Alas, it’s been too long away from the blog, and I apologize dear readers, if there’s indeed anyone still left out there reading this. Things are winding up for a trip to Tanzania in February 2015, a climb to the roof of Africa on Mt Kilimanjaro, then a Serengeti immersion safari. In the meantime, the legs and the joints are getting their buffers built, with long haul walks across the San Francisco Peninsula head, and forested climbs up nearby mountains, such as this misty morning walk up Mt Tamulpais (Mt Tam) where sunbeams illuminated our path.
I’m overhauling the site to accommodate pictures from locations beyond Saba I’ve taken, folks, hence the extraordinary amount of time between blogposts. But with the ramp up of daily life in the city, it’s slugging along a lot slower than I’d like. Ah well. Hang in there. More good stuff to come.
Any Saban worth their salt does a ramble up Thais Hill, looming over The Bottom, St John’s, and the twisting Road to Fort Bay. But I’ve still no idea hwat exactly this marker is. There’s a couple of them starting at the base from St John’s. Any ideas?
This pic is from the bone dry days of early March in Saba, rambling along the Giles Quarter coastline and aiming the camera up past the ruins of the old beekeeper rocks, the cloud on the edge of Mt Scenery to the left, Peak Hill in the center, Booby Hill and The Level to the right. Note how very dry this is….it hardly even resembles the Caribbean.
Generally speaking, for Saba jungle images I took while I was there, I have to reduce the saturation of the color green, because it’s so incredibly green on your way up, it tends to blow out your eyes ability to pick out detail. I let the green be in this picture, so you can really get a sense of the kinds of jungle flora around you, on trees, ferns, plants, and the man made volcanic stone walls that line some of the hike to Mt Scenery. It’s the most strenous official trail on Saba, and I summited ten times during my four months there. I always discovered something new and delightful.
For those of you who’ve summited Mt Scenery, this particular structure is very distinct and unique on the scenery path. Care to guess where on the path it is?
Now that the April rains have come at last to slowly refill bone dry cisterns, lets give a pictorial nod to Saba’s rugged side during the drought, the intimidating cliffs and contours from below, the high and wispy stratus clouds with no moisture, the tough beauty that caused Columbus to skip trying a landing at the island after circumnavigating it.
Interesting to note: they are now clearing the foreground spot in this picture with an eye towards wind turbines. Alt energy on Saba? If true, most excellent.
The Beekeepers of Saba
Spending a lot of time down on the Giles quarter coastline lately, coming up ridges and checking out the unique flora and fauna down there, as well as unusual and unique ruins. I showed this picture to the locals, asking what this big stone wall was for. It extends in a big circle, so I figured it for a pasture or remains of the sugar cane plantations in the late 1800’s (BTW, Saba no longer grows sugar cane…the dry climate can’t support it natively, either).
But oddly enough, folks told me it was for some kind of beekeeper’s colony, which puzzled me, as I’m not sure what good the stone wall encircling a bee haven would do. I’ll inquire around a little further to see what the scoop is.
Another early morning hike down to the harbor, meander along the coastline, and voila, snapped this fellow doing what his family has been doing for more than a hundred years. Came up the Dancing Place ridge to Windwardside and started collecting boxes for shipping.
With three weeks remaining, guess I’m finally winding down. On the other hand, many folks would give an arm or leg just to have three weeks away from the frenetic pace of their lives, so no melancholy me ’til I’m off the rock and in the city once more.
“The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consumer nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.”
― Philip Connors
Though this quote is in reference to hiking and camping on the mountain, I still think it sums up the essence of my coming here, particularly that last bit. I love the city I live in, but equally do I love this rugged rock, the peace and tranquility of its folks and its setting, above and below the water. People ask me if I miss the city, and my general answer is no, I’m focused on wringing out every bit of distraction free relaxation until the day I leave, and on the plane, I’ll get excited about where I’m going; I’m so much better at living in the moment at this stage in life, no apologies or regrets.
When you walk down the steep and sidewinder curves of The Road down to Fort Bay, you can take a mild detour to climb onto the hill above the harbor, across from Bunker Hill. Rather than looking towards the sea, where the Dutch Navy frigate was bringing in 60,000 liters of relief water to the hospital, the government building, and the old folks home due to our current drought, I looked back up at Thais Hill, which looms over the road, and up to the edge of the St John’s Flat, close to where I live. Never a shortage of new angles, and this one really shows off the rugged nature of this auld rock, forever subject to the wear and tear of weather, the thin wisps of stratus clouds high aloft and skimming the atmosphere. Not bad, Saba, not bad at all.
Clouds and Fierce Waves Turned To Glass
Though it may not look like it, I took this image in near darkness at a sunset BBQ. The shutter was open 30 seconds, which turns the water into an aqua pond, the waves against the shore into a misty swirl, and the clouds into a blue purple glass.
We’re in March, and the clock is finally ticking down on my time here on beautiful Saba. Cliche, but damn, time goes so fast, and there’s nowhere to hold onto to try and reign it in or slow it down. Let’s see what else remains in these final weeks for my lens, for my novel in progress, for music I compose, for great times with friends on Saba. I’ve accumulated such a wealth of images I like, I’m considering pulling together a limited run coffee table picture book. Sound interesting?
Day Off, Mr. Chef? Nothing A Precarious Climb Can’t Cure
Michael Chammaa is the Lebanese born chef and proprietor of the Brigadoon restaurant, along with his wife Tricia. He also happens to be a bit of a fitness freak, a divemaster, and as readers of my blog may remember, he also knows some rather challenging off trail excursions that really put me up close and personal with Saba’s rugged volcanic terrain.
A couple days ago, I asked Michael to return with me to Great Hill and the Saba whale, in an attempt to tackle the tail, which I didn’t do on my own when I came last. One side story: the great whale tail is also the namesake for Saba’s celebrated dive sites Tent Reef, Tent Wall, and Tent Deep, as the rock, covered with red lichen, is clearly visible from the sea below, and looks like a three pointed tent (or maybe a teepee to me).
It rained like crazy on our way up Paris Hill to get to the whale, and as usual, Michael had other plans as well; we popped on headlamps, climbed up some boulders and came across a cave entrance straight out of Indiana Jones, with hanging vines at its mouth, a dark cavern beyond. For the next hour, the Chef challenged my fat butt with corkscrew and cliff hanging moves and descents into the belly of the whale. The good news? It was a dry, dusty cave, no goat droppings, threatening stalactites, and no signs of insect life. (Slightly) bad news? When we had penetrated roughly 120ft (38m) in and 40 ft (12m) down into the volcanic nether regions, we came across a main cavern room that had dropped rocks on an entrance hole since the last time Michael had been there, 18 months earlier, which had me momentarily uneasy, if a few more rocks decided to drop. But it was solid in there, and we climbed our way out with no issues, and I had another unique Saba adventure under my belt. No pictures…too dusty and didn’t want to risk dropping the camera along a shelf into the darkness.
We came out and it was still raining and blowing with gusts up to 30-40mph (50-60kph). I told Michael I needed a better day to tackle the tail, and of course, he ignored me and went straight there, where I filmed his rapid 2:12 second ascent. I hope the pictures give you a scale and perspective on how intimidating this climb is up close, with its dropoffs. I’m sure it’s a pithy effort for bouldering/rock climbing specialists, but for big Hawaiian dudes, its a challenge for another drier day. But if you’re interested in seeing a quick, crazy climb, check the short video out to watch Michael use weak weed roots to climb up in his tennis shoes, up volcanic boulders shining slick with rain. Yikes. The things we do on Saba when we’re bored. D’Oh!