Finding the World’s Smallest Drawbridge…

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Written by: Christina Owen

…in a Tropical Storm in Bermuda

I’ll start in the middle of the story – with me nearly falling off my scooter in shock as a crack of thunder so loud that I was convinced the sky was falling down sounded directly above my head. The man in the car next to me leaned out and said: “Bet that gave you a start, didn’t it!” He wasn’t wrong. I was soaked to the skin. Waterproofs were something I hadn’t thought to bring to Bermuda.

It may have been November but I had been expecting sub-tropical heat and wall to wall sunshine. And mostly I got it. Except this day – my last day after a week on the island. I wanted to see the world’s smallest working drawbridge and I was running out of time. My flight left for London that night. But I woke that day to a surprisingly violent storm, one that showed no sign of ceasing as the morning wore on. In order to reach the drawbridge, I would have to travel for half an hour along a rural coastal road on a hired scooter, at some speed. A storm might complicate the matter.

The story begins, of course, with me deciding to get on the scooter and go anyway.

Bermuda is shaped roughly like a horseshoe and has three main roads that traverse it from west to east. Helpfully, they are called North Shore Road, Middle Road and South Road. Scooters are a popular mode of transport and a good way to see the island. You can ride from one end of Bermuda to the other in an hour. In a thunderstorm, this becomes harder because being pelted in the face with rain is not a particularly desirable (or safe) way to travel. On a hot day however, it’s the fastest way to cool down (wear sunglasses otherwise you risk dust in the eyes, and beware of helmet hair) and a wonderful way to travel.

Rider on the storm

Storm still raging, I rode out of Hamilton, the capital city of Bermuda, and headed west. I got onto Middle Road, determined to persevere, despite being lashed in the eyeballs with falling pellets of stinging water and every so often: hail.  I love things that are billed as being the biggest or smallest of their kind, and while I was under no illusion that seeing a tiny drawbridge would take any longer than 5 minutes and would cease to be interesting after 3 and a half, I felt like I SHOULD see it and I wasn’t going to let a little bit of rain stop me. Or a lot of rain. Or the deafening cracks of gunshot thunder echoing out from apocalyptic storm clouds.

I rode past Bermuda’s Happy Man, now immortalised in statue form on the outskirts of Hamilton. The man himself stands at the same junction every morning between 6-10am and waves to motorists, shouting encouragements – the aim being to brighten their day. I suspected it was raining too hard for him to be out and about today, but his statue waved at me as if to say ‘you go girl – don’t give up now’ or perhaps ‘you fool, turn back before you get struck by lightning!’ He’s so famous that at a craft market I found at the Royal Naval Dockyards (on the very western tip of Bermuda) I discovered you can buy him in hand-sewn doll form. And I did.

Heeding omens

Happy Man’s (imaginary) cries of warning caused me to slow down and think. In a minute, I would be heading for South Road and then I would be exposed to the coastline. A fortnight earlier, Bermuda had been battered by two hurricanes in the space of a week. It was avocado season but there were no avocados to be found, because the hurricanes had ripped them off the trees and turned them into missiles – hurling them into the ocean or at the heads of anyone foolish enough to be out and about in such weather.

I didn’t fancy being ripped from my scooter and tossed into the Atlantic like an avocado. Another bolt of lightning lit up the sky above my head. The weather-loving part of me wanted to stand on a narrow spit of land next to the world’s smallest drawbridge and watch the storm, knowing all the while that I was standing on a tiny island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, dwarfed by nature at its most volatile.

The life-loving part of me decided that if I was to make it safely home to my family that night, I should turn back now. It was disappointing, but in the end I had to admit defeat. The drawbridge would still be waiting for me next time I visited the island, and in the meantime, I would still be alive to tell the tale of how I ALMOST made it there while the heavens rained watery fury down on my scooter helmet.

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