Adventures in Antigua – Part 2

antigua-hiking

Real quick – have you entered my giveaway from Schneblies ® yet?

Ok, so last we checked in, I was hitting the hay super early for race day. But this post is about what I did after the race, which was easily one of my favorites parts of the trip. After the race, I was feeling sort of queasy, probably from not eating anything in a long time and being a little dehydrated due to the massive amount of sweating. I lingered in my hotel for a few hours, but I knew food would make me feel better, and I had a BIG activity scheduled for the afternoon! After heading back to South Point for another delicious lunch, I met up with a local hiking group – the Wadadli Trail Blazers. I had mentioned to my guide and the hotel that I wanted to go on a hike, and they went above and beyond to make it happen. Y’all know I love hiking, so how could I pass up the chance to hike on Antigua and check out the views? Well, I was sort of under the impression that just one person would be taking me on a hike – like another tour guide – but what I got was 1000 times better!

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Just some of the Wadadli Trail Blazers! Group leader, Jason, is in the front!

I seriously cannot say enough positive things about the Wadadli Trail Blazers. The leader of the group, Jason, and his friend picked me up and took me to meet up with the rest of the group. When they picked me up, I didn’t even know there WAS a group! Then we got there and there were people in bright pink shirts swarming all over the place.  The Trail Blazers hike every Sunday afternoon and are comprised of mostly police officers and soldiers. Jason started the group in 2010. “I realized that I had grown up on this island but never really seen it,” he said. “I wanted to see what it looked like from the top and explore the mountains. So I started asking if anyone wanted to hike and the group just kept growing from there.” I noticed the group was all wearing matching pink shirts, and I said “Oh man! I would have worn pink if I had known!” Jason smiled broadly at me and presented me with my very own Wadadli Trail Blazers shirt. In case you haven’t caught the drift yet, Antigua is the friendliest, most welcoming place on earth!

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Strutting along in my new shirt!

I don’t know about you, but I try to seek out local experiences when I travel. This one honestly fell into my lap. I hiked about 5 miles with 20 Antiguans, all of whom made me feel like I had been part of the group since day one. They told me all of their nicknames for each other (and made me call them by them, of course – shout out to ‘Body Hardening,’ whose real name I actually cannot remember now), took goofy pictures, and were so excited to have me there – it was like a non-stop comedy show for two glorious hours. Oh, and the views weren’t bad either!

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It’s hard not to be in a good mood with all this surrounding you!

We hiked along the coast and cliffs, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Montserrat, which suffered a violent volcanic explosion in 1995, is just 20 or so miles from the coast and cast a dramatic presence.

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Hiking along the coast

There was beauty everywhere – the crashing waves contrasted with the looming cacti and agave flowers, and I wanted to stop every 5 feet to take pictures. I tried to restrain myself, but it was tough.

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Yes, Antigua has cacti – now you know!

Of course, it wasn’t all easy coastal walking, though! We headed up and over the mountain (they call it a hill, but you climb it and judge for yourself!) and back down a jungle trail. It was already humid, but this was some serious climbing and we were all drenched with sweat (ok, maybe me more than everyone else) and working hard for these views!

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Basically climbing straight up the side of a mountain

Just like in the Azores, I found myself staring at that Instagram spot – the one that is on every magazine and tourist brochure, looking over Nelson’s Dockyard and the English Harbour.. Despite the overcast skies, it was just as breathtaking as I had pictured.

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You’ll find this picture in pretty much every magazine and PR piece about the island. I’m so glad I was able to find it for myself!

The fun wasn’t over yet, though! I waved goodbye to my new group of best friends (who also presented me with an embroidered dishtowel and oven mitt – seriously, who does that?!) and promised to come back and hike with them again next year. After a quick shower, it was off to Shirley Heights – the party on Antigua.

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Me with my new oven mitt and dish towel, which are already hanging in my kitchen!

Shirley Heights was the perfect was to spend my last night on the island. As Renee, Paula, Ted, Cleo and I stepped onto the stone floors, I was blown away. Straight ahead, the steel drum band was going absolutely crazy with the most joyous music I’ve heard in a long time.

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I think every single party everywhere, forever, should have a steel drum band. It was the best.

I grabbed a rum punch and headed over to check out the view – a sweeping view of the English Harbour and the island that you’ll find in pretty much any magazine or news article about Antigua (and the same one I had enjoyed on my hike).The people watching was pretty top notch, because drunk tourists dancing to reggae music is exactly as entertaining as you expect.

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One big party and a great reggae band that played everything from recent hits to Celine Dion.

The five of us danced the night away (well, I mostly swayed around while lacking rhythm and picking up cups off the ground, because I can’t stand stepping on them).

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Picture of the girls! My skin is glowing like the sun, good lord.

On my final morning in Antigua, I headed out to breakfast at South Point and then off to spend some time at the beach. Believe it or not, my actual beach time was pretty limited – partially because I’m very pale and I didn’t want to push my luck – but mostly because there is so much to do and see on the island! Pigeon Point Beach was gorgeous, warm, calm and completely deserted when arrived at 9 am, though.

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Perfect morning at Pigeon Point Beach

I swam around in the crystal clear waters and just took some time to be grateful for the amazing opportunity that I had to visit Antigua. It’s not very often that you visit somewhere where everyone goes out of your way to make you feel completely at home, and every single person I met on Antigua did just that. From all of the locals who waved hello as I walked around, to the accommodating and understanding staff at the restaurants and hotels I visited, to my amazing guides Cleo Henry and Francine Joseph, the Wadadli Trail Blazers, and of course the race committee and team, I felt like an Antiguan from the moment I stepped foot on the island. I’m willing to bet you will when you visit, too.

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Their idea for a picture , not mine! My response was “You clearly do not realize how sweaty I am.”

20 thoughts on “Adventures in Antigua – Part 2

  1. WOW! I have to go back and read part one! What an amazing adventure and I just cannot get over how great that hiking experience was for you. I’ve always wanted to visit Antigua and now I have a HUGE reason to go 🙂 Also, for the record, there was a steel drum band at my wedding in Key West so I have to agree with your point on that!!

    1. Yes, you have a HUGE reason! Come do the race next year! It was a blast and you would rock it. I love that you guys had a steel drum band! They were seriously so much fun.

  2. Your photos are always so wonderful and I’m definitely jealous of your adventures. I’m glad you are having a great time and that hiking experience looks awesome.

    1. Thanks, Hollie! I had a great trip. It’s been fun reminiscing while writing these posts!

  3. I read somewhere that people who are in great shape sweat a lot and start sooner than everyone else, as your
    body anticipates your workout! so not to worry! 🙂
    BTW, after my brother’s first half, he was pouring-I thought he dumped a bottle of water on himself, so it could be worse-ha ha He wears wrist bands on his ankles so his shoes don’t get soaked.

    1. Hahaha thanks, Bobbi! I hope that is true! It’s funny you mention that story about your brother, because someone on the hike jokingly asked me if I got caught in a rain shower that everyone else missed! And during summer running, I have been known to wear wrist bands on my ankles as well. It’s surprisingly helpful, although my running group back in Columbia thought I lost my mind!

    1. The steel drum bands are very Suz. You would love everything about the island!

  4. It always amazes me how wonderful people really are when you go places … provided you are open to the experience. You always show that – and I honestly think that people you meet react to your open-ness by sharing some of themselves. It is what people really WANT to do, I believe, but are too often constrained by artificial things.

    We went on a ‘small ship tour’ of the west coast of Mexico for Lisa’s 30th birthday and stopped all over the place and were able to get out and do stuff. Some people stayed on the boat (WTF, people?!?), others clung to the tour buses (blech) … but we were able to get out and wander and interact with the actual people – and they were awesome everywhere. They are so happy to share with you if you are even a little bit open.

    Same for me in my first job out of college where I traveled a fair amount around the country and Europe and would end up in people’s houses, with groups in a variety of places, and on and on. People can really be awesome.

    The band thing reminded me … someone found out I played bass when we were on our honeymoon and I ended up getting yanked to play with one of those party bands for a few songs! Great people and loads of fun!

    1. SO true, Mike! Even though sometimes it can be scary to trust other people, it’s always been worth it for me when it comes to traveling. I think a lot of travelers are afraid of being targeted or taken advantage of (no matter which country they are visiting), and constantly having your guard up really takes away the chance for some amazing opportunities. It’s a shame, but I understand the mentality, I guess. I try really hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and open myself up when I travel, and it sounds like you do, too! For the most part, people are amazing and just want to show off their country!

    1. I’d like to say that I can’t even put it into words…but clearly I’ve written two short novels already with more to come 😀

  5. Hi Danielle,
    I am writing you as an Antiguan following your story (brought to my attention by Run in Paradise, as I had wanted to do the 5k but got sick and ended up not doing it). Your blog name also intrigued me as my 3.5 thinks he IS a T-Rex… anyway, I have read some of the earlier parts of your blog as well as your commentary on the island and your experiences. I wanted to say first how inspiring your story is and how amazing and strong you are, and I am so happy you now have the opportunity to do such things as run in paradise! Even though it was rather rainy that morning. 🙂 Secondly, I am so happy that you’ve had such a positive experience here. As someone who has lived here all my life, we take certain things for granted, and it is refreshing to hear an outside perspective! I hope you will visit again and continue to enjoy our little paradise.

    PS – I still have not swum with the sting rays or hiked to Shirley Heights!!

    1. Hi Sasha! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I’m sorry to hear you missed out on the race this year. I hope you are able to participate next year – I had a blast! My race report is coming up soon. I really appreciate you catching up on my blog. Thank you for all the kind words! I have had some amazing opportunities and am truly grateful for all of the experiences I have had and those that have yet to come!

      I can’t say enough good things about Antigua, as you can probably tell! I loved every second of my trip there – you’re lucky to live in such a friendly, beautiful place! It’s funny that you mention never having swam with the stingrays or hiked to Shirley Heights because I actually heard the same thing from a lot of the locals I spoke to! One of my guides had never swam with the stingrays either, and the other has never hiked on the island. Both of them were excellent experiences, and even though swimming with the stingrays is probably a little (or a lot) touristy, it’s definitely a fun experience. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you when I come back next year!

      1. Hopefully I’ll be able to run the whole half marathon by then! 🙂 It’s terrible but I did a boat tour when I had visiting friends and I actually learned a lot! Sometimes it’s good to do the “touristy” things when you live in the same place! I went to college in Savannah for three years, and did a tour near end and was like “Why didn’t I do this at the beginning!?” lol

        1. Oh my gosh, Savannah is WONDERFUL! There is so much history there and it is such a beautiful city. What a great place to go to college! I recently did a walking history tour of my city (Greenville, SC) and learned so much that I never would have known otherwise. Exploring your local area can be just as much fun as seeing a new place, because you see it through completely new eyes!

  6. I’m loving this trip recap. Antigua has been on my list of places to visit since I first heard about it. I think I’m going to bump it up a few spots now. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Amber! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. I got so much more out of this trip than I ever could have expected – it’s definitely worth a spot on your list!

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