Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nevis Nice at The Source

Carib Beer has a slogan for each island where it sells its wares down here, each one enticing you to enjoy a cold bottle of yellowy goodness in each individual surrounding.  In Grenada last August the slogan was "Get Wired - For Carnival" and it certainly exuded the kind of energy we found around the place.

In Nevis, as you disembark at the town dock, the local bar is resplendently billboarded with the trademark Carib yellow proclaiming "Nevis Nice".  I'm not sure which came first - an island saying or a marketing slogan, but Nevis Nice pretty much sums up what we have found here, including the overall welcoming feeling we have as we wander the streets and tuck into the little shops.

So that is perhaps the source of Nevis Nice, but we had another source to discover today.  This one high up on the side of Nevis Peak and it is in fact the original source of water for the islanders dating back to the 1600s when locals installed an iron pipe to bring down lovely clean, cold water from the heights above.  Over the years repairs have been made to the pipe and in places it has been replaced but water is still provided to cisterns lower down the slopes from The Source.

Because there is a maintenance trail along side the pipe, it has now become a well-travelled and popular trail to hike on the island - although on the day we did it we seemed to be the only ones up there.

We rode the bus up to Golden Rock Estate (red line) and then hiked up the side of the peak to The Source.

A little note on our bus ride to and from the trail head at the Golden Rock Estate - and you really can't make this up.  This is what riding an island bus is all about.  We jumped on the little mini-van bus in Charlestown and confirmed it was going to our destination.  As we pulled away from the town square, a lady in the seat in front of us handed some money to the young man who collects the bus money and asked him to get her some bread.  So, the bus pulled up to the bakery and the young man hopped out and joined the line at the bakery.  This was going to take a while.  The street was now blocked by the bus and a line of cars started to form, patiently waiting.  I guess someone in the back didn't get the memo and let out a polite little honk, so the bus circled around the block and came back to park in front of the bakery once again.  We waited a few more minutes when the young man emerged with the bread and the lady's change.  On ... On... (as we say down here).  We carried on at breakneck speed up the road until we reached Church Ground where we turned off the road onto a two-track and proceeded up the slope of the mountain (a two-track is two tracks of concrete with grass growing in-between.)  Up, up we went and it did cross my mind that had this been a year ago we might have been worried for our safety, but today we knew that this was just a diversion to drop off or pick up a passenger.  Sure enough, the very professionally dressed young woman in the front seat hopped out at the top of the road and had just saved herself a mile walk up the mountain in her high heels.  It was now just us and a couple of guys having a very animated conversation with the driver and we headed back up the main road, once again at break-neck speed.  In no time we reached Golden Rock where we hopped out, paid our 3.50EC each (about $1.25CAD) whereupon the bus turned around and screeched back down the road to Charlestown - we were a custom drop too I guess.  On the return journey we picked up a couple of little pre-schoolers from their school.  The fare collector diligently helped them into the bus, did up one of their shoelaces and we then drove to their individual houses to drop them off.  These island bus drivers sure do earn their hard-won fares!

But now, back to our hike ...

The first half of the hike is deceptively easy with broad grassy tracks and a very gentle slope.

Don't forget to turn left at the donkey.

The latter half of the track becomes a little more narrow, a little more steep and a little more slippery.  Notice the pipe on the right that we're following?

Like blossoms everywhere, these beautiful toadstools perched on the side of a downed rotten log.

We're now getting into the rain forest on the slopes of Nevis Peak.  A short portion of the pipe here has been replaced with plastic.

Giant tree ferns clinging to the steep slopes.

Near the end of the hike there are a series of mossy, slippery concrete steps to climb.  43 steps ... they were pretty dicey but don't show up looking too bad on the camera.

Until you look back up.  Then you realize just how high they were.

This cane toad was about 6" long and very determined that he was going to jump down the hill.

We were getting close as we spied some small waterfalls along the way.

In one section there was no pipe, just an acqua-duct rather like the Beauregard Canal on Martinique.

We walked right under and through this magnificent thicket of Heliconia flowers.

The undergrowth was just exuding moisture at this point.

We arrived!!  The water pipe continues up to the top of the waterfall, accessible only by a dodgy looking ladder.  We declined the temptation to climb higher and instead relaxed in this idyllic spot.

This ladder was not for me!
The hike took us two hours from Golden Rock up to the top with the hardest part on the last third - scrambling over slippery, moss-covered rocks and very grateful for the odd rope in the really steeps spots.  The water at the top was ice-cold and refreshing both for a shower and to fill water bottles.  The humidity is pretty intense even though you are under cover and away from the sun.

We turned ourselves back down the mountain and with the afternoon downhill trek we seemed to be joining the return of most of the barnyard animals on the trail as well.  At one point a troupe of monkeys let out loud warning calls of our presence but the most threatening encounter we had was the donkey who wanted us to take him home.

A flock of sheep, led by a goat and carefully guarded by a ram preceded us down the trail.

We then came across a herd(?) of pigs grunting away in the undergrowth.

Remember our sign-post donkey?  He was tired after his long day and definitely wanted to head back home with us.
All in all a great hike to The Source on Nevis and now the site of my new favourite photo of Henry and I.