Land of the Lost?

Looking a bit like a scene from Jurassic Park upon approach, rugged, volcanically derived peaks oversee the only working port. Little Bay is a cute name for a slightly indented shoreline where a concrete pier accepts daily smallish cargo and ferry ships, as well as minuscule rubber inflatable dinghies such as ours. In fact we decided to lift/drag KoryKory up onto a pseudo ramp to remain out of harm’s way for our day of touring the island.

Montserrat, the other Emerald Isle, has an obvious Irish heritage, as it was settled by the Irish during overflow from bickering Kittitian Protestants in 1630. Oliver Cromwell then brought a full wave of settlers again in 1649, now leaving many current residents with surnames such as O’Brian, Sweeney and Dublin. Restaurants serve an Irish Stew called “Goat Water”.

I cleared-in through the expected, but never less-bureaucratic customs/immigration/port authority process. Of course, the web-based system designed to improve the process was malfunctioning (again), but we were able to get through ok for a couple days, and the total cost is only 35 EC$.

Kelly drinking the elixir known locally as Runaway “Gut”.

Sunny, our designated tour guide picked us up sharply at 1000 nearby the gated Customs area. After brief introductions, we boarded the minivan and were promised an entire day of increasingly interesting sightseeing and stories. Sunny, being a nearly lifelong resident had a very genuine and accurate story to tell us about the volcano which destroyed the homes and businesses of thousands of residents. In 1995 the population was 11,000, which was reduced after the volcano eruptions to today’s estimated 5,000.

Steam and sulphur dioxide spews from the north side of Soufriere Hills Volcano.

Sunny drove us around generally from north to south, telling stories and visiting ideal viewpoints to see the smoking volcanic dome, as well as the National Trust, and The Hilltop Coffee House – really a museum that serves “the best coffee ever”. We received a first-class tour from David the curator/barista, reviewing local artwork and recent volcano history. But this spot is most notable for the music memorabilia. Montserrat’s rich musical history is via investment by Sir George Martin (Beatles Producer). Sir George built a very popular recording studio here in the early eighties, attracting many of the day’s hit artists such as Sting, Boy George, Dire Straights, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffet, Paul McCartney and Simply Red. Sir Paul and Linda McCartney also maintained a home on the island. We gaped in awe of the dozens of signed original album covers tacked loosely on wood-paneled walls, as though in someone’s college dorm room.

Hilltop Coffee House (early archival photo borrowed from that found on TripAdvisor). Many more display items exist now.

After lunch of “local food” consisting of delicious chicken roti. We proceeded further south into the “hotter” more restrictive zones, where time appears to stop. The abandoned homes and buildings have become dilapidated, now covered with various levels of volcanic ash. We visited an ash-covered hotel, allowing a panoramic view of the worst of the volcanic destruction (safely distant), and then finally the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO, as Sunny calls it).

Left to right: from abandoned hotel (swimming pool), ash flows downward from Soufriere, past half-buried historical sugar mill remnants to the buried capitol of Plymouth and out to sea.
Soufriere as seen from the northwest at MVO.

Upon returning to Fayaway at the relative safety of Little Bay, we rolled gently again at anchor, contently sipping a Caribe in the glowing setting sun. That’s about when the steel drum concert started, representing Carnival time ashore.

We plan to depart for Nevis tomorrow. So, it looks like we’re heading West this time around. We will likely be between Nevis and Saba for Christmas, and we hope you are well and enjoying the holidays with your family and loved ones at this time. As our dear departed friend Jack once used to say: “Peace On You”!

Merry Christmas to you, blowing from the Christmas Trades!

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