Feb 24 - Island tour

The crew of four cruising boats (crew represented America, Scotland, Holland and France - a nice mix!) hired one of the local legendary tour operators, Robert Peters, to take the ten of us around St Helena. Robert's been doing tours for a long time, and is full of anecdotes of the island's history. As there are no cell phones on the island (!!), he can be reached thru the Tourist Information Office at the head of Main Street; can't miss it. A few of the places we visited: Longwood House, where Napoleon spent his exile years before his death, Napoleon's Tomb (before his mortal remains were sent back to France), St. Matthews Church, St Paul's Cathedral, Plantation House (the Governor's residence), Jacob's Ladder, and the road to the new airport. By the way, islanders are justly proud of the new airport under construction, scheduled for completion in the next year or so (?); however, bringing jet planes to a small island will obviously change it forever. We're happy we are here now and enjoying the present island way of life before the inevitable encroachments of modern society come to fruition. No cell phones on the island?! No high-rise buildings or chain hotels?! Few bars or eateries. Just your basic very small island whose history goes back hundreds of years. We were told that about 300 yachts per year visit St Helena. Preliminary estimates have about 30000 tourists visiting by plane in the first year or so...change is a'comin. At any rate, when approaching the island by boat, it appears to be a huge rocky island; the interior, though, is splendid. Green, lush, varied, forest, farms, , beaches, narrow roads...we really enjoyed seeing it, and recommend Robert to yachties following us. Cost for the day's tour - 10 pounds/pp for groups of 8-10 people. Note: there's one bank in town to exchange currencies; there is no ATM, but a Visa card may be used for cash withdrawal there. Life in the slow lane. We've also learned that supplies and passengers arrive by HMS St. Helena once a month; the ship then goes to Ascension island, then returns to St Helena (without supplies) before going back to Cape Town. Obviously, air travel will change all this.

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