ST. VINCENT & BEQUIA, B.W.I.
By Olasee Davis
As one of the co-founders of the St. Croix Hiking Association, established in 1998, one of my goals was to visit other Caribbean islands. Well, a group of 32 members just returned from our annual “Off-Island Trip” to St. Vincent and Bequia in the Grenadines, where we hiked and visited many natural, cultural, agricultural, and historical sites. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are part of the Windward Islands. Their closest neighbors are: In the north St. Lucia (24 miles away); to the south Grenada (75 miles away); In the east Barbados (100 miles away).
St. Vincent is lush and green with a mountainous interior and active volcano in the north rising over 4,500 feet, and an indented coastline on the leeward side of the island. It is 18 miles long and 11 miles wide and has an area of 133 square miles. There are some 35 islands and cays that make up the Grenadines with a total square mileage of 17. The annual average rainfall of the mountainous St. Vincent is 150 inches; while the coastal areas receive 80 inches.
Trevor Bailey, founder of Sailor Wilderness Tours, along with his professional staff – which included Oswald, Desmond, Edwin, Elijah, and Bailey’s wife and children – were our tour guides. We arrived on St Vincent in the evening. Our accommodations were at the Villa Lodge Hotel on the south eastern coast of the island. Everyone was geared up, excited, and looking forward to the next couple of challenging days exploring the island.
Our first hike was to Vermont Nature Trails. On our way to the site, Oswald gave us a brief history of the first inhabitants on the island known as the Ciboney.
He also spoke about the Carib Indians who called St. Vincent ‘Hairouna’ which means “Land of the Blessed”. Caribs were extremely efficient in keeping the Europeans from settling on the island. Around his third voyage in 1498, Columbus sighted St. Vincent. However, with the heavy Carib resistance against the Europeans’ settlement, the island was prevented from being colonized long after other islands in the Caribbean were settled. While the French, Spanish and British augured over the possession of the land, the Caribs resisted all claims. It was in 1635 when the first permanent settlers arrived on St. Vincent. These newcomers were enslaved who survived a sinking Dutch ship off the coast of St. Vincent. The escaped enslaved Africans quickly mixed with the Caribs, adopted their language and today are referred to as ‘Black Caribs’.
To make a long story short, fights between the French, British, and Caribs continued until the islands were finally taken over by the British. In 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines gained their independence.
On our travels around St. Vincent we learned about the forest types, the whistling frog, black snake, agouti, armadillo, and the endangered species parrot. The following day was for waterfalls. We drove on the west coast of the island on steep roads where we saw cliffs, black sandy beaches, and friendly people. On our map, the guide pointed out the site Wallilabou where the movie Pirates of the Caribbean was made. Then, our bus drove over rough roads and through thousands of bananas, mangoes, and ground provisions planted both on steep slopes and in valleys. An interesting fact is that St. Vincent is the world leader in the exportation of arrowroot.
At one of our destinations, we hiked through a lush secondary tropical forest to Trinity waterfalls. The falls are located in a deep volcanic canyon with three falls behind each other. Oh, what a sight to behold. Everybody had a great time swimming and taking pictures. Then, we drove to other waterfalls called ‘Dark and Light’ falls. Here again, we hiked across a bamboo bridge to the falls. According to Bailey, St. Vincent has over 89 waterfalls – some not even discovered by the tourist industry.
The next day, we traveled on boat to the island of Bequia. We explored the island and learned about the history, culture, and people. We also, shopped, swam, ate, and visited the sea turtles conservation center.
“The following morning was the day everybody was mentally waiting for – to hike La Soufriere. This is an active, but now quiet, volcano rising over 4,000 feet. The earliest recorded eruption was 1718; than followed in 1811,1812, then 1902 when 1565 people were killed. The volcano also erupted in 1972 and 1979. La Soufriere is St. Vincent’s major tourist attraction.”
The following morning was the day everybody was mentally waiting for – to hike La Soufriere. This is an active, but now quiet, volcano rising over 4,000 feet. The earliest recorded eruption was 1718; than followed in 1811,1812, then 1902 when 1565 people were killed. The volcano also erupted in 1972 and 1979. La Soufriere is St. Vincent’s major tourist attraction. This time we drove on the east coast of the island.
The day started out sunny. Few hours later, our bus broke down as we drove through the Mesopotamia Valley, the bread basket of St. Vincent. The valley is fertile with rivers running through it and meeting at one point. The entire island has many rivers and streams making St. Vincent self-sufficient in food production. As we got to the base of La Soufriere, the sky turned dark and it eventually rained. We hiked into the forest until the plants became shrubs and weed-like plants. As we continued to hike, we came to rugged edge of the crater. Wind started to blow clouds under our feet, and the temperature dropped to where every hair on our bodies turned white with the cold. From here, we hiked into the old crater where there was a large body of water. It was a truly spiritual experience.
During the next few days we visited historic sites like the Botanic Garden, Fort Charlotte, Black Point, the northeast salt pond and the Carib Indians area known as New Sandy Bay. We shopped until we dropped and enjoyed the island festival.
St. Vincent was Eden on earth.
Olasee Davis, is co-chair of the Education Committee, email@example.com