It’s Christmas, 2012 – wishing you the happiest of holidays to you and yours wherever you are. Lots of interesting pictures and mini-stories to share with you on this lovely day in Saba, Dutch Caribbean.
If you have the bandwidth, be sure and click on the smaller pictures in this post to blow them up to their full resolution selves. I’m uploading them full sized so folks can see all the great detail on Saba.
On Christmas Eve, I did my 22 minute walk on The Road to Windwardside, the largest village on Saba, nestled roughly around 1400 feet elevation with views to the northeast to the islands of St. Maarten, and St. Barts and to the southeast Statia, St Kitts and Nevis, and on clear days, Monsterrat. More importantly, Windwardside is nestled in the foothills and valley below Mt Scenery, which presides above it like an intimidating parent. Generally, Mt Scenery has its top clouded by the fog bank for which its known (and I’ve written about in prior posts), but this is the dry season, so the communication tower is clearly visible 1400 feet above the village. If you look at prior Windwardside post pics from Mt Scenery, this is a picture of Windwardside from the opposite side, from a steep road up to The Level and Booby Hill. I had Christmas Eve dinner with a friendly Canadian gal named Susan at Shearwater Resort up on Booby Hill, and I climbed this road twice in doing so. The breezes are intermittent and cooling, with 15-20mph gusts that cool the sweat off my overheated core after dragging my sorry butt up these steep hills. Since I wanted to dress in a little nicer shirt for dinner, I made the 30 minute jaunt from my St Johns cottage (about a 500 ft elevation gain) in my quick dry shirt, cooled down for a half hour outside the resort, changed shirts and I was good to go. I’m a San Francisco food lover (“foodie”) and I have to say, Saba has a pretty impressive ratio of fine chefs on the island for a population of 1400 or so, all the more creative because lots of the food has to get shipped in from the other islands: St. Maarten or farther. Christmas Eve dinner was beef tenderloin with a fine cheese wafer with both a cream sauce and a demiglace. Not bad.
Colors and Cottages
All Christmas Eve day, I wandered around Windwardside, unsure of the protocol for taking pictures and not wanting to step all over private property, although on Saba the “private” concept is somewhat relative. I’ve been particularly cautious around cemeteries, though I’m very tempted, as the crypts are semi-above ground, and generally sealed in the fiery gray volcanic rock endemic to the island. I decided to snap a couple pictures of the Saba History Museum (which I’ve not been to yet) and an Anglican Church located at the entrance to the village. The reds, whites, and greens just pop on this island. Ocean, village, or mountain views, pictures simply can’t capture the dramatic–sometimes overwhelming–beautiful views on the island. I don’t want to get used to it. I choose to be immersed, as this is the kind of place where nature is a spirituality unto itself. Can’t help but feel, calm, relaxed and unhurried wherever I wander. Talk to any locals or the expats who gave it all up to come here and live, and it’s the personification of jeune c’est quoi; you can’t put your finger on how to explain Saba, you simply have to be here, as the cliche goes. Below is a long lensed shot of Saba from The Road to The Level that provides a cool perspective of the bright red roofs, whitewashed sides, and gabled shutters that are indicative of the Saban architecture. Not having been to Holland, I’ve not idea whether this is what Amsterdam or rural Holland must look like, but it’s consistent and beautiful here. That’s the Catholic Church in Windwardside below. As the son of an almost-nun, I think I sort of remember what happens in there, but I happen to be a recovering Catholic myself, so my thoughts are the usual garble of remembered dogma, community, and cool wafers and wine for kids on Sunday.
Here There Be Hurricane Ghosts
The last major hurricane to smack Saba head on with real and serious damage was 1998’s Hurricane Georges, a nasty whippersnapper that tapped 6 islands and managed $6 billion in damage. I remembering visiting Saba in 1995 by way of s/v Polynesia, one of the fleet of Windjammer sailing ships, and I vividly recall getting chased by Hurricane Luis down in these waters, a massive green blotch that consumed most of the ship’s macro scale radar. By comparison to, say, nearby St. Kitts (which you can see in many ocean pics from this blog’s prior posts), Saba was relatively spared from the wrath of Georges. Though there are sources that say Saba is impacted by more hurricanes than any other island in the world, as far as I know, the island has suffered no direct hurricane deaths. But there was a one fabled structural fatality: Captain’s Quarters, which had hosted Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in its heyday. Here’s a couple pictures of the bar/restaurant hotel, a stark black and white of the place, which appears untouched in 15 years, and the view from the damaged structure out to the sea, perched on the cliff. The hotel itself was cleared in 2007. The owner wasn’t insured (no small matter on Saba, I’d guess) to replace the buildings. I’m told by islanders that a wealthy lady has purchased the property, and plans to renovate it soon. Wandering up the steep street a little further and I came across the bones of another victim. Not sure if this is part of the CQ complex or not, but again, the undisturbed ruins, complete with overgrown foliage, makes for really fascinating visuals, even if it is relatively recent history. Half the reason I take these particular pictures is so I have the details in front of me to describe what I’m seeing to the readers of this murder mystery I’m writing.
The Road Redux
I’ll close this long Christmas post out with more talk of things unchanged; My Christmas Eve walk from Windwardside back to St. Johns on the rollercoaster architectural achievement that is the Road, with its stone masonry of volcanic rock that looks like it could withstand hundreds of years to come. It’s a pleasure to walk along this undulating beast, gazing out on the vast wide Caribbean from on high, down the plunging ravines, watching the multitude of goats of all colors sprint up and down its slopes, sun dropping low in the sky as the night closed out, illuminating the best cloudscapes I’ve seen yet. I hope you agree.
Thanks again for the comments – always appreciated and welcome. If you happen to be fact or spell checking my blog and catch a mistake, please let me know and I’ll get it corrected immediately.
2 thoughts on “Ghosts of Saban Holidays Past”
I don’t recall that Amsterdam was quite as colorful as Saba as April was cold and damp and cottages and buildings blended with grass and dikes and vegetation dark green. Don’t think they needed to collect water from the roofs into cisterns. The pictorial narative has been just sumptious and even though I hate flying in big jets anywhere, I do like puddle jumpers and remember flights from Oahu to Molokai from Hawaiian airlines used those two jet prop canadian aircraft..usually hard landings though. if I were younger, less than 50 years…a trip to Saba would be a must.
I like how you are laying a little mystery to your fiction novel which will be quite a contrast from
the gorgeous scenery. After about 3 months in Saba, you should get island happy…and you know Dad after 17 years on Rock had to leave to US mainland. Love you. DAD
It is all absolutely beautiful and actually mesmerizes me! Its so intriguing ! Your narratives of this adventure are great ! We all spoke of you and your opportunities on Saba. Mike will be anxious to join you. These kind of pictures and your experiences will always be in my memory. Continue to be safe and have fun! I’ll be anxious to read your story. Miss you/Love you Mom