St Helena

“Ships are my arrows, the sea my bow, the world my target” – Robert Thier


St Helena Tour with Robert – 11/4/2017

We did a tour with Robert and our friends from Divanty and Tin Tin in his open top bus.  Robert is an extremely knowledgeable and likable character to do a tour with.  We started our tour by heading for the hills, literally, to a viewpoint overlooking Jamestown and also a photo opportunity.

Overlooking Jamestown

Our next stop was at the Heart Shaped Waterfall, which was once part of the land given to Napoleon III after his father died, but has since been transferred to the St Helena National Trust and is open the public.  You can walk there from Jamestown and there is a viewing platform as well.

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Heart-shaped waterfall as they had, had rain it was running too.

We continued on to the St Helena Distillery, where Paul, the owner gave us a guided tour of his distillery and let us sample some of his spirits that he brews there including wine, Tungi, a prickly pear spirit, rum and coffee liqueurs. We did try it and our friends said the coffee were good, we are not spirit drinkers so we didn’t purchase any.

The thing I’ve been most looking forward to visiting was the house Napoleon lived in during his exile, which is where we went next.  Longwood House was Napoleon’s home from the 10th of December 1815 to his death on 5th May 1821.  Napoleon’s history with St Helena begins with his exile there by the British government to such a place that there was no way for him to escape and that he would be forgotten.  Napoleon arrived on board the Northumberland on October 17, 1815 and spent his first night in an Inn before visiting Longwood House.  he had to stay in Briar’s house for a coupe of months while is accommodation was made suitable for the former emperor.

After Napoleon’s death his son organised for Longwood House and the Valley of the Tomb to be bought in 1858 from the British and later Briar’s House was too.  These properties are now owned by the French government and a french government representative lives on the island and manages the property.  Longwood is now a museum open to the public and includes his billiards room, drawing room, the room he died in, the dining room and his private suite.  Throughout the house are paintings, busts and death masks of Napoleon as well as furnishings, personal belongings, maps and letters.  There is an audio, which is very thorough, we listened to a bit of it but actually found it more interesting to talk to the local ladies that worked at the museum who told much more interesting stories about him.  Great house in a beautiful location.

Longwood House where Napoleon was exiled and also died.

After lunch we drove up in the mountains and had a phenomenal view of St Helena.  Robert gave us a demonstration of how the fibers of the flax plant was used.

High Knoll Fort

The fort was built in 1799 to protect against potential french invaders and to protect the battery at Ladder Hill.  Since then it was briefly used during WW2 to incarcerate Boer prisoners from South Africa.  The Saint Helena Trust is now in the process of restoring and protecting the fort.

High Knoll Fort with a lookout over the yachts and Jamestown

Ladder Hill Fort

In the early days Ladder Hill Fort was similar to Tower Hill of London, a place where prisoners were hung, drawn and quartered and the public could watch.  Later troops were stationed at the fort and originally rope between the fort and Jamestown was the only way for the troops to ascend the hill as no road was cut.  Jacob’s Ladder started as a funicular, its construction began in 1828 to provide transportation of manure from Jamestown’s animals to be used as fertilization on the hill.  When expenses were cut and roads were built, the rails and cars were removed and now just the staircase of 699 steps exists and is a tourist attraction in itself.

Ladder Hill Fort with its views over the boats and Jacob’s ladder.

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Ava at the bottom of Jacob’s ladder

Jamestown – 8/4/2017 – 21/4/2017

We arrived in St Helena in the early evening but unfortunately due to bad weather we were advised to stand off and not try to come in.  So that met heaving to until light when we could come in and pick up a mooring.  At the time it was very disappointing as we were all tired after 8 days at sea and ready to sleep.

We were not able to clear in until later in the day as it wasn’t safe with the waves to get the ferry to shore.  I must admit I was feeling very apprehensive of getting on and off the ferry at shore.  Basically the ferry sides up to the dock and when the waves lift the ferry up, you grab the rope and jump off, but you really need to time it carefully as the ferry could be a few meters below you or move out from the shore.  The kids enjoyed using the rope to get on and off and didn’t have the same fear that I had.

Tristan, Max and Ava on shore with the ropes you use to get on and off the ferry.  The ferry service to take you from your boat to the shore.

Jamestown is a bit like a quaint English village.  The stores supplies are dependent on what can be grown on the island, which is very limited and dependent on monthly deliveries from the HMS St Helena.  This had been a bad year for the ship as it had, had to cancel some trips due to engine problems which meant the Saints wouldn’t get their food, mail, cars and anything else supplied.  The ship was due to retire the previous year as the airport was to replace it.  Unfortunately problems with the planes landing meant that the airport opening has been delayed and the ship is struggling.  We were fortunate during our 3 weeks there to be able to get fresh vegetables and supplies.

One of the highlights beside the ferry trip for the kids would have been when they were jumping off the back of the boat and swimming they spotted a whale shark.  Supposedly they had all ready left.  The kids and Andrew jumped in the dinghy with their snorkel gear and drove near it before jumping in.  It was a juvenile but still big.  Andrew had Max and Ava get in the dinghy a few times when it got curious and came near, he was a bit worried it might accidentally eat them.

We enjoyed our time in St Helena, this little jewel of an island, I couldn’t live somewhere this isolated, but the Saint’s make it work.  Hopefully they get the airport up and running to bring in the tourist business for the locals and boost their economy.

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Jamestown on a calm day.