When I leave Five Islands, my temporary home on Antigua, on an early Sunday morning, the sun is already burning, and I especially feel it when biking up the hills on my way south. Within half an hour, I stop to buy drinks, knowing this will be my last chance for the next couple of hours, and I will be exercising under the sun. The tarmac ends as soon as I take a turn to the east, where a gravel road takes me right to the entrance of Mount Obama Park at the northern side of the mountain. On the way, I pass a mango tree; under it, the ground is full of ripe mangoes, and I cannot resist the delicious tropical fruit. My first goal of the day is to climb the highest peak of the country; formerly called Boggy Peak, it was renamed shortly after the election of President Obama, but its height is still the same: 1319 feet (402 metres). I can see the mast standing on top.
After locking my bike to the fence, I walk past the small monument stating the origin of the new name of the mountain given in 2009, and hike up. At one point, there is some confusion: the trail veers left while it looks like there is another trail going straight. But after that, it is a matter of following a single trail, where colourful ribbons indicate that I am on the right track. The trail goes straight through the forest, with several clusters of bamboo, past riverbeds that are dry even after the passing of a tropical storm just a few days before. I reach the surfaced road coming from the south side, and the last part is actually the steepest. I have read there are no views from the top, but when I walk past the closed gate of the communication tower, I reach a small open space where I have unobstructed views of the west coast of Antigua. The beaches and bays of Jolly Harbour look especially attractive, and I can even see the place I am staying at in Five Islands. Ah, if only I could dip into those waters right now!
In preparing my climb of Mount Obama, I have read a suggestion there might be a different way down, and I decide to try out, and see if this is really true. Instead of taking a left, which would lead me on the same trail down as the one I used on my way up, I go straight, on the ridge of the Shackerley range. There are ribbons here, too, and when the trail finally makes a left, and I go down the north side of the mountain, I get the impression I am on the right way. But then, eventually, the trail leads further east, and I become convinced that if I continue to follow this trail, it will lead me to Fig Tree Drive. So, I return, take another trail, but the lack of ribbons is already a warning that things are not well here. Indeed, the trail dissolves in between the trees. I hate backtracking, and decide to try my luck and go down a dry gully that, I believe, leads down towards the valley where I parked my bike. It turns out be an adventure: I have to climb over big boulders, under fallen trees, always careful not to put my feet in an impossible position, or fall through a hidden hole. In the end, it gets tougher because there is more vegetation through which I have to push forward without a machete. When I finally reach a field used for agriculture, I am happy, especially when I find out that I am just ten minutes east of the entrance to Mount Obama Park. There are more mango trees, and most of the mangoes under them are already too ripe or rotting away, and it is difficult to stop eating more of the rich fruits; I take several with me for later. It feels like a well-deserved bonus for climbing the highest peak of Antigua. And now, I urgently need to buy more drinks.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mount Obama (Antigua and Barbuda). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mount Obama.
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