4.1.13 Sun Salutation

Banana flower 790 xxx
photos by george billard
Just back from Antigua (also known as Wadadli), the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, where I enjoyed the annual family vacation, courtesy of my very generous in-laws. The island was spotted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. The land and native people were ultimately colonized by Europeans. Some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may have played a part in the massive number of native deaths. Others hold that the enforced starchy, low-protein diet contributed to severe malnutrition of the indigenous residents who had been accustomed to a diet fortified with protein from sealife. Now largely dependent on tourism, Antigua is a stark, poverty-riddled landscape peppered with luxury resorts. The beaches are undeniably beautiful, with crystalline turquoise waters and white sand the texture of cake flour. I'm not into tanning, but I can lie on the beach in a shady spot and read to my heart's content. And I'm always interested in the local flora and fauna. On those fronts, Antigua did not disappoint.
Nectar 790 xxx
nectar of the gods
There were several kinds of palms—date, coconut, banana—their enormous green fronds rustling in the balmy breezes. The banana palm produces these large purple flowers and their abundant nectar lured a continual stream of small birds, especially the tiny antic hummingbirds, black with iridescent green.
Bananaquit 790 xxx
little big bird
These yellow-breasted bananaquits provide a relentless soundtrack, making an unfortunate sound like someone sucking air through their teeth. Between that, the constant whistle of the world's boldest grackles and the tree frogs' nocturnal din there's not much quiet to be had. That said, the morning cacophany of the birds was a great way to wake up.
Nest 790 xxx
home sweet home
The bananaquits build these spherical nests with a side entrance hole, often incoporating them into man-made objects like lampshades and garden trellises. 
Chirp 790 xxx
bird on the wire
Plovers 790 xxx
the sandpipers
These pectoral sandpipers (Calidris melanotos), shy and quick, flitted about the shoreline in the early mornings.
White heron 790 xxx
big bird
We spent long hours watching this white heron hunting for fish lurking among the mangrove roots in the marshy shallows.
Green heron 790 xxx
green heron
We saw squat green herons like this one when we were in southern India, floating along canals in a rattan houseboat. There was another sort of Antiguan heron with a single back-swooping plume on its head that stalked the peripheries of the cove; sorry not to have a shot of that one. Black pelicans and dramatic frigate birds wheeled overhead.
Bougainvillea 790 xxx
fire bush
Bright red hibiscus, yellow aloe flowers and these fuchsia bougainvillea are typical blooms in this Caribbean climate, though they're also common sights in California.
Dates 790 xxx
hot dates
When squeezed, these red dates hanging in bunches from palm trees exuded a viscous yellowish fluid. I'm not sure if these can be dried and eaten or not...
Pods 790 xxx
There were many different types of pods hanging from trees on the island; this one is wild or false tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum), a species of tree in the pea family.
Mongoose 790 xxx
snake charmer
We saw donkeys, horses and goats on our ride from the airport, but at the resort the only mammals were a thin, feisty tabby cat and loads of these furtive mongooses. Word is they were imported from India in the 19th century to contain the rats in the sugar cane fields.
G 790 xxx
traveling companion
I imported my own furry creature, a favorite traveling companion who makes every voyage a trip to bountiful.


I feel like I just took a vacation... except for the last creature. Thank you!
Julie Gaines on April 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm —
Those first pictures brought me right back to feasting on banana flower salads on a trip through Cambodia... I feel like I've had my own mini sun-filled tropical vacation reading this post. A nice escape on a dreary rainy day here. Thanks... and welcome home!
Prairie on April 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm —
Prairie, I loved the banana flower salads we ate in Laos - if only they had served something so delicious and exotic at the resort buffet!
laura on April 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm —
Spectacular! Must have been delightful to explore nature's contrasts in a totally different geography. I am inspired!
Jan on April 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm —
Thanks for a delightful visit to tropical climes from the chilly highlands of Ecuador...
judy on April 2, 2013 at 8:33 am —
Ooooo...none of your other pics on this blog ever showed the handsome husband so clearly. He is a cross between (already hot) Malkovich and Even Hotter. Wooooo Hooooo! Good on you, Laura! Gorgeous couple!
Amie on April 2, 2013 at 9:11 am —
tee hee
laura on April 2, 2013 at 9:21 am —
Brings back memories of a cottage on the beach my Dad rented after he sold the house we grew up in and treated us all to a vacation on Antigua. That was the late seventies when hotels were just starting to pop up. You're right - the water and beaches are sublime. Great photos, especially the rare bird at the end.
Bill Lutz on April 4, 2013 at 8:13 pm —
Enjoyed travelogue
Roy on April 7, 2013 at 11:37 pm —
Just beautiful photos, and the colors. Happy you're home Laura, and good to see a photo of you, George! When you have a minute, check my comment on your Pin of Colette. What a woman, eh?
Susan on April 8, 2013 at 10:46 am —