There are roosters here, or at least one, who makes it his business to cock-a-doodle starting at 7 a.m. Not coincidentally, this is the time I woke. You can't even get a cup of coffee at 7 a.m. Instead I hung around making the songlist for next week's Holiday Hoedown until we walked over for breakfast at 8. (Incidentally, it's now 10 a.m. and that damn rooster is still going strong.) Saba is known for its bountiful, steep hiking trails. One starts just outside of our hotel, leading into Windwardside. Today that trail was part of the course for the Saba Hells Gate Triathlon. After breakfast we walked to the trailhead to cheer on the athletes. It's only a mini-tri but jesus, if you saw the hills in this place you'd feel sorry for them too (i.e. the athletes). (Since we've seen zero bikes on this island, last night we asked the cab driver if bikes are even allowed. "It's strongly discouraged," he told us. So how do people train for the tri? They hail from other islands.)
The first-place runner came upon us. He looked German but was probably Dutch. (Oh! I have a funny* story about this later**.) We said hi. He ignored us. I tripped him. The second-place runner followed by about a minute and a half. He returned our greeting (a doctor from St. Maarten I later learned). I felt happy to have done my part. Heh heh. We heard the third-place runner coming around the bend, but now I just wanted to get some of my own exercise. And then in the 60-second walk back to my room, I'd forgotten about exercise and instead picked up the Bukowski book I've been kinda reading. Reading Bukowski in Saba is like listening to Bach at a UFC match.
Havis just left for his dive. I'm going to make the most of of these next three hours before we meet for a hike by going back to sleep.
I ended up practicing yoga and reading by the pool. No nap in sight, it seemed. I was supposed to meet Havis at The Gate House in Hell's Gate (a town called so because in the days before The Road was built, locals found traversing its canyon well, hellish) at two p.m.
There are only a handful of taxi drivers on Saba, so you end up running into the same ones. I hadn't met George before - the guy who was to take me to Hell's Gate. I'm going to save the story of George for his own account (it's that good) and instead just tell you briefly about the network that supports all of this small island. I arrived at The Gate House around two. I told George that I wanted to start the Sandy Cruz trail from Hell's Gate. He questioned me several times but since Havis is usually spot-on about logistics I held firm. "Okay," he told me. "That's long way." Yeah, yeah, I thought. I'm no amateur. He dropped me off at The Gate House, a bed and breakfast where Hav and I were to meet for lunch before our hike. George drove off. As it turns out, The Gate House is closed for an indeterminate period of time. I was stranded. I climbed to the top of the drive and opened my journal to write. I had no idea what I was going to do. Text Havis maybe? A few minutes later up pulls this van, but the windows were dark so I couldn't see who was inside. Havis called out. Evidently George and Peddy (Hav's cab driver) had been in communication. George told Peddy that I was there by myself so Peddy and company swung by to pick me up. I could get used to this kind of convenience.
Unfortunately, most of Saba is closed for lunch on Sundays, a definite inconvenience to my heathen self. So Hav and I ended up eating once again at the Saba Shack (or maybe Saba Snack Shop?? I forget. Either way, it's like school lunch fare) leaving a brick of a veggie burger in my belly before our hike. I understood why both drivers thought it odd that we wanted to start at Hell's Gate for the Sandy Cruz trail. It'd have been a gnarly climb to the hike. As it was, eating in Windwardside still meant that we had to call a cab to take us back to the trailhead.
We hiked. A bunch. Here's a little bit about the hike I wrote for Trazzler. (It still needs to be edited by my brilliant friend, Joslyn.)
The Sandy Cruz trail is a winding meander through clearings and rainforests. Labeled as moderate, it’s not for the unseasoned. Just when you think you’ve arrived you’ll be asking for your mommy. The trailhead begins just outside of Windwardside, the island’s hub of activity and nightlife (I’m being generous here). It begins innocently enough, through grassy lands, the kind of hike that leads you to believe anything is possible. In the distance to your right, you have a breathtaking view of the sea and the band-aid airstrip, and you are overcome with Saba’s unspoiled beauty, its noble simplicity, its lack of pretention. And then the trail climbs. And climbs some more. And if you’ve just gone diving (and really, who comes to Saba and doesn’t?) your temples will begin to pound with the sort of rhythm that commands you to slow down. The original two-hour estimation you originally guffawed at suddenly becomes more than reasonable.
There are 26 known varieties of orchids on Saba and the Sandy Cruz trail offers you a handsome peek. After passing the flora and butterflies aplenty in the knoll, you travel through a snaking rainforest where the savvy hiker will be sure to have his hiking shoes. The rocks that litter the path are slippery, the mud covering said rocks is ample. The scariest part is not the knowledge that you’ll bust your ass; rather, it’s not knowing when you’ll bust your ass. Fortunately, sturdy vines miraculously appear by your side for support. (And now you’ll understand just how Tarzan did it.)
Post-rainforest, you’ll end up back in a meadow with generous views once again of Saba’s tree-lined coast. The sea beyond is expansive; plan your trip right and you’ll be lucky enough to witness the sun setting. The trail ends at a crossing: continue upwards toward Troy Hill or turn to the road leading to The Bottom, Saba’s capital. Either way renders you a winner. You’ll leave with the euphoria of accomplishment and the peace of mind characteristic of a good hike.
Lastly, we ended the night playing Scrabble (I won! I won! I won!) and eating at the hotel restaurant. The manager, Bastian, whose native tongue is Flemish (I just found out tonight that means Belgian, duh.), speaks like five other languaages. I felt like such an under-achiever. To drown the voice, I drank myself silly on Belvedere. As I type this, I"m pretty sure tomorrow I will have wished I would have just ended my night with the hike.
Oh well. What are vacations for?
* Okay, funny-ish.
** Yesterday on the boat I went to lay on the nose (starside?) of the deck for a nap. The two Dutch sisters were speaking to each other in their mother tongue. I was trying to doze off but goddamn, Dutch is an ugly language. All phlegmy and hard. I suppose the term is "guttural." The whole mess made it difficult for me to sleep. I wished for my headphones. Later, Hav joined me and by extension them, and asked the girls where they were from. Amsterdam. And then, totally unprompted by me, the yellow-shirted sister apologized for speaking Dutch and said, "It's such an ugly language; all [and then she made a bunch of coughy, hacking noises]." Holy snap. She can read minds. I wondered if she knew that I thought her alopecia friend should just shave her (i.e. the friend) head. That's what I'd do anyway. Hav replied, "I like the Dutch." She smiled at his omission.
PS - I'm sooo happy for Young B, who won Employee of the Quarter.