27 – 29 November 2012
The Arawaks came from South America around 3,500 years ago and settled for several thousand years. Columbus missed the island in 1493 probably because it's very flat and so the English were first to colonise the island in 1650 exploiting the fertile soil to grow tobacco and corn. When Britain abolished slavery in 1834 many ex-slaves took up farming, fishing and sailing. Soon after Anguilla joined a federation with St Kitts and Nevis but it was never a success as Anguilla had very little influence. In 1967 a revolution forced the St Kitts police off the island and in1982 the island again became an overseas British Territory. Today Anguilla's primary income is from tourists enjoying the renowned beaches.
My original plan was to go directly from St-Barths to Anguilla but my broken sandal made it impossible so when I got back to Saint Martin I went back to Patrice's place. In the process of looking for new sandals online I discovered that all mail has to be sent via Guadeloupe which likely willl delay delivery until after I have left the island permanently – instead I'll try and find some sandals on the island that can survive until Florida in the Spring. As always bad news are followed by good. In the evening we had dinner with friends of Patrice where Laurence managed to borrow a bicycle from yet another friend for me to take to Anguilla – so generous. The island is fairly flat and somewhat large (5k times 20k), so it's nice to have own transportation especially when there is no public transport.
The next morning I was in no hurry and took the boat at 9.45am – of the 10 people I was alone to stay for more days – everybody else was day tripping. From Blowing Point in the South-west I bicycled up to The Valley in the central part of the island. My first task was to buy a bicycle lock which was more difficult than expected – I ended up buying a piece of cable in a hardware store that I could lock with my pad-lock. Shopping supplies and then up the South-east coast where I passed a small (uninteresting) heritage museum. I might as well say it now - Anguilla is a typical Caribbean island with no attractions but the beaches and the nice people. Further up the coast I got some local advice finding the right gravel road to East End (they don't use signs here), but the road had many forks so I ended up following 4 guys in a car down to Savannah Bay/Junk Hole Bay - a long, deserted beach... a perfect place to imagine being castaway. The only sign of civilisation was a small bar where the owner explained that the whole area (coast-to-coast) was owned by the same family in no hurry of selling the land..... nice in times where most things are about making a fast buck. I had to pull the bicycle around on the soft, sandy paths – a quite hostile environment with mostly volcanic rocks and still plants grow everywhere – nature is amazing.... Despite being private land I decided to camp in this area – though it turned out to be more difficult than expected partly because of the rocky surface and partly because of a shepherd running around the area looking for his sheep. The few times I found a decent place I heard him approaching calling for the sheep and when I found a very good place... there were the sheep and again I had to move on!! It took a while but in the end I found a good place overlooking the hills and coastline.
The next morning I discovered the bicycle had a flat tire – annoying but maybe not too surprising with all the sharp rocks and many thorn bushes. With appropriate repair kit I felt confident fixing it in a few minutes, but no.... I could neither see, feel or hear the hole and worse yet the pump borrowed from another friend didn't work when I used a new tube... Not the best start on the day but then again “if that's my biggest problem in life, it's not too bad....”. After breakfast I walked down the road and after about 3k I got to a gas station – not much chance of help by the look of it, but my many long distance bicycle trips have taught me it's not the case – some person is the lifeline of the local community who otherwise have to go many kilometres to the nearest bigger town... here it was Smitty. I bicycled the last kilometres to gorgeous Shoal Bay beach where I stayed until noon – miles of beautiful white sand and turquoise water.....and fortunately only people in the middle of the beach by access road. Back to The Valley and then further West around Road Salt Pond (no longer used to extract salt) and another break at Road Bay. An average beach but since it's a harbour for sail boats there are public toilets which meant drinking water and a quick wash. Sitting on the dock for some hours I talked to a lot of different people – most interesting the famous bar owner Foxy from the British Virgin Islands who had lots of stories to tell e.g. how Richard Branson arranged for him to go to Buckingham Palace so he could receive his MBE from the Queen... quite a character. Late afternoon I found a deserted area to pitch the tent for the night.
At this latitude it's dark around 6pm so I go to bed early and get up early - this morning at 6am. After a short bicycle trip I arrived at Rendezvous Bay just before 7am – totally deserted. I had breakfast here and spent most of the morning walking along the South-west coast beaches (and sometimes climbing over rocks) 6-8k past Merrywing Bay, Cove Bay ending up at Maundays Bay... good exercise with the bicycle and big backpack and a nice (small) challenge on this island without many challenges. Some parts of the beach only had small shops while others where fully developed resorts and villas... but the tendency is clear and in a few years the local charm will be gone making Anguilla another bounty island that could be located anywhere. Fortunately the beaches are still public but, but they become more and more inaccessible with the increasing areas of private land in front of them. In the afternoon I went up the North-west coast - first to Meads Bay and later Long Bay before heading down to the ferry at 4pm.
If you like beaches Anguilla is a place for you - and if you would like to experience some local atmosphere you should visit sooner rather than later.