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26 March 2012

Hiking Saba

The weekend after block 3 exams, aka St Patrick's Day weekend, we flew over to Saba for some hiking and diving. We didn't get a chance to go diving last April when we visited, since I was not certified yet. Two friends went with us and we left Friday after class and stayed for the weekend. When we arrived Friday, the top of the mountain was actually clear! This is very uncommon, as it is usually sitting in cloud cover. So we dropped out bags at the hotel and headed to summit. Unfortunately by the time we got up there (1.5 hours later) it was in cloud cover! Apparently the views are beautiful on a clear day, but I guess we'll never know. It was still a good hike either way. 

After that, we headed down and finished our hike in the dark (good thing we brought flash lights!). By the time we got to the Bottom, literally (that's the name of the town, end bottom of the mountain) we discovered our original plan to eat dinner was not going to happen, as there really isn't anywhere to eat, it is Saba after all. We decided to stop by the medical school and take a look, then started back up the mountain, this time on the roads. We decided it was way to far and uphill to hike, so we hitched a ride! My first time hitching from a total stranger, but this is very common in Saba and everyone offers rides and is very friendly. There are only 1400 people that live on Saba, so there is very little crime and people help each other out. We made it back and ate dinner in Windward Side, the town we stayed in. Also, Saba is run off of rain water, and since it had not rained lately our eco-friendly hotel asked us to conserve water, so there went my nice long hot showers hope! It's funny how St Maarten makes you appreciate the US and Saba makes you appreciate St Maarten, it's all perspective. 

Anyway, we dove Saturday (pictures and details in the next post) and hiked again Sunday. We originally planned on the North Side trail but after talking to our hotel hosts, we were told it is very dangerous and you must hire a guide. So that was ruled out immediately. We found a different trail and made a long route back to the airport. One girl stayed behind, so she kept our bags and brought them to the airport on the shuttle with her, which was very helpful for our hike. After 6 hours of hiking, without much view, we finally arrive at the airport and were on our way back to St Maarten for some nice long (cold) showers! Here are a few hiking pictures and look for diving soon!

Leaving St Maarten
Heading straight for the mountain before turning to land
Crazy landing strip, quite an adventure
It was clear

Still clear halfway up
You can at least see the water, last April we couldn't see anything
The Elephant Ear leaves were huge!
One of a view views on Sunday's hike
What most of our trails looked like
Sulphur mines that Owen explored
We saw a few large, dark iguanas, this one still had a full tail. Owen says this is proof dinosaurs existed :)
Our innovative coladas to go, recycled milk containers, courtesy of Joost and DJ at El Momo

Diving Saba

We had heard so much about diving in Saba and we didn't want to miss our opportunity! Apparently the best stuff is at depth, but half of us were not certified beyond Open Water (~18meters, or 60feet). Overall, we all agreed it wasn't as amazing as people had told us, but the reefs were certainly more colorful than St Maarten. We also saw a lot more fish than on our typical dives. We started our first dive with a large spotted Eagle Ray that swam right in front of us. Those are always beautiful to see, typically we just see regular sting rays. Owen spotted a Nurse Shark sleeping under a rock, so he's seen a shark now too! We also saw several eels and turtles. We were scheduled to do 3 dives, but I was having trouble with allergies and congestion and my ear wouldn't clear on the second dive. So I stayed back from the 3rd dive with CamTu, who was pretty sea-sick. Overall I'm glad we dove at Saba, we definitely saw some cool things, even if it wasn't as amazing as people had built it up to be. Worth the trip, especially when you live on the neighboring island! Check out More Diving Pictures on our Picasa album. Enjoy!

Spotted Eagle Ray
Black Durgon Fish, saw lots of these
Trunk Fish
Spotted Moray Eel
Can you spot the Flounder fish?

Nurse Shark
Cool side view of the shark, kind of scary to get that close
The shark turned just enough to see its head
Saw lots of these on the reefs

Sea Cucumber
Cool line of sea fans
Can anyone help ID this fish? Best guess is the Whitespotted Filefish (thanks James)
Lion Fish, they're invasive, but very cool looking
Shallower Dive, better colors and clarity
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Owen took this great close up of the turtle

25 March 2012

Regatta 2012

Well, the month of February was relatively quiet so not much to update on. However, March has been a bit more exciting. We started off with the 2012 Heineken Regatta. This year the wind was pretty strong so the races were much better. What took 2 hours last year was only 30 minutes or so this year, the boats were flying by! Friday, while Owen was in class, I headed down to the rocks at Cupecoy Beach with some friends to watch the races. Saturday, I had a going away lunch, but Owen went to the same beach as I did the day before. He and some friends set up the grill and had a cookout while watching the races. Sunday I went on a spectator/chaser boat with some spouses and teachers from the school I tutor at. We didn't get to go on a boat last year, and unfortunately exams were coming up so Owen was not able to go this year either (I don't think he cared too much anyway). It was pretty cool to be out on the water and in the middle of the races. Our boat got right in there and we had boats going all around us. I'm really glad I went out this year. Anyway here are a few pictures from the regatta, I'll have some more up on Picasa soon, so check under Picasa tab above this week. Up next: SABA!

View from just outside our apartment gate

Watching from the rocks
Love the spinnakers, always so bright and colorful

Beautiful day and location to watch from
Some of the spouses on the boat
Mullet Bay Beach and AUC
Near Marigot

Love watching how far they lean, amazing they don't tip over