2019-12-24 - Antigua
The leeward island Antigua, meaning "ancient" in Spanish, was the second stop on our Carribean cruise. We docked in the capital city of Saint John's in the northwest of the island and started our day with a rainforest zip line excursion. I enjoyed the drive to the southern forests. After welcome drinks and waivers, we experienced the 13-zip lines through the forest with short hikes in between. It was a lot of fun and definitely worth doing once during our vacation. It was also one of the only ways to experience the rainforest.
After returning to our ship and having lunch, we hired a taxi and set off again for our afternoon adventure. After a brief stop on the way for photos, we toured the Nelson Dockyard National Park. Named after the British hero Horatio Nelson for his years at Antigua, this is the country's largest National Park and still a working dockyard. A museum on site showcased its naval history as a 18th and 19th century dockyard for the British Royal Navy. It protected English ships from hurricanes, monitored French activity, and repaired naval ships. Our tour guide said that even though the locals drank all day and worked slowly, they were key to maintaining the English ships in the area.
Next we made our way to Shirley Heights Lookout at the southerly tip of Antigua with amazing views of the whole English Harbor. This was part of a military complex and we explored the ruins and took lots of photos before setting off on what I looked forward to the most, a hike to the Pillars of Hercules along the Carpenter Rock Trail.
He descended through a paradise of cactus and trees. It may be the most beautiful hike in Antigua but we did not see another soul. The Pillars of Hercules were magical. Ocean waves washed over rock formations that only nature could carve. With each wave, the water level rose, submerging the lower ledge. I splashed my way to the alcove on the side and climbed up part of the rock as my brother sat and read. We spent as much time here as we could. It was the first time in years that I recaptured the bliss I experienced at the Cueva del Indio in Puerto Rico also with my brother.
With our time running short, we hiked our way through the forest to Galleon Beach where our taxi driver was supposed to wait for us. Unfortunately, he was running late from a previous customer. We weren't sure we could make it back to our ship in time.
We raced up the hill to meet our driver partway. We were desperate to get to our ship before they closed their doors. We finally rendezvoused with our driver almost 30 minutes after our planned time. He drove as fast as he dared but became ensnared by traffic near the city. At the parking lot, my brother and I hopped off and half-ran, half-walked our way to the dock. As we made our way through the border gate, guards waved us to run. We sprinted down the aisle between two cruise ships as hundreds of passengers above cheered. We were several minutes late, arriving after the passenger doors should have closed. One of the directors told us they had searched our rooms for our passports, filled out the necessary documents, and waited longer than they should have because they didn't want us stranded on Christmas Day. What a nightmare that would have been. We returned to the ship early every day after that experience.