4x4's on St. John on Antigua
5:51 pm: We had a good time today, and John and I did more today than we've done in a day for most of the cruise. I'm listening to the Captain's announcement as we leave Antigua and I find that we're going to be going to Phillipsville on St. Martin. Today was St. John on Antigua and before today I would not have been able to tell any difference between the different Caribbean islands.
Sadly, I'd have to say that I still might not be able to say much about the difference between them. Cruises do not emphasize the unique characteristics of the local culture. It's very much a floating hotel with shopping on the shore.
But we did go on a 4x4 outing in a 110 Defender today. Lots of fun off-roading. Simple stuff. Bumps, a little tilting, and some gorgeous views. It was really fun. The amusing thing was knowing that John drives our trucks much, much harder than these guys do, and it was fun remembering lots of 'real' obstacles, but it was lots of fun, and our driver had a really good grasp of how to drive it. I liked that.
There is local green rock, which has copper laced all through it, and there were a number of local buildings made of the stuff. It's almost an ice green, pale and bright. There was a church built of the stuff and a fort or two. There was also some sugar mills all over the landscape that used to be used for grinding sugar cane for the juice. they dotted the landscape. It was why the British established slave driven plantations, here.'
Presently, they only industry on the island is tourism. They import everything ad export nothing.
There were some farmers up in the hills that grew stuff from themselves and their families and for sale in the local villages stands and markets, but not much more.
We did stop at someone's little fruit stand for a bathroom break. It was tiny but there were some beautiful bananas and pineapples. They also carried rice, oatmeal, flour, sugar, and other staples on the back shelf. They gave us a tray of local pineapple slices and coconut. Yum! The pineapple was super sweet, and the coconut crisp and nice. I almost had the driver buy us a chunk of freshly peeled sugar cane, but decided a bit too late to actually get it. Besides, we had a driver behind us, and it would have discombobulated everyone.
At the top of the highest point on the island there was a rock gate. Nearly three feet thick, it was just barely wide enough to let the Land Rover through. At the top the clouds came in and it started to rain. A steady rain, not too heavy, not very light, though, either, as I got good and wet pretty quickly as I tried to take pictures of the cloud shrouded skies.
Our driver was disappointed by the 'lack' of view, though we could see nearly to the ship and see the ocean on the other side of the ship as well. I was impressed.
Then we headed down again, through a countryside that was filled with cows, goats, chickens, and donkeys. There was even a horse tethered by the road. Everyone there just lets their animals loose on whatever open land there is. So it is something of a problem having cars run into the animals. They're food, entertainment, and to work as well.
We headed to the beach, got forty minutes there, and I just never got the gumption up to get my swim suit on and swim. Instead, I just stood around, drank a bottle of local ginger ale, which tasted just like U.S. ginger ale, and watched Rob swim. It was a mildly odd beach, with a very steep slope, so Rob dropped off to waist depth very quickly, and then down to 'not being able to touch' in a few more steps. Of course, there was then a stone ledge out there that he could climb up on and look like he was walking on water! That was cool.
The tide, though, was coming in, and Janet nearly lost her scuba socks and her empty Coke can. We managed to get them, though. I waded a bit too deep and got my shorts good and wet. Oops.
We headed home and went along another beach for a while because the other driver needed a bathroom break. That was funny, especially since he ran one way to find a tree while one of his passengers made a break for the high country in order to take a picture.
The drive told us one interesting fact. That there was a resort there called Cocobay, which he thought was a terrible name because in the local 'broken English' it meant leprosy. So it was a terrible thing to name a resort after. I guess someone forgot to talk to the locals before naming the place. It does mean that no local will go there, and only work there somewhat reluctantly.
I think that the biggest treat of doing this particular expedition was watching our driver DRIVE, especially through the local streets. Down here it's just cool to see that street markings are much less rigidly followed than in the states. They're a 'suggestion' here, and narrow, and there was much swerving, missing of other cars, animals, and people. It was quite cool. Everyone else thought he was crazy, and it was fun commenting on just how close he'd gotten to some folks, or a particular car, or how stupid it was to let a HUGE TRUCK into the road in front of you. There was a stop sign where he just had to decide it was time to just go for it as the crossing traffic wasn't 'letting' him in by any means.
It was also quite evident that we were in a former British territory as we were all on the 'wrong' side of the road and it made for a few whiteknuckle moments as at the gut level it was hard to take him reacting to the 'wrong' side. Whew.
I loved that he always took the more interesting way, the way that showed off the abilities of the truck a little better. There was one 45 degree tilt that was really, really cool, and a few really steep hills that I really enjoyed seeing him get up. He was good enough to not push the truck too hard, but he did know when to punch it and when to ease up. That was quite good.
The other good thing was that the driver was great about answering questions. He didn't offer stuff the way Tony did, but I got to ask about egrets and food. He did stop and pluck a piece of lemon grass and had us smell it and guess what it was. John was the one that said that it smelled citrusy, whereas I was mildly pre-biased towards something less innocuous. Ah well. There is lemon grass growing everywhere on the island, which explains why it's in the local foods. Curries are really common here.
I kind of want some kind of fruit based curry. Something with real, fresh mango or pineapple, and hot, hot, hot. Lots of good, yellow rice, and chicken on the bone.
He got us back safely, and we all went swimming in the indoor pool. It was 'cold' compared to the water at the beach, until I got through the shivering period, and then it was really refreshing and woke me up nicely. What was very interesting was realizing that the salt water really did help my buoyancy, immensely. I didn't have to work to stay afloat and I liked that a lot, so I swam longer than most of the folks. I did, however, end up in the hot tub with everyone else.
The hot tub was too vigorous for me,. I kept getting salt water in the eye. So I stopped doing that pretty quickly. I thought about going to the ShipShape workout area and working out, but nearly all the machines were taken over. I guess everyone had the same idea, before dinner.
So I came here to write! Now John's joined me, and we're going to dress for the pre-dinner show.
11:18 pm: The rock music medley was a bit of a bust. Okay music, okay performers. The only really wonderful act was a bit of ribbon air work by the fattest lady of the dancers and a really long-haired gentleman. They did some nice ribbon air work that had them swinging over a bit of the audience. Last night's accapella group was in the audience trying to warm them up a bit for the singers and dancers.
One extraordinarily distracting thing was that one of the female dancer's outfits was undone in back and kept pulling right up over her rhinestone bra every time she put her arms up. So it looked like she was flashing everyone every time she put her arms up to do anything. It was really distracting. Though in the next dance, she, and all the other ladies, came out in nothing but a rhinestone bra and g-string. So it is. Distracting in one case, just a costume in another.
It wasn't a particularly tasteful program, either, with at least two songs to insult both sexes. I don't know. It's not supposed to be art, I guess, and it's not supposed to be as good as anything anyone would pay extra for, but it sure felt like a waste of time, for me. I should have brought my knitting, and I shouldn't have gotten a frozen concoction that was really good, but just empty calories that didn't get me buzzed, did make me far, far colder than I had been, and by the time the show was over, I was shivering, mildly unhappy, and wishing for my knitting.
We headed towards dinner. Our folks milled about the elevators, and John and I went up to find out how big Philipsburg, St. Maarten is. It turns out that the legal currency there is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder and the Euro. So I'm wondering if I shouldn't get a few Euro, just for the fun of it. They take U.S. dollars most everywhere, too, but it would be fun.
The waiter, Sathish, recommended an Indian restaurant right in the Dutch side of the island, though he said that the French side was very pretty and clean and fun. We'll see if we actually want to go to that.
John and I headed to the library, before dinner, but couldn't find a thing about the island. Nothing. I was mildly disappointed in that.
Dinner itself was okay, but I was cold, but Gobot was so proud of the soda water he'd gotten me. I couldn't really turn him down and ask for a hot tea right there. I need to talk to him early, next time, if I want something different. He'd waited on us for breakfast in the Windjammer, and left him a tip when he went the long way and found me a spoon. They'd put all the spoons away because they were cleaning up breakfast for lunch, and he actually found me a serving spoon instead of a teaspoon, but he did find me a spoon. *grin*
He did okay tonight, too, for me at least.
Dinner itself was like the last few days, mostly okay with a few disappointing points. The conch fritters were tiny, but that was actually quite good. The Pepperpot soup was quite good, but, again, too salty for me. The Jerk Chicken was just my level of heat, but the dirty rice tasted of nothing, and had so few red beans in it that I couldn't tell that they were there. There wasn't nearly enough guava sauce on the somewhat dry chicken, and the creme brule was not burnt at all. It was just mildly leathery on top, but the coffee cream was delicious. The mango strudel had excellent mangos, but it was a lot-fat dessert so was over-sugared and, of course, the pastry was dry, but it was crisp, so I'll give them that.
Gobot was great about getting me chamomile herb tea for dessert. Yay for getting it right!
After dinner everyone else headed off to the Casino and then to the huge pool party blow out. I'm already tired of PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. I am also tired of skimming the surface of places, and tired of spending a lot of time in this floating hotel. I'm glad John and I have explored as much as we've explored, but it's just a hotel. The hotel we stayed at on Kauai was a beautiful, huge, sprawling, busy resort hotel, that we got tired of and had to leave during the day. I'm definitely starting to feel like that about the ship.
So we're heading out 'early' tomorrow. With the big party tonight, few people are going to be getting up early. I intend to be one of them. I have no need for parties, and I have absolutely no need for a bigger crowd of people. It may be part of the experience, but I'm not built very well to appreciate it anymore.
There. Yeah. I know. I've done little but complain about the evening. It was pretty good, though, compared to most evenings. I got a great ride through the island of St. John's, was fed pretty good food, got to see a show that I wouldn't get to see anywhere else, and got time to write and shower. So it's a plus.
I just want tomorrow to be even better. I didn't take a nap today so I could go to sleep 'early'. We'll see. It's nearly midnight, now, and I'm going to go to sleep two or three hours sooner than usual. We'll see if it makes any difference.