Saba tales: in which I find things to do on dry land

Feeling a bit wonky and also slightly water-logged, I opt for a day on dry land. The tropical weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate, repeating its sun-rain-fog-sun-fog-rain rhythm as a fog swoops down from Mt. Scenery and envelops Windward Side. The town has two markets, a handful of restaurants and bars, a bakery, a couple of dive shops and a few other random places to spend a tourist (US$) dollar. I find a quick brekkie at the bakery in town, the Bizzy Bee (“flour, flour” on their sign). From their Christmas stollen (shared on the boat with my new diving friends Christmas Day) to the almond cookie I had on the trail (filled with marzipan!!!), their stuff is fabulous! Sated, I embark on the day’s mission: summit Mt. Scenery, the highest point in the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

20151228_105755In 1967, a stairway comprising 1064 steps was built, leading up to the “Elfin Forest” at the top of this dormant volcano. A somewhat treacherous (mossy and steep) climb through the rainforest and around a private residence which reminded me of something like a tropical Deliverance (“take no photos, please respect” signs clearly posted), and then rising through the elephant ear and mountain palm, tropical flowers and trees. The trailside was teeming with butterflies: little white ones, black and yellow-striped and some even a vibrant orange. The mosses and ferns truly made the setting look like a scene from Grimm’s.

With a fog-ensconced trail, I was not optimistic of seeing much besides treetops and tropical mist when I (finally) reached the summit. And so, an hour after leaving the trail shop, I did, in fact, land at the top of Mt. Scenery; greeted by a friendly mountain chicken and a dense blanket of cool fog (which was actually quite refreshing after that tricky ascent). And so, as Samuel Clemens said about the weather in New England, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Or 15, in my case. For the wait, I was rewarded with a parting of the clouds as it were: a brilliant view of Saba, from the Airport over to The Bottom, materialised in front of my eyes. Blue skies, lush hills, the charming red-roofed buildings in Windward Side and a shining Caribbean sea below. I stayed until the fog returned, its little cat feet guiding my way down the mountain once again.

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Down is harder than up on the moss- and jungle mist-covered slick steps, and I’m certain a mountain troll or elf is giggling at me from behind the elephant ear as I slip and teeter down the trail. I have seen hummingbirds and butterflies and lizards and the myriad rainforest flora. I land back at the trail center…mission: accomplished.

Lunch is a spectacular grouper sandwich at Scout’s Place. As I order, I hesitate – I have a moral dilemma with grouper. I love it but at the same time it is a scarce fish in most parts because of overfishing and poorly-designated marine reserves. But in pristine waters like this, with few fishermen on the island, the catch is both hand-reeled and controlled. So it’s doubly cool when the chef can show you a picture of the fish you’re eating, and more than likely introduce you to the fisherman.

2015-12-23 10.38.06The afternoon is rounded out with a siesta on my little terrace, views of Mt. Scenery (partially enveloped in its signature fog) in the distance; an ear out for the giant iguana thrashing about in the trees and the hummingbirds with their miniature jet fighter trajectories. Background din is the melange of goats from down the hill, birdsong, roosters and an occasional barking dog. The sun is looming lower in the sky and the peeper frogs (Coquee) are on deck to begin their nightly chorus more.

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