Ascension Island/NASA Road
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||4.5 miles (7.2 km)|
Ascension Island Government
The NASA Road on Ascension is the natural continuation of the road from Long Beach in Georgetown, if you follow the road markings and signage! However, it is very unlikely that anyone would drive the route end to end in one go, not even tourists. This description is therefore of the last 4.5 miles, a very long but scenic dead end.
The road effectively starts as a TOTSO just south of Travellers Hill, with most traffic turning here between the Airfield and the RAF villages at Travellers Hill and Two Boats. Heading west, a couple of surfaced roads lead to Cable and Wireless installations, but soon the road starts climbing into the hills. With Ascension being a Volcanic island, the landscape along this road is fascinating. First up is the Devils Riding School, a huge volcanic crater with rings of different coloured sand at the bottom, and incredible rock formations surrounding it. After circling round this crater, the road climbs steeply through a series of switchbacks to 300m / 1000ft, passing through a cutting in the volcanic ash near the top. Prominent ahead is the conical Mountain Red Hill, with the lush greenery of Green Mountain off to the left, the top hidden by cloud. On the right, Spoon Crater rises above the road, hiding its interior.
The road dips across a dry stream bed, and then circles around the base of Red Hill, with expansive views of the Atlantic ahead. Coming inland again, the road is climbing once more, with another series of less severe bends lifting us over 500m / 1650ft. It is a lunar landscape that is passed through, despite the greenery of thorn bushes and prickly pear cacti, and with so little traffic there is plenty of opportunity to stop for photos. Ahead the two summits of Weather Post and White Hill can be seen, with dirt roads leading off into the wilderness, eventually winding around these hills. With the deep depression of Cricket Valley on the left, a pair of palm trees finally mark the entrance to the former NASA compound, home to the islands Scouts since decomissioning. A parking area in front of the only surviving building is a useful point from which to explore further, although the road continues around the building and on to a roundabout turning circle on the edge of the cliffs.
The road itself was built in the 1960s to provide access to the NASA station. As such, it seems to have been built to US spec, with a single, solid yellow centre line, and remnants of yellow verge lines. The centre line has celarly been repainted at some time, as two non parallel lines are visible in places, not only that but the line itself doesn't appear to curve, going around bends in a series of sharp corners! With so little rainfall on the island, drainage doesn't appear to have been a consideration of the design, and so the edges of the tarmac rise up the verges, to form longitudinal bumps along the edge of the road, perhaps helping to keep vehicles on the blacktop! However, with so little traffic on the road these days, the vegetation seems to be doing a grand job of reclaiming the road in places, reducing it to S1.5 in places!