I made the mistake of leaving out of my last blog update a little snorkeling we did in Bequia before we sailed over to Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent:
various colorful coral, sponge and tube worms
Orange Cup Coral with Sergeant Major fishies
Green Sea Turtle
Now, on to Cumberland Bay St. Vincent!
We had a very nice sail to Cumberland Bay. We were prepared for using the services of a “boat boy” to tie our stern to a tree on shore to allow all the boats to fit in the bay of which the sea floor is very deep right up to the shore.
With the guidance of ‘’our boat boy”, Billy, who rowed out to meet us at the entrance to the bay, we dropped the anchor in about 50 feet of water. He then rowed to shore with the very long line that we had at the ready (+ another one we had to tie together with it) and tied it to a palm tree. It all went very smoothly, and plans were made to let Billy guide us on a hike to a volcano and waterfall the next morning at 6:30! This start time clued us into the fact that this hike might belong in what I call the “epic hike” category. The only other hike of this category we’ve done was in April, 2019 to the Boiling Lake on the island of Dominica. Admittedly, we had not researched how strenuous of a hike this April, 2023 adventure would be. We just knew that this was a common tour for which tourists hire guides and that our friend, Peter, on S/V Rhapsode had done the hike and paid about the same price as we had agreed upon with Billy to taxi us to the trail and guide us to the volcano.
Within a few minutes after making our plans with Billy for the following day, we had purchased a pomegranate from one rowboat-entrepreneur and a handmade necklace made with Mgambo seeds from another. I wore my necklace on the next day’s adventure!
After these transactions were complete,
Goldspotted Snake Eel
Brittle Sea Star
Mark and I snorkeled the south side of the bay where Nancy Lu was secured for a little while before having dinner on the boat and making preparations including packing lunches & snacks, and filling our water bottles to take with us on our hike to the top of La Soufriere, a stratovolcano and the highest peak on St. Vincent. It’s latest eruption was just 2 years ago in 2021.
The next day started in the cool of the morning before the sun made it’s appearance over the mountain. We were rowed one at a time to shore…
where Billy led us down the beach and through a shallow river that divides the south side of the bay from the north side to where his cousin, Jovie, picked us up in his car.
The car trip to where our hike began was eventful, starting with a flat tire along the way as we drove through our driver, Jovie’s home village. The fact that he knew everyone in the village made finding a replacement car, which he borrowed from a friend, take only a matter of minutes. We set off again and made it as far as the last village on the way to the trail before Jovie was stopped by a smartly uniformed and vigilant law-and-order-man, Officer Campbell. Alerted by our pale faces in the back seat, Officer Campbell rightly suspected that we were paying customers. The lack of proper license plate identification on the car signifying that its driver is licensed to taxi prompted Officer Campbell to order Jovie to exit the vehicle. After a thorough interrogation on the side of the road, Jovie confessed to being unlicensed. He was given a stern talking-to and forbidden to transport us any farther, but escaped a fine. It was then Billy, Mark’s and my turn to exit the vehicle. The three of us set off on foot with well wishes from Officer Campbell to “enjoy your hike and the beautiful nature of St. Vincent”. When we asked Billy how long the walk was to where Jovie would have dropped us off, he told us within earshot of Officer Campbell (so we figured he was telling the truth) that it was about 15 or 20 minutes. We decided we were game for that, but after we walked only a short distance, we caught a properly licensed taxi.
The taxi dropped us off at a beach where fishermen and fisherwomen create makeshift fishing villages, but where there is no signage whatsoever to mark the trail head. The taxi driver gave Mark his card and we made arrangements with him to call when we were ready to be picked up at the end of our hike. Billy paid him, and…
we set off down the beach. Billy confided to us that Officer Campbell must have had a bad night’s sleep to be so “mean” as to not let Jovie drive us the rest of the way .
My pant legs did not stay dry for long as we crossed several shallow rivers burbling their way to the sea.
One of the rivers was set up with a fish trap to catch what Billy told us were small fish called Tri Tri that fry up deliciously and are very expensive to buy.
The walk along the black sand beach was longer than I expected it to be, and I was already needing to have a “bathroom” break. I was not convinced that I was up for the adventure, especially when Billy told us he thought the hike would be 3 hours up and 2 hours down. We later learned that hiking up to the volcano from the west side of the island as we were doing was a short car ride from Cumberland Bay to the beginning of the hike, but a longer and more difficult hike to the summit; whereas, the hike from the east side of the island was a very long taxi ride from Cumberland Bay with a shorter and less difficult hike to the summit. That’s what our friend, Peter, had done. We committed ourselves and felt safe under Billy’s guidance. I took comfort in the fact that it was just the two of us so we could turn back at any time. I assured Billy we would pay him the full amount even if we decided not to go the whole way. On we went…
through the gorge that led to where the trail was marked by arrows etched in the stone wall.
Billy said that it was basically up hill the whole way from that point. He was right. There were only a few places with a few feet of level ground or short downhill sections to break up the steep climb. I comforted myself with the fact that it would be basically down hill the whole way back even though I know that going downhill can have it’s own difficulties.
The section of the trail with giant mango trees laden with ripe mangoes was a treat for us because Billy proved to be very skilled at throwing something heavy like a log up in the branches to knock the fruit down! He was also skilled at finding where the fruit landed and hustling through the bush to retrieve it! I ate it as Billy did, skin and all!
The views were spectacular, and once I relieved myself in the bush, I was better able to enjoy the journey. Still, looking ahead and seeing how much farther we had left to go through the haze in the distance, was a bit discouraging, especially taking into consideration that we were not yet to the halfway point! We began to see great carved out trenches where lava flowed down the mountainside, which was the first phase of the 2021 eruption. The next phase was an explosive eruption that sent ash 32,000 feet in the air and covered the island with ash. There was even a pyroclastic flow, one of the most deadly kinds of volcanic eruptions. No lives were lost thanks to early evacuation efforts, thank goodness!
Mark and I were like kids on a car trip, asking at different points along the way if we were getting close to the halfway point.
Finally, we were at the halfway point. Billy proved to be a very realistic guide, if not encouraging, telling us that the halfway mark may be halfway in distance, but he didn’t consider it halfway because the trail got more difficult from that point on to the summit! We stopped there to eat our lunch. My private self-talk and public declaration was the same. “I may not want to go the whole way, and we could abandon the climb at any time”…
Mark encouraged me to keep going for a little while longer, assuring me that I had a nice iced coffee waiting for me back at Nancy Lu and he would give me a nice foot rub. I have to admit, that every time he mentioned this reward, I found the stamina to keep going.
After a while, the terrain became more desolate. As we got higher, the bare remnants of the trees was all that remained of the forest after the last eruption.
We took short breaks every time we came to a relatively flat area with still quite a climb ahead of us! From our last rest spot, we could barely see people who had gotten an earlier start than we had, making their way down in the distance.
When our paths finally crossed, they told Mark that the final push was worth it!
On we trudged upward. Finding purchase for our feet was getting increasingly difficult because of all the loose gravel from the explosive eruption.
I took one last look back at the steep climb through a deep layer of ash/gravel we had just accomplished knowing that I had only one more to go before…
the massive crater with gases rising from far below filled our view! The crater was bigger and more spectacular than I had imagined! There was no way to capture the severity and grandeur of it in a photo!
Click here for a 360 degree video from the Volcano Summit
We marveled and photographed with the wind buffeting our bodies for a while. We had climbed 3,000 feet and it took us 4 hours instead of the predicted 3. I guess we looked more capable to Billy than we actually were! He said that the view we had that day was the clearest that he’d ever experienced. He told us that he’d experienced times when the clouds were so thick at the summit that he could not see the hikers he led there, and the wind was so strong that the last upward push had to be done on all fours!
I am so glad that I persevered to the summit because I would soon find out that the decent would prove to be the most dangerous and painful part of the hike. If I had not experienced the magnificent sight that the summit provided, the perils of the decent would definitely not have been worth the experience of the hike to a point short of the summit! I’m glad Billy waited until we were on the way down to tell me that the last people he led only made it to the halfway point!
Click here for Video of the hike down
Every step until we got back down to the halfway point was treacherous because of the deep, loose gravel. It was impossible to anticipate or avoid having our feet slip out from under us. It happened to all three of us at least once! One of the the times left me with a nasty bruise on my backside and a bloody gouge out of the heel of my right hand, but the worst was that my wrist felt like it was broken. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t because it wasn’t swollen and I could wiggle my fingers, but it felt like it was, and I could not bear any weight on it. This made using my walking stick in my right hand impossible and using it for stability in my left hand much more difficult. My hiking sandals (Chacos), which have always served me so much better than closed toe hiking shoes, were constantly filled with rocks and because of the steepness of the descent, my sandal straps were rubbing blisters on the TOPS of my feet.
We finally made it out of the loose gravel, but the descent was still steep and the pain of my wrist injury and the pain in my feet negated the security offered by the more stable footing that I was able to get. I did not anticipate being thankful for the few short uphill parts of the homeward hike!
I thought I would be home free once we got to the flat terrain of the gorge and the beach, but by then, just walking was a great effort and killing my feet. A further hike to a waterfall, which was part of our original plan, was OUT OF THE QUESTION, and Billy didn’t even mention it! When we got to the beach, Mark called the taxi and we took it to where we caught a bus. We rode the bus back along the hairpin curves back to Cumberland Bay. Because of the pain of my wrist and my battered feet, I was struggling with everything from getting back on the boat to taking my much needed shower until I made it into bed EARLY that night. I thought I was going to be dealing with a long period of healing for my wrist. I was stressing about how I was going to deal with normal daily activities like cutting up a bunch of mangos that I needed to get in the freezer, but when I woke up in the morning, my wrist was back to normal and Mark’s and my muscles were hardly sore at all! I had planned on recuperating on the boat the next day, but since we felt fine, we decided to sail back to Bequia and resume the holiday atmosphere that we had left just 2 days before with an “epic hike” under our belts!
5 thoughts on “BITTY BLOG BITES—3rd Bite: Snorkeling @ Devil’s Table, Bequia Thru Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent—April 11-14, 2023”
Wow – what an experience!! You were real pioneers.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for commenting. We will be home June 1st.
What an awesome, spectacular, once in a lifetime journey up to the summit of that volcano! You both certainly learned a lot about your stamina, perseverance, abilities, trust, and satisfaction of a goal achieved under a tough, dangerous but calculated risk adventure. I give you a solid A+ for picking a good guide, getting thru the adventure and enjoying your survival of yet another successful event. A volcano that soon after eruption is an archeologists marvel and I am so glad you got to the final payoff. I was holding my breath for you hoping your injuries would not foretell a very difficult sailing journey home. Like backpacking, sailing requires vigorous abilities that cannot be done by anyone else so one has to just get tough thru it. And so you are able to sail on. What an adventure! What a spectacular view. Thanks for sharing with us. I could not access the “Like” because I don’t do You tube but enjoyed the videos. What a video master and wonderful photographer you two have become. The underwater photos were of some things I have never seen on our sailing, snorkel/scuba adventures so they were a special treat. Be safe. Mar Checked your house a few days ago and all is well. Be safe.
LikeLiked by 1 person
What an amazing adventure! Written so well that I could really imagine the surroundings, the ordeal, the elation and satisfaction of completing a wonderful experience.
Gods hand was surely on y’all, your guide was very good, inconveniences nominal and your adventure was finished safely…mostly.
Another excellent blog!!!
Kathy, your camera takes great underwater pics! I always enjoy reading your blogs! Looking forward to seeing ya’ll soon!