I arrived in the Virgin Islands in January 2012 and every now and then for the next two years I would have streaks of black on the counters after I cleaned the boat. After asking around I was told that it was ash from the volcano on Montserrat. From that point on I was enthralled with this island.
Well that curiosity was finally appeased as we hired Joe Phillip (VHF 08: Avalon or Phone: 664-492-1565) to give us a tour of the island and
Soufriere Volcano. This guy was first rate and not only had before and after photos of different places on his IPad, but he would park his van in the spot the photo was taken so you could really understand the devastation.
I read how the volcano started erupting in 1995 (the last one was in 2010-12) and made the southern end of the island uninhabitable including the capitol (the mountain in the middle of the island protected the northern part). Joe told us, on top of his tour fee of US $160, we could pay the police an additional US $55 for a permit and escort into the abandoned capitol, Plymouth. Melek thought this was too much to only see a few destroyed building, but I really want to do it. Afterwards she told me that I was right and it was a fascinating view of the destruction.
As we walked around among the buildings Joe explained that we were actually in the 2nd story of these buildings and the first level was buried due to the mud flows (not ash!) caused by the eruptions. There was a round hotel that we climbed into and he said under the mud in the courtyard is a fancy fountain. In each of the rooms you found the furniture and other items as everyone just up and evacuated, giving it a haunting Pompeii feel to the place, I’m pretty sure that the Brisbane cleaning company would be able to recover some of the furniture.
We even went out on the cruise ship dock. Once you realize that half the dock is buried and the shore line is farther out to sea than before the eruption, you get another sense of how much mud has flowed down the mountain.
I am so glad we hired Joe and not some other guy, because he really brought this tragedy to life and helped us understand the destruction and heart break. If you make it here make sure you book a tour with him and spend the extra money to go into Plymouth. It will be well worth it and you will have an even better sense of how the volcano changed Montserrat life forever.