Thursday, January 17, 2013

Saba's Impossible Road

The small rocky island of Saba rises up out of the sea like a giant green mountain

Due to the islands terrain, the residents who lived in the villages and farms were basically isolated from each other by deep valleys and jagged mountain peaks. 

Back in the 1940's a decision was made to build a road around the rugged heights of the island. The best Dutch engineers looked at the challenge and stated it could be done - however the local Saban's were determined to build the impossible road. 

Without a road the only way locals had to reach their homes and businesses from the coast was by a number of ladders with over 900 steps that were linked to the mountain walking trails. 

The older local fishermen say it took a great deal of fortitude and strength to hoist groceries, furniture and farm supplies up the ladders by rope. But all that started to change in the 1940's. 

In Memory of Josephus Lambert Hassell
 Engineer Of The Road That Could Not Be Built

A local carpenter by the name of Joseph Hassel decided he would lead the way to getting The Road built. 

He was not deterred by having no experience in constructing a project that was deemed impossible by Holland's engineers. Hassel, who was 40 years old at the time, signed up for a 5 year correspondence course in "road making". 

During the next five years, he enabled the help of every man, woman and even the islands children to commit to working on a volunteer basis each week.  
The island had no heavy construction equipment, nor was there any money to purchase the type of equipment to complete the project. 

It took the locals 25 years for the islanders to build "The Road" by shovel, pick, spades an rakes. 

The ten miles of concrete secured to the mountainside with stone walls is truly an engineering marvel. 

After all that hard work over the decades, the locals never gave an official name to their project - It's simply called The Road. By the way, the base of the mountain is called "The Bottom" - they tend to keep things rather simple on Saba

The airport was another engineering problem to anyone other than the local Saban's. When it came time to build it, they took the simple approach of carving off the top of a hill, and made way for one of the shortest commercial runway in the world!

Landing on Saba is an exhilarating experience!

Source: via Travel 2 the Caribbean - on Pinterest

I'm heading back to Saba in February, and always look forward to experiencing the scenery, warm hospitality and delicious lobster on this tiny Dutch island. Every location on this mountain island offers awesome views, and once again I will make the 1,064 step climb to the highest peak. 

The one thing the island does not offer are beaches, so my stay is always limited to 3-4 days. You know it's really a special place that can attract a professed beach bum year after year. 

I've taken the flight into the island once, and since have opted for the ferry round-trip to and from St Maarten. Let me say the airport is flanked on both sides by huge hills, the length of the runway has ragged cliffs on both sides, and the pilot hits the brakes real hard. 

Happy Travels,

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