Up and Down the Wiggly Way – Driving in St. Barth

Imagine the streets of San Francisco covered with island vegetation and hills much longer and steeper and you get an idea of what the topography is like here. It would be difficult to build a house without a view of some sort on any given property (unless you live at the beach).

Our guide at the villa company told us that we didn’t have anything to worry about with respect to DUIs on the road in St. Barth as the police won’t bother us. But he cautioned us to drive slowly because you know, you can’t trust the other drivers. Well, I can think of many other reasons to drive slowly with caution on this island.

On our first full day in St. Barth, we went for a drive around the island. What’s it like? Borrowing a phrase from Storyteller, it’s like going up and down the wiggly way (a road that causes car sickness) – an apt description of driving in St. Barth. If you’re not driving up a hill, you’re coming down one…unless of course, you’re in a beachside town (about the only place that’s relatively flat and even). Such roads would certainly have led to bouts of car sickness for anyone unlucky enough to sit in the back seat…which would have been our girls.

As usual, I’ve left all the driving to my husband but I have to say that I have no intention of getting behind the wheel. Scary is probably an understatement:

  • Steep, steep hills with sharp vertical dropoffs;
  • Blind curves, some with mirrors (to help drivers see whether another car is coming ‘round the corner), most without;
  • Blind hills – you don’t know what’s on the other side until you get to the top;
  • Switchbacks aplenty;
  • No guardrails, OK, maybe a 6” high curb here and there;
  • Streets so narrow, the Golf model car we are driving seems to be the widest kind you could safely manage. Purportedly, the roads are built for two lanes but our Golf seems to take up more than half the width of many roads we drive.
  • Sharp, 90-degree (or less) turns – your car better have a good turning radius;
  • Scooters and motorcycles are popular but have to be frightening. The sensation of feeling like you’re going to fly over the handlebars going down the next hill has to be unnerving – worse than that momentary thrill you get when you’re at the top of the rollercoaster track just before it careens down its winding path.
  • Did I mention steep hills?
  • Others drive fast. Familiarity with the twists and turns in the roads counts for much of the speed here.

SmartCars are certainly a smart choice for these roads, along with mini Coopers and anything smaller. But of course, there are bigger vehicles than that…a small Toyota truck in the States definitely seems rather large on this island.

An original It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog post.

You may also find MommyTwinGirls at Silicon Valley Moms Blog telling tales of parenting in Silicon Valley, at Mad About Multipes recounting the ups and downs of raising twins and at Solheim Photography posting favorites from her latest photo shoots.

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