Saba, the Ladder, and the music of singing frogs

Waypoint Saba - Coming from the BVI on the way to Sint Eustatius Click here to view an updated position map.

Waypoint Saba - Coming from the BVI on the way to Sint Eustatius
Click here to view an updated position map.

There's nothing quite like being in the shower and looking out the stall window to see a black and white goat standing a few feet away on the stone wall just staring at you.  

Then there is the wild calico guinea pig who lives under a garden boulder just off our little balcony, and the orange tabby cat who likes to stalk him in the evening time.  The cat perches on top of the boulder and peers down at the guinea pig, who intelligently remains in the protection of his den entrance.  He just sits there staring right back up at the cat.  The calico guinea pig decided he likes broccoli but does not care for sugar snap peas. 

The tailless lizard who lives on top of the porch light has an ingenious system of waiting for the bugs to come to him.  Lenny the two-inch Leafeater reassured me my first shower would have hot water, after which he was carefully placed back in the garden.  The lobby's lovely stone cottage has a fat white earless cat for a bellhop. 

 A large brown moth assisted me in doing dishes this morning.  I also have a theory as to how "EDM" or mostly not-so-great european-derived electronic music came into existence: the mountainsides here harbor millions of really tiny frogs with opera caliber vocal chords, and many of them sing different notes.  Sometimes, these notes combine to make a surprisingly catchy song.  Sitting on the balcony at night, one can hear what actually sounds like electronica!  So, some Western Europeans must have vacationed in the Caribbean wherever there were singing frogs, and voila.  So too is the frogs' rendition just like being in a deafening and massive dance club!  

But our favorite critter experience so far in Saba has been "Speedy Gonzales," a five year old blond-haired Dutch boy who comes tearing past us on his little tricycle as he zooms back and forth on the U-shaped incline of the little road just up from the hotel, half the time with his father running as fast as he can behind him desperately gasping, "Slower, slower, SLOOOOW DOOOOWN!"  Every time, the look on the little boy's face is one of pure mischievous pleasure.  We can't help but laugh out loud, and we suspect he doesn't know how to work the brakes.  Having witnessed this little spectacle three times now makes us think the father isn't too bright, but the little boy seems to be having the time of his life.

The little village of Windwardside was bustling the other night due to the World Cup game.  The U.S. lost to Belgium, and most people expressed their disappointment to us, if they had already determined we were from the States, although we saw but only one other American.  I surmise this was not because they like the United States here so much as it is because they dislike Belgium.  In general, Sabans have been extremely friendly and relaxed toward us.  When I say "bustling," I mean we saw about 30 people at "Swinging Doors," the most happening place in town, and about another 20 in the street on their way to and from what I suppose are the other two pubs in town.

For the first time, I have now seen elephant ear plants that are literally the size of elephant ears. It's like goats, blond braids, and clogs meets Jurassic Park.  A tidy, miniature color-coordinated Dutch village in the middle of a gossamer volcanic wilderness.  Because one must go so far up the cliffs and into the mountains to find any semblance of "flat enough" land, I am experiencing a sudden kinship with Rapunzel.  Saba is officially referred to as the "Unspoiled Queen."

Originally, Saba had no harbor or dock.  They would ship goods ashore on small rowboats and then haul them up the slopes by sheer manpower...that is, when the swell wasn't too dangerous.  "The Ladder" was a steep 400 step stone stairway that wound its way up the face of the mountain.  In 1938, despite warnings from several European engineers, Josephus Hassel took up correspondence engineering courses and built "The Road that Could Not Be Built." This road was a series of steep switchbacks that allowed vehicles to traverse between Fort Bay, where the newly built docks were located, and Bottom.  We are on a mooring ball in Ladder Bay where the old Ladder path is located.  In viewing the steep, ridiculously dangerous pathway of stairs up the face, I cannot fathom who in their right mind would traverse it, let alone use it as the only access point to the island.  

The guidebooks compare the airport landing strip to landing on an ocean carrier because it is about the same length!  Saba has one of the shortest commercial landing strips in the world and pilots must have special training before they are allowed to land here.  Surprisingly, there have been no incidents since its opening in 1963.  

The only tourism here is for the outstanding dive sights, as well as some gorgeous hiking trails.  As for both natural and architectural beauty and charm, Saba ranks in my personal top five so far in my albeit limited travels, in part because it has not yet been "ruined" by tourism.  However, as usual, the guidebooks and magazine pictures fall far short of doing it justice, so I am not all that interested in being disappointed by my own novice photographic efforts.  We did not bring the camera.

We depart today bound for Sint Eustatius.  Yet another Tropical WAVE is rolling in from Africa right on the back of the previous one.  At least winds should back to 90 degrees dead east for today, waves 6 feet (this seems small but they actually look like they are 12 feet because of the troughs.  Also, without fail, we are always greeted by the waves that are higher than that "average of the highest 1/3 waves" estimate.)  We'll meet with two swells, one from the east, and one from south of east, which makes for sloppy seas.  So, we've opted to take a "short" 20 mile run today with another one like it tomorrow, onward to St. Kitts.  Then we will wait for our next weather window.  Here's the usual rub in terms of wind direction: it is usually south of east during the pleasant weather and backs to the ideal direction, 80-90 degrees, when the WAVES begin to bust out their higher winds, seas, and squalls.  The way this year seems to be going, there is a less than 24 hour weather window when the conditions are somewhat pleasant, in between each WAVE.  This is somewhat like the cycle of cold fronts in the States and Bahamas, but cycles faster.

Yes, we are following Arthur.  

Posted on July 4, 2014 .