St. Johns was a just little crowded, the two finger piers were occupied by a passenger ship on either side, including two larger ones. So downtown, which is less than a hundred yards from the ships, was a hive of activity, including the inevitable taxi touts.
We made an arrangement with one of them and five of us were driven the thirty minutes or so over to Turners Beach, a beach sufficiently far from town that we expected only a few other visitors. The drive was an experience in itself, the road being over hill and down dale, and fairly bumpy at times, but it was through the ‘real’ Antigua, passing small settlements of old and sometimes fairly modern housing, and eventually coming back down along the Caribbean shoreline with views over towards a smoking Montserrat, clearly seen on the horizon.
Other folk were already there, but the small cafe and bar was not too busy, at least not until the first shower came along, by which time we had already taken a table and placed an order. Between the showers more cruise tourists arrived, set up on the beach and then came running under the shelter of the bar as the showers became heavier and more frequent. There was a definite American twang in the air as the decibel level rose.
In the end we never did get to sit out on the sand, even though the rains had cleared, we just sat and chatted while trying to take photos of the colourful birds that came flying in to pick up the table crumbs. Jo’s mum had made us laugh by her determination to stick it out and I have a few classic shots which I guess are not really for public display. Our taxi driver returned and as we went out I noticed a classic example of Caribbean ingenuity, an old cargo container that had been turned into some sort of accommodation complete with window, water tank on the new corrugated roof and finished off with a complete coat of pink paint.
Our journey back to St. Johns was just as bone shaking, but we arrived in good time. Saga Pearl II was the second ship to leave, and under the watchful eye of our larger neighbour. I had the distinct impression when I announced over the speakers that we were about to commence our six day journey across the Atlantic, that a few of their passengers raised their eyes at the thought of that ‘little ship’ going all that way.
Within the hour the north coast of Antigua was passing behind our starboard quarter, Barbuda lay over to port, but soon that too would be astern. The trade wind was in control, no land to dampen the swell, and that would be the way it would remain for at least the next three or four days, until we would eventually start to feel the effects of the north Atlantic weather systems.