Touring Tuesday

Today we made our way along the South Coast from Eastbourne to Dungeness. Dungeness spans Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, the hamlet of Dungeness, and an ecological site at the same location.

The weather was hot, the top was down on the car and we hit the road.

Dungeness Power Station

Dungeness has one of the largest areas of vegetated shingle in Europe and is internationally important. It’s landscape is barren and wild with a mishmash of living accommodation made out of old railway carriages, mobile homes, sheds and old mobile homes alongside more traditionally built houses- wood and stone, all with beach sympathetic and inspired gardens . An artist’s paradise.

It’s bleak, unique, fascinating and one of my favourite places on Earth, whatever the weather.

Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, has squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. It was a South American stop on our Caribbean and American cruise. During the fabulous sail into port my head was full of Pablo Escobar and his drug charged career. This was soon forgotten when we hit the streets of the Cartagena, the Colombian capital. A riot of colour and noise filled the senses and left me reeling. The atmosphere was electric, the weather hot and sultry. My only regret for this beautiful and vibrant city was that I didn’t buy an emerald!

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf 
Like something almost being said; 
The recent buds relax and spread, 
Their greenness is a kind of grief. 

Is it that they are born again 
And we grow old? No, they die too, 
Their yearly trick of looking new 
Is written down in rings of grain. 

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Antigua, West Indies.

St John, Antigua was our next port of call and we hired a jeep off of a friend on the island. Antigua is famous for it’s cricket and one of first stops was The Sir Viv Richards Cricket Stadium, named after local boy and hotshot batsman Sir Vivian Richards. Fast bowlers Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose also hail from Antigua.

We then moved onto Half Moon Bay in the Parish of Saint Philip. This crescent shaped bay is just one of Antigua’s stunning beaches (there are 365, one for each day of the year). It rests on the south eastern coast, facing the Atlantic and is almost a mile long, with amazing surf and calm turquoise seas.

After a drive around St John, we tucked into some tropical ice creams at Tropical Time Out Ice Cream Parlour and Deli. The ice cream is made fresh to serve with a whole host of flavours include pistachio, passion fruit sherbet, bubble gum, birthday cake and caramel crunch, to name but a few.

We have been to Antigua a few times and it never fails to delight. The island is beautiful and the locals friendly. The Caribbean cruise season is sadly nearly over now, sadly cut short this year with the corona virus issues, but hopefully we will return again winter 2020.

Aruba. Dutch Caribbean.

Oranjestad, Aruba was the next island on our Caribbean Island hopping travels. Here we hired an ATV to get around: Pardo Motorcycle Rental. $90 US for a half day. No website, but they hang around the port entrance in Aruba. Vehicle was a bit old and battered but it did the job.

We made our way over to the northwestern tip of the island, to Aruba’s California Dunes and Lighthouse- local name.Hudishibana

Coconuts at the Lighthouse

Moving away from the lighthouse we hit the dunes for a bit of off-roading- windswept with abandoned, albeit colourful, buildings scattered around, the dunes feel a bit wild and bleak.

California Dunes
No marked trails. Hike and off road to your hearts content.

Aruba is a beautiful little island boasting gorgeous weather, fabulous beaches and an ATV in the Outback was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Cuba Briefly.

The wonderful Cuban government gave the Braemar ship a safe haven and a flight passage home. I had been on the ship for five amazing weeks. The first two we island hopped the Eastern Caribbean The next two we island hopped the Western Caribbean and also visited Central and Southern America. We had a few issues and port refusal entries on the way due to Covid-19 on the ship but our real problems began trying to get flights home. No port would accept the ship to allow us to disembark and fly home. After nine days at sea Cuba came to our rescue and what an amazing country it is. We left under police escort, a barrage of press photographers and roads lined with police and curious locals filming our journey, waving- many with their faces covered.

Leaving the seaport. Coaches and police await departure.
Local people filming our departure.
Traffic stopped to allow us to pass.
Press at the port.
Planes ready to take us to the UK.

On our coach seats there was a touching gift from the Cuban Government that made me smile- so kind.

The drive to the airport revealed a rural and stunning country. I truly felt I had gone back in time. Cars were old and battered, looking like they were from the sixties or seventies. There were people on horseback and horse and carts, motorbikes and cycles. It was a privilege to visit. I had already planned to visit Cuba later in the year and this tantalising glimpse has made me more determined to return.

Roads cordoned off to allow our convoy to pass.

And look at this magnificent old plane: sitting on the side of a runway.

To conclude this post we arrived at the airport in convoy still. Security was a scanner in a camouflage tent. Then back in the coach to the plane. Again to a whole load of media attention.

Security.
Reporters covering our departure.

Finally into the air to a stunning Cuban Sunset.

Havana! I have fallen in love with you. I won’t be long returning once all this world madness has subsided.

Salt Ponds and Slave Huts, Bonaire.

Not only is Bonaire beautiful, it has an interesting socio-political history in the salt ponds and slave huts. The salt ponds were where the salt, one of Bonaire’s most important export products was collected to then be shipped abroad.

Salt Ponds

The pink water at the salt ponds comes from the sea water, being very transparent and reflecting the color of the salt ponds’ base- cell membranes, which contain carotenoid pigments. It is these that give the salt crystallisers the pink-red colour which are reflected in the water.

Pink water

The slave huts, constructed in 1850 during the slave time , served as camping facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds. They were used as sleeping quarters and a place to put away the personal belongings of the working teams.

Slave huts
Looking out to sea!

Judging from the modern graffiti, there are still a few political issues on the island.

#InBonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Bonaire is one of the ABC Netherland Caribbean islands, the other two being Aruba and Curacao. One of the best and cheapest ways to see the island is by scooter. We hired ours through Scooters Bonaire in Kralendijk:

https://www.scootersbonaire.com/

Price was $50 US for a days hire, including a full tank of petrol and insurance. There were no hidden costs- special deals for cruise ships. Helmets are now compulsory in Bonaire.

All set, we hit the open road.

We covered the beaches, the salt ponds and slave huts, restaurants and shops. It is a fabulous island.

Kite Beach, Bonaire
Kite Beach
Salt ponds Bonaire
Slave Huts
Shops and restaurants

To quote George Ezra we were ‘riding shotgun in the hot sun’ seeing Bonaire in style. Ready now to move on to Aruba and Curacao.

Sugar Trade, Barbados.

MS Braemar was docked on Sugar Berth in Bridgetown. Sugar cane cultivation in Barbados began in the seventeenth century. Initially, rum was produced but by 1642, sugar was the focus of the industry. Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early English settlers as the wealthy planters pushed out the poorer.To work the plantations, black Africans were imported. After 1750 the plantations were owned by absentee landlords living in Britain and operated by hired managers. The slave trade ceased in 1807 and slaves were emancipated in 1834.

On the dock there is still the remains of the machinery used to load the sugar cane onto the ships for exporting.

#Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King. Inspirational Baptist minister and political activist, he played a key role in ending legal segregation of African-American citizens and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

In 2017 I toured America’s Deep South and was moved beyond words to retrace Martin Luther King’s history.

‘You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say’ Martin Luther King’.