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Mourning Montserrat: Money For Nothing

For 80’s music buffs, the quiet paradise island of Montserrat in the Caribbean might evoke memories of an era of glamourous pop stars heading out to the Air Recording Studios to sing their hearts out onto LPs that we would all buy.  The Police, Duran Duran, Dire Straits, Sir Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Elton John, just some of the big names to enjoy a little Caribbean sun-tanning, singing and song-writing in low-key Montserrat.

However, in 1989 Hurricane Hugo put a stop to that when it devastated the island and destroyed the Air Studios.  Six years later in 1995, just as the island had re-built itself, it was again hit by devastation. This time the Soufrière Hills Volcano ended its 400-year dormancy and erupted with cataclysmic results, wiping out the island’s southern side. The capital Plymouth was partly destroyed – and not just once – as two years later, the volcano roared back into life to claim the rest of the city, airport and surrounding land.

As we sailed past the ash-covered abandoned and partly buried buildings of Plymouth we couldn’t help be overwhelmed and in awe of this volcano and what nature had caused.  With the volcano still actively smoking, we stared at the massive lava and mud flow channels – the size of the M25 motorway – that had carved its way down the mountain, flattening everything in its path as it headed into the sea.  Jaw-droppingly sad.

And yet, by stark contrast, the northern half of the island remains stoic to the destructive issues of its southern counterpart.  Standing tall and proud, lush and green, with large palatial houses scattered around the hills, in dispersed with coconut palms and vegetation.

A new capital is emerging in the north around Little Bay, where the fishing boats and port are based.  Beachside tiki huts house a café, restaurant and bar and it’s also the location for Sir George Martin’s Montserrat Cultural Centre, a newly-built stately performance hall used for concerts, events as well as funerals.

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In Little Bay in the height of the season we were in the company of three other boats, but that’s enormously quiet for a Caribbean island’s main anchorage.

You can’t help feeling sad for what was once was a thriving island, frequented by the rich, famous and talented, now gets its only tourism from the occasional volcano-related day trip from Antigua.  However, if you want a slice of the Caribbean that’s not visited by cruise ships and crowds, then devote a little more than just a day trip to the quiet island of Montserrat.  It will soon come bouncing back and you’ll have been glad to see it in its humble state.

© Two Drifters Travel

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