We spent two nights (18, 19 February) in Montserrat plus the afternoon of our arrival. It was way too little time. The island was absolutely amazing.
The volcanic eruptions that began in 1995 and have lasted until 2010 devastated the entire southern side of the island including the capital city and port of Plymouth. The southern side of the island had many areas of ash flow like this one.
At the time the eruptions began over 10,000 people lived on the island. The population now is around 5,000. Huge areas of the island are uninhabitable now and the remaining population has relocated to the northwest coast and the bay appropriately named Little Bay.
Unfortunately, the bay is really little and quite exposed. The need to bring in commercial vessels complicates the anchoring situation further since the area near and leading to the docks is necessary for maneuvering. As a result our two nights were quite rolly. One night at dinner, a large, sudden roll flung our plates into our hands. An iPad slid from the nav desk and shattered the screen. Steady sleep also fell victim to the rolls.
Even so, it was all well worth it. The folks on the island are amazingly optimistic and friendly. That probably makes sense – how else could you hang on there without a lot of optimism?
We had a quest on Montserrat – we wanted a courtesy flag. These are the country flags boats fly as a sign of respect while visiting a foreign country. We had not found one before and we hoped to find one there. Off we went. First we went into a store that advertised “tailoring and household assorted items.” They sent us to the Montserrat Stationary Center.. On the way, we had a nice conversation about our trip and homeschooling with a woman in the new government compound who gave us additional directions. While the stationary center had everything from a kitchen sink strainer (we needed this too) to schoolbooks, to wine, they didn’t have the flag. Still, the manager called two additional stores with no luck.
Then, we headed to a hardware store on the return. We spoke with the manager there for 15 or 20 minutes about the economic development and recovery and the use of geothermal electric generation on the island. They called the governor’s office to ask where we could find a flag and then the store that was recommended. The answer sounded positive.
We stopped at that store on the beginning of our volcano tour. Again, it was a store with a bit of everything. The manager pulled out a stack of Montserrat flags. Unfortunately, the printing was cheap and they had stuck to each other. In the end, we came out with two flags for the price of one. The manager commented on how he lost the cost of the whole stack, because “What can I do? Send them back to China?”
The volcano tour was amazing. First, you drive along dirt roads across river valleys that have filled with ash and volcano effluent that has been washed down the mountain. For example, take a look at the third story of this house that was once on the edge of a golf course. The second story roof is now just at the ground level. This erosion process is relatively slow. Heavy rains cause mud slides and mud floods that cause the burying. This is an ongoing process and there is a lot of ash and mud still on the mountain. I wonder what this house will look like in 10 years.
Then, we headed into the daytime exclusion zone.
You have to be out of this zone by 4 pm each day. There is a surprising amount of work in this zone as several companies are sifting the volcano effluent for sand. They also crush the smaller rocks. We read that sand is Montserrat’s largest export.
As you press further into the exclusion zone, views of Plymouth start to appear.
This cloud in this picture isn’t a rain cloud.
Finally, we ended up at the ruins of the Hot Springs hotel. It had been severely damaged by hurricane Hugo in 1989 and was rebuilt only to have the volcano erupt in 1995. Life isn’t easy down there. This is the view from the lobby to the swimming pool with Plymouth in the background. Note the ladder for the pool.
And finally, the requisite view of Hurrah in the harbor.