As we settle into life on the hook, we are continually on the lookout for new and interesting things to do. During our wanderings around the island exploring the many different waterfalls, we have visited Grand Etang National Park several times by bus and enjoyed the views from one of the highest points on the island. While not exactly Algonquin Park, there are many trails visible from the road which lead into the rain forest and appeared to be well marked. Our newest friend and taxi driver, Phillip, told us there was a good trail from the top of Grand Etang over to the Concord Water Falls, which would take about an hour and a half to hike. Enticed by the idea of a vigorous walk through the rainforest followed by a swim in the falls, we decided to take a taxi up to the start of the hike and have Phillip meet us at the other end.
Editor’s note: For the past 17 blissful years that I have known your mother we have had some spectacular hiking adventures: Getting lost on an Irish Bog in the driving rain; hiking glaciers in Alaska; spending several days climbing the ranges behind Fernie, never failing to take a wrong turn; and too many “hey this looks like a good run…!” ski mishaps to mention, we should really know better.
We called up our cruising neighbours, the Olivers, as well as four new friends from “Just ‘Cause” and “Vikings Dream”, and made plans to head off. Phillip assured me that it was a simple route to follow, and the first indication that we might have an issue was when the park warden greeted us at the entrance and said that earlier in the week a group of university students had gotten lost on the trail and spent the night in the jungle…and “did we have a guide?”…Really???
Phillip managed to wrestle up a local who said that he was familiar with the route and indicated that he would be willing to guide us. Although we really didn’t think we needed a guide, we eventually agreed to hire Warren and his younger brother. So, with several first aid kits, lots of water and snacks, good shoes and sunscreen, off we went. It felt like the SS Minnow and the three hour tour….
The initial hike up Mount Qua Qua was a steep but manageable ridge walk. We climbed above Crater Lake which acts as the water reservoir for the island, and the trail was clearly defined with spectacular views over the island and the Caribbean Sea. Spirits were high and besides a few cobwebs in the lungs of inactive sailors, no one was worse for the wear. When we reached the summit of Mount Qua Qua we turned left and commenced the stretch towards Concord Falls anticipating an easy downhill walk. This is where things went south.
Every one had good footwear and was healthy and reasonably fit. We did not, however, have proper topographical maps, nor GPS, nor compass, which in hindsight, was a mistake. The route was not as straight-forward as we anticipated, and was significantly longer than we were led to believe. So here is the kicker: life never unfolds exactly as you intend it to, and that is what makes it exciting. We spent the next 5.5 hours hiking, crawling, sliding, wading and climbing through some of the thickest rainforest that I have ever seen. The trail was muddy, steep and at times non-existent. Our guide had not done the route regularly and I sense that it changes with every good rainfall; making his job all the more difficult. After initially not wanting to take a guide, I think we were all very glad that we did and If his job was to get us through to the other end, he was completely successful.
Now we were a mixture of all ages and fitness levels, and it was a difficult hike. After the first hour we were scratched, bruised, bleeding, bitten by ants and insects, and covered in thick clay mud. The trail was unclear, and the hike at times seemed never ending. In times like these it is interesting to note how people react and you often see sides of personalities that surprise you. The “fight or flight” response is often used to describe this phenomena.
One of the crew was a lovely lady of 62, fit and elegant, who would look more at home in Bloomingdales than on a muddy, bug infested trail in the rain forests of Grenada. The initial hike was steep and although a little slower than the group, she was doing fine, however when we started descending through the slippery roots and rocks, she became increasingly concerned with footing and balance. I quickly cut her a pair of walking sticks and she endured the next five hours slipping, falling, and trudging through rivers without complaint, harsh word or any indication of self pity. We even became separated from the main group and were forced to backtrack in hopes of finding the correct trail, spending twenty minutes “temporarily unsure of our position” before we reconnected. After your mother, it has been a long time since I have seen someone so game when faced with challenges out of their comfort zone.
Besides the obvious lack of route study and planning, the main take away from the day was that keeping cool, not panicking, and maintaining a positive attitude will usually carry you through most obstacles. The second issue is how your own attitude will affect those around you. A positive and confident approach will be infectious and raise the potential of everyone around you. As always, you two were such troopers and continue to endure your parents craziest ideas.
When we finally arrived at the end of the trail we launched ourselves off of the cliffs into the cool, clear, pools of the Concord Falls. I don’t think a swim has felt that refreshing in a long time.
So as you have become fond of saying lately, “when life throws you lemons, throw them back in life’s face and demand cupcakes….”