Life on Mars – One Boat, Two Boats

Weirdest of all is a rock on the roadside before you reach One Boat itself.  Its origins lost in the mists of transience and forgetfulness, although some claim it was a cairn built in the naval period, a tradition has grown up that if you are about to leave Ascension Island and you never want to come back, you paint it.  There was apparently a lizard carving atop the cairn, and originally you just “painted the lizard”, but nowadays the ceremony is just to throw a tin of garish paint over it.  Over the years the lizard has merged in with the rest of the cairn with so many coats.  Some emigrants are less accurate in their paint throwing than others and much of the ground around is smattered like a Jackson Pollock painting.  Many people obviously still do not like being stationed on the island, maybe homesick for their families or not used to the limiting factor of its size and options, as I have seen the colour change several times over ten years.  I, I must point out, have never ever considered painting the lizard.

Beyond One Boat the road runs straight and parallel to the old pipe that fed water from Green Mountain to Georgetown.  On the left is the “Chicken Coop”, a set of old wooden sheds where Conservation keep some of their hardware for maintaining the footpaths and vegetation. The road gradually becomes steeper and you bend up a hairpin and enter Two Boats itself.

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Two Boats to Two Sisters

There is an air about Two Boats that I love.  Compared to Georgetown it is a very modern settlement, built primarily to house workers at the BBC facilities at English Bay.  The site was chosen because the climate is fresher than on the coast, and much more hospitable than the north of the island, and it nestles pleasantly in amongst a set of hills.  Green Mountain towers over the east, but the perfect shapes of the Two Sisters and other scoria cones help shelter the village from the worst of the wind.  Low density housing set around a series of gently curving roads with regular open spaces for play areas and sports fields; it has the feel of a nicely constructed 1960’s English housing estate.  Which to all intents and purposes, it is.  I often get  a twinge of nostalgia when in Two Boats as it has hints of some of the nicer housing estates of my childhood in south Liverpool, right down to the style of the little street lights. Curiously Two Boats has a hint of the ranks like Georgetown, with separate social clubs for managers and workers.

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Life on Mars – Heading out of Georgetown

Georgetown was where Edsel and I worked, slept, ate and for most of the time partied.  I even exercised around its environs.  Despite Ascension’s tiny size there is still more to it than just its capital.  You just had to be very careful if you were walking not to stumble, but there were also a few scenic roads away from the usual ones between the settlements that you could drive along to look at the views and soak in the atmosphere.  These roads were constructed when some installation or facility had been built – the golf balls of Comfortless Cove, the power station at English Bay, or the two roads, one to NE Bay where the European Space Agency had built a tracking station, and the NASA Road, which as the name suggests, led to a similar facility for the American Space Agency.

A nasty hump on the direct road out of Georgetown to the east meant that it was made one way, downhill only into town.  So Georgetown was effectively at a dead end of the main road system and you had to head south first before going anywhere else.  This road was of incredible quality, and I found out from a Director of the Technical Services for Government, Roy Drinkwater, that it was made from left over tarmac from the airport.  American Contractors had come in to resurface the runway and had so much material left over that they offered to resurface the road from the airhead to Georgetown, and indeed the excess allowed them to go right through town and up to Long Beach.  I invented a road numbering scheme for Ascension Island, in my nerdy way.  This route was of course the A1.  I was pleased several years later to see a map with the road numbers on them pinned up to the departures lounge at the airhead, but I am not sure it has been widely adopted.

Turning left at a road called Hogan’s Bypass you keep climbing as you arch round to meet the old main road by which, if you had nothing better to do, could return to Georgetown.  But most turn right here and head up the hill.  Two Boats Village can be seen perched on its little ridge nestled in amongst the mountains above, but this is a long even gradient and the distance is deceptive.

There is a sort of industrial feel to this area.  A cluster of containers called Hobby Park are strewn around the plain behind the thorn bushes are where several islanders have small storage or business units.  Then there is Birdies Filling Station, and further up on the right the road to the land fill site.

But there are three other quirky features in this area, which most people call One Boat.  For some reason, shelter or shade related no doubt, somebody upended an old row boat in the gravel. Now it sits there in case a bus service ever starts. On the left is the world’s most challenging golf course.  Eighteen holes where the fairway is rock, the tees and greens sand and you really don’t want to negotiate the rough.

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One Boat -does what it says on the tin.