Day 17 - January 12th
We have an early-ish breakfast and set off while it is still relatively cool, driving through Two Boats village, turn left at the T junction and park near the 1000 foot contour on the map below.
The first couple of hundred yards are along a straight and gently sloping road, but the slope gradually increases and we are glad of a stop at the first corner gently to look back towards Two Boats village with English Bay in the distance.
Then we set off round the corner and we on the "ramps". Like most things on Ascension nothing is ever totally obvious and the first ramp sign we come to is "W".
So what happened to "A" to "V" ? We certainly have not gone round 22 corners. Perhaps "W" is the lowest one, in which case another 22 to go.
Onwards and upwards, looking back one can see how the the road now steepens.
In this direction the island definitely seems to be greener than it was on our last visit.
Meanwhile the Landrover, bottom left in the above picture, is now left well behind us
The inner side of the road now is in the form of sheer walls which have been originally carved from the volcanic rock. There are small hole in some places which are presumably land crab real estate as we have passed a few crabs along the way.
The road has now moved around to face a different direction, as we have gone up, and we look back at the RAF base at Travellers Hill.
As we have reached "V" ramp we know the letters are going back down the alphabet that there are only 21 left to the top. ( I didn't tell him it was just the shape of the curves, Lynda)
The vegetation beside the ramps is now getting more tropical and we pass some Prickly Pear in bloom. The Prickly Pear on the island was probably introduced from Madeira in 1847 by William Wren, the mountain gardener at the time, but there is a reference to specimens having been sent for Kew in around 1850. Prickly Pear is a bit invasive on Ascension, but not on the scale of the Australian Prickly Pear invasion which was eventually brought under control which must have been one of the first examples of successful biological control. Ascension does have a major problem with the Mexican Thorn bush, but attempts at using biological control in this case have so far proved ineffective.
Looking back the Landrover now really is just a dot
Oops we seem to have gone right across Africa! Well probably not, this ramp was perhaps named thus because it was once covered with Madagascar Periwinkle but we can't spot any today.
By now we are a bit out of breath having climbed over 500 feet and the various generations of signs for the Invalids path seem to reflect our physical state. The cast iron pipes for the old water system are always popping up when one is anywhere between in a line between Georgetown and Green Mountain, and here one makes a convenient holder for one of the signs.
In fact the Invalids and Convalescents paths were created so that patients, usually fever victims, at the Naval Sanatorium could take some exercise.
Along the ramps from here on up, trees precariously grow out of ground that is within a few degrees of being vertical. Having asked Lynda to demonstrate how large the trunk of one of these trees is by holding her arms out out she inevitably over-acts.
Yet again we come across the cast iron pipes of the water system which were in regular use until the BBC power station came online in the 60's with the very useful by-product of desalinated water.
Slightly across from the ramps at this point, we catch site of The Residency, which was originally the naval sanatorium built in 1867 but is now the official home of the island administrator appointed by the UK government
By now the vegetation is becoming more lush, as the extra altitude means more annual rainfall.
Once we get to the Red Lion we have climbed over 1000 feet from where we left the Landrover it is time for a little pause and then we are off back down, which is less exhausting but harder on the ankles..
We take a diversion on the way down so we can visit Monkey Rock cemetery where some of the hospital patients who didn't make it are buried.
This takes us past The Residency which proudly flies the Union Jack.
A path from the back of the residency leads down to Monkey Rock cemetery, which is very peaceful and secluded. There is something, somehow, very British about it.
From here there are spectacular views back across the island to the Sisters complex of peaks which are reckoned to be the youngest on the island, so of which have been created within the last 1000 years.
Once back at The Residency we have a choice of Invalids or Convalescents paths to cut off a big chunk road walking. We decide on Invalids as that sounds more gentle. Well, we can say is that the sanatorium "invalids" must have made of pretty sturdy stuff as it is not for the faint hearted, being rather narrow in places so wheelchairs would definitely be out..
Once back at Georgetown we catch Johnny who suggests a Bar-b-q at the Garden cottage for dinner, but then adds that as he is working in the afternoon we go up in advance. I had been fighting shy of driving up the ramps till now as Johnny's current Landrover needs a multipoint turn on some of the tight ramp corners, but having walked up it doesn't look so bad.
So we set off and driving up took a fraction of the time we took this morning walking. Paddy loves it up there as it is much cooler.
Finn, meanwhile is off like a shot as he has probably caught the scent of a rabbit. Just as well this is a garden on a big scale and not a prim and proper English country garden as Finn would soon have demolished it.
We have seen a lot of rabbits on this visit and never saw any last time, which may be co-incidence but it is likely to be related to the elimination of the feral cats.
Not longer after this picture was taken the mists suddenly came down and we retreated indoors. Then Johnny turns up and proceeds to light the bar-b-q. This is not done in boy scout fashion with two sticks, but takes a whole packet of fire lighters; still it was very windy. In fact it was managing to be windy and misty at the same time, the weather on Ascension is not always what one expects.
After dinner we drive back down to Georgetown, but by now it is rainy so negotiating the ramps in the dark and wet with the need to need multipoint of some of the steep corners was certainly interesting, if rather slow, driving.
Still all great fun and a day that was definitely different from a typical day back in the UK.