After a great tour yesterday with Robert the Taxi driver, we are ready to depart St Helena for the Caribbean. Destination a little scratchy and dependent on weather, wind, currents etc.
St Helena's interior is such a contrast to the Jamestown area where we are moored. Here is bare rock with little or no vegetation. Once you get up onto the plateau you are in fern and cypress forest. Kikui grass is still very green and lush. Its so steep that even cattle and donkeys cant graze parts of the hillsides so they were planted with flax. Until the mid 60s Flax was the primary industry here with several flax mills and good employment.
The islanders are self sufficient in beef and pork and there are also egg producers and poultry suppliers. Growing vegetables is a less reliable sport as there have been a number of pests and diseases, along with rabbits, introduced to the island which make it increasingly difficult and expensive for sprays etc. No honey or bee products are allowed ashore here for fear of damage to the coffee industry. The very stable bee population apparently help produce a reliable and much sought after coffee.
The British government is building an airport on St Helena and it is a huge operation. For the past 2 years 40 trucks and over 340 people have been at work filling in a big valley to put the runway across the island and prevent wind shear effects up the gully. Crews work 24 / 7 and there is now virtually full employment again here. Until the airport is completed islanders will have to continue to receive emergency medical treatment by transporting to Cape Town on the RMS St Helena, the supply ship which comes about every fortnight. The ship came in while we were here and it has to unload everything by lighters. The containers are off-loaded onto barges, driven ashore with the biggest outboard engines you have ever seen, and unloaded with cranes. Passengers come ashore on a small motor boat. There is no pier at all. There is talk of building something.
Several dive companies run dive tours with the possibility of seeing and diving with whale sharks. The water clarity is sensational. Craig runs Into The Blue from an office on the main wharf. You can google "Into the Blue Dive St Helena" and should find him, or his email is email@example.com
We didn't dive but spoke to several clients who had and were absolutely thrilled with their experience. There were whale sharks here while we were here.
Napoleon died here so there is a big emphasis on that part of the Islands history and we went with Robert to Napoleons Tomb and to his house here. There are no horses left on the island however when Napoleon was here he rode often. He was a great horse lover. There is also a very old Tortoise on the island named Jonathan and reputedly 187 years old. The oldest living animal on the planet. We met him! He lives in the Governors front garden. They're are allegedly planing a state funeral for him when he finally passes on!!
There is so much more to tell about this place. Its been a great stopover and we have never met so many friendly people. The natural history and the history dating back to the early 1500s are really fascinating and do deserve a longer and closer look. The oldest continuous church site in the southern hemisphere is here in Jamestown. But time is ticking and with our reputation for getting stuck in places we are going to slip the line today head out with Jigsaw, in loose convoy. We will hopefully maintain radio contact with Myriam and Jigsaw during the passage west. Mary has no radio but we will keep email contact with them also