Sunday 20 January, Statia day 3: Trek up into the Quill crater and certification to dive with Nitrox.
Bit of a rocky night, but nothing could prevent us from sleeping after our 2 dives then study for the Nitrox certification yesterday evening.
By 9am we are ready to head ashore geared with our hiking clothes aiming to conquer the island’s volcano, The Quill.
The trail head is about 1.5km from the town and 300m up, so we hope to grab a taxi. But unlike Nevis, where we were descended upon by taxi drivers each time we landed, here there are none to be seen. Yes, we are in a European country and no one works on a Sunday!
One person who is working hard is the 7-day-Adventist’s preacher who is at full volume giving a dramatic sounding sermon in the packed church as we pass its open windows.
The rest of the town is deserted as we walk though and up up up to the trail head.
On the last stretch there is a clear sign to turn right for the Quill, but Glen knows best , and instead of taking the turn we go straight ahead up a very steep road. At the top it becomes clear we are not on the right path.
But Glen has no intention of going back down to find the right one. Instead, he finds a small trail which seems to go up. As in very steep “up”. I’m skeptical but follow anyway! It ends up he was right (lucky?) and we soon intersect the official trail.
It is a very well maintained trail and soon we are up on the rim of the crater. It’s quite a sight looking down, pristine forest in the crater and very inviting. So we take the Crater Trail down into it.
Once inside the crater it’s like a prehistoric world, a Jurassic Park, a Lost World. We expect dinosaurs to come at us from behind the many huge boulders and massive trees with enormous roots. We guess it was impossible for the early settlers to de-forest in the crater. Too difficult to take the wood up and over the rim. So this is how all the islands must have been before all the hard wood trees were felled and shipped off to Europe. All of a sudden we feel guilty for having tropical teak on Cloudy’s decks and interior. We just hope it came from a sustainable source.
The wildlife in this wilderness is also abundant. So many bird sounds and we spot a few humming birds doing their magic hovering. Lots of small lizards shuffling through the undergrowth and hermit crabs, either rolling down or trying to climb the rocks. All very funny to watch.
We also find a baby goat and we hear chickens. Apparently, some slaves had once escaped their captivity and lived in the crater… maybe in these modern times the chickens and goats are doing the same!
Other than the wild surroundings there is nothing else to see in the crater. There is no boiling lake nor smoking vents, only dense forest. So we hike back out to the rim and fly the drone over the crater. Bringing it back was quite interesting because once it’s up we soon disappear into the camouflage of the jungle on the drone’s camera. Thank goodness for GPS!
From this lower section of the crater we walk around the rim to the highest point on the Panorama Trail. It’s an intensive 20 minute hike, scramble up ropes to the top, and the view from up there at 600m, over the island one way and the crater the other, is outstanding.
On the way down we follow the official trail this time, all the way to the town (the one we missed coming up!). And it turns out to be significantly longer than Glen’s short-cut trail!
As we descend though the town there is still no one around. We visit the nicely restored Orange Fort and wander the old building that surrounds it. Really very quaint. And have a glimpse at the Government Guesthouse and the Historical Foundation Museum, some of the oldest and most beautiful houses in the Upper Town.
Then to the business of the day. Back at the dive center we grab a beer and get out our study books to read the last few sections before taking the PADI Nitrox exam. Last night we both almost fell asleep while studying and had to give up!
The exam is multiple choice (or “multiple guess” as Glen calls it) and is fairly straight forward. I get 100% score which beats Glen’s… but who’s counting ? 🙂
We celebrate our new certification with a cocktail, chatting again to the extremely pleasant Dutch staff. Then at Mosquito O’clock (around 5:30pm) we start scratching our ankles, so we head back to Cloudy Bay for some lunch…. or is it dinner by now? When we get to her she is pitching and rolling in the swell, much worse than the previous two nights. It’s even tricky getting on board.
Sadly, tomorrow we leave St.Eustatius, the weather is chasing us away. It has been a short but very pleasant stop. We would’ve stayed longer (for more diving and visit the History Museum) but there is big wind coming in 2 days and we have an upwind sail to St.Barts… or St. Martin? We’ll decide tomorrow.