Montserrat

On August 27th 2009, Redonda’s king, King Bob the Bald, died peacefully in Canada. In the words of his daughter, Tamara, King Bob “set sail on his final voyage and into uncharted waters.”

Yep, sheiks’ wives come to give birth, and kings come to die in this land of the north, and I have no doubt there is a very good reason for this. I’m also pretty sure that right now you are squinting your eyes wondering “Where the heck is this Kingdom of Redonda?”

Well, the Kingdom of Redonda was established in 1865 on the tiny uninhabited Caribbean island of Redonda by Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who was a trader and Methodist preacher from the nearby island of Montserrat. Just over one mile (1.6 km) long and one-third mile (0.54 km) wide, and rising to a height of 971-foot (296 m), the island lies between Nevis and Montserrat and is currently legally a dependency of the country of Antigua and Barbuda.

Today, I’m gazing at it from Rendezvous Bay, Montserrat's only stretch of blond sand.

Rendezvous Bay

Six years have passed since I visited Montserrat, Spain, and I decided to one day visit the Caribbean island that bears the same name.

Here I am at long last, on this BOT (don’t squint again, BOT is the acronym for British Overseas Territory) nicknamed "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants who started to settle here back in the 17th century.

Rendezvous Bay

Despite the beauty of the island, it is a place that doesn’t get many visitors these days. The culprit is the Sufriere Hills volcano, which after lying dormant since the 19th century became active on 18 July 1995. The eruptions destroyed Montserrat's Georgian era capital city of Plymouth. Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island's population was forced to flee, primarily to the United Kingdom, leaving fewer than 1,200 people on the island as of 1997.

An exclusion zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley was imposed. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but a view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Rendezvous Bay can be accessed from Little Bay via a steep 0.7-mile trail that requires an arduous effort on a hot day like this, or, as we choose, by a pleasant ten minutes boat ride. We got the benefit to be the only visitors and to enjoy the tranquil seclusion. There are not many places today where one can enjoy solitude on a warm sandy beach, but we had ours today. 

We found company only under the waves, when we went snorkelling: a hawksbill turtle, a shy reef shark, and a multitude of blue tangs and other multicoloured tropical fishes.

We have a delicious picnic.  As I draw waves with my fingertip in the condensation of my Carib beer bottle I murmur softly, ‘Life’s a beach.’

Our eyes are flecked with sadness as we say farewell to Rendezvous Bay. We know that we’ll forever carry in our hearts the magic of the day.