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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.