The Fort, Alarm Forest and Jonathan

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » Saint Helena
August 21st 2012
Published: August 21st 2012
Edit Blog Post

Words from Di (you may be lucky and get two blogs this week if Michael gets time to do one).

I’m beginning to get into the swing of life on the island – still waving and saying ‘Hello’ to everyone of course, if you don't the islanders say "Bad Manners"! (Standing at Donny’s bar on Friday we were told we should have been there earlier as the whales were close to harbour and ‘leaping’ – shame we weren’t!)

The winter rain has persisted over the last week unfortunately limiting activities, except for some sunny intervals over the last few days. On Saturday a group of us obtained the key for the Fort (you go to the tourist office and ask for the key and take it back when you have finished, paying £2 each (if you’re honest) how bizarre is that). Doing anything on island is always very inclusive, if you are visiting anywhere involving keys you tell as many people as you can/know and those that want to join in turn up, consequently our group of three soon turned into a group of seven. Rory, a young Scottish lad doing 9 months voluntary work with the island’s National Trust (what an experience it will be for him), joined us so we had a free guide too. Parts of the Fort are still substantially intact which made the tour all the more interesting. The views from the site are amazing in every direction (as you’d expect) and particularly the view of Prince Andrew School (the secondary school), which perches precipitously on the top of a rock formation, below which is ‘Heart–Shaped Waterfall’ (Health and Safety would have a field day here!) Needless to say the sun gave way to rain but the bonus was a view of a beautiful rainbow from above, which was quite remarkable.

As last week, Michael will be busy doing his DJ bit on St Helena radio again tonight – this week’s playlist is based on groups whose names begin with X, Y or Z (now there’s a challenge for you, come on get your thinking caps on – answers on a p/card please…). Wednesday is skittles - I didn’t go last week and he scored the highest total of the game, or so he said! Think I’ll go along to witness it this time.

Thursday morning will be ‘market day’ and a chance to enjoy coffee and a gossip in the Consulate as is usual. The ‘market’ comprises two counters – one for meat/veg (the former has to be ordered) and the other for fish (frozen only at this time of year as there is not much fresh catch around at the moment) and that’s literally it! On the food front it takes about 3 hours to shop for the essentials, one shop has carrots, another doesn’t but has potatoes and onions instead, yet another has butter and another shop sells spices and herbs in one ounce bags out of sweetie jars. The Consulate has started selling deli meats and decent steak causing much excitement in the town! I’ll never complain about Sainsbury’s again! Made a fish pie for dinner on Sunday for our 4 invited guests featuring the Wahoo caught by Michael all those weeks ago – it was enjoyed by all, but gathering the ingredients was no mean feat, especially the dark chocolate that went into the chocolate bread and butter pudding that followed. Tesco and Asda products feature heavily here but no Waitrose I’m afraid!

I’ve been invited to join a painting group (don’t laugh), which meets on a Tuesday morning (fancy name for a chat and a gossip I think) but have been warned that the venue is very difficult to reach. Apparently a couple recently took their 4-wheel drive to the house and due to the inclement weather had to leave the vehicle there for 4 days until the ground dried out sufficiently to be able to drive it out! However, as my knee is not yet mended I may have to give it a miss this week. The house is situated in Alarm Forest – isn’t that a great name, so called because it is near Alarm House which was the place where the look-outs used to watch for invaders (keeping Napoleon from escaping was their main pre-occupation) and when any ships were spotted an ‘Alarm’ was sounded. We also have roads called Sappers Way and Ladder Hill (near Jacob’s Ladder of course) – I’ll leave Michael to extol on the virtues of names on the island but I just love them.

The wildlife here is fascinating too, Red Cardinals are a constant feature in the garden as they delight on feeding on a strange plant with bright orange flower heads (apparently a type of weed, name still to be discovered) and what I took to be crickets are actually tree frogs. They chirp away at night into the early hours and form that natural sound of the island that becomes more familiar the longer you stay. I don’t much like the cockroaches and red spiders, which bite, and am reliably informed that the none-deadly scorpions favour Jamestown (much to my relief as we do not live there). I do like our new pet House Gecko (fondly named ‘Leon’ after Napoleon) as he has a taste for mosquitoes and unfriendly insects, we have been advised to look after him well! One little item that made me smile recently was the fact that a ‘paper’ has been written on how the island will deal with Jonathan’s eventual death (not yet imminent but a certainty none the less). You may or may not know that Jonathan is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest surviving tortoise in the world. A quote from Aug 2011 states:‘A spokesman for the island's tourist board said that St Helena government owns Jonathan and he lives in the specially built plantation on the governor's land. 
"Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882," the Telegraph quoted him as saying. 

"He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old. 
 "Therefore his minimum age is 178-years-old. He is the oldest inhabitant on St Helena and is claimed to be the oldest living tortoise in the world." I haven’t visited Plantation House yet where he resides but it is definitely on my list of things to do. We are hoping for a sunny day tomorrow so perhaps the visit to the plantation might be sooner rather than later.


23rd August 2012

Hallo Di. We have not met but Michael may have mentioned that he and I became friends coming out on the ship together. I so much enjoyed your two blogs. You are obviously interested in everything and reading your various notes actually gives me an appetite to come back to the island some time (I only did an 8 day holiday there). My wife and I live in Cape Town (although currently in the UK) and are hoping M will stopover with us on his way home next March. Are you returning via Cape Town. If so when. We would love to meet you. We get back on 25 September. All good wishes to you both - Peter
31st August 2012

Di's return
Hello Peter So nice to hear from you. Please excuse my tardy response but I have only just discovered how to read and reply to comments on the blog! Although we have not yet met Michael has spoken of you on many occasions in the hope that we do. The sailing date for my return is 20th Sept, arriving at CT on the 25th. I am booked in to The Commodore (021 415 1000) for one night and fly home on the evening of the 26th at 8pm. If you decide to meet me in CT it very much depends on a number of factors - if the RMS is on time, if you are not too exhausted by your own journey home (you arrive home the day that I dock) and if you have no other plans on the 26th. I cannot be more precise than this as you may or may not know that the RMS can be fickle with its arrival times! If the weather is fine then I hope to visit Table Mountain during the morning but am happy to fit in a coffee/lunch with you and your wife if time permits. Not knowing how close you are to CT, perhaps the easiest solution would be for you to phone the hotel if you want to meet and leave a message and contact number for me (if I am not there) and I will try to get back to you. Please forgive me if I run out of time and don't make contact. In the hope of meeting sooner rather than later. Kind Regards - Di

Tot: 0.255s; Tpl: 0.011s; cc: 5; qc: 45; dbt: 0.2335s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.1mb