Where I’m staying at El Momo cottages is in the hills, and not down in the town. It’s closer to nature and that’s part of the draw of the place. That does mean bugs, and I’m generally fine with that. Booby Hill, the name of the neighborhood has a millipede infestation, tons and tons and tons of these tiny little millipedes. I’m generally fine with them walking around, they gross me out a bit, more than most bugs, and walking down to town I hear a crunch every so often as I step on another. I tried to clear them out of my room, picking them up with a hand towel one at a time, tossing them out my door. They do keep coming in, though slowly so at some point you need to go to bed. I have a bug net, which did fine to protect me the first night from all sorts of bugs. But last night was the attack of the millipedes! Somehow they kept getting in my bed, I’m not sure if they were making/finding holes in the netting, or climbing up the inside, but several times in the night I had a millipede crawling on me. Once even in my hair! That was the breaking point. I got up, killed them all, and sprayed my bug spray around the door which probably did nothing, changed beds, and tried to get the netting tightly around the bottom of my bed. Even then I had trouble sleeping; feeling the creepy crawlies all night, I’d wake up convinced something was on me only for it to be my imagination. Not the best night sleep at all! After breakfast I talked to DJ one of the managers and he said that they don’t know why, but the entire hill is crawling with them. They try not to spray too much because it’s not very Green. He would spray though while I’m gone later which should keep them away for a few days. All I need is 2 more nights. I thanked DJ and went on my way. Hopefully tonight will be better. Apparently since the Shearwater is in the same neighborhood they have the same trouble.
Today was planned to be a hiking day. I’d debated about when to do the diving, and I guess if I had wanted to I could do the full cert in 2 days with 1 more pool session and 3 more dives, but I don’t think I want to spend that much and give up another day of hiking. I don’t think I’ll be diving again for at least a year. Belize is the next likely place I would go diving, and I’m not sure when that will get squeezed in. My next planned trip right now seems like back to SE Asia, to see some of Thailand’s neighbors. I’ve heard that Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma are all amazing, but diving isn’t really what I’m thinking of for any of those destinations, but more cultural things.
My goal for the day was to go from Booby Hill(1500ft) to Windwardside(1300ft) to Hell’s Gate(1800ft), pick up the Sandy Cruz trail which goes to Troy’s Hill over about a 2.5hr hike overlooking the town called The Bottom(700ft) which I would descend down to, then descend down The Ladders (a long set of stairs) to the ocean. I set off towards the Sandy Cruz trail head, which is at the top of Upper Hell’s Gate. The hike to the trail head turned out to be about the hardest part of the trail as the road is steep. I suppose I could have (maybe should have) hitched a ride. Hitch hiking here is ubiquitous, and how many people get around.
The Sandy Cruz trail isn’t especially hard, just long, it goes around the north side of the island, mostly following a ridge, climbing to around 2000ft altitude before dropping down to 1100ft. The hike wasn’t spectacular by any means, definitely doesn’t beat anything in Yosemite for instance. But it was interesting in that the foliage changed quite a lot over the course of the hike. Starting in Hell’s Gate you mostly have arid plant life like cactus, shrubs and what not, sorta similar to our “Mediterranean Zone” we live have in California. Then as you go up more lush tropical jungle fills in with Banana plants and Sugar Cane. Eventually as the trail peaks out at 2000ft that is replaced with rainforest where the warm hot air from the ocean has been compressed against the mountains and drops much of its water. In the rainforest zone there are a lot of bugs, including mosquitoes which we do not have in Booby Hill really at all, thank god on that one, my legs and arms needed a rest from being eaten alive. There are surprisingly a lot of spiders with webs across the trail, something we didn’t see in Dominica or St. Lucia. I kept walking into them and getting tag alongs on my legs. I see a couple times these massive black butterflies. I really want to see one up close, but they’re here and gone so fast! There are others too, and orange one, and a black and yellow one, they at least stop for a breath and I can have a look. There were a couple nice park benches along the way with views of St. Martin, and I enjoyed a cliff bar looking out over the ocean. At the first one I run into a couple of young adults who are native Sabans, maybe the 3rd and 4th I’ve met on the island of 1500. They’re easy to pick out, Dutch traits and they speak with an odd English accent that isn’t how the Dutch normally sound. I can’t tell if they’re a couple, or relatives. The divers I met last night would joke maybe both, there are so few family names amongst the Sabans, four main ones because it’s been such a small community. Somewhere near the end I met a West Indies man with a rifle, I’m glad I didn’t sneak up on him. It was a bit scary running into a random guy on the trail with a rifle. He said he was hunting goats, and I’m glad he didn’t mistake me for a goat. I’m not exactly wearing a reflective orange vest. I made double time leaving the area just to make sure if the trail did double back around that he didn’t forget I was around and think I was a goat. I wasn’t far from the end of the trail now though, and before long I popped out on Troy Hill. There hadn’t been much to see on this trail, and some of it was hard to distinguish the trail.
I pretty much made a b-line for the ladders, stopping at the top to stretch my legs out a bit. I think tightness has been part of why my knee has been easy to hurt. I headed down the stairs very slowly. The Ladders may be the best part of the entire hike with great views and a nice path that’s mostly shaded. I loved looking at the masonry stairs switching back and forth winding down the steep cliffs of the island. In retrospect I’m kind of surprised there are any beginner dive spots at all on the island since the cliffs are so precipitous I would figure it to be the same all over, but there are ledges I suppose that are close to the surface. I kept a sharp eye out for Iguanas, but no luck. I think I need to head to the airport early, like 10am for a 2pm flight so I can walk around the tide pools down low, this is the best spot and time for Iguana sightings. My cabin is named the Iguana Cabin at El Momo so it seems like it’s an important part of my stay to at least try to see one. At the sea’s edge I sat around a bit, looking at the boats moored off shore. Heading back up though was a different story. I’d burned through all of my food stuffs and calories, all of my water too though I wasn’t dehydrated, it doesn’t help. In cycling we would call it bonking. Just complete lack of energy. I just put myself in a low gear and kept my eye towards my next step, not looking forward to see how far I had to go and ground it out. I hate that feeling.
Back in town my first stop was the grocery store for some Gatoraid and water. Then I found a café run by a nice couple from Alaska and enjoyed a sandwich. The proprietors, like most I’ve run into on the island haven’t been here all that long, most people seem to either retire here, or if they’re young, stay for at most 2 years and then get stir crazy and leave. This island isn’t a place for the elderly, its way to hilly. As I said before, the only flat piece of earth on this island is occupied by the airport.
I caught the road back to Windwardside, not intending to walk but to be in the right place to catch a ride. I saw a college student across from the medical school clearly waiting as well so I sat with him and struck up a conversation. Apparently cars don’t last too long on this island, the salt air, the tough terrain. He has 2 cars and a scooter, all broken down needing some repair or other. Maybe 4 cars passed before we caught a ride in a little Suzuki swift. I swear I see these cars everywhere I go these days, they were the car to have in Bhutan as well. I’m super impressed.
Spent I made it back to the top of Booby Hill and El Momo cottages. The water was off in my room so it was time for a dip in the pool instead while JD and Joost looked into that. I sat by the pool as the sun went down behind Mt. Scenery and it started to get dark and chilly. It’s nice just slowing down and enjoying the view, sometimes I can forget to do that, be so focused on the activities, and forget where I am. I can tell I’ll miss Saba a little when I leave even if I know that about the only thing I could do to fill more time here would be to do more diving, and I don’t think with how expensive this trip has been that would work. After a bit of time in my room it was dinner time! I was so starving!
I was recommended the Brigadoon for dinner, a moderately priced, slightly upscale restaurant that’s often packed on Mondays. It was a good choice. The place was overfull from the second semester students celebrating finishing some major milestone. It was cute they had dressed up even, me I was in my shorts and t-shirt. The food was pretty good and not that expensive, I had this lemon chicken over rice that was really tasty.
Returning back Joost tells me the power will be out in the morning so charge anything I need to charge before I go to bed, and make sure it’s all unplugged once the power goes out so that the surge after it goes back on doesn’t ruin anything.
I chat with Jen until late at night. Five more days until I’m home. The trip has flown by in some ways and not in others. Part of me feels like I’ve been out here for ages, and part of me feels like I’ve hardly been gone at all. I’ve collected a lot of new experiences, but some pretty similar to the others, and the constant need to have contact with home changes the effect of that time warp I normally feel when I travel. Three weeks is perhaps a long time in the Lesser Antilles. St. Lucia was too similar to Dominica and similar enough to past experiences traveling as a kid so those two weeks kind of blend together in my mind somewhat. I bet if I had cut out St. Lucia it wouldn’t feel much different than it has. That’s not to say I’m not still interested in the Caribbean, I’d love to see Belize and Cuba, but I think I’ve now seen and understand these islands about as much as I could as a transient traveler passing through. I heard from Ben via email that Antigua is similar but wealthier and more developed, but not much to see. St. Kitts isn’t too interesting beyond a cool fort there, and from what I hear from other sources Nevis is much like St. Lucia and Dominica. I mostly have 2 days in St. Kitts and Nevis with some time on the shoulders of the fights in and out. The trip feels like it’s winding down. I have 3 more non-travel days is all. I’m starting to think more and more about being home. Though it is hard to believe I’ll be back at work on Monday.
Luckily tonight there are no millipedes in my room, the ones that hadn’t been got by the spray I remove myself. In fact there aren’t many flying bugs either which is kind of nice, though a big moth did sneak in the window and beat itself up against my lamp.