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Ascension Island diary - January 14

Day 18 - January 14th


Suddenly its Friday and we are going home tomorrow, and as with most holidays the last week suddenly seems to zip past.

As I am awake early I decide to take a trip down to the airhead and watch our plane coming in on its way down to the Falklands, where it will turn round and be back with us for Saturday evening.  



Ascension is a long way from anywhere, and I did wonder how the American pilots used to find it in WWII as if they missed it they were in trouble. However they did have a radio beacon to guide time in. These days the Air Luxor A-330 Airbus presumably has gps and there is even a  sat-nav display, like one has in a modern car, for the passengers although Ascension is so small, it does not even register as a tiny dot.   


Our plane for Saturday touches down with a little bit of smoke from the tyres, but I hope there is enough tread left for the return trip ;-)
(Actually I cheated a bit here as the pictures were taken earlier in the week on the 5th, but it would have looked exactly the same today)


One of the things that about Ascension Island that strikes a newcomer is the place names, which often sound like they came straight out of a 17th century pirates' guide book. However, unlike most other places in the world, where the meanings of names have got lost in the annals of time, on Ascension the connection is often still there between a place name and the area around it. For example the beach to the southwest of Georgetown is called Dead Man's Beach, and yes, it is opposite the Georgetown cemetery.



Equally past diary entries have referred to Two Boats village, and as the picture above shows there really are two boats. The boats were erected to provide shelter from the unremitting sun in the days when people had to collect water from the top of Green mountain and bring it down in barrels on donkeys. Then the marines built the cast iron pipe (seen in the foreground) but the two boats remain. The shed in the background with the corrugated iron roof is deserted but the gate besides squeaks in the wind making the place feel like a set from a spaghetti western.



After lunch time for another trip to see the Wideawakes aka Sooty Terns

The path from the sign where the Landrover was parked down to the wideawake fairs is a bit like a picture from one of the Mars space buggies, with South Gannet hill, to the left, with the tracking station at the summit making it look very futuristic.  

Meanwhile to the right the lava is a sort of dirty white colour as though someone has been tipping soapy water over it, but in fact the white layer is, in fact, guano.


With more blue sky than last time the wideawakes circling above make an even more impressive sight, some almost hover cheekily beside me but every time I go to take a picture they turn and glide away as though they are camera shy.

On my way back a RAF Tristar has landed. Perhaps it is being used for a secret SAS/SBS mission. 

Later I am told it is just a standard supplies trip, but they would say that wouldn't they. Certainly Ascension makes an ideal staging post for UK or US special mission as it is so far away from prying eyes.

Even though the island has now opened to tourists there is no public transport, however some wags decided to erect a bus top on April 1st a few years back.  We never saw anybody, but we have been assured that on occasions visitors to the island have been spotted waiting in vain for the non-existent bus.


Another April 1st joke was pulled off in Georgetown where an area of sand in the middle of the town, and a long way from the beach,  was carefully re-arranged overnight to resemble the pit left by a nesting turtle together with the characteristic tracks leading away from it. Apparently one local was adamant that he has seen the turtle making its way back to the beach in the early morning.


It being Friday it is a Scout night and this time we are off to the Scout camp site up near the old Nasa base. We form the last vehicle in the convoy and keeping up was no problem along the main Nasa road, but when we turn off down the "motorable trail" it gets a little less like the M25. Having all 12 seats occupied with ourselves and a full complement of scouts, I am driving pretty carefully and soon get left behind as the track needs to be treated with a high degree of caution if one is not used to it.


Still we eventually find the landrover in front waiting for us to catch up and we arrive without getting lost or bending any major parts.

As the campsite is on the windward side of Green mountain and quite high up it is cloudy and a bit chilly, but a few games soon warm everybody up. 

Not quite sure how one decides who wins in circular-tug-of war, but a different variant (below) has no such confusion.

On the menu for tonight is to mix up some gooey stuff,

then grill it on the fire,


and pretend it is really scrumptious.


Lynda says she has done this before and the gooey stuff is called "twisters", but I don't think she enjoyed it as much as Johnny,


and she definitely looks much happy after a big swig of Castles beer.



Johnny and Glenn settle in by the camp fire, but we decide to head back home. My theory is that we will still have some daylight left to negotiate the "motorable trail" but because Ascension is so near the equator there is very little dusk.

Not only is the track full of pot holes to avoid in the dark, we are confronted with little pin-pricks of light and yes, the land crabs are out in force. So now Landrover driving has is a game that has moved up from Level 1 "Miss the pothole" to Level 2  which still has the potholes but also introduces "Don't splat the crab" as the last thing I want is a puncture from one of their claws. Jacking the Landrover in the pitch black to change a tyre would not have been fun. Still we only stop once to convince ourselves that we haven't missed a turning and suddenly the track widens out and we see the security of the Nasa road in front of us.

Then it is a nice simple down hill drive to Georgetown, a short rest and then out to meet Angela and Glenn with Johnny for a goodbye drink or two at the Saints club.


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