Rain Forest walk

Darrell Jackson and Sarah Barnes
Sat 15 Mar 2014 16:45

It was with some relief that we both woke relatively early after our early night without too much stiffness or soreness from our cycling the day before. A short dinghy ride to the beach, haul up the dinghy to a safe position and a short walk to the main road, soon saw us on the bus to Charlestown with assorted locals. The journey only took 10 minutes or so and we were soon in the TI finding out about our intended walk and where to get the bus from to its start at Golden Rock plantation hotel in Gingerland. Another short bus ride and we were dropped off at the bottom of the hill leading to the hotel. The total cost for both of us for our two bus journeys was less than £3.50.
We had a ten minute walk up the hill to Golden Rock Inn. This is a plantation estate dating from 1801 and covers 96 acres on the edge of the rainforest. The handsome historic buildings and ruins of the mills are set amongst gardens and pools. Green Vervet monkeys wander the estate and climb the trees oblivious to the people. We sat out on the terrace by the water pools, looking across to Antigua as we had a drink and studied the hand drawn map of the hiking route to the water source, which they had supplied us. It looked fairly straight forward, despite the warning: " the path is easy until you get to the ocean view. Turn back if you are not good with heights and dangerous, slippery paths. Exercise extreme caution from here on." We were not daunted by this and assured the staff we had sensible shoes and water with us. They obviously had great faith in us as they didn't insist that we settle up before the hike but could when we returned.
It was fairly quickly after we set off that we realised that the map lacked some basic cartographic skills, particularly in terms of scale. We followed the concrete road up to the water reservoir. The original stone one has been replaced by a huge modern one, but the foundations are still clear. As we left the concrete road we followed the green roads that would have been used when it was a plantation, the terracing in places was still intact. The trees and plants giving welcome shade from the sun for us and the many goats we passed. Having given up on the map as a true representative of the walk we looked out for the key features to keep us on the correct path: water pipes and stone built water tanks. At the first slight clearing in the trees we met a group of American girls, who were not impressed by this viewpoint, the map or the path. After a quick chat they decided to turn back, we didn't like to tell them that they were not even a quarter of the way to the viewpoint, although you did get a good view of Redonda and Eustatia, undaunted we carried on up to the rainforest. Impressed by the engineering of the Georgian plantation owners to get the water down the steep sides of the mountain across ravines to the storage tanks in some very old and now rusted pipes, made in Stockport. It also meant we had something clear to follow rather than the map! We continued into the rainforest along thin rocky paths, up near vertical aspects, following the path of the water pipe. Enjoying discovering the natural caves, a variety of proper rainforest plants including massive tree ferns, bird of paradise plants just coming into flower, humming birds and monkeys. Just before the actual view point we met two more intrepid walkers, who had decided to go back as the path was getting steep and slippery. They were not impressed that the view was framed by trees. No pleasing some people. The view when we got there was worth it, both out to sea across to Antigua, and down the steep slope of the ravine. Onwards and upwards we went, the path getting narrower and more scrambly as we got higher. We steadily climbed and traversed into another valley. Finally reaching the old dam, with an old pair of wellies covering some rusty pipe work and a modern nylon brush next to the stone leat. Another twenty minutes and we were at the waterfall. Darrell climbed the old metal ladder leaning against the rock face to go above the water fall. (He would wouldn't he!) Whereas Sarah knows her limitations! Then it was back down again, which at times was more difficult than scrambling up, but at least there was no snow on this particular walk in the hills.
Whilst we enjoyed the walk, there is no way that any establishment in Britain would promote this walk because of all of the obvious risks: unprotected narrow ledges with a long drop at the edge ( no ropes or barriers here) old slippery steps covered in moss, parts where you had to scramble up steep cliffs, all of the challenges we love!
We arrived back at Golden Rock just before 3pm, which meant they had finished serving lunch, but they gladly made us some sandwiches and cake to have with a pot of tea. The setting, the history and the atmosphere of the estate has made it one of our favourite places. The cake was good too! After settling up we made our way back down to the main road to flag down a bus. Whilst it is very convenient to be able to just flag a bus down from the edge of the road, it can be difficult to work out if groups of people standing around are in fact waiting for a bus, having a chat or just sheltering in the shade.
We got dropped off just on the edge of Charlestown to go to the big supermarket. As we walked into Charlestown we passed the cemetery, where we noticed a big memorial to the MV Christena ferry disaster on August 1st 1970. This was a public holiday and the ferry coming back from Basseterre to Charlestown had over 300 people on it, instead of the 160 it was licensed to carry. The captain noticed it was taking on water and so turned to try and beach it before getting into the channel but turned too sharply and it sank with the loss of over 200 people, mainly from Nevis. There were only 91 survivors.
As we approached Charlestown we could hear commentary of some kind coming from the local stadium and it was soon obvious that this was the local secondary school athletics competition, taking place at a sensible time when the temperature was beginning to drop, and vey well attended by the islanders with traffic chaos on the road outside the stadium.
We soon picked up another bus and made our way back to Stream. Due to our late lunch we didn't require an evening meal, so after a much needed shower it was not long before we were both asleep. Fresh air and exercise!