found the real Nelson’s Dockyard we embarked for Shirley’s Heights which turned out to be an extension of the fort and a superb lookout.

We drove along the southern coast toward St. John’s, the capital. The winding roads were beautiful. Too bad Dave didn’t get much chance to enjoy the scenery since he was otherwise occupied trying to keep the jeep on the road. We stopped at the first beach after we passed through the mountains and waded through the water. Driving further we completely bypassed Jolly Harbour and Boggy’s peak (now named Mount Obama!) which were points of interest.

Arriving in St. Johns was a bit of a let-down after the beautiful coastline. It was very busy and touristy since that is the point where the cruise ships dock. We picked up some rum and cigars at the duty-free quay, had a $5USD syrup-heavy “smoothie” at a cafe, walked around for a bit and then decided to head back out to the countryside. After unsuccessfully looking for a point of interest at Pelham Bay we headed back to the resort.

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