Life on a rock | She's Wanderlust: Life on a rock

Life on a rock

October 14, 2014

As most of you know, my husband recently started his medical rotations (wahoo!!). He studied abroad, on a small (like really small, 5 square-mile small) island. Which meant we lived approx. 2,043 miles apart. Saba, aka. the rock, which 99% of people have never heard of, is located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, very close to St. Maarten. It definitely was an experience, for my husband and myself. I got to visit him every few months and he saw the sun, never. Well except when travelling to and from campus on his ever so famous scooter – see picture below. He loved that scooter, he called it the bumble bee. It broke down almost more than it ran properly but he learned how to repair just about everything on that thing so… not only did he study just about everything relating to the human body but he is now a mechanic.

My Husband fixing the Bumblebee

After we got married, I decided to join him on the rock. Looking back, it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. Initially, I was very nervous about going; What would I do? Could I work? Would I make any friends? But I am so happy I went and it truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I made some great friends, got to live on a tropical island(!!) and I was really able to experience what life on the rock was like for my husband, the previous year and a half - minus the stress of med school. 

I always refer to the island as "quirky". Initially my husband didn't like this description until he understood my reasoning behind it. There is NO place on earth like it... or that I have seen (so, maybe there is). It is beautiful, almost untouched, free from mass consumerism and is totally refreshing. Obviously my husband and his classmates had a very different experience than I, but I think many of them were able to enjoy and appreciate the quirkiness of the island. The island is an inactive volcano so it isn't your typical island. It is very hilly, rocky and has 1, sometimes 2 beaches. One of the beaches in Well’s Bay is called the "wandering beach", depending on the time of the year, water pushes black sand onto the rocks which creates the 2nd beach. The first time I saw this "beach", it was all rocks, I had a hard time believing, it could be covered in sand but... as nature happens, sand did appear and covered the rocks. The island also only has one road, it stretches from the airport on one side of the island to the harbour on the very opposite side.

The Road

The airport is a whole different experience. First of all, you board a very small, 16-passengar Havilland Twin-Otter plane in St. Maarten and depending on if your flight is full, your luggage might not make it until later. Then about 10 minutes after take off, you initially think you are heading right into the rock face of Saba until the plane makes a sharp turn and lands on the 400m landing strip - currently the world's shortest commercial landing strip.

The 16-passengar plane

The island is known for it's beautiful hiking trails which, I got the pleasure of hiking most of them. One trail has eroded substantially so you need to hire the island guide. My friend Jaimie, who I met on the island, and I never got around to it. It made us a bit nervous since we heard the drops were pretty substantial. The island is also every well known for having breathtaking dive sites. I tried scuba diving on the island, my second time to trying in the Great Barrier Reef, however, it just isn't for me. I was fine in the pool and fine for my first couple of meters but then I start to panic about what could happen so I rushed to the top. I have now come to the conclusion that I am very content viewing all the wonderful scenery and underwater creatures from my snorkeling mask. 

Hiking with other wives on the island

I worked at a great little bakery while on the island. It was fairly new when I arrived and I am sure it is still booming! A lady who originally came to the island as a scuba diving instructor, opened the bakery and I loved every moment I worked with her. She is so fun, kind and energetic. The bakery made tradition dutch bread, sweets, sandwiches, panini’s and coffee. The bakery had a storefront to service customers and delivered fresh bread to the grocery stores daily! This was very neat to me as the bread we buy at the grocery store at home is mass produced and sits on the shelves for days.

Bizzy B Bakery

Inside Bizzy B Bakery

Deliveries from St. Maarten came to the island weekly, every Wednesday. I never went down to the harbour on a Wednesday but apparently, it was very hectic! Deliveries would arrive by boat for every business from the grocery store to the hardware store and even for some individuals. Individuals either went down to the harbour to picked up their orders or a delivery service loaded up a truck and dropped off each order, see picture below.

The delivery is here!

There is also a garden on the island where you can buy fresh produce. The garden was funded by the government and local school kids would work there to learn about the daily operations of the garden and running a business. When you arrived, you would get a basket and pick your own produce fresh from the ground! I loved this as everything was naturally grown and as fresh as you could get!

The Garden

When I decided to go down to the island, we moved out of Mark’s previous “town” of Windward Side to “Lower Hell’s Gate”. We lived in a very traditional Saban style house on the water. The homes on the island, other than stone housing, have to have white sides with green windows and red roofs. If you don’t comply with this bylaw, I believe you will be fined and be required to meet the above standards. The view from our house was amazing, you could see other close-by islands in the distance. Our “town” was on the other side of the island from the school so my husband would have about a lengthy 15 minute drive instead of a quick 5 minute zip on his scooter. That was one of the perks of coming from the GTA, anywhere on the island took less than 30 minutes. My morning commute prior to moving to the island was just over an hour. 

Our home!


The view from our balcony. The airport ahead and the “Cove” (1 of the 2 beaches) is below to the right.

I hope to one day go back to the island and see how it has developed, but I do hope it still keeps it’s untouched and quirky charm!

A few more pictures from Saba:

Brit! (A friend from home who goes to SUSOM as well), I made the local paper, hiking and in the Hospital after I insisted on drive the bumblebee....


My car, our house, trying Pig feet and the only gas station on the island!

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