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On The Level

The island is up hill and down hill everywhere except in the middle...and then not much is flat.

Nothing about St Helena is on the level except for the Saints who live here.

The only horn honking one hears is done to alert oncoming drivers at blind turns. In spots where Americans would lean on horns, Saints patiently wait, wave and chat with someone who might be nearby until the obstruction has cleared. I ask Anthony, "How many of the 4,500 or so souls on this island do you know by their first name?"

"Two thirds," he says. "Or a bit more."90_No_Parking.jpg

The island is home to young people who have never seen an elevator or escalator, a traffic signal, a local TV news broadcast or, until a few weeks ago, a passenger aircraft. When they did get off the island, until now, it was aboard the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) St Helena which took them to either Ascension Island 700 miles to the northwest in two days or 1950 miles southeast to Cape Town, South Africa in five days. It is 1400 miles south to Tristan de Cunha where the RMS used to occasionally sail. Otherwise there is only water.270_Ladder_from_Castle.jpg

I don't know that any of that is what makes them so friendly but they certainly are. I am greeted everywhere I walk and passing drivers, almost without exception, wave a greeting. Some smile and some don't but almost every one acknowledges friend and stranger alike. There is virtually no crime here with the exception being the occasional crime of passion; passion is here as it is everywhere.

There are a lot of cars but you seem to see the same ones over and over again. I am fascinated by four digit license plates. Here, though, the VIPs don't necessarily get the low numbers; they seem to be on regular vehicles, some old and not so fine and others somewhat less old and not quite fine.Plate5.jpgPlate6.jpg Plate7.jpgPlate9.jpgThere are no new cars here to my experience; the tariff to bring in a vehicle is 45%. They make the old ones last. It isn't Cuba because the tariff is not quite an embargo but there are many repair shops which wait patiently for parts that don't come when they're supposed to. Maybe that is why there are a lot of cars; you need a backup while your other one is waiting for a needed part.

The places I would like to hang out would be bars along the waterfront. Closed_Bar_2.jpgClosed_Bar_1.jpgThe problem is the the two that exist have yet to be open while I'm here. The Coffee Shop is open but not as a coffee shop would be at home: the hours are short. 270_Fast_Food_Shop.jpgCoffee_Shop.jpgThere are shops but they mostly have staples on offer...and then only when in stock. Everything, or nearly so, is imported by ship. If you want souvenirs there isn't a whole lot to be had. Tour_Bus.jpg None of that is offered as a criticism, instead consider these points as observations. However, if and when a second flight per week is offered--or even one day more than that--bringing in the tourists that many here seek, there will need to be a change or two implemented. Places will have to accept credit cards. The only place I've found that takes plastic is the Mantis. Hours will have to be extended. Tourists don't acknowledge Sunday as a day of rest or any day as a day off. And, maybe, even the honking will change as tourists step off the curb looking the wrong way at the wrong time at the wrong pace.

The accent here is not British and it isn't South African. It is its own thing. Most things are heard and understood without difficulty but, once in a while, a vowel is uttered in an unfamiliar way and an outsider cocks his or her head and furrows a brow wondering, "Excuse me? What was that you just said?" No worries. I get it quickly enough.

Today's tour is by Steve Evans of Green Wagon Tours. (00 290) 24415 or through the Tourist Office at (00 290) 24415 or vectormco@aol.com or greenwagon@helanta.co.sh. His vehicle for island-wide excursions is a safe Nissan Terrano and he bills his tours and both scenic and informative. He hails, somehow, from Alabama. Steve is great; he and wife Joan, a Saint, do hydroponic farming growing tomatoes and more for the local population.

I meet up with Stuart, Taylor and Mike for dinner; next door at the Orange Tree Restaurant next door. It was quite good. The conversation was sparkling. There is nothing like spirited conversation over dinner to make the meal. By 8:30, I am spent.Orange_Tree_Restaurant.jpg

Posted by paulej4 12:29 Archived in St Helena

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All seems serene and beautiful there.... isolated in a good way. Did you get Law and Order T 8:30 bedtime?

by Chuckc9969

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