Monday, June 17, 2013
Of the 6 islands that comprise the Dutch Caribbean, Saba at just 5 square miles and 1800 persons is by the smallest. However it does have the highest peak in Mount Scenery, which is also highest peak in the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other islands comprising the Dutch Caribbean are Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Like the other Dutch Caribbean islands, Dutch is the language of government but English is widely spoken by all.
Saba from sea view appears to be an impenetrable towering volcano. The airstrip is carved out of the edge of a cliff face and appears from the air as an aircraft carrier landing strip. The islands isolation and impenetrableness wasn't overlooked by the many pirates that originally used the island as a hideaway.
The drive from the air strip is a winding road that appears to slope upwards 45 degrees, it passes through the village of Hells Gate where the homes are built on stilts jetting outward from the volcanic rock. The next town on the islands only roadway is Windwardside.
Windwardside sits perched high up the mountain face and in the shadow of Mount Scenery. Due to its elevation, the daily Caribbean temperatures are not a factor to the local populace. The buildings appear to look like colorful ginger bread homes. The island is very lush with tropical rain forests gracing both the hiking trails and summit of Mount Scenery. As one reaches the summit of Mount Scenery the wildlife sounds and tropical flora aromas awaken ones senses. The view from the top makes the town of Windwardside appear to look as a fairy village below. From the summit the sea blends with the sky and it becomes difficult to determine where the horizon begins and ends.
Alas, Saba is like no other place and a visit here even for a few days is well worth it. Artists, poets and Yoga enthusiasts alike often find a sense of peace, tranquility and spirituality here missing from so many other places.
St Eustatius or as its affectionately known "Statia", is a small Dutch Caribbean island in the northern Leeward islands. Originally sited by Columbus, it would spend the next century and a half being fought over by the various colonial European nations.
St Eustatius today, is a sleepy little island of just 8 square miles and 3700 people. Politically its a special municipality of the Netherlands. Dutch is the official language of the island government though English is widely used by the population. Papiamento and Spanish are other languages often heard on the island.
Many visitors to St Eustatius state the small island is "like the Caribbean 50 years ago”; as there are no golf courses, mega resorts, duty free shopping zones or large cruise ship ports. It’s a true eco retreat location and prides itself on environmentally protecting its world class dive sites, well marked hiking trails and meticulously managed national parks.
One of these National parks is "The Quill" volcano. The Quill is a dormant volcano towering high over the island and features a lush tropical rain forest within its crater with 150' high trees and many plants as unique plants that include elephant ears, figs, plantains, bananas, mahogany, seedless breadfruit, Surinam cherry's, ginger bush, edible raspberries and some 17 types of orchids.
The capital Oranjestad, is a quaint little village featuring cobble stoned streets, colorful colonial homes and a stone fort overlooking the palm lined harbor.
There are few restaurants or hotels on the island, though the few restaurants that do exist are very good - especially the Chinese restaurants.
All and all a trip to St Eustatius (Statia) is a trip back in time to a simpler place and time where people don't lock their doors and everyone comes together as a proud community.