Thursday, January 24, 2013

Barbuda Adventures with Solomon

Tuesday, January 22

We planned to head over to Codrington to explore the main town of Barbuda and arrange a tour to see the Frigate bird colony. Codrington is difficult to get to from the west coast anchorage where we were anchored since the town is located on the eastern coast of the Codrington Lagoon which is a huge lagoon that runs almost the entire western length of the island. The 11-mile beach is a thin strip of land that separates the lagoon from the ocean on the western coast. The only way to get to the town of Codrington from the western coast anchorage is to leave your dingy on the 11-mile beach and take a water taxi across the lagoon to the town.

After breakfast, we jumped in the dingy and headed to the beach. There was a wooden sign on the 11-mile beach advertising the water taxi pick up location and the number of the water taxi guy to call. We beached the dingy and attempted to reach Solomon water taxi on the VHF, but did not get any response. We decided to walk down the beach to a tiny little beach bar shack (the only other piece of development on the thin strip of beach aside from the Lighthouse beach resort) and see if there was anyone working there who could help us find a water taxi. Luckily the beach bar was open, as most places in Barbuda only open if you call them in advance. We ordered a couple of drinks and the bartender called us a water taxi from her cell phone. We spent the next hour walking along the beach, collecting shells, and waiting on the water taxi. Eventually Solomon showed up, and we negotiated a tour package with him to see the Frigate Bird Colony, water taxi to Codrington, tour of The Caves and Two Foot Bay, and lunch in Codrington.

Gene waiting on the water taxi

Lighthouse Beach Resort on 11-mile Beach

Looking out West from 11-Mile Beach

Little beach bar on 11-Mile Beach

Kat chilling on the 11-Mile Beach

Cordington Lagoon (Cordington village in the distance)

The Frigate Bird colony was really neat. It is basically one section of mangroves at the north end of the Codrington lagoon where the Frigate birds reside. Frigate birds are huge birds, with a 6 foot wingspan, but relatively small body. They can't land in the water to catch their food because it impacts their ability to fly, so they generally scoop up fish on the top of the water with their beaks, or torment other birds to steal their fish (apparently this is where they get the name Frigate). The male Frigates have large red hanging sacks that hang from their beak, sort of like dangling red beards. They sit in the mangroves and puff up their red sack as a mating call to the female Frigates. The female Frigates fly over the males in the trees below and select the male whom they wish to mate with. The joke is that they choose the male with the biggest sack. The male Frigates will mate with the female in Barbuda during this season, then in the summer, they migrate to the Galapagos where they do the same mating ritual there. Then they come back to Barbuda and the cycle repeats. The females stay in their locations and hatch their eggs. It was really interesting to see the males in the trees puffing up their red sack and the females swooping down to them. We got some great close up pictures and video!

Solomon's water taxi ride to Frigate Bird Colony

Male Frigate performing the mating ritual

Female Frigate flying overhead seeking best male

Our buddy, Solomon

 Female swooping down to choose her male

Approaching village of Codrington

After the bird colony, Solomon took us across the lagoon to the village of Codrington in his water taxi. From there, he had called his buddy Loose who runs a taxi / land tour business. Solomon and Loose work as a team – one handles the water activities and the other handles the land activities. Solomon joined us on our land tour of Barbuda. Loose took the three of us across the island to the East coast where Two Foot Bay is located. This is also the start of the famous Caves hike which you scramble up through the bolder path under the cave to get to the “Highlands” which is basically the highest point on the island where you have a beautiful view of Two Foot Bay and the east coast. Loose told us stories about some weddings that he witnessed up there, where the bride and bridesmaids had to scramble up to the top in their dresses and high heels! Loose also has big dreams to start a bar and zip line tour from the top one day.

East Coast of Barbuda

Hike to the Caves and Two Foot Bay

Climbing up the caves (Solomon barefoot hiking)

View of Two Foot Bay from inside cave

Gene and Loose discussing the zip line tour potential

View of Two Foot Bay from the Highlands

After the Caves, we traveled back to Codrington and stopped at Solomon's sister's restaurant for lunch. On the way there, we saw wild donkeys and horses roaming around. Loose told us that there are hunters in Barbuda that hunt deer and wild boar. We arrived at his sister's house, and we sat and talked with Solomon over drinks before having lunch, discussing some ideas on how he can further grow his business by advertising his package deal on tripadvisor and other sites. We showed him our Cruising guide to the Leeward islands, and he immediately knew the author, Chris Doyle. He apparently comes to Barbuda every two years to keep the book up to date, and all the locals know him since he'll advertise your tour in his book for a $500 fee. We spent some time convincing Solomon that this was a great idea to pay the money to get into his book since it's really the only thorough cruising book for the leeward islands, and everyone cruising down there has it. After talking business with Solomon for a while longer, we heard a call on our VHF for a water taxi. Solomon immediately grabbed our VHF, and responded to the call! He left us momentarily to pick up the people and take them back to the town. In the meantime we enjoyed his sister's amazing cooking! The restaurant is basically a home kitchen, and there isn't a menu, they basically just serve whatever they happen to have in the kitchen that day. On this day, they served us BBQ chicken with a number of delicious sides (garlic mashed potatoes, cole slaw, collard greens, black beans and rice, plantains, and salad). Everything was amazing!

Wild horses walking down the street past Solomon's sister's restaurant

Finally, Solomon returned, and Loose showed up in his taxi shortly thereafter, and we headed back to the dock for Solomon's water taxi. We got back to the 11-mile beach and said our good-byes to Solomon. Hopefully he'll reach out to us and we can help him get his tour package advertising started for him! We had such a great day with him and really enjoyed getting to know him and learning about Barbuda from his perspective.

When we got back to the boat, we were within an hour of sunset, so we decided to pack our dinner and our beach chairs and head to the beach for sunset and a beach fire. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out around the beach bonfire, cooking our dinner over the fire and roasting marshmallows.   

 Kalalau at sunset

Beach fire grilling

 Roasting marshmallows

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