St. Eustatius is the second smallest Dutch Island in the Caribbean island, at only 20sq. km with 4,000 inhabitants. Once upon a time, it used to be the center of commercial trade in all of the colonial Caribbean, and flourished in the late 18th century with 20,000 inhabitants. It’s a volcanic island between St. Kitts and St. Martin, but part of the Netherland Antilles, along with Bonaire and Saba.
Arriving at the old shack that is the EUX airport is somehow very welcoming, and being able to walk from there to anywhere on the island makes things comfortable, but the casino across the street was weird to see. The most memorable feature of Statia is The Quill crater, visible from St. Martin and St. Kitts and anywhere in town, and hiking from Oranjestad up to the top of it is an easy climb doable without a guide. Just don’t forget to pay the $10 park fee at one of the National Park or Dive center offices in town.
Other charming sights were the new, blue street signs, marking even dead end, gravel driveways with names in bold, caps font. The names ranged from Basil, Rosemary and Oregano to Stinging Thyme Road, Papaya and Watermelon Road, some names of men, and my personal favourite – Fatpork Road. Only the streets near the old town had Dutch names ending in ‘weg’, and I heard Dutch-looking people speaking Dutch there, but mostly everyone else spoke English or Spanish. The ruins and history were rich close to Oranjestad, with roads, forts and colonial buildings dating back to the 1700’s.
Statia is the kind of town where everyone says hello in passing, wither with a wave or a good morning. Some men even yell from their cars, adding in a ‘beautiful lady’ to the salute. St. Eustatius is actually famous for what America calls the ‘first salute’ – back in 1776 during the American Revolution, not only did Statia trade arms and weapons to strengthen the rebellion, but they were the first country to recognize the 13 States as their own country!
There are plenty of cocks and bull dogs, both nice enough from afar but the cocks start competing their morning cockadoodle at 5 and the dogs are kept tied up, probably because they’re dangerous enough to be used in dog-fights. Cock fights probably happen behind closed doors, but the island was going through an awareness campaign against domestic violence and child abuse. There was also a Center for Common Sense, where people of all ages can drop in to discuss life or philosophize, so maybe an animal rights movement can start there to help the cocks and bull dogs.
The mosquitos are tiny, almost too small to see or hear, but they bite just the same and damn do they itch. I always noticed the bite after it was too late, and swelled up like I had chicken pox all over. There weren’t many tourists, but the ones I saw were probably divers. There wasn’t much of anything going on, but the café Para Mira was a popular lunch place with top notch food. Other hotels and restaurants were mostly empty, and tourism was a lazy pastime for locals to entertain only once in a while. My airbnb host, who I never met, was one of two people who rented on the island, and they probably affect the few hotels and their competition in a big way… but during Carnival they all fill up for sure.
If you need an excuse to visit Statia, don’t let it be for the chinese corner stores and american cars, but the abundance of hiking trails up, down and around the Quill. Bring your camping gear and mosquito nets if you want an off-the-beaten-track adventure!