Annie was extremely lethargic and felt extra warm yesterday afternoon. She was eating, but she came into the room and laid down at about 6:30 and slept all the way until 9 when I woke her up to check on her before I went to sleep. She wanted in bed with me and immediately sprawled completely out (we have a full bed here instead of the twin at the other house) and fell back asleep. She felt really warm. Granted, it’s hotter than Mordor in here, but still. All was well until sometime in the night I felt something crawling on me. The first thing I thought of was the MASSIVE spider I had seen at the other house. I swatted it off, looked at Annie who was still in the same position and fast asleep, and went back to sleep. I was awakened again by something on me. I sat up and looked and it was HUGE and on my leg!! I couldn’t make out exactly what it was in the dim light, but I screamed loud enough that it’s rather concerning the neighbors DIDN’T show up, and swatted it off. That woke Annie up, but she literally didn’t move. Just opened her eyes. She felt really hot and she was breathing really fast. This was a little after midnight, so I texted Brian. We thought maybe it was the shot she had making her feel crappy. And I was still concerned about that damn chicken bone she had eaten whole the other day. I was really worried. This is my little bay-bay!! I sent him this pic.
So it’s after midnight, I’ve been assaulted by some heinous insect the size of a small car that I can not find anywhere, and my Beauty Girl (nickname) is feeling awful and there’s nothing I can do. I’m guessing there’s not a 24 hour vet in Antigua, and even if there was I had no way to get there. After about an hour and a half I finally got back to sleep.
Woke up the next morning and Lil Bit (other nickname) was off the bed laying amongst her catches- THREE HUGE FUCKING ROACHES!!!!!! She was protecting her mommy!!! And boy, but was she full of piss and vinegar this morning! Back to her old self. Thank god, because I had an adventure to attend to, and if she had still been sick I would have had to cancel…
So like I’ve mentioned, Jennifer knows everyone. And one of the everys she knows is a man named Nick Williams. Nick owns the only fly fishing charter in Antigua. And he is catch and release ONLY!! He offered to take me out on his skiff and show me around the reefs and mangroves in the Seatons area. Annie had to sit this one out at the house by herself- the skiff is small and homemade and not dog friendly! But it is just the perfect size for two people to easily get into the reef shallows and edges of the mangrove forest!
Our first stop was a perfectly pristine section of mangrove called Laurys Bay. Nick began pointing out the vast amounts of wildlife on the seafloor and attached to the thick tangle of mangrove roots. Sponges, tunicates, mussels, corals, sea grass, cucumbers, sea stars, urchins, crabs, and more!! It’s amazing the amount of life you can find just on one mangrove root… All filter feeders, meaning their strain their food (bacteria or plankton) from the water. I did a video on the tunicates and an amazingly MASSIVE starfish we encountered!
Nick is, as we determined rather quickly, a “weirdo” like me. He prefers fish to people. The things he likes to talk about are not the typical small talk chit-chat most people infuse their lives with. He reflects on the deeper issues. And there are a lot of issues in this very small part of this very small island. Primarily, development. I could hear the concern in his voice as he showed me where parts of Laurys Bay are currently under development. As the hills have their vegetation removed and dirt graded to prepare for building roads and homes, all of that sediment runs down into the bay. That, in turn, literally suffocates the entire ecosystem- the seagrass, the filter feeding animals, the mangroves- everything. On top of that, once the development reaches a certain point, people want their waterfront properties. That property is currently populated by mangrove forests. They will be destroyed so people can get their views. An entire ecosystem, gone forever. If I come back here in 5 years, maybe less, I will not see what I saw today.
We followed the land around, until we could see the entrance to open ocean, and glided over some shallow reef areas. They were basically lifeless. Patches of corals here and there and no fish. Nick asked me if I had any idea why this was happening. I didn’t. It looked like the perfect location for a healthy and vibrant reef system. We pulled around to an island with cliffs that literally looked like someone had personally stacked layers of rock on top of each other- the sedimentary layers were that uniform! We pulled up to the shore to take a quick hike to the top. As we approached, you could see that nets were choking the mangroves and shoreline in multiple places. The view from the top was amazing!!
We headed back out over the reef, and Nick (who has the keenest eye on the water I’ve ever witnessed in my life!) spotted something. A ghost net, tangled up on the reef. Ghost nets are nets that have been abandoned or torn off of fishermen’s boats. They float through the oceans, continuing to fish and kill animals that are unlucky enough to get trapped in them. Because the nets are made of such strong material, they can continue to “fish” the oceans for decades. It’s estimated that almost 650,000 tons of fishing gear like this is lost in the ocean EVERY YEAR. Nick got out and removed the net from the reef- saving fish, turtles, and other wildlife. I’ve known about this nets for a long time, I even teach about them. But to see them up close and personal- it’s a sobering experience.
Ray Eye Nick” then spotted something else, and yelled “Permit!!” in a voice I know all too well- the voice of someone so passionate and excited about seeing wildlife that they can barely contain themselves!! Permit are one of the game fish that Nick brings his clients out to catch (and release!). I looked in the general direction he was pointing, and saw this massive fin come out of the water over the super shallow reef! WOW! Nick explained that they come up on the reef to hunt for their favorite food- crabs. It was awesome to finally see some large ocean life in what to this point had looked more like a patchy wasteland.
We came around toward another island, and the mangroves were magnificent!! Huge, thick clusters of roots- providing the basis of an ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM. Think rainforest. Now think what happens when you take the trees out of the rainforest. Every other plant and animal in that ecosystem dies along with them. And that is what is happening to the mangrove forests in Antigua. Not just the animals that live out their lives in, on, or near the mangroves, but reef fish as well that use the mangrove forest as a shelter when they’re juveniles. Those juveniles then head out to the reef as adults, and many of those species are important food fish species. It’s all connected.
As we turned to head back, Nick shouted once again- TARPON!! What? Where? I mean, seeing the permit was fairly easy, with that fin sticking out. But this tarpon was beneath a surface of shadowy water. How in the world did he see that thing!! No matter, I was just excited that I got to see two of the major game fish here. Ahead of us was a huge hill that had its entire top cut off for development- a massive scar, surrounded by soon to be destroyed pristine mangrove forests. Nick explained that this was the Yida Project (read this). The Antiguan government had allocated 2,000 acres of pristine MARINE RESERVE (let me repeat that, MARINE RESERVE) to Chinese developers. Their plan is to turn it into a massive residential, tourist, and industrial site- practically it’s own independent full-service city. And if that isn’t enough of a blow to an already fragile ecosystem, get a load of this….they are also allowed to set up a seafood harvesting facility that the investors will keep 90% of the profits on!! So let’s see, they get to develop a pristine marine reserve, destroying the ecosystem and the life it supports there forever, and whatever life is left out in the water, they can go after that as well. And they won’t be paying taxes on ANY OF THIS. I felt for Nick, and all of the people who love and appreciate this natural treasure. And my heart ached for the beauty and wildness that would soon be paved over and decimated- gone forever. You feel helpless. How do you fight against corrupt governments and investors who only care about money they can make today?
We returned to Seatons and Nick dropped me off at the house. I had learned so much with him and seen so many things. He is truly one of the good guys and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to spend time with him in the environment he is so passionate about.
Annie was waiting for me on the porch, and I spent the rest of the day working on the website. But getting the images of barren reefs, mangroves tangled with nets, ghost nets being pulled off the reef, and the massive destruction the Yida Project was going to bring to this area, literally putting the death nail in the coffin of this ecosystem was impossible. It’s haunting. You can read about these things all day, but seeing them with your own eyes and heart is a different matter entirely
Most. Boring. Day. EVER. Stayed here all day and worked on the website for over 9 solid hours, then worked on my own stuff for another few, then back to the website for a couple more. Comfortable furniture for working on the laptop for hours on end is non-existent here, so by the end of the day I was achy and bitchy. But Brian was catching his flight tonight and would be here tomorrow!! We went to sleep about 9pm, and Annie woke up at 10:45 and wanted out (she has only had 1 pee and 1 poop accident in the house since we arrived, and that was the first day before she knew what the lay of the land was!!). I opened the slider, put her out, and went back to bed to check my phone for about 5 minutes. Back out to get her and the damn slider wouldn’t open!! I literally couldn’t even budge it. It’s a struggle to deal with on the best of days, but this was just stuck solid. At almost 11pm. And it was pitch black out. I had to go out the front door, walk all the way around in the dark to get her. After the long day I’d had, that adventure was most unwelcome and didn’t help my bitchyness. Plus, I had a hard time getting back to sleep after that. Sigh.
Day 22 is hereby known as BRIAN’S ARRIVAL DAY!!!! YAY!!! Annie and I got up early (as usual), I worked for a little over an hour on some things Jennifer had emailed me, and then made the last of our bacon for breakfast. Took a walk in the garden. Then, it was bath time for Annie. She’s so good!! Then, back to website stuff, and Tuesday is grading day for the school, so I had to do that. The wifi here is being challenging- sometimes it works absolutely perfectly, and other times, well….not so much. Today, it fell into the latter category. Which really sucked because Tuesday is my crunch day for school!! After talking myself out of tying a rock around my neck and jumping into the ocean (which probably wouldn’t have done much, seeing how it’s like a foot deep!), Jennifer said the problem was she was out of data!! She topped it off, and all is well in the world again…. Except now it’s time to go get Brian!
Jason, the taxi driver from the other picked me up. Rode the 20 minutes or so to the airport. $40. I almost passed out- Jennifer had told me $30 and I thought that was insane! I can go from my house to LAX which is about an hour away for $40 in an Uber!! Picked up Brian, got the rental car, and headed to Seatons to get Annie. I just knew he’d fall in love with her- and he did! She took a few minutes to warm up to him, then she realized he will pet and play with her NON-STOP. Now it’s like I’m the mom and he’s the brother! First item of business was FOOD! It was 3pm, Brian had been traveling for about 14 hours, and I hadn’t had lunch. We put Annie’s brand new harness and leash on her and headed out to the car. She was as good with it as could be expected! Put restaurants into google maps and found Ounces Ice Cream and Grill. Perfecto! I was super excited for the possibility of another delicious milkshake. Ordered a classic burger with fries. Brian ordered the same. And happily asked for a chocolate milkshake. Response from lady? “No.” Um, is she the Milkshake Nazi “No milkshake for YOU!!” or what? I didn’t ask. Just got a water. ☹ Annie sat calmly under the table with her harness and leash on and we fed her bits of meat and fries. We looked at the map the rental car company gave us and decided to check out Half Moon Bay.
It wasn’t very far of a drive, maybe 20 minutes. And WOW!!! It was STUNNING!! We let Annie off the leash, and of course she followed us like the little duckling she is. She realized that Brian= PUPPY PLAY and started chasing him down the beach, barking her little head off, wagging her tail, and having a grand old time jumping and playing in the sand and water. There weren’t a lot of people on the beach, but the ones we passed just oooo-ed and ahhh-ed over her! They said it was so cute how she would just follow us down the beach, and how well behaved she was to be so young. #proudpuppymomma
This was our last day in Antigua, and we had to make the most of it!! It was the first time in over 3 weeks that I had the freedom to explore! Brian did a little paddleboarding and then we reshot some mangrove educational videos that crappy audio from the wind. While I was standing in the water filming, Annie actually climbed over the mangrove roots to come out to me. Sweet little girl…
We loaded up for our day long road trip. Annie, who has adopted Brian as her own, helped him drive. I’d be jealous, but I’m still her “mom” and the one she follows everywhere! We didn’t really have a plan per se. Just looked at what sights maps.me pulled up and went to those.
First stop was a place called Devil’s Bridge. It’s a natural arch eroded out of the side of the ocean cliffs. Quite beautiful! Research says it got the name because slaves used to go here to commit suicide. Ugh. In true Jimmy Buffet style, I blew out my flip flop on the way back to the car. I swear….
Back on the road and found something called Betty’s Hope Plantation. Thought we’d see what it was all about. SO GLAD WE DID!! It was a great learning experience about a sugar cane plantation that was built here in the 1650s. There was a really cool little museum where I learned all about sugar cane! Fascinating!! Here’s the basic facts. Cane was cut. It was then put into the crusher to crush out all of the juice. That windwill looking tower is what powered the crusher. The juice would drop through the floor into the boiling room. (Most plantations used pipes that lead away from the crusher to a nearby boiling room. Betty’s Hope was more efficient with this set up). The juice was boiled. A skim would form on top- that would be removed and fermented to make rum! The remaining juice would be boiled down. Some of it was evaporated to form sugar crystals, and the rest was molasses! Three products from one plant! And, sadly, slaves were used for all of this labor. It was so fascinating, that I actually created an educational video on the fly about it for my students!
We kinda just picked a place on the map to head toward next, with no real destination in mind. Went toward an area called Five Islands. Drove through all kinds of neighborhoods, came around a corner, and WOW!! Massive cruise ship!! It just towered above the harbor and city.
More aimless driving and we found ourselves on some local beach that no one was on. Figured it was a good place to walk around a bit and let Annie get some exercise and take a potty break.
It was food time!! Two different locals had suggested a place called OJs in Crab Hill, so we headed that way. The water on this side of the island is STUNNING!! The seaside table was STUNNING, the view was STUNNING. We ordered lionfish because we’d never had it. Expensive and not so stunning. 😕
The road from here climbed into a part of Antigua I’d never seen- lush forest! It really was a lovely drive through this area. Then, I saw a man on a donkey. And I thought it would be a good idea to take his picture as we whizzed by. Do you see that look on his face? Do you see the quality of this photo? It’s not blurry from the speed. He cursed my camera! I’m certain of it! Because for the next few days, no matter what setting I used or resetting the entire camera, every picture I took turned out blurry and I had to use Brian’s phone!! #lessonlearned
Next was the crappiest part of the whole day. Dropping off my little Annie to Jennifer, who would take care of her until I came back after my housesit in Guadeloupe. On the way to Jennifer’s, I made Brian stop so I could take a picture of the trash bin where we had found her. She’s come so far from being a stinky, skinny, scared little pup to a twice bathed, follow me everywhere, sleep in my bed (on my pillow, none the less!), fat, confident little darling!! It’s amazing what food and love will do. We left her, her carrier, harness, and leash and I promised I’d be back for her soon. Brian said he was shocked I didn’t cry (he’s seen me ugly cry more than once over this pup!). But I knew that Jennifer would take good care of her, I’d see her again, and she was going to have an awesome forever home!! From there, we headed toward Galleon Beach just to check it out and walk around a bit. There are some resident sea turtles here, but we didn’t have time to snorkel. It was getting late. Last tourist stop, we drove up to Shirley Heights for a gorgeous view of English Harbor.
After that, we drove to Hodges Bay near the airport. This is where wonderful Kerry and Charmaine (friends of Jennifer) were letting us stay in their home for the night, since we had a 6am flight and didn’t want to drive the Antiguan back roads from Seatons in the dark. What a lovely couple and what a gorgeous, ocean front home with a beautiful garden! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check out their Airbnb.
I give up on expenditures. Once Brian gets here, everything gets all mixed up!! Let’s just say we travel cheap and leave it at that. 🤑