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Date: 02 Feb 2011 01:27:00
Title: Walking and whales on Saba

El MoMo, Saba, Tuesday night
 
We're both knackered now after having a great day walking on Saba. We slept OK but there was a lot of noise, especially for a place which advertises itself as "silent" and I was woken by a cockerel (OK) and then kept awake by a strimmer (not OK). We had a good breakfast, put our packed lunch in the rucksac along with 3 litres of water and then set off. First stop was the trail office which was cute but didn't really add much to our knowledge. Then we walked along The Road towards the airport.
 
The views were spectacular down to the sea and up to the surrounding volcanic hills but it was very hot walking, especially when it started going uphill. I wasn't feeling on top form today and my legs felt like lead in the heat. It was a relief when we got off the road and onto the Sandy Cruz Trail. The trail follows the old routes used by the original settlers of the island before they built The Road. In places, it clings to the side of the steep hillside with a drystone wall holding up the downhill side. We soon entered thick rainforest with huge tree-ferns and other tropical plants all hung with bromeliads and vines.
 
It was shady in the trees but the humidity was very high. Just above us, clouds were forming as the moisture-laden air was forced up and over the volcano. Saba has an almost permanent cloud hanging over it which is why it supports such lush vegetation. We could hear birds but it was very hard to see them. We did spot some tiny yellow-breasted ones that made a noise out of proportion to their size. We also spotted one tiny hummingbird. By the time noon came around, we were already sitting on a bench looking out to sea towards St Martin and overlooking the tiny Saba airport.
 
I was concentrating on my sandwich when Andrea said "what was that", pointing to the remains of what looked like an explosion out to sea. The boom from it hit us a few seconds later. As we watched, there was another splash - like a depth charge going off and we realised that it must be whales broaching. We got the binoculars out and watched as two Humpbacks repeatedly leapt out of the water and crashed back down. We could clearly see their brilliant white arms beneath the waves. After a couple of minutes, they disappeared again, only to repeat the performance a bit further around the coast.
 
After all that excitement, it was time to move on again and I was starting to feel a bit better. The track passed through an abandoned banana plantation and then down a ravine. Each turn brought a different feel and different foliage. Some bits were hanging with vines and moss, others were much drier so the forest looked more like Europe. It's amazing how different the micro-climates are on Saba, so dependent on the wind direction and the amount of rain generated by the clouds over the volcano.
After a couple of hours, we were walking above the anchorage where we'd stayed on Saxon Blue when we came to Saba but couldn't land. We could see the dive boats putting out snorkellers where Kali and I swam. A bit further down, we could see a catamaran on one of the mooring buoys that we'd used and, a bit further out, a massive sailing yacht called Ethereal. I've just looked her up online and she's designed by Ron Holland who also drew Saxon Blue but Ethereal is 190 feet long with a crew of 12 and costs 225 000 Euros per week to charter. I bet they still couldn't land, though!
 
Soon after that, we reached the trailhead and walked down the road towards The Bottom, the administrative centre of the island. The houses were much bigger than those we'd seen in Windwardside when we started our walk and there was lots of building work going on. We spotted a very posh hotel and, despite our sweaty appearance, headed straight in there for a cold drink. The staff were so good that they didn't batt an eyelid as we sipped fruit puch on the shady terrace. As we sat there, we discussed where we should stay for the next few nights. We're booked in El MoMo for tonight and then the Eco Lodge for the next two nights but we were feeling a bit dissatisfied with El Momo and didn't want to end up in the Eco Lodge if it was even more basic. In fact, it's not basic that's the problem, it's just that this place is pretty uncomfortable and could do with a bit of maintenance, not to say cleaning.
 
The posh place was full anyway so we decided to go and have a look at the Eco Lodge on the way back so we would know in advance if we wanted to go there tomorrow. The hotel phoned a taxi for us and, when he arrived, the driver told us he was going down to the port to pick up two more people who wanted a tour of the island. That was good for us as we got a trip through The Bottom and down the ridiculously steep road to Fort Bay Harbour, where we'd moored up when Kali had gone in to see the Customs. The other couple got in and it turned out that they were on the catamaran that we'd seen earlier and had come ashore for a brief tour around. They were from Israel and were really friendly so that they chatted to Andrea rather than listening to the taxi driver doing his tour so he and I discussed the new political arrangements between Saba and Holland. Saba, along with Statia and Bonaire now make up a Province of the Netherlands although they use the US Dollar rather than the Euro.
 
The taxi took us up a rough road almost to the Eco Lodge but we had to walk the last bit down a rough track. We could tell straight away that it's our kind of place. It's pretty hippy but really well done with wonderful plants everywhere. We couldn't see inside what will be our cottage as there were people staying but we're looking forward to getting there tomorrow and now don't feel so bad about another night in our El MoMo shack. We walked back down into Windwardside, then up the steep hill towards our hotel. Just time for a quick shower (hot, surprisingly) and then get changed and stagger back down the hill into town for our dinner at Scouts which is really a dive centre.
 
The food was wholesome and tasty although I was so tired that I couldn't eat it all and then we had to get back up the hill again. We were moving pretty slowly by this point but we got home in the end. I'll not be doing any exercise between finishing this blog and going to bed, though. I'm not sure if we'll have wifi at the Eco Lodge so the next blog may be a bit delayed. 
 
Harvey

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