This is the story of an adventure I did with my beautiful wife in April. It had been quite a while since we ditched the kids and went on our own vacation, so it was about time we did so! April 11 was also the 22nd anniversary of our engagement, so a celebration was in order.
We planned our trip in advance and had been excited for quite a while. The trip wasn't quite the adventure that most of our previous trips have been, but the purpose of the trip was to grow closer together and to get some relaxing time in as well. Of course, we still made plenty of time for adventures too!
Goodfing off on the Jacquot Trail on St Lucia.
The trip was a good one, but getting there wasn't as fun. We were supposed to drive to and then fly out from Denver Tuesday evening and then spend the night in Miami before flying to St Lucia. Unfortunately the airline changed our flight to leave from Denver at 1:30 AM. We were really tired by the time we arrived in St. Lucia!
Note: Yes, there are some off topic photos in this trip report, but they are placed under construction so as to not to show up on the What's New Page or anywhere else on SP.
April 16: Mount La Combe
The plan today was to climb Mount La Combe, using the Barr de L'Isle. Mount La Combe is near the center of the island of St. Lucia and is in the rainforest. In order to get an early start, we thought it would be best to find a taxi to the trailhead and then take the bus back.
Since Mount La Combe is in a Forest Reserve you have to pay an entrance fee. Though a guide is optional, the entrance fee includes a guide as well, so we figured we might as well take one. We took the trail south and hiked to several viewpoints and along some intermediate summits. We heard several St Lucian parrots (jacquots), but only got fleeting glimpses. There were many interesting trees along the trail. The place smelt good due to the incense and frankincense trees! The area is said to be inhabited by ghost and spirits, but we didn't see any.
The first part of the trail to Mount La Combe is very well constructed.
Views from the Mount La Combe Trail.
Some of the big trees in the rainforest on Mount La Combe.
Kimberly on Mount La Combe.
Unfortunately, hurricane Tomas (October 2010) destroyed the last part of the trail to the summit, causing a huge landslide that left an almost vertical scarp. At this time, the summit portion of the trail is closed, so we didn't reach the summit and we retreated down the mountain. We did see a mongoose on the descent.
We retreated down the mountain and caught a ride back to Rodney Bay. We had a romantic candlelight dinner on the beach, but I guess that's another story.
Celebrating 22 years together with a candlelight dinner on the beach!
April 17: Gros Piton
Today we climbed Gros Piton, one of the two iconic and most famous mountains of the island (the other is the Petit Piton). We went with Real St Lucia Tours
since they gave us a good price (a guide is required for the hike) and it wouldn't have been any less expensive to drive ourselves. The drive to the trailhead was very scenic too. The Pitons definitely fit the definition of rising straight out of the ocean!
The Pitons and Soufrière as seen from the highway to the north. We climbed Gros Piton, the one on the left and the higher of the two. Petit Piton is the peak on the right.
The climb was excellent, and although steep, it wasn't as difficult as some of the other rain forest mountains that we have done. We began to worry a big when every single people we met on the trail (we got a later start than most) before the half way point said that they didn't reach the summit and that it was extremely difficult.
Gros Piton as see from the east. It is steep, but not quite as impressive from this direction.
There were some sections where scrambling over logs and over rocks was required, but the trail was actually really well constructed and there were even handrails in places. It was steep, but wasn't overly slippery. Past the half way point, we started to meet people that had actually made the summit. I guess the reason a lot of people don't make it is because they are "regular tourist" rather than climbers.
Scrambling through the boulders on Gros Piton.
Petit Piton as seen from half way up Gros Piton.
Part of the trail to Gros Piton. The handrails are to keep you from falling off the cliff.
Nearing the summit of Gros Piton.
Kimberly on the summit of Gros Piton.
We saw many birds and lizards along the way and even a hermit crab high on the peak. We also heard the brush rustling a bit, but never did see what animal it was. We also saw a gigantic (!) wasp and some humming birds.
These lizards are all over Gros Piton.
The views were excellent and you could look straight down on the ocean for much of the distance. Even with three rest along the way, we reached the summit in just over two hours at a fairly leisurely pace. It was a little warm at times, but the climb was very enjoyable. We took a long lunch and break on the summit before heading back down. It did rain a bit, but the trail didn't get that slippery. It took about 4 and a half hours round trip, including rest breaks.
Kim and I on the summit of Gros Piton!
We still had time, so we visited the Piton Waterfall, which is only a short "hike" (actually more of a stroll). There were some warm pools, but the waterfall itself had water that was a perfect temperature. It was very pleasant and a great way to end the climb.
Petit Piton as seen from near the waterfall.
Cooling off in the waterfall after climbing Gros Piton. The waterfall was at the perfect temperature!
We actually arrived in Rodney Bay very late. A semi had overturned on the main road, so we were delayed for hours. We took a walk on the beach that evening, but we had yet to see the beach in the daylight hours!
Petit Piton from the beach at Soufrière.
April 18: Signal Peak/Pigeon Island
We slept in and then took a boat shuttle across Rodney Bay to Pigeon Island in order to do some hikes there.
Wikipedia says the following about the history of the island:
The Arawak people, the original inhabitants of Pigeon island, were driven out by the Caribs around 1000 A.D. The Caribs lived in caves along the shore of the island, and hunted for fish, shellfish, small animals and birds. They also foraged for plant food. In the 16th century, a French pirate, François le Clerc, used Pigeon Island as his base. He forged an agreement with the Caribs, so that they would not attack his ship.
In 1778, Admiral George Rodney took over Pigeon island, expelled the natives, and built a fort on the smaller of the two peaks. This fort is known as Fort Rodney. To establish clear sightlines, Rodney ordered all trees on Pigeon Island to be cut down. From the higher peak, Signal Hill, Rodney was able to observe the French naval base on Martinique.
Over the next several years, the British built several other structures on Pigeon Island, including two barracks, a mess hall, and a lime kiln.
About 3/4s of the way up the island, visitors will find the ridge battery.
This sign from the Saint Lucia National Trust describes the 32 pound gun once sited here.
In 1782, Admiral Rodney sailed from Pigeon Island to confront the French fleet, which he defeated in the Battle of Saints.
In 1824, a barracks which had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1817 was rebuilt.
The ruins of many of the historical structures are still there, making it an interesting place. We hiked to the lookout fort (Fort Rodney) on the west point of the island before heading east and climbing Signal Peak, which has a little scrambling, and the highest point of the island. The views were great, but clouds obscured the view of Martinique, the French island country to the north. We took a long walk along the beaches to the south as well.
It was a great and interesting trip and had some good hikes. It was hot out, but the trails were mostly easy. Since the hikes were short, we actually got to see the beaches in the daylight!
Summit of Signal Peak.
April 19: Jacquot Trail
Today we did the rainforest tram, zipline, and Jacquot Trail combo. We rode the tram and did the ziplines before hiking the trail. The trail is interesting (and easier than advertised) and we got to see several St Lucian Parrots (jacquots) Kennedy and Jeffery, the guides (required), we quite entertaining. We got to see a lot of different kinds of birds and trees.
It was a good, and relaxed day.
Jeffery explains about the tree roots.
April 20: Soufrière Volcano
Today we visited many places along the west coast via catamaran. It was really spectacular to see the two Pitons (one of which we climbed on April 17) from the ocean. We stopped at a waterfall where I took a quick swim before heading to the steaming, bubbling, and boiling, Soufrière Volcano. We took the nice hot mud bath (which makes your skin very soft) before doing the short (but very interesting) hikes around the volcano. It is a bit touristy, but very interesting.
After the volcano, we did the walks through the plantation and botanical gardens. They were quite interesting and the food was good. They showed us how chocolate is made as well. We did some snorkeling in one of the bays afterward and saw lots of sea life.
Petit Piton (left) and Gros Piton (right) as seen from the ocean.
The Catamaran to Soufrière. The Pitons are in the background right.
Taking a mud bath in the Soufrière Volcano. Kim is happy; she just made this face for the picture. The volcanic mud makes your skin soft.
The boiling and steaming interior of Soufrière Volcano.
The Botanical Gardens.
April 21: Northeast Coast
Today Kim and I decided to take the hike along the Northwest Coast of St Lucia, which although very scenic, seems to be a forgotten corner of the island. There didn't seem to be any buses headed out to Cas en Bas, so we took a taxi (it wasn't that far from Rodney Bay where we were staying).
We were told heading north was more interesting, so we headed towards the north point of the island. We hiked around several points and sea cliffs and tried to stay as close to the coast as we could, though we made detours to some of the highest hills and bluffs in order to see the views. There were many deserted beaches along the way. It was hot, but I could take a dip in the ocean to cool off. We saw much sea life, including a good sized crab. The coast is very rugged and has an almost desert like appearance with some good sized cactus.
We eventually reached a big sea cliff and started hiking inland to bypass it. We eventually reached a section of bushwhacking. Given the heat and time of day, we decided to head back at this point. We did meet one couple hiking to Donkey Beach, the only people we met on the hike.
When we got back to Cas en Bas, we ate a late lunch/early dinner at a laid back place on the beach. We decided to walk back to Rodney Bay, but the heat was stifling. Luckily a bus passed, which was a bit of the normal route because the driver was taking someone home. We took the bus back to Rodney Bay. We ate some jerk chicken on the beach, spending the rest of the day there. We got to watch our last sunset on St. Lucia.
Part of the Northeast Coast Walk.
Hiking along the Northeast Coast.
Our last sunset on St Lucia.
April 21: Pigeon Island
Today we did the Sea Trek, which is where you use helmets to walk on the ocean bottom. It was quite interesting and we saw jellyfish, urchins, colorful fish, lobsters, etc.
After the Sea Trek, we did some short walks on Pigeon Island before heading back to the hotel. It was time to catch the shuttle to the airport and end our trip in St. Lucia.
The trip was a great way to celebrate our 22 years together!
Last walk on the beach near Pigeon Island.