First off, I owe an apology to those who read my blog. I am very sorry that I have not written in quite some time. I have several posts in the works but the words just have not flowed well. I think writing about my adventure here is a good, easy start off to get my jump started back into blogging. Hopefully after this I can get the other posts done that I have been working on.
On Friday, I finally got to complete one of the big things on my bucket list for the island. I finally hiked the volcano here on St. Kitts. What an experience that was. I have been on the island for a year straight now and sometimes it’s difficult to find time for nature here in vet school. Often times it is just my time on the beach or my walks in the toxic plant garden on campus. There are several hiking trails on the island and I have yet to explore any of them. There is also the fact that life here sometimes feels like a constant battle with the island. We are always dealing with massive, poisonous centipedes, thousands of ants bent on eating your food, and humidity that would crush all productivity. It is hard, sometimes to enjoy the nature when it is downright oppressive, but I try my best and work hard to find beauty in every moment. So when my friends said they wanted to do this, I leapt. The six of us got up bright and early in a failed attempt to avoid the heat of the day.
It was possibly the most challenging hike that I have ever been on. The volcano itself is just under 4,000 feet at the summit, but the trail switchbacks the whole way up. It took us the better part of four hours to get to the top. I was determined that this long hike would be a spiritual experience. I packed an offering to the spirits of the land and meditated on the path before we set off.
This is the first time I have ever been in a rainforest. The plants and animals were almost entirely foreign to me. I only recognized the green vervet monkeys that we disturbed at one point. I found myself in awe as the plant life and bird calls changed with the rising altitude. It was not very hot on the mountain, but under the rainforest canopy, the humidity was extremely high. We had all sweat through every piece of clothing we wore within less than an hour of hiking the trail. It was a trance-inducing experience. Between the physical exertion, the constant sweating and the forest close in all around us, I was quickly in another state of mind. The volcano became more of a challenge as we hiked on. Some of our group just plowed on up the mountain, while some lagged behind, needing breaks. I played the middle man to keep the two groups together and it gave me a lot of time to just quietly observe the jungle around me and listen to the sounds of nature over the sound of my pounding heart. There was a tree that caught my eye because the area where old branches had broken off looked like evil little, laughing faces, taunting us as we struggled up the mountain. I called them the jumbie trees, after the local spirits. They seemed to be daring us to go on. I also found a natural doorway to the otherworld in a tree alongside the path. I made friends with that doorway while waiting for stragglers.
After almost four hours of hiking and scaling boulders, we finally made the summit. Most of it was under heavy forest, but there was one area where you could get on top of a large cliff and look out over the crater and out on to the Caribbean Sea. The crater was amazing. I am normally terrified of heights, but for some reason, my inner mountain goat took over. I climbed out onto that perch you see in the first picture and some time there, just listening to the wind and drinking in the beauty of the island. The photo is deceiving, because that rock is actually pretty high up and out over the forest. You can sit there and look right over the crater and the sulfur lake inside or turn left and see Saba and the Caribbean Sea. It was a breathtaking seat.
I meditated for a bit on the summit, then brought out what I had to offer. A shot of rum and my some of my white sage and tobacco. I got a big feeling of joy and relaxation after that. I had finally been to the highest point on the island and seen the crater. It felt like a big achievement, for some reason. I did not really question why, just basked in the feeling. The volcano itself is sleeping. It has lain dormant for over a thousand years since its last eruption. It is still active, and we get occasional tremors on the island. The rainforest on its summit is very much alive though. It was a great treat to have been there. I really hope that I can do it again before I graduate. Maybe spend more time at the top. There are also many other hiking trails to be explored.
This was an amazing experience. I loved seeing all kinds of new plants. I am determined now to learn the names of as many of them as possible in my time here (as if I don’t already have enough to learn in vet school as it is).
So what is your next adventure? What is your mountain to climb? I say, go for it. You may be surprised by what you find.