Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hiking and More Hiking

I went from doing as little as possible (made easier when the cable/internet keeps going out) and basically being a crab-a** all week to getting together with a couple of friends and Canadian blog reader's Nancy and Jilly at The Dock. We had a great backdrop, but our faces came out so dark I had to expose us, so to speak. We'll let the pelican shot give you the ambiance.

It was great seeing them again (I met them last year), but it was a quickie as Michael & I had some early morning hiking to do. A couple of years ago we took a tour of the Old Bay area with the Heritage Society as part of History & Heritage week and enjoyed ourselves, so when we found out they were conducting another free tour, we were in. This time, we'd be hiking to the Olivees area and checking out a man-made cave. Supposedly in the late 1700s an outcast Brit, who happened to be an attorney, ran off to Barbados, was appalled by what he saw there, came to St. Kitts and decided that he wanted to represent unjustly accused slaves. To do this, he set up shop on Crown land so he would be deemed impartial. In a cave... SKNVibes gives you a good run-down of what little is known about the whole situation (lot more here too). During this time period, slave owners were starting to figure out that owning strong, proud, intelligent human beings was becoming rather untenable and the slaves themselves were figuring out how to tick-off their British "hosts," so Lawyer Stephen's timing was right on. His father had been quite a force in this arena too, but most of the credit for things like slave registries and ultimately the abolition of slavery and emancipation in the West Indies have been attributed to Jr.  This man, Virgina Woolf's cousin, supposedly lived in this cave for about a decade. Let's check it out.

Meeting time was 7:30am at the Treasury Building downtown. We were quite pleased to see such a great turnout and with a great mish-mash of people (like our hashes).

It sure was quiet otherwise!

Greg Pereira, a native Kittitian and the guy who basically invented hiking as tourism on St. Kitts, had two of his safari trucks and the rest of us caravan'd to the start of the hike. This person should have jumped in a truck...  The road wasn't overly rough or steep, but this piece-of-poo vehicle (I won't mention the brand by name) had absolutely no all. Eventually, they gave up, parked the thing, and walked the rest of the way.

Once at the top, the first thing we noticed was how gorgeous the view was. We could see the airport down below, Basseterre, the Peninsula, and Nevis - on and on..

Ok, listen up. We were told stories by not only Greg, but other island historians. We also took roll-call so we didn't lose anyone (how very un-hash like).

Then it was time to set off.

We spent about 10 minutes in some very high foliage. Hello?!

It wasn't long before we all stopped and took in a water "vent." This is supposed to get air out of the water pipes - I think...

One interesting story was that these pipes from the water source were originally lead (in some cases, they still are). Of course, in the 17-19th centuries, no one knew that lead was a bad thing, so people would go mad and die (they used lead cups to drink their rum too). Many soldiers that got stationed on St. Kitts thought of it as a death sentence not understanding why it was so. Non-whites drank too, but they drank home-made beer out of their own natural containers, so stayed nice and healthy while they watched their captors sicken. Karma....After some more sloooow trudging, we stopped again when Greg pointed out that we were heading into the rainforest - the temp got cooler, the humidity increased, and the foliage changed.

Like this palm tree. People like it and have tried to bring it to the drier, lower altitudes (we were at about 1300' at this point), but the trees don't like it. This is where the "heart of palm" delicacy comes from; but of course, taking the heart kills the poor thing, so it's not recommended.

Then we trudged some more. I had to laugh when the guy behind me said "Greg, you must have a strong arm."  Apparently, Greg had told people that the cave was a stone-throw's away from the trail's start. It wasn't quite that, but it wasn't that far either. It just seemed like it because there were so many of us, of mixed ages and exercise levels, and we were walking rather leisurely...To be fair, it was slippery and there were parts of the trail that were rather narrow and led to drop-offs you didn't want to drop into. Nor was it a race, but still...

Then we were at the base of what Greg believes to be a 300-year old tree and the spot our lawyer friend took his baths and used as a general water source.

So where's the cave?! Up. The hard part was yet to come - now we had to climb straight up. The good news is that it was a quick 5-minute jaunt.

Ok, here it is!

The dirt cave wasn't very big, but had a pot (lead?) in there like Mr. Stephens had just left. There was a separate hole as a chimney and a back "door" as well. It was rather hard to imagine an important barrister living there for 11 years. No one's sure how he found this place, but he reportedly had unobstructed views of Basseterre so could see what was going on despite being so isolated. Today, any views are overgrown. He supposedly had a pony that took him into town and a place to shower & change in Basseterre when he needed to. I would hope so - p.u.

Around the outside of the cave, we found these cool red & black seeds. According to this website, the seeds are from the Huayruro plant, native to Peru. I liked the part about the seeds bringing good luck. Yes please!

Greg also showed us this huge leaf that tells folks when it's going to rain (by turning upside down). Well, most leaves do that, but the size of this one would get your attention. It's also used in bush tea for hypertension. I'm pretty sure all leaves are put into tea on this island...or smoked...

While everyone took in the surroundings and ate their snacks, Michael & I decided to make a break for it. Downhill on a slippery slope only gets worse the more people trample the area. Plus, we can only hike so slow. Yes, the journey is worthwhile and we appreciated all that we learned along the way, but this was the return trip. Let's get some exercise. No one to the front of Michael.

No one to the rear of Renee.

We actually did run into one hiker, with his huge, jittery, Italian mastiff, Prince. I asked if the pooch barked with an accent: a-WOOF-a, a-WOOF-a....  No, but he did get us lost for a bit (in those high grasses). About 1/2 hour later we were back to the start of the hike.  Now, you may have noticed a hangar-like house earlier. I had really wanted to see what it looked like inside and got my wish!  While I didn't take pics of the interior (nor is it completed), it was a fun place. We could totally live there.

The view!! And those Air-X wind generators. They were as loud as the two we had on our catamaran. It's a good sound when you're living off the grid though.

Forty minutes later, the rest of the group started filing in. We really had a lot of fun and had some great conversations with many of the people we met during the trek.

We checked our names off the roster, grabbed the folks that wanted a lift into Basseterre, dropped them off, and then headed to Shipwreck for lunch (it was about 1:30 by now). We picked Shipwreck because we knew there weren't any cruise ships in, so figured no one would be there (so would get service). We like the veggie tacos and French fries. Tourists were replaced with students...and their dogs. The place was packed. We know enough when that happens to put our order in at the bar and get our own drinks, so did just that. No problem.

Nothing against Shipwreck, but we can't figure out why everyone would rather be on top of each other in this one spot. The beach is long(ish) and there are lots of other restaurants (that I need to add to my map) that have popped up there. They all offer chairs, beer, and more space. Shrug.

Next up - our belated Valentine's Day hash. That meant everyone had to wear red dresses. Including the men. Lately, people haven't been getting into the spirit and it's been kind of a let-down, but yesterday most everyone at least wore red. Much better. We were greeted by this...

It didn't get any better. Jingle Balls, God's Gift, and Popcorn. A pretty girl(s)...

Bob looking sporty.

Ok - now for the best part. The fashion show. De Ninja starting the affair.

"Real" ladies first. I didn't actually get out there, but I did wear red.

And then the men. OMG! My eyes! My eyes!

Well that was fun. Oh wait, we still have to hike. Sometimes they take us through villages to freak out the normal folks, but this time we pretty much kept it in-house (except for the cars driving past during our ceremonies - and some cows). This was another great hash, and I was allowed to power walk so I didn't feel so pent up. The red sea...


The runners seem to be more aerodynamic this way...Mr. X in the lead screaming "Wahoo! Wahoo!"

We had a huge number of hash virgins this time out

and lots of people called out for various offenses. You'll note Greg (yes, the same Greg who took us on the tour this morning; there were a # of us who double hiked it today) thought it was a St. Patty's day hike, and Vinetta shopped with Popcorn and knew it was a red dress hash and then wore blue...

Now Popcorn is one of the original St. Kitts' (and Antiguan) hashers and knows the rules. So Percy was shocked when Popcorn admitted to wearing new shoes. Uh oh.... my favorite part of these beer-in-the-sweaty-shoe down-downs is the looks on people's faces. Eew!

It's getting late (7pm)...Statia and Saba looking dreamy in the distance.

And rain. Aack! Good night folks!