Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Last Hop

When we woke the next day we had sympathy with this lot.

Where the hell are we?

I dare say that quite a number of you brave yeomen fell soundly asleep during my entry describing my first day of ’What I did on my holidays.’ Fear not, I will not hold it against you. However, your fellow yeomen are going to have to suffer a recap (and they may seek retribution during recess).

The first day of the holiday had been effectively written off by a combination of the US Navy and Thompsonfly. After 23 hours travelling, we still hadn’t reached Barbados and our cruise ship. Instead we had been diverted to Antigua and after a white knuckle taxi ride, been put up in a hotel somewhere on the island.

Despite enduring a tortuous journey and getting to bed late, jetlag caused me to rise at dawn. I was at a low ebb. The events of the previous day had done nothing to reduce my stress (and that is what holidays are for after all). I was tired and annoyed. Above all, I had no idea if the ship had sailed without us or what arrangements had been made to allow us to join it.

The condensation on the camera lens rather spoils it, but I still find this an uplifting photograph.

When I went out onto the balcony of the hotel room, my whole mood lifted. That picture above shows the view that greeted me. (Note 1) The sun was climbing over the hills on my left. The air was warm compared to the chill of the room – and that view was breathtaking. My mood lifted considerably.

Warmed by the sunshine and the tropical air and given new energy by the location and breakfast, I started to take an interest in where we were. Which of course, was Antigua. A place which is far better in daylight!

A view along the beach. The cordoned off area is for swimming to protect swimmers from water sports enthusiasts.

It turned out that we were in a hotel near Jolly Harbour. (For a map CLICK HERE). Even now, I’m not sure where we where exactly, but I think it was probably on Mosquito Cove, half way down the left hand side of the island. (Note 2) If you have to be stranded anywhere, then there are a lot worse places than The Jolly Beach Resort.

Looking along Jolly Beach, Antigua.

Wandering about the resort, the bond between passengers on the flight strengthened. Soon, we discovered that a P&O representative was in the resort. That we would still be meeting the ship in Barbados and that it was hoped to have us restart our journey at 10:30 that morning. (Note 3)

Jolly Beach headland, Antigua

While we waited, we wandered up and down the beach and I generally chilled out taking a few photos. It was all very pleasant and relaxing. I even chanced upon the local cricket ground and the team practicing. (Note 4)

Cricket practice in Antigua – I was thinking of running a spot the ball competition. Or alternatively you can play my spot the parrot in the rainforest competition.

The whole resort was alive with birds. They swarmed around the place – especially near to the restaurant where they tried to get inside. It was surrounded by netting and had swing doors. It didn’t put the birds off, they would perch near one of the doors and wait until the doors opened and fly in and out at will. While the starlings contented themselves with food, some of the birds had higher aspirations.

Cocktail hour Antigua

After a spot of lunch, we left the resort and headed back to the airport in a fleet of taxis. This time the journey was less white knuckle.

Although my time in Antigua was brief, I was struck by what in the first world we would describe as poverty – the villages we passed through seemed to consist of little more than small shacks. There again, we drove past a wedding on the way back to the airport and everyone looked very smart in their Sunday best. (Note 5)

The airport was packed – I mean absolutely heaving with people. We did the queues for check in and then the security check – only to be presented with a departure hall that was standing room only. We reached the hall at 14:00 and with an expectation that our flight would take off at 17:30, it looked like we faced a long and uncomfortable wait.

The aircrew (the original crew from the flight the previous day) arrived at 15:30 to spontaneous cheers and applause from all the delayed Brits. The numerous Merkins looked at us suspiciously as their views about the mental stability of the British appeared to be confirmed.

We eventually took to the air at 18:05. At 18:43 we touched down in Barbados. Here we were shown just how efficient arrival procedures can be. (Note 6) By 19:35 we were on coaches. By 20:10 we were on the ship (I was actually the last passenger to board due to a slight issue remembering where I had put the passports). By 20:30 we were safely in our cabins. After everything else we experienced - that was incredibly slick.

After getting something to eat, we climbed up to the top of the ship to watch the Captain back it out of its berth turn it round and head out to sea. Given that the ship is over 250 yards long he made it look like he was driving a mini.

At long last the holiday had begun!

So here endeth Day Two of what I did on my holidays. TO BE CONTINUED…

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: The feint haze on the picture is condensation on the camera lense. Hard to believe as it may seem, I had actually woken up shivering thanks to an air-conditioning system with aspirations to be an industrial freezer. When I took my camera out into the warm, humid tropical air condensation formed on the lens. In my befuddled state I failed to notice and this is the only salvageable picture from a series of half a dozen or so. Click to return

NOTE 2 : For those of you not used to technical terms – that’s the West Coast. Click to return

NOTE 3: This was later amended to 13:30 departure. The P&O rep worked hard to sort things out and to re-assure us. We had assumed that she had come from P&O’s Oceana ship which we had seen moored in Antigua as we came into land the previous evening, but in fact she was the islands P&O rep. Click to return

NOTE 4: Given the heat and humidity, I was very impressed with the training cycles they ran through. Certainly they didn’t fit with the outdated stereotypes of West Indian cricket! On a cricketing theme, we also got a view of the Stamford Cricket Ground in Antigua. For those of you not up with the noble game – that was built by an American Billionaire and hosted the West Indies 20/20 championship. Click to return

NOTE 5: I also noticed that most street corners had a couple of young lads lurking and with a furtive look. Young girls tended to walk up and down the side of the road. I have this feeling that goods and services were being traded by these young people – but of course they could have been waiting for a bus to take them to church. Click to return

NOTE 6: The efficiency and the trust shown by all of the countries should be shown as a shining example to the Merkin immigration and airport security services. We visited some poor and supposedly backward countries but all of their immigration and security checks were fast and efficient. In America, they seemed to employ twice as many people who took twice as long to do the same job. Most of them seemed to be employed to point vaguely at something only they could see. Click to return

I just clicked with this bird in the bar at Antigua

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