Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Joe versus the Volcano

We were all looking forward to visiting Montserrat and taking a tour of the areas destroyed by the volcanic events that took place in the late 90s and early 00s.  Unfortunately, it was another rough travel day to get there. The trade winds reliably blow from some point between south and north of east. On our travel days to the south and east, the wind was pretty reliable about being from south of east. There was always plenty of (and then some) wind for sailing but we were bouncing along against the prevailing conditions. It's a minor, tiring, irritation for us but it becomes a pretty sorry situation when Cubby barfs endlessly every time we go somewhere. And that brings us to The Mutiny on Montserrat.

After our planned tour of the island I couldn't figure out why we were all so down in the dumps all the time. Was it the rough conditions and seasickness? The constant travel? The (embarassing and therefore unspoken) disinterest in the sights? The hemmoraghing of cash everywhere we went? What it finally amounted to was that it was all of the above, all the time, with no end in sight and no balance of effort to enjoyment. One look at the charts and calendar made it obvious we would have to continue at the same bombing pace for a couple months without the option to wait for our preferred travel conditions, get our routine things done, relax, or do our favorite recreational activites. All of that was compounded by the fact that we were going in the wrong direction! The boat was pointed south but our heads were pointed north. Well, we couldn't live like that for the sake of more cannons and waterfalls (sorry beautiful Caribbean islands full of history and sights). It was time to stop feeling guilty that we weren't thrilled to be there and couldn't muster a lot of enthusiasm for any of it. We've done a lot of sightseeing in the past couple years so there was no reason to feel bad that we want to take it easy while we still can.  Plus, we live on a boat, for pete's sake! We want to play in the water, not wear clothes and sneakers! So I asked Andy, "how do you want to spend the next four months? Like THIS? [pan arm across messy salon, sink full of dishes, kids with sad faces stuck in ipads with neglected school books in the background]. Or snorkeling, swimming, paddling, fishing and looking for more kitesurfing spots?" It was pretty easy to make the call to turn around sooner than we planned.

It's always great when the right people show up at just the right time. Not many hours after I brought up the possibility of u-turning, Greg and Paula from Day Star anchored behind us and stopped by to say hello. It only took a minute to make the connection that we are all on the homestretch of our cruises with kids and facing a return to the unknown. We got together with them the next evening and had fun talking over the open-endedness of our lives. It also gave us a chance to step out of our little bubble and have someone to chat with about our desire to turn around. They gave us the good advice to get as far as Dominica before turing around. We could handle that! So we said goodbye to them with a tangible and doable goal lined up, some places of interest along the way, and a huge sense of relief washing over us. Phew!

Now, to get down to the business of our visit to Montserrat...

20knots right on the nose. Nice!

On our way to Montserrat we passed the Island Kingdom of Redonda. Which is just a big rock with a pretty funny "royal" history. Tedze decided to crown himself the new King of Redonda. 

Clouds gather over the volcano and mix with the sulphuric steam coming out of the crater.

We arrived on a Sunday so customs was closed and we couldn't clear in. Andy and Drew went for a snorkel off the boat and saw this Goldspotted Eel.

Montserrat has some unique Irish history so shamrocks appear here and there and that's why it's called the Emerald Isle of the Carib.

There's a lot of fresh water on Montserrat. 

Everyone except Drew drank from the ghaut. He is still too traumatized by the stomach illness in the Dominican Republic.

Our tour guide Joe Phillips pointing out a few things from the observatory where we watched a good film about the volcano. Joe is supposed to be the best guide on the island. If you aren't sure, just ask Joe.  I don't know if he's the best but I'm pretty sure he's the most expensive. He did take us through his old neighborhood which you wouldn't even know is there. All the houses are abandoned and so overgrown you can't see them. 

A view of the volcano

The outlined zones limit entry. You can get into Zone V with a guide but have to get permission in advance. 

Entering a ruined church.

Inside the church. I believe Drew captured the moment when Cubby found a stuffed bunny face down in the ash and fell apart about it being lonely. So we asked Joe if we could rescue it and he thought it would be ok. Blueberry is now clean and with the rest of the boating bunny family. And as it turns out, Blueberry is part of a video tour of Montserrat on youtube made by our friends we met in Dominica. He is quite the famous bunny.

We were able to go inside an abandoned house. It was sad to see so many things people had to leave behind. Many people left the island but it seems they weren't given a lot of choice. Benefits if you leave, nothing if you stay. Some have returned but many have remained in England. Around 2/3 of the population left. 

The same house and more personal things that were left behind. It looks like people were mid-something when they had to leave.

A view toward the volcano and the former, now totally wiped out, capitol of Plymouth. 

We could smell the sulfur from this spot and see the location of the pyroclastic flow.

Donkey diversion: This guy yelled at us as we drove by.

Drew is pointing to the spot where the town of Plymouth was located. We were standing (and anchored in) Little Bay up in the Northwest end where main harbor activities have been relocated. 

Overlooking Little Bay from the shore. Before Plymouth was ruined this area was simply a quiet, isolated stretch of beach with only a dirt road for access. 

These buildings were put in to enliven the harborfront. They're really attractive but Joe explained it's hard to get reliable business owners to use the space. 

Some local fishermen showed us their catch. Nice wahoo!

As we sailed south we got a really good view of what used to be Plymouth. 

We had seen pictures before it was ruined and it looked like a large, picturesque, bustling town overlooking a very pretty harbor. Now it's just buried. Very sad. 

No comments:

Post a Comment