Barbuda – birds, hurricanes and history

Today we explored the Barbuda beyond the stunning beaches and found an unhappy island with smiling people.

We paddled across to the sand bar and walked the fifty meters from the ocean to the lagoon where George Jeffrey collected us in his boat and ferried us the two miles against the wind in to town. George was born on the island and seems to have done every job here.

We landed in Codrington, the only settlement on the island and named after the English family who used to own this island. We knew that Barbuda had been hit by Hurricane Irma in autumn 2017 but were still shocked by the damage. Every building had been damaged and maybe only a quarter have been rebuilt or repaired. We were overcome by a feeling of helplessness as we walked through the devastation. Even today on Easter Sunday people were rebuilding various buildings but it still reminded us of an ex war zone we cycled through in Croatia.

Codrington. Eighteen months after the Hurricane

We walked the twelve kilometers to the highest point on the island (38 meters above sea level) and the ruins of Highland House where the Codringtons lived during the slave times. The whole way we saw no signs of agriculture, just the bush. We learned that root crops used to grow well but no one plants them now. On the way back two Italian holiday makers offered us a lift and were surprised that we preferred to walk. Once we explained that we live on a small boat they were understanding.

Back in town we found the bank which is still closed except for an ATM, the closed post office and a supermarket. The restaurants are mostly closed and the bike shop no longer exists. It is a very depressing place and it is not hard to believe the local theory that the inertia is designed to get the people off the island so that the land can be used for luxury hotels. But the people still smile and wave as they do where ever we go.

George Jeffrey

George took us out to visit the Frigate Bird colony. He has a small light boat and a 60hp outboard motor. We flew across the lagoon, looked at a container in the mangroves that “flew” five kilometers in the storm and at thousands and thousands of Frigate Birds. From George we learned not just about the wildlife but about the history of Barbuda and his life on this abandoned island.

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