Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ow - Party Hardy and Volcano Peak

Let's start with Friday. Friday was our pal Rob's big 5-0, so we celebrated with Rob, his wife Suzi, and about 60 of their closest friends.

The party was held at The Bamboo Club

We'd never been there before, but it's the favorite haunt of these 2 and a bunch of other regulars. There's a piano there that they commandeer on Friday's and practice their lounge acts. This night, they let the band, Jazzique, do their thing. They're definitely one of the best bands on the island, so we had been looking forward to hanging out and hearing them play.

The place is split with a bar on one side and dining on the other. Behind that are the grounds to the Sugar Bay Resort (I'm not sure if it's still called that or not).

We probably knew about 1/3 of the people there; most of which we didn't recognize right away because we'd never seen them cleaned up before. We looked pretty good too.

The buffet was a hit. I have to admit, though, I have an irrational dislike of buffets and won't eat at them. Maybe it's because I watched our college rugby team take a pee in the one in our university cafeteria. But that's another story.

Here's Rob getting read to toast us all.

And then it was time to get serious and get everyone's groove on. No chance of the band playing to an empty floor on this night. The guy in the pink shirt was hysterical. I wish I had video'd some of it.

We had to get up at 5 the next morning, so kept it short, leaving around 10. We got back, made some hard boiled eggs, PB&J sandwiches, put out our hiking clothes and went to bed. Is it 5am already? Ugh.

Today's hike would be the highest point on the island, at just under 3800 feet. Now we've hiked over 13,000' in Arizona, but it wasn't 98% humidity or muddy there, so this was a bit different. The mountain is called Mount Liamuiga (formerly Mount Misery) and is a dormant volcano. We were aiming for highest point on the left just popping up out of the cloud.

We met up at the Black Rock Church, which was quite quaint. The group we were going with were the same folks that led the Nevis Source hike a month or 2 ago. Gerry and his wife just like to hike and invite their employees along for some out-of-work bonding. Ok, so we don't work with them, but they do let us tag along. Surprisingly, there were about 25 of us game enough to forfeit our sleep for a several-hour long hike on a Saturday.

Once we were all there, we had to drive to the trail head. The drive in was crazy as we went through foliage higher than the car and had no idea where we were going.

Once there, it was time to head in. Next thing you knew, we were in the foliage. Razor grass - ouch (why I had long pants on).

We ended up in a not-so-difficult patch for a bit and should have appreciated it more. Note how clean everyone is.

We saw a couple of bats and then decided they were fruit bats enjoying the abundant mango trees, along with the monkeys (and a few of us too). About 40 minutes into it, we had enough height to worry about these narrow places in the path. There are serious drop-offs on both sides. Not that you can tell from the pictures. Trust me.

By now, Michael & I had maneuvered to the front of the crowd. Turns out the trail was marked quite clearly with pink ribbons (just like a hash!) so we knew we wouldn't get lost. It was all uphill from there.

And wet. We've hiked several rainforests, but this one seemed to be dripping more than most, particularly with it not raining. Between our sweat and the droplets from the foliage, we were sopping wet in no time. This picture was supposed to show the sweat pouring from the tip of my nose and chin, but instead shows a Renee with no idea what she's in for.

We got to our first clearing and got a bit of a view through a thin layer of clouds.

We were pretty sure we were close to the top, but when we looked up saw this. Darn it.

As we got higher and higher, the clouds started getting thicker and thicker.

Where are we? We were getting so high, we were almost above the clouds. God? Are you in there?

Here's Trevor, who was keeping pace with us. He's checking to see if I'm still coming. We thought we were at the top again, only to see the scene behind him. More climbing.

After climbing up some steep, rock slabs that required pulling ourselves up by nylon straps we were almost there. We just had to get past these eerie spires.

Gerry (who had done this 3 weeks ago by himself) thought they looked like a scene out of Avatar. I had been thinking Jurassic Park, but either way it was other-worldly. Exactly 2 hours after we started our jaunt, we were at the top. Wahoo!

What did we see? Absolutely nothing.

And it started raining. We tried waiting for the others, but after 15 minutes were getting cold so decided to head back. Where's the cable car? No...really.

About 10 minutes into our trek back, we ran into Gerry and a few others and also noticed the sun breaking through. Here were those spires, not quite so ghostly.

A little later, here came our pal Tina and her group. You can do it!

Our final views and the last pictures I'd take until we were finished. What were those palm trees doing in the middle of the mountain?

Once we had gotten to the top, we had decided we'd do the trail again. Maybe not next week or anything, but someday. By the time we finished going down, we decided that once for this hike was enough. Going down goes on our top 2 list of cruddiest downs ever (a hash in Grenada continues to hold the title, Guadeloupe comes in 3rd). By now, the trail had become a trampled, muddy mess. And while it's not so hard leaning into the mountain and finding foot holds, climbing steep slabs, etc. on the way up, coming down those areas with slippery shoes and tired legs is a completely different matter. The momentum is entirely in the wrong direction.

At one point, I grabbed hold of a strap, leaned back, and lost my footing. My hands were so slippery that I was sliding down the strap, face & body slammed up against the cliff, heading towards oblivion with Michael staring on in horror before I was able to swing to a place I could get purchase. By the time I shimmied down that section, I was literally shaking. And smiling - that was invigorating - woohoo! Mike just shook his head and continued on. Here are the scrapes I earned on that one while clinging on for dear life (you gotta love the dirty fingernails too).

We were still passing people coming up 40 minutes into our return. We didn't have the heart to tell them how much further they had to go. For our part, it was like ice skating down the mountain. Roots would help us but then trip us. We'd grab onto branches only to have them snap off in our hands sending us sliding out of control. And it was over 2 hours of just straight downhill. Absolutely no flat spots. My feet were so muddy, that they were slipping around in my shoes and making things that much more difficult. Oy, my aching quads. Mush. It was the only way to describe how my entire body felt by the end. Ah the bottom - finally! Here we are celebrating...and muddy (although one of us muddier than the other).

The offending feet.

It had taken us exactly 2 hours to get to the top, and exactly 3 hours to get back down. That's right, it took us an extra hour to get down. %$*! We realized that it would be forever before the rest of the crowd hit bottom and, in fact, we waited 1 1/2 hours for the first survivors to stumble in and 2 1/2 for the final stragglers. Wow - we kicked butt! - not bad for a couple of old fogies.

The new arrivals were a bit filthy themselves. The shirtless man in the middle is Jerry. He may not look like an Ironman, but he's got some serious stamina. Last weekend, he biked the whole island - 3 times.

Then it was time to hit the beach for some food and beverages. We headed for Dieppe Bay, which is a fishing community (and original island capital) with a black beach. Here's a rear view of that nasty "hill" we just climbed. Seems more sinister now.

We went the wrong way first, but I liked this picture of an old sugar silo.

The Golden Lemon is located here and has some neat grounds. This resort is one of the oldest on the island, but is so far away from everything that isn't the most convenient place to stay. Pretty though.

Some stuffed their faces (rice & something with lots of bones - no thank you).

Others crashed on the lawn.

Let's get a close-up of this lovely specimen heading for the ocean.

We did a quick beach visit too. That last shot was an accident, but looked pretty cool, I thought. That's Statia in the distance.

It was now way past time to get home and get showered. I was so ripe, we told stinky jokes all the way home. We had both changed into "fresh" clothes, but even they couldn't mask the stench. As soon as we walked through the door we headed right for the washing machine and stripped. Our showers were rather long affairs, as the mud just would not come off. As it was, I had to bleach all my nails and use a scrub brush on them. Advil is my new best friend and there isn't a single body part that doesn't hurt from my fingers to my toes. Not one. If today isn't a beach day, I don't know what is. Hope we're recovered in time for next weekend's hash!