Tuesday, December 22, 2009

La Soufriere

We woke up at 5:30am and ate a hurried breakfast before heading out to Tony's to wait for our guide, Franklin, to arrive by 6:00am. Unfortunately, we had all forgotten that we were in the Caribbean, on island time, so Franklin did not arrive until 6:30am, along with his brother. His explanation was that he went partying last night and missed the bus. Since it was getting rather late, he persuaded us that it would be better to hire a taxi to take us to the La Soufriere trail head, rather than take the bus and then be forced to walk to the trail head.

The taxi ride was expensive, but since there were many of us the split wasn't too bad. Since we were all under-equipped for extensive hiking, a stop was made in order to procure water and snacks. The drive was on St. Vincent's coastal road, up and down the hills. I was very impressed by how rugged St. Vincent was, though given the volcanic nature of the islands perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. The taxi driver barrelled along at high speed, blasting Caribbean Christmas music on his CD player, which despite the rough roads surprisingly did not skip very often.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The start of the La Soufriere hike involves taking off your hiking shoes and wading across several streams to get to the beach. There would be no cheating on this hike—we truly would be starting from sea level. In the early morning, the misty air lent the walk a mysterious nature—until we ran into someone walking his cows on the beach.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Leaving the beach behind, the trail led us through several canyons, which would be a respite from the heat later on in the day. Once past the canyons, the trail headed steeply up the climb, and it was with relief that we approached the first rest stop of the day, the Rastaman's hut. We were given fresh fruit (including one I had never seen before, a tropical pink plum-like fruit), and in the case of two of our party, some weed to smoke.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

After we left the Rastman's hut, the trail started becoming steeper, but was nevertheless mostly shaded. A little while later we passed a donkey parked on the trail for some unknown reason. With 10 people on one hike, the going was a bit slow, but I didn't complain about the pace, because the views around us were so beautiful! You could see ridge line after ridgeline before and behind us, and the slopes all dropped steeply into the sea. This was not what I typically think of as tropical island hiking, since the shade was plentiful, and by the time we ran out of tree cover, there was a beautiful breeze which took away the heat we generated, yet wasn't cold. The stunning views helped. Finally, as we got near the rim of the caldera, I couldn't help myself and took off at speed. Franklin was even faster, however.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

La Soufriere is a volcano that last erupted in 1979. The bottom of the Caldera still showed spots that steamed, and the rim is rugged. While the highest point on the volcano is 4048 feet, my estimate was that the rim itself was probably no more than 3300 feet in elevation (though again, you had to walk from sea level). We sat and ate lunch, drank, and walked around enjoying the views and sense of achievement. Alena had finally heard that her lugguage had been found and was arriving in St. Vincent tonight, and was excited to finally have more than the clothes she had in her carry-on lugguage.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The descent itself was fairly easy, but as usual tough on the knees. There were only 2 stops this time, the first to shake down some Avocado trees for some fruit (they took a long time to ripen, so we didn't have them until near the end of our trip), and another visit to the Rastaman's hut for more fruit.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Upon returning to the bottom, Sarang arranged for the taxi to drive us to Dark View Falls, where I stood in my swimming trunks and enjoyed a fresh-water shower. Then, on the way to a snack, we saw a coconut stand, and all of us got out of the car and watched while the coconut stand guy got his neighbors and friends to shimmy up a coconut tree and kick down coconuts so we could get refreshing coconut water! We each drank a coconut and then filled our water bottles for about 2 EC dollars each before moving on to our afternoon Roti.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

By the time we got back to the Illusion, it was 6pm and we were quite tired. Upon returning to the boat, we saw water lines leading into the Illusion's deck fittings to fill the water tanks with water, but unfortunately, when Josh took a drink out of the tap the water tasted like turpentine! We notified Allison, who told us that yes, they were aware of the problem, and there were now separate bottles for drinking water while the Illusion's water tanks were flushed and cleaned to cope with this new event.

I called Dive St. Vincent, which was in my copy of the Caribbean Dive Guide, and after realizing that we were going to be here in Wallilabou Bay until the 26th, decided to schedule 2 dives for tomorrow. They weren't willing to pick us up from the Illusion, but we could take the bus to Buccament Bay for 4EC each.

Dinner was a lovely curry, which was packed away into our stomachs at record pace, indicating that we had all worked quite hard that day. All of us slept soundly and well.
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