Hangin with the Saints

cap’n alex, jack, diego

04 February 2012 | St. Helena, South Atlantic Ocean

St. Helena is single volcanic island laying smack in the middle of the south Atlantic Ocean. Its inhabitants are known as ‘Saints’, numbering around 3,000 and speak a type of old English unique to the island. Because the rugged nature with which the cliffs meet the ocean it has no all weather harbor (or even an airport for that matter), making it one of the most difficult inhabited places on Earth to get to. For the same reason Napoleon was exiled here nearly two hundred years ago so as not to cause any more trouble in Europe. In it’s hay day over 1000 ships a year called here for water or trade which has now dwindled to a single a ship, the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena, that connects the island to London and Cape Town. Even today the only way to reach this remote outpost is by sea.

DSC_0372-1

Upon first landing we were greeted by an interesting sounding ‘good murning’ and invited to stay on the island for as much ‘tooime’ as we wanted. We entered Jamestown past the mule yard and through the old fort gates being greeted by each local who seemed happy enough to stop and have a chat, asking about us while also telling of the local family happenings. We seemed to have blasted back in time with country music from the 70’s all that was played on the radio and the most modern thing we could find were telephone booths (no cell phones or ATMs). At the white horse tavern, the locally famous Charlie told us his life story, and though it sounded quite interesting, we couldn’t understand his English enough to put it all together.

On day two we befriended the Finance Minister’s daughter, Lou, who simultaneously became our tour guide, taking us off the beaten track to show us what St. Helena has to offer, which is much more than meets the eye. From the sea it appears a barren and rugged island but only a few minutes drive inland the landscape is transformed into lush greenery with many houses having their own gardens to include bananas, peaches, apples, tomatoes, carrots, ect. Of course no St. Helena garden would be complete without some old cannons to guard them.

And now some perspective from Jack.

Let’s back up for a moment.Alex sounded the horn at around noon after spotting the island and by nightfall we were approaching the jagged cliffs of St. Helena. As we made our way around the edges of the island toward Jamestown on the leeward side, the wind whipped up to about 20 knots. With the spinnaker still up, we were cruising at near supersonic speeds, for Bubbles atleast.we reached Jamestown and dropped anchor among 9 other cruising boats (an estimated number that got Alex and Diego ice cream on me). Once we had Bubbles situated, we could hear the music blasting from across James Bay and it seemed that every car on the island made their way toward the music. Alex called Port Control and explained our situation. “We can hear the music and we are seeking permission to come ashore and dance.” The woman on the other side came back and denied our request, telling us to wait on the boat and that Port Control will be with us in the “murning.” As we sat on Bubbles listening to the party across the bay, I was convinced that there was free beer onshore, something we later discovered was true.17th birthdays are big on St. Helena? We settled in and waited for the morning sun.

We rented a car, I know after the first one..I was worried too, but we did return it unscathed. We wanted to see the whole island in one day, which was doable. With the keys to the fort and a guide for Napoleon’s residence, we saw much of what the island had to offer. It was late in the day and after receiving permission from mom at a phone booth in the middle of nowhere, our guide Lou was to take us to Sandy Bay. We wound our little car through the extremely tight, mountain roads toward our destination. (It can take up to an hour to cross the 8 mile island). We drove down the gravel road to a deserted Sandy Bay and signs told of the dangerous rip current in the bay, swimming isn’t recommended. I figured that meant a quick walk around and we’d be on our way. I was wrong. We walked around the corner of the rocks until we came to what seemed to be crevice, cut by the water, that ran underground. The waves carried a swift current of water in and out of the “cave” and when a large enough wave went in, water exploded out of the cave like a geyser tipped on its side. Alex and Diego tried to find a way around. Diego made the climb around the entrance of the cave and Alex tossed his camera across. Alex isn’t a mountain climber, but was determined to make it to the other side. I voted for a swim across, not knowing that I was going as well.Timing the jumps with the waves, we all made it across and headed for the sound of the breakers. Climbing up a small wall of volcanic rock, we looked down on the waves crashing against the cliff below. Diego climbed down and I was “encouraged” to follow. When we got to the bottom, the ground was littered with holes about the size of your fist, full of sea urchins.hundreds of them. Diego and I walked across the tops of the holes to stand in the spray of the crashing waves. I have never seen more than a few sea urchins, so this was a pretty cool experience. Good thing I was wearing shoes. After standing in the waves for a bit, we made our way back to the car and left Sandy Bay behind.

I think now it’s the self-titled UnGoma master Diego’s turn to share some of his days as a Saint.

They make fun of my English accent, they call me Mexican just because I speak Spanish and I have a little mustache growing, they make me write some of their blog just because they think is funny (not), but I don’t mind and ill give it a try 😉

First day on land I heard there was a record I should brake, one of the other cruisers had make a time of 6 min and 30 second climbing 699 steps which were 924 feet long and 604 high from step 1 to 699. This are call “Jacobs Ladder” there used to be 2 tracks with little cargo trains one going up and down with the ladders in the middle, they used the little trains to carry all kind of stuff to the town up the mountain called Half Tree Hollow. While the Americans were busy checking mail I decided to run up the steps to practice, probably not the best idea because I ended going twice on one day. The second time Jack had his phone which he used as a timer and off I went, been follow by Alex 30 seconds after me and then jack. With no people on the steps and the sun hitting my face I was about to passed out in the middle of the steps. I was definitely going slower. I heard Alex screaming GO FROGGER, GO! So I kept on track and try not to passed out, I did hit the wall when only 30 steps where left. I heard one more time, GO FROGGER, RUN RUN! Finally I made it breaking our friends record, well I guess I had to because he is about 45 and latter we found out that the official record is 5 min 11 sec, close enough for me I think. I ended doing 5 min 52sec. Three days later when I was spouse to brake the officiall record I told myself that thers no way I could do it, that I wouldnt be able to brake my oun record or our friends record, not even Alexes or Jacks. I was in pain but it was good enough.

I speak Spanish because im from the Galapagos islands. Back home we have giant tortoises and they also have them here in St Helena which they brought from the Sayshells and from the mouth of a drunk couple they come from the Galapagos. So we went and see the famous Jonathan by his own 178 years old, the older in the world. There he was, eating grass next to the governor mansion while he was playing tennis with his wife and friends, Jonathan did looked like the ones we have back home so I toke some pictures so I can show mom one day.

823 meters is the highest point in the island and is called Diana’s pick. I climbed it in the name of a good friend of I. easy hike in a beautiful trail. Our friend guide, Lou, show us the endemic plants and good info. Up in the pick we had a full 360 view of the beautiful island of Santa Helena.

We also snorkel a shipwreck called Papa Nuie, a steamer witch burn right on the bay of Jamestown in 1911, with great visibility and lots of fishes and the water just a little cold we made our good water day.

Santa Helena, one of the safest places on earth and with happy people in every corner, good colors and great roads to skate on.. to this great island I say THANKS FOR ALL.

DSC_0450-1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *