After Climbing A Great Hill, One Only Finds That There Are Many More Hills To Climb

Thais Hill Marker
Thais Hill Marker

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?

Your Heartbeat Is Music That Assures You Will Survive Even When The Whole World Leaves You Alone

Victor and His House, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Victor and His House, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Victor is a well known face to Saban locals, hitching rides back and forth between his house in St John’s (shown here), The Bottom, and Windwardside. He’s related to Eddie Hassell of Swinging Doors back through generations, and he has an fascinating history on Saba that’s a story in itself, tangled up in dark mystery and rumors, and a long stint in a mental home (he’s been out for many years). I got the sense that the island looks after Victor in a subtle way. In all my conversations with him–and there were many–I never found him the least bit violent, odd or strange. He’s a very low key fellow, smiling and generally happy, remarkably articulate in one on one conversation, friendly, and openly talks about his past if asked. The one memory he does continue to bring up is that of a lost love he had and was engaged to marry, only to have it dissolve through events out of his control. Of course, all of this is his recollection, but I tended to believe him, as he was remarkably consistent on the details. Victor’s house sits below Thais Hill, at the start of the switchbacks that descend to The Bottom. If you visit Saba, you are almost certain to run into him…wave and say hi, and he will wave back, as so many friendly Sabans will.

These Cliffs Are No Country For Old Men

Thais Hill And The St John's Flat From Fort Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Thais Hill And The St John’s Flat From Fort Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

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 Winding Road Gathers Chess Playing Rock Rats

The Road Winds Down To Fort Bay, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
The Road Winds Down To Fort Bay, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

10am WinAir flight out on this sunny Easter Sunday, a fifteen minute jaunt over to Saint Maarten, where I’ll switch off to USAir, bop over to Charlotte, North Carolina, then across the expansive continental US, landing in San Francisco International Airport near midnight, a taxi to my brother’s place in Bernal Heights, a sleepover, then a BART train to the city, where I’ll walk a couple blocks to my loft, pick up my keys, drop my bags off, journey to Sacramento via Zipcar to retrieve my furry friends Snoopy and Lucy; they will meow the whole way back, no doubt, as they are unfond of car rides.

*Sigh* Exit island life, back to city life. Saba is an utterly lovely island. If you haven’t been, then go. You’ll see. If you have been, well, isn’t it about time you planned that return trip? In any case, put it on your bucket list, regardless, and find all the places I took my photos. See, a scavenger hunt challenge πŸ˜‰

As for this blog, it probably transitions from a travel blog to a blog of adventures in SFO, though daily blogposts are unlikely to continue…that’s high commitment with regular life. But that’s ok, I imagine. One writer’s sojourn to the tropics becomes a traversal through quirky city life.

So long, and thanks for all the fish! See you in San Francisco…soon, I hope.

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?

The Greatest Gift Of Life On The Mountain Is Time

Road To Fort Bay Winds Down Below Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean
Road To Fort Bay Winds Down Below Thais Hill, Saba, Dutch Caribbean

β€œThe 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.

The South Coast Is The Gold Coast


Thais Hill Lookout

The countryside around St. John’s in this expansive panorama of a Saban afternoon looks almost pastoral with the foothills below a foggy Mt Scenery, the St John’s flat, Windwardside and the island of Statia on the far horizon. Where are those sheepherders? Ah, thats Basque country I’m thinking of… Beauty like this is status quo on Saba…amazing,eh? And the clouds ALWAYS cooperate in the drama as well.

Long Grass Off The Not So Beaten Path

Eastern View of Saba's South Coast From Thais Hill, Dutch Caribbean
Eastern View of Saba’s South Coast From Thais Hill, Dutch Caribbean

So, Uh, How Do I Get Up There?

I’ve traversed all but one of Saba’s official trails now, so I figured its time to start going off trail, beginning with Thais Hill, a big rounded hill with a plateau that divides St John’s and The Bottom, figuring it would give me some decent new views. I stopped by Major’s house on the way there and he and a friend pointed to an alley between houses, a march across a dip of yellow long grass, and then meandering up through the scrub. Though I’ve been told its generally ok to walk where you want on the island, I’m always cautious about walking across someone’s property without permission; leftover from the states I guess.

In any case, it was pretty fun up there…expectations well met. Again, the dramatic Caribbean cloudscapes on the horizon added their drama, and this is a black and white photo looking East over St Johns–Windwardside in the distance–looks like it could’ve been taken in the 40’s. Tres cool, non?