ST LUCIA -PITONS
Soufriere in the southern part of St Lucia was a favourite place for us five years ago. The town lies beneath the might Pitons – two magnificent mountains that were formed by a volcanic explosion eons ago. They dominate the landscape with their height and beauty. The town itself is actually inside a volcano – dormant of course – and is a “typical” carribean town with the gingerbread and balcony style of housing. Soufriere (sulphur in the air) is by no means an affluent town. Clearly it relies on tourism from the cruise ships that dock in Castries, the passengers are then bought here by catamaran tours or taxis to visit the volcano, sulphur springs, botanical gardens and hot waterfalls which fall directly from the volcano. This town was hit pretty hard by Tomas and is still recovering. Many moorings beneath the pitons were lost and have yet to be replaced, many houses are still not repaired and countless trees have fallen, huge slices of the mountainside have disappeared. Apparently the entire banana industry was affected and will take time to rebound. Bananas are St Lucia’s main export so lots of jobs were affected by the loss.
We were moored in the shadow of the Petit Piton – the smaller of the two. We were approached by several boat boys, some who we had met five years ago. We were especially pleased to see Pascal – a scruffy eccentric Rasta who had come aboard last time and demonstrated how to carve calabash for us. He remembered us and we enjoyed a visit with him. He agreed to be our guide the next day as we climbed the Piton.
We met at 8AM – Kristy, Jamie, Joey Ashley and myself, we knew it was going to be a challenge, we had climbed it five years earlier. We were as prepared as we could e with lots of water and nutritious snacks and good shoes. As we began the walk up the road leading to the foot of the piton, it was evident that Pascal was struggling. He was holding his lower back and almost gasping for breath. Within 5 minutes he was telling us to relax and not rush – we were still on the road! So we waited, then continued on, slowly, after another few minutes of walking he said the same thing, relax, don’t rush. We began the immediate uphill climb with Pascal leading the way – his left buttock hanging out of his ripped and filthy shorts – it was evident he was not in any physical condition to climb this monster, he was almost panting for breath, I kept asking if he was OK, and he assured me he was, so among ourselves, we decided to go on ahead, he agreed but kept shouting after us to wait for him. We lost him after about 10 minutes. The trail was fairly clear, but it was challenging. We did indeed take our time, stopped frequently and pulled ourselves up and over rocks and trees as we crawled higher and higher using the roots of the trees as handholds and footholds that good old God had placed there for our use. The shoulder near the top of this 2500m monster was the hardest. We kept each other going by having banal conversations about things like Brittany Spears and Coronation Street! We used the ropes to literally pull ourselves up and over huge boulders. This surely was no hike – it was mountain climbing. Any way after two hours we finally made it to the summit. We were soaked with sweat and were shaking at the knees from the sheer exertion of our climb. But, we made it. We took photos and rested. I had a particular sense of self-satisfaction as I am the most senior of the group by far, and I was able to keep up with everyone and recover very quickly.
The descent was almost as difficult, its very hard on the knees, we virtually had to come down backwards. We met up with Pascal close to the bottom of the Piton, he was sleeping in the middle of the path and we had to step over him before he woke up. He was relieved to see us and congratulated us but was surprised we had made it to the top on our own. We made it to the base in under an hour, we walked to a local store and bought some ice-cold Piton beers. This was my second beer in five years. I can almost see why people like beer!
We then continued on to the beach where we stripped off and plunged in – oh the feeling of the cool cool water. We stayed in for at least 30 minutes until our core temperature had dropped. We were exhausted but enormously proud of ourselves for what we had accomplished.
Throughout the day we would glance up at the Piton and smile.
Posted by Amoeba Sailing Tours on Tue, March 08, 2011 at 10:57 AM