Our globe-trotting correspondent Margaret Patten recalls an memorable visit to the lesser known Caribbean island of Anegada.
I have been very fortunate over the years to have stayed on several Caribbean Islands. Mainly in some lovely rental properties but occasionally in hotels. Each Island has its own unique charm and character. There’s Antigua with its English Harbour, West Indies cricket ground and a beach for every day of the year. Then there’s Virgin Gorda, so named because the island resembles a large reclining lady, where local life reflects the geography and everything is very relaxed and laid back. And St Kitts, lush and luxuriant, with its lava formations and island railway. All the islands have something in common – white sandy beaches, warm sea and sunshine.
Anegada is not the easiest place to get to. First a flight from London Gatwick to Antigua. After a wait, an island plane to Tortola. By now an overnight stay is necessary, perhaps on Beef Island where there is accommodation, before a small plane to the island. There is also a ferry service.
Anegada lies North West of British Virgin Islands forming part of the archipelago. A coral island characterized by a flat elevation. It’s highest point is only 28frt above sea level. It lies some 15 miles from the bigger island of Virgin Gorda. The island is approximately 15 miles square.
After landing we picked up a jeep to drive to our rental cabin. It was, at the time, very basic though the island has started to develop since my visit. The beauty of it was that it was right on a Caribbean beach with scrubland behind. Although there were a few downsides, for example rain leaked through the tin roof and my visit coincided with the end of the rainy season. Cockroaches appeared to do the Riverdance at night and to get to the clear sand we had to evade a rather spikey plant, that ran all along the top part of the beach. This even pierced flip flops. However it was wonderfully peaceful and secluded. No one else was around as locals mainly lived at the far end of the island – a Caribbean beach just for us. We had to be careful not too swim too far out as there were no shark nets to prevent those deadly predators entering the shallow waters, but this was paradise. Each morning waking up to sun and the sparkling blue of the sea.
Our evening meal was very basic. We had taken packets of rice, noodles and pasta so each evening it was one of these with freshly caught fish cooked on an outside fire, which also kept flying insects at bay. Sitting on the veranda with a glass of coconut rum, this was contentment.
There was a local shop some distance away, but when I bought a jar of an expensive marmalade I discovered that it was years out of date! (I’m told there’s a supermarket now – progress).
The shower was three sided and outside. No one was in that part of the island so not having a door and facing inwards was not a problem. Lovely after a hot day. One evening, I went for my shower as usual, enjoying the water going over me. Suddenly I was aware of something behind me. I froze. All those imaginary thoughts of going into karate mode if attacked disappeared, as the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I had a plastic bottle of shampoo in my hand, if I turned quickly perhaps I could spray shampoo in the perpetrators eyes. Something touched my back. I turned quickly and squeezed the bottle. I was relieved to find the intruder was actually the thinnest cow I have ever seen, whose only aim was to get a drink of fresh water. Fortunately shampoo only trickled out so I missed! I still smile when I think of it.
Nearly time to go home. The end to the adventure or was it.
We had an early flight back to Tortola. This should have given us plenty to catch our international flight. The Island plane was due soon. We waited and waited. It did not arrive, no explanation. The next thing I knew it was 2pm – now getting tight for time, but still it could be done. We rang ahead and explained. Finally the plane arrived, but late. It dropped down to the Island of St Kitts to drop passengers off. Just before take off the door jammed and would not close! Finally we were off again only to get to Antigua just in time…. to see our flight taking off. No more flights available until the day after next. There was a young girl in the queue who had been visiting a friend in Tortola on a different international flight. Her ticket was not transferrable. Obviously she was very upset, no cash left, no credit card and only a debit card with a limited balance – she begged us not to leave her. I felt like a small child when my son got us all a cold drink and told us not to move, while he went off. He managed to get her the only seat on a flight North. After speaking to her father my son booked and paid for it on his card. Her father would drive North overnight to pick her up. The ticket price was considerable as it was last minute but my son said he had no alternative and you had to have faith in people. So off she went to check in. After a friendly lecture from my son about getting a credit card for emergencies.
Now what about us. Our only option was to find a hotel then fly next day to St Lucia where there was a flight and it had a limited number of seats available. By now we were hungry, the hotel wasn’t great and didn’t offer food. Still we had a flight. Actually it turned out to be quite nice as landing in St Lucia we had to take a taxi across the island to the international departures. Although I had previously been to St Lucia it was nice to see unknown areas. The airline staff were brilliant and very welcoming. They knew the details so couldn’t have been more helpful.
Another adventure over and yet another landing in a grey Gatwick. By the time my son got home a really nice letter was waiting enclosing a cheque.