Discovered in 1501, the Portugese named it Conception Island. Then in 1503, it was discovered once again by the French (who didn't know the Portugese had already discovered it) and named Ascension Island and the name stuck. We stopped at Ascension Island in 2007 and really enjoyed the visit. We passed within 200-300 miles of the island a week or so ago and opted to keep on going. Why not a stop at Ascension this time? Well, there are more rules and regulations now...an advance permit is required, for one thing. No biggie really. Landing and Immigration fees have increased, but we could have swallowed that. We opted to pass by mostly because we're kind of anxious to get across the Atlantic and we think our time will be better spent in exploring new places in the Guianas rather than another stop at Ascension. Sometimes, we make compromises. Ascension is a working island with no permanent population and little to no inherent culture. All that said, since we were in the neighborhood, I thought I'd at least mention the high points of our visit in 2007.
The most memorable part of Ascension for us was watching the green turtles lay their eggs and watching the hatchlings head for the ocean. This great turtle migration from Brazil to Ascension takes place annually between January and May.
There are two landscapes on Ascension. There's the alien-like moonscape of volcanic remains at sea level. It's all rough, black volcanic rubble. We roamed around and found cemeteries and little beaches and markers. It was hot and barren.
The other landscape is the lush, green tropical rain forest of Green Mountain National Park at the top of Ascension's volcanic peak. Bright red Ascension lilies were in bloom. We hiked several postbox walks and enjoyed the cool mists and dense foliage in sharp contrast to the black volcanic rock at sea level.
Our son, Brennan, had alerted us to Geocaches on the island. Folks hide a “treasure” cache and provide GPS coordinates for others to find the cache. We spent a day geocaching which ended up being great fun and exhausting, traipsing over volcanic rock in the noonday heat.
We visited the tiny island museum and a derelict fort. We saw the historical turtle kraals where thousands of turtles were kept and sold for meat to passing ships, to the point of near extinction for the green turtles. We traipsed around Georgetown and visited the American airbase. We spent a week, and probably saw all there was to see.
And though we're not golfers, we stopped at Guinness' Book of World Records “world's worst (and least green) golf course”. Wanted to make sure that Ric from Boca Raton got a chance to see this, though we didn't stop this time around. Ric, you'll have to play nine holes here yourself one day!