Tue 23 May 2006
Many of you who’ve been following our blog – or perhaps those of you who know Saba – have heard or seen “The Road.” The Road is the only road in Saba. It goes from the airport, through Hell’s Gate, Windwardside, St. John and The Bottom – Saba’s 4 villages.
The Road is nothing like I have seen in the United States – there is no blacktop, which is good because it would be sticky and stinky in the direct Caribbean sun. There are no yellow lines – or any lines for that matter – denoting lanes for cars to stay within. In fact, The Road looks more like a giant’s sidewalk – it is made of concrete, which is easily made in Saba due to the proliferation of rock found throughout the island. There are small cracks in between massive slabs of concrete, just like the cracks in a sidewalk.
Before The Road
Prior to the road being built, Sabans got around by hiking the trails from village to village, kind of like I do each day on my hikes. This is no easy task, especially if you had to carry things, like vegetables or household goods – or move farm animals from one place to another. Donkeys could be used to make the trip easier – imagine a trip through the rainforest on a donkey?
Sabans, Clever & Determined
One thing I have come to understand about the Sabans is that they are clever and determined. If something needs to be done, they’ll figure out a way to do it – and this is how The Road was built. Engineers said there was no way a road could be built on the rugged, curvy, mountainous terrain of Saba – impossible! And yet, Josephus Lambert Hassell, a native of Saba, was determined to prove them wrong. He studied engineering from a correspondence course and in 1938, began to build the road with a crew of dedicated Sabans. It took several years and much commitment to get this road built from one end of the island to another. If you take a taxi ride with Garvis, he will tell you all about building the road, since he worked on it in his youth.
Caribbean Alpine Slide
As I walk along The Road, I am reminded of a giant Alpine Slide, the cars whisking along with no real speed limit, the shoulders made of foot-tall concrete. And just like me at 8 years old, tentatively trusting the vehicle that took me down the Alpine Slide, the more adventurous would be piled behind me, wishing they could pass. It’s really not so different in Saba, since it takes a lot of courage when you first learn to drive. And even when you are experienced, the daredevil drivers still find themselves piled behind the car they want to pass. Oh, and just like the Alpine Slide, the passengers in taxi cabs have this look of half-fear, half-glee on their faces!
Even though I learned to trust myself to speed along the Alpine Slide, I realize that make-believe playground in the mountains is nothing like this “road that could not be built.” Walking along, I am grateful for deciding upon simplicity for yet another reason: not having to drive The Road! Thank heavens Manny, Garvis and other kind souls are there to get me where I need to go – whenever I have my own household goods to get from village to village.
Check out the Daphne Cottage website in the “history” section for more about Saba and the road (and airport) that couldn’t be built!!
More Information – This article is a tribute to builders of the road, with in-progress pictures and details of the challenges they faced.