Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barbuda Tour Day

[Kyle]George (our Barbuda Guide) had apparently been under the impression that we had a fast dingy with a motor when he told us where to meet him the next day. Since we were rowing, we just took it to the same spot as the previous day and walked the 2 miles down the beach to the designated rendezvous point. We arrived in plenty of time and decided that rather than just hang around, we'd start the walk towards George's house. The agreed time came and went and a few miles later we were still walking (our guide books had warned us that often tours and taxis in Barbuda fail to turn up!). Just as we were starting to think we'd have to walk all the way to his house, he and his car finally came into view. Fortunately he had a cooler full of cold drinks in the back of his truck.

We then got George's version of the Cosmo Kramer reality tour, before he finally summarily deposited us at the boat dock on the west side of town. We boarded the boat and sped off across the lagoon to the Frigate Bird nesting colony on the NW end of the Island. It was not until we actually arrived and the engines were shut off that our boat guide spoke to us and formal introductions were made. Eventually, Clarance turned out to be a very friendly guy. He knew a lot about the birds and let us spend plenty of time just watching and enjoying them.

Frigate Birds (also known as Man-of-War birds, Weather birds and a host of other local names) have the distinction of being the birds with the highest wing area to body weight ratio. This makes them extremely maneuverable, agile fliers. Unlike seabirds, they don't float and can't get their wings wet, so they tend to feed themselves by harassing other birds to drop their catches. We were fortunate in that our visit coincided with mating season, with all the males clucking and showing off their big red throat sacks any time any white breasted female flew overhead. For those that had found a female, there was action to be seen, watching them steal the best nesting materials (in flight to the nest in progress) from each other. We observed the colony for an hour or so, and then made our way back to town to meet up with George for the remainder of his tour.

George is a quiet man, and seemed to think of himself more as taxi driver than tour guide (despite being the local council tourist representative). Maryanne wasn't going to let him get away with that and peppered him with questions during the whole drive - we were going to get our money out of this guy (nearly $200 US). The island was once owned and managed by the Codrington family - the patriarch of which was Governor of the Leeward Islands for a time. The Codringtons had an estate (read: slave colony) on the Island and used it for hunting. We visited the ruins of Codrington Manor, built on the highlands of the island; overgrown with the outlines of stone buildings to see. The best part of this site was the view and the remains of possible gardens. The highlands of Barbuda are a small plateau/spine, 125' above sea level (the rest of the island is VERY low and flat).

For our next and last stop we went to the caves at Two Foot Bay. (On the east of the Island). Legend has it that the bay was named from the story of an escaping slave who put his shoes on backwards, leaving prints in the sand to distract/confuse his pursuers. The highlight of the bay is the beautiful beach and the caves in the highland cliffs that run alongside. We were able to enter one cave at beach level and climb through up to the highland plateau for spectacular views of the white sand beach below and the eastern coastline. Along the length the highlands, rock had tumbled down from cliff and overhangs, leaving giant boulders at the base which have long since covered with greenery. This was a stark backdrop to the smooth sandy beaches alongside. George dropped us off at this site, with a pickup time 90 minutes later. We hadn't known what to expect but 90 minutes was very rushed; I was constantly getting rushed along by Maryanne, who was more mindful of the time. [Maryanne]Kyle was in kid heaven among the cliffs and caves, every time I managed to get him to agree to turn around for our return, he would sneak off for "one more picture", "just the next point", or some such thing. He really enjoyed the place and it was fun (if a little frustrating) to let him have his way.

[Kyle]George, being done with the tour, and to deter any more of Maryanne's questions, simply turned on his car radio (very loud), and returned us to our rendezvous point (while completing a few personal errands en route!).


Mommy Dearest said...

Oh boy, Kyle. Facing Newark, New Jersey is going to be a real trial for you, isn't it? When does that happen? Can't you just stay....??

kate said...

George sounds like a real treat! [your smirk here] I guess his attitude is indicative of island living. What lovely pictures you've posted to torment us. No, really, it all looks and sounds wonderful. And you guys deserve it!