Our island tour with Avalon
It’s not often the we employ the services of a guide. On the few occasions that we have, our strategy has been to find a really good one and take a tour as soon as we arrive at a new island. By doing this, we learn what there is to see and have a base to begin our own exploration during the days that follow. In this case, we knew that with only two days on the island, we would never be able to really see Montserrat if we didn’t hook up with a guide. So, following the recommendations in the books and Active Captain, we hired Joe Phillip to show us around. Was that a good decision? We think it was an excellent one!
Joe Phillip, who can be reached on VHF 08 by calling Avalon, or by phone at 664-492-1565, is a man who takes his tours seriously. He does not just drive people around the island and point at things. He has thoroughly researched the history of Montserrat and with his trusty iPad in hand, he has a collection of old photographs and videos that he will share, each serving to put the elements of the tour in context. I will freely admit that we knew next to nothing about the island when we first arrived. For example, we had no idea about the influence that the Beatles rock and roll band had on Montserrat nor the scope of the devastation from the volcano’s eruption. We learned a considerable amount during our tour but the learning didn’t stop there. By the time we had returned to our boat, we had already received an email from Joe with a collection of links for us to continue our research. Pretty efficient, eh?
Several people have mentioned to us that they plan to visit Montserrat themselves. If you are among them, we’d highly recommend that you hook up with Joe for a tour. I can’t imagine that there would be anyone on the island giving tours that would even remotely compare.
Scoping out the terrain before we met up with our tour guide.
Little Bay, where ZTC is anchored, is now the islands main harbor.
Before the eruption there was nothing there.
The island’s Cultural Center, completed largely through money raised by performing artists.
There is a large amount of musical memorabilia here and elsewhere on the island.
Montserrat is not lacking for drinking water, even during the dry season.
We drank from the spring. Does that mean we have to come back?
The famous Air Studios, once the site of a state-of-the-art recording studio
used by a number of famous bands.
Sadly, in 1989 Hurricane Hugo put an end to that.
With Joe guiding us, we were able to breeze through the security checkpoints.
Geothermal exploration inside the exclusion zone.
Joe showing us around the neighborhood where he used to live.
Note how the house is buried almost up to the windows
by ash that fell during various eruptions.
The jungle has come back to claim the evacuated land.
It is difficult to see even large houses that are now hidden in the growth.
There were plenty of opportunities to take photographs during the tour.
Unfortunately, as with most mountain peaks, it is tough to get a cloud free shot.
Mud and ash have completely buried what was once the main residential areas of Montserrat.
Here is a Google Earth perspective of the island. The photo above is of Plymouth.
A close up shot of the deviation.
See that nice pier..
…the bay has now been filled in leaving only the outside portion visible.
As much as we would have liked to, exploration in Plymouth by foot is not permitted.
Fancy hotels are left abandoned.
Look at the amount of ash that has washed into this room.
This is a full-sized desk, not some child’s toy!
We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day for our tour.
It might have been a nice enough day for a swim if the 9′ deep pool wasn’t filled to the top with ash!
The old photos that Joe has compiled added greatly to the tour.
Another thing we learned: several companies mine the sand
that has collected and export it to other islands.
Care for a game of golf? The fairway is 10-20′ below this!
Only the top of this 3 story house is now visible.
Old Road Harbor was once the best anchorage on the island.
Now it’s a beautiful place for locals to come for a swim.
Although the scope of the devastation is difficult to comprehend, there is still a lot of beauty and history on the island, making it well worth a stop for cruisers in the Leeward Islands.