Summer 2022
John Andrews
Tue 1 Feb 2011 22:16

We weren't quite sure what to expect of Statia, and now we've
visited, we're not quite sure what to make of it. The books talk of
its tiny population, only 2700 inhabitants, sleepy atmosphere, retired
Dutch pensioners, and myriad restaurants.
Doyle's guide advised us to look out for yellow and blue yacht
moorings, but there were none so we picked up a conveniently placed white
We were a bit disconcerted on arrival to have to go through a very
beaurocratic entry procedure, with customs, immigration and port
authority, each requiring identical forms to be filled in. We were
particularly surprised at the customs element, because Statia was
reportedly a duty free port.
Having got through the formalities, we made our way up to the upper town,
which was very pleasant, a few nicely restored old wooden buildings in the
Dutch style, and a magnificently restored Fort Oranje which housed the
tourist office. There we picked up a magnificent folder, full of
information about the island, and glossy leaflets depicting cheerful,
uniformed marine park staff collecting dues from moored yachts, detailed
instructions on how to pick up said yellow and blue moorings, glistening
hotels with sparkling blue pools and people sunning themselves on loungers
on golden sandy beaches.
The whole thing turned out to be complete fantasy. There are no yacht
moorings and we are advised to leave the white mooring and anchor in the
bay - consequently there are no cheerful uniformed marine park staff
on hand to give helpful advice. Half the hotels and restaurants seemed to
be closed, or part closed, due to repair works or redecoration or some
such thing. They were desolate places, with empty swimming pools and
promised live music and barbequeues 'beachside' not in
evidence at all. As for the golden sandy beaches, well substitute dirty
grey and avetr your eyes from rusty remains of pier, and you've got
the pitcture. The upper town did have a quiet, dusty charm, but the best
of it was the walk up to the rim of the volcanoe.
We tackled this climb very early in the morning, leaving the boat at just
after 7.00 a.m. a 45 minute walk up hill took us to the start of the path
through the national park up to the rim of the Quill, a climb of about
1200 feet. The path meandered through gentle zig zags up hill, giving us
lots of time to spot local fauna and flora. Yellow and black butterfies
formed small clouds around us, and various other butterflies were spotted,
including a huge dark one which at first we thought was a bird. We spotted
the rare bridled quail dove, and the red bellied racer snake, found only
on Statia and Saba. We were also startled at what seemed like a
bombardment of giant snails. These turned out to be hermit crabs, who at
our approach, tucked themselves inside their shells and tumbled down the
hill right into our path. A slight scramble took us to the rim of the
crater, where we had the most spectacular view into the crater itself,
which is densly forested. There is a steep path down to the bottom of the
crater, but we decided that one 1200 foot climb was enough for one day,
and we walked back down to town.
One of the more enchanting features of Statia is the large number of
chickens wandering apparently freely through the town. They are almost
charicatures of chickens, the hens often accompanied by a troop of tiny
fluffy chicks and the cockerels sporting the most magnificent tails. At
lunch, we got chatting to the owner of the restaurant, who explained that
Statia's status had changed in October, and that whereas previously
it had been part of the Dutch Antilles with duty free status, the
population had voted to become part of Holland, along with Saba and
curiously, Bonaire which lies hundreds of miles away off the Venezuelan
coast. St Maarten, a few miles to the North, and much richer, had voted
for independence, as had Curacao and Aruba, Bonaire's neighbours. He
was complaining about the beaurocratic mess this had left and no-one
competent to sort it all out. More difficult formalities on trying to
check out left us with the feeling that Statia was going to go through
some quite difficult times before they get on top of their new status.