Saint Helena and Ascension Islands

Saint Helena is a mythical place for a traveller because of its impenetrability.

Saint Helena and Ascension Islands

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jorgejuan on May 14, 2006

Saint Helena is a mythical place for a traveller because of its impenetrability. It has no airport, just a mail ship which calls in the island only three o four times a year.

It is very hard to reach St. Helena because it does not have airport (it is planned to construct one in the year 2010). The only regular ship, ST. HELENA, is very often full with natives going back home from London or from Cape Town, and they have priority in the ship.

I was one of the few foreign passengers in the last journey of the boat ST. HELENA in September 2004, from England to Saint Helena Island. After that trip, the ship remains in Africa with the following itinerary: Ascension, St. Helena, Swakopmund, Cape Town. And once a year it will call Tristan da Cunha Island, in the South Atlantic. You can also get into St. Helena Island flying first to the military airport of Ascension Island, from Norton Brize, in England, and then wait for the ship ST. HELENA. Sometimes there are cruises coming or going to Antarctica which call in St. Helena and Ascension Island.

Life on board ST. HELENA is luxurious, with plenty of good food, shows, lectures, captain cocktail parties, etc. There are films, a library, cafeteria, games, etc.

The first call was in Georgetown, the capital of Ascension Island, with a population of about 600 persons, where the passengers were given about 8 hours time prior to continue to Saint Helena Island. It was a Sunday and I went to the church, just for curiosity, since it was Anglican.

I made a trekking to the mountains and in my way back I hitchhiked successfully. Everybody picks you up at the first try. The land is arid and volcanic.

I entered a U.S. military base and nobody controlled me. It was my second visit to a military base (apart from Spain). The first one was in the Isle of Guam. In Ascension Island they control the trajectory of the Ariane rocket launch from French Guyana.

In front of the Anglican Church I noticed the existence of a hotel called Obsidian, ruled by two Chile citizens, where spend the nights the passengers going or coming from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).

Saint Helena Island, with about 5000 people, is much more interesting than Ascension and the passengers had to wait for their own account eight days and eight nights before proceeding to Cape Town.

In Saint Helena Island it is compulsory to book a hotel upon your arrival in its capital, Jamestown, otherwise, in theory, the police can send you back to the ship. Life is not expensive in the island. You can find business lunch’s for about £5. Internet is expensive and there are only two places for that: the main post office in Jamestown, and the hotel in front, called consulate. Hitchhiking is great, and people will offer you a lift immediately. You can also rent a car or take buses to move around the island.

The island is beautiful, mountainous and very green. The best (and only) purchases in St. Helena are coffee (very good quality) and original stamps for the philatelic. There is only an Anglican church in Jamestown (the Catholic is empty and without priests), one more Protestant, and a small Bahai community with a few members.

There is a fortress in the middle of the island, and the house (very pleasant mansion) where Napoleon lived, in Longwood, today transformed in a museum. Also deserves attention the house of the French Consulate, outside of Jamestown.

Several years ago the French Army landed in St Helena to pay homage to the tomb of Napoleon, who lived in the island for 19 years. He died in St. Helena, but presently the tomb is empty. The French took his body to the Hotel des Invalides, in Paris.

I spent my first night in St. Helena in my sleeping bag besides the tomb, but the second I was compelled to look for a hostel, since the police do not allow camping in the island.

They had been looking for me and asking the local people all the night, until they found me the next day when I entered a cafeteria in Jamestown to drink hot coffee because I was frozen!

You can get cheap accommodations in private houses. Please, ask in Jamestown, in the Tourist Information Office. They are very helpful, and will probably introduce you to their familiars to rent you a room.

Private houses are better than hotels. People are very hospitable and will furnish you lots of anecdotes about Napoleon erotic life in the island. Consulate Hotel is expensive, sleeping in the Napoleon Tomb, as I did during my stay in the island, is forbidden. A better and orthodox place to spend the night in St. Helena islands is in the familiar hostel offered by Chris and Trudi Constantine, a couple with a big heart who will treat you like a son.

For your guidance: In St. Helena, as well as in Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and in Tristan da Cunha, it is forbidden to camp—you must book a hotel or hostel, or arrange an accommodation with the locals.

In the port, after passing through the gate, there is on the left a park with a big garden and a very nice restaurant with terrace where they serve local food for a few pounds. It is called Ann Place. The special coffee growing in the island is also served there, although is a little expensive, £2 per cup. It is located just at one minute from the harbour walking up to your left.

In Jamestown you can climb up the hill through the over 500 steps. The view from up there is spectacular.

The Mansion of the Governor of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha Islands is also worth a visit. There is an old turtle, about 180 years old, called Jonathan. They let me caress Jonathan since I made friendship with the Governor wife, who was from Honduras and was very happy to speak Spanish with me. They travelled with me in the ship ST. HELENA to Cape Town because they were sent to the UK Embassy in South Africa.

© LP 2000-2009