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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saba… Shangri-La of the Caribbean


The customs and immigration agent recognized us as
out-of-towners and stamped our passport on his drive
to his office.  He wasn’t in when we’d checked in earlier
with the harbormaster, but he saved us the trip back.
Part 2:  Lovely Locals 
We're in St. Croix now, but Saba is where we last were.  This is the 2nd of 3 Saba posts after a week without internet access.

“What’s your favorite island?   Besides this one, of course,” I asked the taxi driver.  Even though he drove a taxi bus, he offered us a ride for free.  After walking for several hours straight, most of it uphill, with significantly more planned, we were thrilled to take him up on his offer.  He drove us from the town “Bottom” to the other town on the island, “Windward,” pointing out the trail we planned to take to the island’s summit.


“I’ve visited so many of the islands.  Each island has its own personality, something special to offer.  But this, this is my favorite,” he answered, with a smile.

While we were aiming for Mt. Scenery’s spectacular summit (click her for more about “the climb”), the warmth of Saba’s locals impressed us more.

Carmen Simmons, lifelong Saban, with 7
children and 20 grandchildren.  She put
together and runs the
Major Omar R. Simmons Museum.  She
painted the museum entry mural seen here.
Carmen, proprietor of the Major Omar R. Simmons Museum, utterly charmed us.  She promised her late husband at his request to “Take good care of all his stuff.” She filled the museum chock-a-block with everything from her wedding dress, her husband’s hat and shoes and family photos, to the organ the church gave her when they replaced it with an electric one.  Electricity came to the island in the 60s.  “For a long time, there really wasn’t much here or on the surrounding islands.  Even Sint Maarten only became a presence recently, popped up almost out of nowhere.  Most of what came and comes in to the island came from Saint Thomas.  The homes were wood until more recently; built with the same skill we used in ship building.”  The museum was free, a way for Carmen to share in the abundance of Saba, pride in their island and accomplishment there, against all odds.
Saba fundraising lunch.  Clockwise:  Green salad, BBQ chicken
and ribs, johnnycake (like an unsweetened donut hole),
seasoned rice, and pasta salad.  It was a hearty lunch
even split between the two of us, for only $15 USD.



Carmen helped us with directions to the Sports Field, as Wayne spotted a promotional flyer for a BBQ fund-raiser for the local dancers happening that day.  While we rarely eat out, and even had packed lunch, we liked the idea of supporting the local community.  We enjoyed a delicious meal; much better than the fancier, more expensive one we ate in Sint Maarten.

Reid Barn, posing with Wayne “The best looking fellow
on Saba,” in his yard.  Reid’s not a computer much
less an internet guy, so we’re hoping someone in
his family will show him this post online.
Reid Barn flagged us on our way down after our hike.  He pointed us to the empty chairs next to him, and happily chatted with us about his life – and near death -- on Saba for half hour or more.  Like most Sabans, it seems, he built his own house, set up and maintains the cistern, which collects cold, clear drinking water.  “Cold enough to chill beer in,” he insisted.  He was sitting there waiting for some wild goat to be tempted by the grasses he’d picked.  Apparently his rifle was in the bushes nearby.  He butchers the goats he kills himself, sometimes selling the meat, when asked, usually to folks in Sint Maarten.  He’s a retired sanitation manager, taxi driver, bus driver and “jack of all trades, master of none.”

While we enjoyed our chat with Reid, we were concerned about making it back down to our dinghy and onto our boat before dark.  We were about a mile from Fort Bay, where our dinghy was tied off when another local offered us a ride to it.  We were sorry we didn’t have much time to chat, but we did find out he was a former Grenadian who sailed the from Venezuela and throughout the Caribbean.  We thanked him, wished him smooth sailing, and made it back to our boat just a few minutes before sunset.

We hope to return to Saba someday, and give it the additional time it deserves, and maybe make some more friends while we’re at it.  Now I understand why our taxi driver said Saba is the favorite of the islands he’s visited.