Since Hurricane Irma devastated the island, tourism representatives have been working hard to encourage visitors back to the region. On a trip to Antigua, Andrew Doherty finds Barbudan recovery efforts are yielding positive results.
The sun streams through gaps in the foliage overhead as I bite into the best slice of pineapple I have ever tasted. Behind me, two dogs lie in the dust as calypso music crackles from a tinny speaker in a roadside hut selling fresh mangos and jars of spicy jellies made from ingredients grown in the owner’s garden.
My driver, Cleo Henry, tells me the Antigua black pineapple is considered the sweetest in the world. As I nod in agreement while wiping juice from my chin, she passes me a bottle of sorrel drink – a slightly bitter concoction made from the petals of the hibiscus plant and infused with cinnamon and sugar.
“If you are hot, this will really refresh you,” she laughs heartily, watching me struggle to hold the ice-cold bottle between the bulging bag of pineapple slices and cashew fruit spilling from my cradled arms. “It also makes for an excellent rum mixer if you like that sort of thing,” she grins.
Here on Antigua, in my picture-perfect scene, it’s hard to imagine the devastating storm, Irma, that rampaged through the area last September. Neighbouring island Barbuda found itself directly in the path of the hurricane, with Barbudans having to flee the 155mph winds that reduced 90% of the nation’s structures to rubble.