Life on Mars – A claim to fame?

If you are back in Two Boats, you can get access to the other scenic road, the NASA road by continuing out up the hill towards Green Mountain and turning right.  Hidden away to the left in the Mexican thorn bushes are  The Two Boats which give the village its name.  These again are row boats stuck in the ground, and gave shade or shelter to naval crew carrying water down the mountain to Georgetown.  The only school on the island, also called Two Boats, is tucked round the back here and some of the only bus services ferry kids from the other settlements to here and back again each day.  The only other regular bus services are on a Friday and Saturday night to ferry drunk residents back from the clubs.

The main roads on Ascension are well maintained and relatively straight and this had given the opportunity for drunk drivers to race around after a drinking session, and then hit a donkey, another car or just miss that crucial bend and end up a wreck in the lava fields.  I got to know a lot about the road traffic accidents (or RTA) on Ascension.  On the first visit Edsel and I found out that visitor numbers were monitored by the Police Force as they were the ones stamping the passports of  people in an out of the country.  Knowing how many visitors were on island were good for the conservation questionnaires and surveys which monitored usages of footpaths, beaches or sites of interest.  So, as a bit of a bargaining tool to get hold of this information, I offered to help the police with their other data.  Police on Ascension generally only have minor offences to deal with and RTAs were the ones which took up the most time.  I managed to create a little database from their RTA spreadsheet and worked out how to map the information.  I struck up a good relationship with one of the constables there, Johnny Thomas, and we made some maps.  There was a patch of accidents happening on the main road between the US Base and Georgetown not far from the junction of Hogan’s Bypass.  I was partly proud that due to the mapping some road traffic calming methods we introduced.  I was also partly embarrassed because it was quite the topic of conversation.  Speed limit signs had gone up everywhere and close to the accident hotspot a whole series of signs told you to slow down, bend coming up, left turn, and wild animals.  Maybe a bit of overkill but these measures and the introduction of the bus service did bring down what had been a worryingly high incidence of accidents.  I did notice that on one stretch of road the speed limit in one direction was different from the limit the other way, but maybe that was intentional?

Getting back to the tour of the main roads, dropping down from Two Boats you find Travellers Hill.  I have spent much less time here than the other settlements; most of the accommodation and the NAAFI club  are around a semi circular road, similar to Two Boats laid out on a low density housing estate style, or perhaps a low rise hospital.  There were many more single person accommodations here, many of the Saints working for the base complained that the units were not really homely.  But so much of this accommodation was for temporary billets.

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.


One Boat -does what it says on the tin.