Little Bay, Montserrat
We enjoyed our short stay on Montserrat very much indeed. It is known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean as the first European settlers were predominately Irish and we understand there is a week-long annual celebration of St Patrick’s Day!
In the late 20th century two major events had a catastrophic effect on the island; first Hurricane Hugo unleashed its wrath in 1989 and later a far more devastating event occurred in 1995 with the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano. The former capital, Plymouth, was completely buried in ash and thousands of the population displaced. In the aftermath, the locals left the island in droves, many never to return, and the population shrank from 11,000 to 4,000.
The volcano is still active today and an Exclusion Zone covers over half of the island, although some of this area can be accessed in a vehicle. We decided to take a tour of the island and contacted Joe Phillip ‘Avalon’, whom we’d met after checking-in the previous day. We had a great tour with him and, having lived on the island all his life, he was a mine of information. He showed us the village where he used to live and pointed out the former houses of friends, schools and shops where nature had claimed back the land; partly buried houses peeping out of the jungle. Joe showed us lots of photos on his iPad of how the landscape, including the town of Plymouth, used to look as we gazed over the devastation. Very humbling indeed.