Keeping It (Sur)Real In Saba

Telephone Lines, Windwardside, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Telephone Lines, Windwardside, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

The rise of Instagram on the Web has been interesting to me. The program allows ordinary folks to take their digital smartphone pictures and rough them up to look like old Instamatic or Polaroids, so its retro throwback all the way. In that vein of thinking, I kept looking at this picture of a Windwardside road with the telephone lines strung haphazardly to every house, which poses an artistic challenge. My final Jeopardy answer was to rough the picture up, heap some good old film grain on it, and now I’m pleased with the sort of surreal picture that results. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you’ll see it’s definitely a real picture, but when you pull back on it…this unusual image of the village emerges. In the end, its undeniably Saba, which is what I wanted. It could be nothing else in the world with this combo of colors, cottages, and tropical contours.

The Garden of Ed, Eden’s Brother Who Only Nibbles The Low Hanging Fruit

Garden And Maskehorne Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Garden And Maskehorne Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

A Garden Of Earthly Delightful Scents

Yeah, I s’pose this could be any nice garden in the tropics, with bougainvillea, roses, and other plants, shrubs, and trees–whose names I remain blissfully ignorant of–lookin’ pretty. But no, this is Saba where such well tended gardens are rare. Scout’s Cottage is built into the hills of Windwardside below Mt. Scenery, a venerable cottage still visible in photos of Saba from late 1800’s/early 1900’s, and the current owner has really done it up, inside and out. Note that the wooden deck here is actually built around and on top of the main cistern for the house. That’s actually Maskehorne Hill in the background, whose views of Windwardside you may recall from this earlier blogpost.

Sixty Percent Of The Time, This House Works Every Time

St. John's House At The Base Of Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
St. John’s House At The Base Of Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

The last few days have been me getting up earlier and earlier to try and beat the dreaded heat with no wind and do a bunch of ridge hikes up from the Giles Quarter coastline midway between the St. John’s Flat and the Wash Gut up to Windwardside. Saba’s terrain is so rugged and steep, it amplifies the actual distance you’re hiking, which is usually between 3-5 kilometers, but can feel like a lot more. Regardless, even at 7:00am, the heat is beating down mercilessly as I haul my big ol’ self up this rock.

In any case, repeated trips down to Fort Bay to start these coastline-ridge excursions had me passing this little house nestled in the cleft between St John’s Flat and Thais Hill. It’s an old style house, with rare brown wooden shingles rather than the traditional red corrugated tin,though you can’t tell from my processing it in black and white. My guess is that it’s well protected from the ravages of hurricanes and tropical storms as well, but I don’t know yet who, if anyone, lives in this nostalgic little house, but it sure looks cool from above, n’est cd pas?

Violet Ocean, Fiery Sky: Volcanic Ash Makes The Best Sunsets

Montserrat Ash Plume Sunset, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Montserrat Ash Plume Sunset, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Just because the fallout of 1900 metric tons of sulfur ash from the perrenially active volcanic isle of Montserrat downwind of us made for one of the best sunsets many recent locals can recall, doesn’t mean I wish for that kinda thing. Sabans tell me it happens around 3-4 times a year. The whole day, Saba was hot hot hot and a bluish haze hung over the island, smelling like rotten eggs. But when night approached, I was having dinner at Scout’s Place in Windwardside and this is one of the sunset images I captured off the terrace.

Little House On The Caribbean Prairie

I visited Tricia down in Lower Hell’s Gate and came upon this little house perched quietly on the cliff, fronted by a messy tangle of foliage above the great Caribbean expanse, looking out on a bright, almost nuclear-lit horizon in the wake of good storm, with Statia presiding in the right upper corner. It’s interesting to me how our visual brain discards all the noisy information it sees in a scene like this when you’re looking at it, and all that cluttery detail reappears when you look at what the camera’s eye saw. Post processing for me is really painting the picture as close as I can to what I see in my mind’s eye when I take it. Some purist photographers disregard these processing techniques, but in the end, it’s all about aesthetics to me; you like an image or don’t, for reasons you may or may not understand, or it gives you pause to examine its detail, or you turn the page or click onwards…

The House Of Sand And Fog


English Quarter Ramble

Yet another century or more old shuttered house whose owners are probably abroad and may never return. I was doing my best itinerant vagabond imitation in the English Quarter, returning from a visit with a friend with a bad knee and a penchant for 1 pack a day kill sticks when I
I saw the fog rolling fast over Mt Scenery, and below it, this lovely place nestled within lush foliage and flowers.

I’m a hack photographer compared to so many others–even on this island–but if you put a monkey in a room and have him pound at the keys of the typewriter…or laptop, in modern adage…eventually, he types the Gideon Bible. I get lucky a lot, and I’m on a tiny island rife with explorable nooks and crannies that yield treasure views.

When We Were Young, And Our Hearts Were An Open Book

Shuttered Cottage, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Another Shuttered Ghost

This isn’t my favorite picture, but I keep coming back and back to it, intrigued by who its owners might be or have been. The shutters are closed, the whitewashed sides streaked brown with dirt and debris from Saban winds and rain. Looks like time has run past this Windwardside cottage with its great tree, its yard grown tangled and wild.

How long ago did children laugh and play in your yard, little house?

Good Morning, Saba

It’s day 5, and I’m at Scout’s Place, a restaurant in Saba’s biggest village of Windwardside that has reasonable–if not fast in US terms–WiFi. As this is my first post on Saba, forgive me in advance if my chronology is all over the place. I’ll talk about the journey here in a later post, but if we’re all going to live this vicariously, lets chew on the scenery a bit, shall we?

Vineyard Cottage, the 150 year old cottage I’m renting a lot larger than I imagined; this picture only shows the front of it. It’s typical Saban Dutch style, as is the whole island by law; corrugated red roofs to channel precious rainwater into cisterns, white sides with forest green gabled wooden shutters on its windows. The yard is amazing, a wooden bench, two wooden chairs, and a whole wooden picnic table in the side yard not visible here. The cottage itself is two big bedrooms split by a rustic living room that leads into a decent sized kitchen with a table and a small Saban stove.

The views? Well, in modern parlance, they don’t suck. This is my first Saban sunrise on Sunday morning, looking out my front door across my little yard. You see the little village of St Johns a hundred feet below me, the islands of Statia, St. Kitts, and Nevis in the distance, the large grape tree and…what’s that? A white picket fence? My alpha male self would be telling football stories if the whole scene wasn’t so damn beautiful. Really. It’s surreally beautiful here. Pitch quiet…roosters crow, a goat bleets, wind rustles the trees, the occasional buzz of the school bus coming by to drop the kids off at the local school in St. John’s. That’s it – nothing about this island pushes you to finish anything in a hurry, so you simply don’t. Bliss.

The single undulating road winds up, down, left and right; it’s a great workout for me to walk to the villages. I could blab all day with photos but I’ll save you the reading and space this out. The stories of what’s happened to me on this island already are hilarious. Today at 2pm, a visit with the Dutch island police. Oops. Til then – keep the comments a-comin’.