April 27-May 5, 2019

Antigua, Saint Kitts, Tortola, Bermuda

  • 2 traditional geocaches
  • 2 multi-caches
  • 5 EarthCaches
  • 4 new countries added to my geocaching map

On Saturday, April 27 Deban and I boarded the Celebrity Summit for an eight-night cruise with Olivia Travel. The cruise began in San Juan, Puerto Rico and ended in Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

Antigua

After a day at sea on Sunday, we docked in St. John’s, Antigua on Monday morning. On the way into the harbor that morning, we passed an EarthCache called Coastal Erosion – St. John’s Antigua. I collected the information I needed to answer the questions and qualify to log the EarthCache while Deban and I were eating breakfast.

After breakfast I went on a zip-lining excursion. I love zip-lining and try to do this in as many locations as possible. Every experience is a little different, and I enjoying the thrill of flying through the air over the treetops. This tour included eight zip-lines and lasted about two and a half hours.

I’m having way more fun than it looks.

I then returned to the ship where I had lunch with Deban. We followed up lunch with a stroll through the shopping area of the port. We bought the usual souvenirs – a flag pin for me to add to our travel map and a magnet for our refrigerator. We also found a beautiful tropical shirt for me with flamingos on it.

Signal found some zen friends in the shops.

Having our fill of shopping, we walked a few blocks to find another EarthCache. Along the way, we saw an interesting sign…

I have no words.

Here we found sidewalk tiles constructed of limestone that was quarried from the island. This limestone was once at the bottom of the sea, and contains an impressive amount of fossilized shells, coral and other marine life.

There’s fossils in those tiles!

I collected the information and photos needed, and set my sights on another nearby EarthCache at the cathedral atop the hill. Deban decided to return to the ship, and I continued up the hill to the St. John’s Cathedral.

The EarthCache coordinates were in the middle of the graveyard next to the church. When I reached the top of the hill, I found that the gate was chained and locked. Not to be deterred, I circled the block clockwise, finding more chained gates. Finally, at the opposite side of the block from where I had begun I found an open gate. I would later see that the gate around the next corner was also open, so if I had gone counter-clockwise I would have been able to enter more quickly. I never do things the easy way!

Cathedral from outside the gate

In the graveyard I found the two tombstones I needed to observe to answer questions for the EarthCache. It dealt with the types of rock used to build the cathedral and construct the stones. I took many pictures of the cathedral from different angles with the deep blue skies as a backdrop. From the front steps I could see our ship in the harbor below.

Beautiful blue skies!

I also wandered inside the cathedral and sat down for a bit to soak in my surroundings. It was not as grand as some I have visited, but was still a beautiful and peaceful spot to worship.

Well, it would have been peaceful were it not for a very unkempt older gentleman who was attempting to play the piano. I recognized the praise song he was playing, but it was painful to listen to with all of the missed notes and botched rhythm. But, he was playing with gusto and I’m sure it sounded beautiful to God.

When I wandered back outside, I noticed a man sleeping on top of one of the graves. I don’t know if he was homeless, or was a groundskeeper taking a nap.

Sleeping like the dead.

As mentioned before I discovered another open gate and exited the graveyard through it. I meandered through the streets below, making my way toward another EarthCache.

Along the way I passed the Ebenezer Methodist Church. It is part of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, a denomination founded by the British Methodist Mission in the 18th century. While it is not part of the United Methodist Church (the denomination I work for) it maintains a strong relationship with both the UMC and the United Church of Canada. I also passed by a Methodist Book Store and stopped in for a few moments to enjoy the air conditioning and browse the shelves.

The early bird gets the communion bread.

When I finally reached the final EarthCache I once again found limestone tiles on both the sidewalk and the wall of a storefront. This was a very busy place, in the midst of the business district and fresh food markets. I collected my answers and photos, along with a few curious glances of passersby.

As I made my way back toward the ship, I found myself following two school children in uniform and carrying their book bags. The sidewalks and streets in this town are very rough, and there are very deep ditches between them for drainage. At one point, I was looking around rather than at my feet and stepped off the sidewalk into one of those deep ditches. I didn’t fall, but the my teeth were jarred by the impact of my foot landing several inches lower than expected. I thought perhaps no one had noticed, but then the young schoolgirl in front of me glanced back and said in a charming island accent, “We be careful, yes?” I smiled at her and agreed, taking her advice to heart and watching my step the rest of my journey back to the ship.

I would have liked to have logged at least one traditional cache in Antigua, but there were none close enough to walk to from the port. I was happy with the four EarthCaches logged here, helping me to add a new country to my resume.

Saint Kitts

On Tuesday we docked in Basseterre, Saint Kitts. Here Deban and I took part in a excursion that took us all the way around the island. We started via bus, traveling to the starting point of a narrow gauge railway. Here we boarded a train, riding on the open-air top deck.

Riding the train with my gal.

The train took us 18 miles around the shoreline of the island. We enjoyed beautiful views of the ocean and learned about the island’s history and culture.

Along the coast of St. Kitts

Sugarcane was once the primary industry here, and we saw the remains of many Dutch-style windmills that marked the site of former sugar plantations.

We kept our eyes peeled for the African green monkeys that inhabit the island in large numbers, but never saw any in the wild. We did, however, later see one in a cage along the road.

Sad monkey in a cage.

The train ride included free-flowing tropical rum drinks and soft drinks, a very pleasant narrator who kept us entertained with stories and information, and an acapella trio of women who sang beautiful island songs and hymns. Their harmonies were amazing.

Acapella trio

St. Kitts is part of a two-island nation called St. Kitts and Nevis. Once we were on the southwestern side of the island, we could see the island of Nevis on the horizon.

Nevis

At the end of the train ride we once again boarded a bus to complete our circuit of the island and return to the ship. There we ate lunch, and then wandered ashore again to shop and find a geocache.

More friends for Signal

There was a multi-cache near the pier. The first stage was at the Berkley Memorial, a clock and water fountain in the center of the Circus in Basseterre. At least two local guides had likened this Circus to Picadilly Circus in London, but it doesn’t really compare other than the fact that traffic swirls around it, coming from the four streets that meet here. In fact, it is square, not a circle.

Berkeley Memorial

We braved traffic to walk up to the memorial. On the far side of it was the plaque we were looking for. On it were two dates that we needed to use to figure the coordinates for the location of the cache. Deban helped me do the math (since that isn’t my forte) and I plugged the new coordinates into my phone. It seemed to point me to one side of the square and we walked in that direction. The hint was “phone home” so I started looking around for a pay phone. That’s when I saw it on another side of the square – an old, red British phone booth.

We went to it and began searching. I was inside and Deban spotted the tiny nano from outside and guided my hand to it atop the closing mechanism for the door. Teamwork!

Found it!

Since this was the only cache within walking distance from the ship, I had to be satisfied with only one find at the stop. We had driven right past an EarthCache and traditional while on the bus, but there was no chance of stopping for them.

Tortolla

Our stop in Tortolla was a short one, and we did not have any excursions planned here. We slept in, ate breakfast, and then ventured ashore for shopping and geocaching.

The prettiest spot in Tortolla

The shops were not as plentiful here, and only one cache was within walking distance. We made our way a short distance to a small park where the cache was located. The cache was named “Noel Lloyd Park – Nobody is going to buy Tortola.” Noel Lloyd had spearheaded the Positive Action Movement, which eventually prevented a rich British investor from leasing the island in the 1970s and turning it into a private resort.

The hint for the cache said that it was “under a rock watching Noel’s butt.” Sadly, Noel’s life-sized statue was destroyed during Hurricane Irma, and all that is left is his footprints in the base it was on. However, we found the cache just where it should have been.

Noel Lloyd has walked away.

Walking back to the ship we encountered other passengers that were walking into town in search of sights to see and places to shop. We shared with them that we had not found much, and noticed that many of them soon came to the same conclusion and headed back to the ship. This beautiful island is still working to rebuild and revitalize after the hurricane.

View of Tortola from the ship

It took our ship 48 hours to travel from Tortola to the island of Bermuda. We enjoyed a relaxing day at sea on Thursday, and that evening I sipped Champagne and watched the sun set from our stateroom’s veranda.

Sunset over the Atlantic

Bermuda

We arrived in Bermuda around noon on Friday, and after lunch on the ship Deban and I went ashore. We had not planned an excursion here, but following the recommendation of friends decided to rent scooters to explore the island. There were a lot of geocaches on this island, and this would be a good way to get to as many as possible during our short visit. I had brought along my snorkel and mask and we dressed for the beach before heading ashore.

It was another warm day with beautiful blue skies. All along our route were flowers that kept capturing my attention.

Near the pier we found a shop that rents scooters and went inside. As we were waiting in line, and group of five women from our ship came in to return their helmets and get a refund on their scooter rental. They had tried riding the scooters on the small practice track and decided it wasn’t for them. Hearing them, Deban decided we should rent a larger scooter and ride together since she was feeling nervous about driving one. By the time we had completed our rental, two more women came in for a refund as well.

I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but we gamely donned our helmets and walked out to the practice track. There, a young man pulled a scooter out of the parking area and gave us a quick tutorial on how to operate it. He then suggested that I try riding it first without Deban and I was relieved to hear that suggestion. This way, if I wrecked it would only be me to worry about!

I climbed aboard and started to circle the track. At such a low speed, I felt very wobbly and had trouble controlling the scooter. Thankfully, I didn’t wreck it, but I definitely didn’t feel confident on it. I circled the track many times, hoping it would start to feel more natural, but found myself crossing the grass once and heading for the bushes another time. I kept thinking about how much harder it would be to control the scooter with Deban on the back.

Riding wasn’t as easy as it looks. It had been 40 plus years since I’ve ridden a dirt bike, and it obviously isn’t like riding a bicycle – something you never forget. I do believe that if I had had more space and time I would have eventually gotten the hang of it, but on the tight, slow track I was nervous.

I finally pulled over and let Deban give it a try. She had as much, if not more, difficulty than I and didn’t even try to complete one round of the track. By this time I was convinced; it wasn’t worth ruining our vacation by crashing and injuring ourselves. We made the shameful trek back inside to turn in our helmets and get our refunds.

I HIGHLY recommend the company we visited – Oleander Cycles. The woman cheerfully refunded the full amount of our rental to our credit card. I would have expected them to keep a service charge to cover the credit card fees or the gas burned during our practice run. I expected the refund to take weeks to hit our account. It had already been credited before our return home two days later. I also appreciate the opportunity to try out the scooter on a track rather than being thrown immediately onto the streets – even if that track was quite small with sharp turns. The employees never made us feel badly about changing our minds. The woman that took care of us cheerfully proclaimed, “It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last!”

Since we already had our beach gear with us, we decided to make our way to the nearby Snorkel Park Beach, hoping to at least spend a little time snorkeling. I pulled up the geocaching app and found that there was a travel bug hotel very close to the entrance to the beach. I wanted to log at least one cache here, adding another new country to my map so I and made a stop there to log it. I exchanged one of my own travel bugs for one that was in the cache.

We then walked through an opening in the city wall to access the beach. There was a booth at the gate, and I thought we might have to pay to go through. However, the woman in the booth said, “It is free right now.” Score!

There were a few trees to provide shade, but the shady spots were all being used. I spotted a large wooden box and lifted the lid, finding beach umbrellas inside. I grabbed one and we began making our way toward the water. A young man approached us and told us the umbrellas were for rent. I told him we would be happy to pay, and asked how much. He said $10, but added that they weren’t renting anymore since they would be closing at 3:00. It was 2:00, and I would have gladly paid $10 for a little shade for an hour, but no deal.

Deban told me she would sit at a table under the pavilion while I went snorkeling. I encouraged her to come in the water with me, but she was nervous about leaving our belongings unattended. She said she would be happy to sit in the shade and read her book. I took my snorkel gear and headed into the water.

Snorkeling in Bermuda

I spent about 20 minutes swimming and enjoying the coral and the fish. I saw many different colors, shapes and sizes of fish. One curious little fella was fascinated by my camera and kept darting at it as if kissing the lens.

Coming in for his closeup

When I got out of the water, I asked Deban if she wanted to take a turn. At first she declined, but then decided that she would. I sat at the table with our belongings while she swam and enjoyed the fish.

Ready for action

While I was sitting there, I looked up to see a group of young people in sailor uniforms and hats walking toward me. They stopped nearby, and I could see from the insignia on their uniforms that they were from Denmark.

Deban returned and I decided to go back in the water one last time. It felt great on the warm, sunny day and I again enjoyed watching the fish swim around me.

Once we had dried off and gathered up our gear, we walked back in the direction of the ship. There was a nearby EarthCache that we visited, and I learned about the reef surrounding the island. The water levels years ago were much lower than they are today, and that reef claimed over 300 ships over the years.

My job at this EarthCache was to answer questions about the size, shape, color and texture of a rock that had a beacon atop it. This beacon once stood on North Rock to warn sailors of the reefs surrounding the island. I also needed to complete a verse that was inscribed on a nearby sign, as well as answer other questions about sea levels and shipwrecks.

From here we made our way to a nearby shopping mall. Deban browsed in the stores while I made my way through it to the other side to collect info needed to find a multi-cache. I found the sign I was looking for, and obtained the two numbers from it that I needed to add and subtract to determine the coordinates for the final stage. Doing this, I plugged the coordinates I came up with into my phone, and they showed that the cache was in the middle of the ocean a few miles offshore. Obviously, I had done something wrong. I re-read the directions and realized I had added when I should have subtracted and vice versa.

Once I had completed the task correctly, I checked the map and had to smile. It was in an area where we had started our day. In fact, once I made my way to the cache I realized that when I was practicing riding the scooter, I had passed with 20 feet of the cache each time I circled the track! I signed the log, and then made my way back to the ship.

Scooter track. The cache is hidden in the wall to the right.

And beyond…

We sailed away a short time later. I enjoyed another beautiful sunset that evening from our veranda. We were again at sea all day Saturday.

We had been told that our ship would pass the Statue of Liberty at about 6:00 am as we sailed into the New York Bay on Sunday. I set my alarm for 5:45 to make certain I wouldn’t miss it. Looking out our veranda door I could see that it was very foggy, but hoped it would clear before we reached the bay. Soon after, we passed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which was beautiful in the early morning light and fog.

It was quite chilly and damp, but I put on my rain jacket for the first time during this trip so that I could step out on the veranda periodically to check our progress. I was also watching our progress on my phone via the Geocaching map. At one point, I spotted some smiley faces on the map and tapped on them to see what caches were nearby that I had found. We were within a few miles a park on Staten Island where Deban and I had found some great caches in December 2016.

Eventually, I could see Lady Liberty in the distance. The fog was still heavy, so I could barely see her and some of the skyscrapers of the city beyond.

My first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty

We grew closer, and then I could tell that our ship was turning. I woke Deban so that she could see the statue. She raised her head to look, and then rolled over and went back to sleep. Our ship backed in next to the dock and our cruise was over.

This was as close as we got.

2 thoughts on “April 27-May 5, 2019

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