Day 15- St. Johns, Antigua


Another another day in paradise.  This cruise has been marvelous, one pretty port of call after another.  Which one do I think was the prettiest?  Stay tuned, I’ll tell you later.

The ship tours are a little spendy for the most part compared to what you can purchase ashore.  Many Americans are worried about the “danger” of finding your own tour.  This is silly of course.  I have come to realize that these islands have some of the friendliest and peaceful people I have ever run across.  I suppose if you walk down a dark alley with 100 bills hanging out of your pocket, you might get a thump on the head.  And deserve it.

Some tours you should surely book from the ship.    Logistics could come into play.  Or time.  More on this from St. Lucia.

Here is round two of finding your own shore tour at 1/2 to 1/3 the price.  Or…a tour anywhere at a lower price.

SJ welcome (1024x683)

You walk off the ship.

SJ more BS (1024x683)

Past the trinkety BS, jewery shops, etc.

SJ tour hucksters (1024x683)

And here we are, the hucksters.  There were a BUNCH of them at this stop.  All proclaiming they were the best.  Prices for the island tour ran from $20-25 USD.  Compare the same trip shipboard for $50-75.  Of course the ship tour may have included something else but, you can always haggle with the guide to include a site you have in mind.

First, walk through all of them.  This is to find the going price.  The first person may be pulling a fast one on a gullible tourist.  I heard $20 from the first person, the most I heard was $25.  Every driver we passed by hassled us.  Sigh.  I bit annoying, but we were out to save money.  We came back and settled on one that seemed good.  The guy said he had some other people going and pointed a couple out nearby.  “Come back in 1/2 hour.”

Which turned out to be a lie.  We hung around for a bit, I was patient but Praxy figured out quicker than me that we were being flim-flammed a bit.  She told me to move on, good for her.  We did.  And found another guy that had two ready to go from another ship.  We cornered two more that seemed interested and talked them into going.  There.  6 of us in an air conditioned van, $20 apiece.   The young driver’s name?  Ishorn Charles.  Hopefully I got the first name right.  sheeka1@hotmail.com   phone 268-720-5735 or 268-772-9104 or 268-771-0271.  He goes by Lava.

SJ lava (1024x683)

Lava had cornered us on the way out for a walk around the downtown and said “Remember me; Lava.  I’ll be ready.”  He was.  Friendly, polite, good understandable English.   Safe and reliable driver.  I told him I’d recommend him in my blog.  Here it is, Lava!

First stop was the nearby hospital.  It looks like a swanky hotel on the skyline.  Behind it is a church.  Then behind that is a cemetery.  We were jokingly told that the medical people is St. Johns were very efficient.

SJ from the hospital (1024x683) 

From the hospital.  The view from the seaside rooms would be awesome, but only if you felt good enough to look out!

We drove through the countryside taking in the sights.

SJ big soccer stadium (1024x683)

The site of a world cup soccer event.  The stadium holds 20,000 fans.  There are only 80,000 people on the island. 

SJ old cane factory (1024x683)

A sugar mill.  Sugar is not grown on St. Johns.  The number one crop is tourism, second is bananas.  The bananas are exported to Britain.

SJ pineapple fields (1024x683)

Pineapple field.  None here are ripe.  The main pineapple grown on this island is the black on.  Supposedly the sweetest in the world.

SJ quaint church (1024x683)

The oldest church on the island and maybe the smallest.

SJ lava is parked (1024x683)

Lava always parks here for the photos of the Nelson Dockyard.

SJ lavas parking spot (1024x683)

I had to photograph the cactus that reserved his spot.

SJ Nelsons dockyard (1024x683)

Lord Nelson would be shocked at the boats in this yard.  Many mulit-million dollar yachts.

SJ more yachts (1024x683)

Back across the island.

SJ atis fruit (1024x683)SJ fruit stand (1024x683)

We stopped at a local fruitstand for black pineapple supplied by Lava.  Praxy spotted a pile of atis and she bought two to eat.  One here and one back on the ship.

We then drove on and looked at a couple of the nice beaches on the Caribbean side.

SJ monserat and beach (1024x683)

The island in the background is, and forgive my spelling, Monserrat.  This volcano became active again in 2009 forcing the evacuation of the population.  3,000 have now returned, but the mountain is still dangerous.  Lava told us that St. Johns received much ash from the 2009 eruption and it was miserable to deal with.  Yeah, I know.  Been there done that with Mt St. Helens in 1980.

SJ novia gets wet (1024x683)

Praxy had to try out the water to see if it was warm.  Yep, and she also got her shoes wet.  The sand here was much like many of the other beaches we visited.   Like white flour.  Sticks to everything, a good problem to have.

We drove back to port, I tipped Lava $10 for a job well done.  I hope that my readers can some day see this charming island.

SJ burger king (1024x683)

I’ve seen Pizza Hut, Burger King, Wendys, and Subway while on this trip, but no McDonalds.

SJ native drummer better (683x1024)

Waiting for us on the dock was a one man band.  He pounded away in his outrageous headgear.  Who could resist getting a picture?  Be sure and tip people like this.   One dollar is enough, this is one way he makes his living.  This might also be his retirement system.  Further out on the dock played a band that drowned him out.

SJ steel drum band (1024x683)

They were pretty good, playing mainly Christmas songs.  I tipped $5.00 so I could take some closeups.

SJ steel drum base (1024x683)

I wanted to photograph this closely to see how they got the nice tones from a bunch of 55 gallon barrels.  And here it is.  Dents.  Tuned dents.  6 barrels, 18 dents.  Over an octave of carefully crafted dents.

I wonder how they do this?  Might have to youtube it find out.

SJ steel drum lead better

The lead drum.  This one looks manufactured by something a little more sophisticated than a big hammer and a cutting torch.

SJ Guitarist Matt (1024x683)

Sailing away, guitarist Matt sings to us from the Crows Nest Lounge with St Johns in the background.  Outside…SJ leaving (1024x683)

The scenery slowly moves by.  I had to try to miss the junkyard next to the dock.

SJ pilot boat (683x1024)SJ pilot waves goodbye (683x1024)

The pilot boat takes off the harbor pilot.  I missed him waving.

SJ frigate better (1024x705)

And a frigate bird escorts us from the harbor.  Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t.  I panned at the perfect speed to get this guy with the help of a auto-stabilizing lens.  The photo is blown up perhaps 15 times and it is still crisp.  I think this species is the magnificent frigate bird.   They are some of the best flyers in the world, landing only to nest.  They snatch food from the ocean while in flight.  Frigates also hassle other species of sea going birds, forcing them to drop or disgorge their catch.  The plunder is caught before it hits the ocean.

On our honeymoon cruise to Panama, a person asked me what this species of bird was called and he misunderstood me.  The shocked look he gave me was priceless; he then blurted back “a friggin bird!?” with eyebrows raised into his scalp.  Of course I immediately corrected him with a strait face, but I still chuckle to this day about it.

SJ St j fort (1024x683)

There was an old fort on this harbor as well. 

Finally.  How can you not like this?

SJ cool sunset (878x589)

This photo is blown up as far as I dared, the island was at least 15 miles away.  I was lucky twice in one day!

 

12/17/12 1:00pm

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About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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