Saturday 12 January, Nevis: Climbed the volcano to 1100m, up a continuous 45+degrees slope. Then natural hot spa and comfort food to recover!
Another late night last night so a late morning today too. We wake to clouds back over the volcano, which has been clear for the last 2 days. Damn! Well, we decide to climb it anyway. Just maybe it will clear when we reach the crater.
Dressed with sacrificial clothes (we know from previous experiences just how muddy we get by the end of it), we set off to the trail head and arrive rather late at 11 o’clock. We had been advised to get a guide but we prefer to explore ourselves. And if we get lost? Well what the heck, it’s a small island! We had also heard it’s a very steep climb with ropes on near vertical slopes that you have to go hand over hand to ascend. But that sounded rather exaggerated. And anyway, we like a challenge!
Now, at the bottom of the slope, we can see on google that we are only 500m horizontal distance from the crater… and we know it’s about 700m vertically above us. Hmm, doing the math, that does mean a rather steep ascent!
To start with it’s a gentle slope through dense rain forest on a very well trodden trail. But as it’s not yet steep we wonder if we got it right. 3 climbers soon pass us coming down and confirm we are correctly on the trail.
Not long after that, it starts getting steep. Then seriously steep! It didn’t rain for 3 days and the going is at least dry. We are clambering over huge roots of even huger trees with hardly a glimpse of the sky through the dense tropical greenery.
Then the rope work starts. And it is indeed hand over hand to get up. And some places the slope must be 60deg up. Not dangerous, but still pretty arduous. And it goes on and on, taking our breath away. Each time we pull ourselves up one section, the next is just as steep. The good thing is that only one of us can be on a rope at any one time. So we get a period of rest waiting for the rope, then a period of hard work pulling yourself up. We take lots of video but we doubt it can really show how steep it was.
2/3s the way up we enter the cloud and it starts to rain. We are so hot and it’s a nice relief. And near the top we hear people coming down. Oooh …. coming down looks trickier than going up! As they pass us we suddenly realize one of them is Tricia whom we met in the immigration office and again at the New Year’s Eve party! These certainly are small islands!
10 minutes later the path levels off and we are on the crater’s rim at its highest elevation. It should be a super view down into the crater and over the island. But the mist of the cloud is racing passed us and there is nothing to see except grayness. A bit disappointing but we agree the climb was spectacular.
No point in spending much time up there, so we descend. Slowly but surely at first, thinking its going to be extremely tricky. Especially after the rain, as everything is now super slippery. But with the ropes everywhere we find going backwards we can almost abseil down without slipping too much under foot.
And before we know it we are out of the cloud and back on more gentle slopes. We arrive back to the car 3.5 hours after we left it, quite muddy and with very wobbly legs. I was very glad I took gloves. Not sure I would have made it down without them.
We then go in search of the natural hot spring baths, close to Charlestown. We find the famous Baths hotel which dates from 1700s. Wealthy people came from all over the world to stay here and bathe in the hot water full of natural minerals.
Just below the old hotel (now renovated and used for government offices) we find a rather rough and small bathing pool with steps down into it. The water is deliciously hot … 107degF apparently. We are barely able to get in, but once in it’s so pleasant. Absolutely what we needed to relax our muscles.
To start with we are on our own, but soon an elderly gentleman comes in. He is both the builder and keeper of this thermal bath and he tells us the very interesting history of the Bath Hotel. Then we are joined by some American expats who live on the island and a couple of local women. We are warmly amazed at the chat and conversation between us all. It’s just sooo friendly here and simply delightful to see white expats and locals so well integrated and enjoying each other’s stories. We’ve not observed this in any other islands. Far from it in fact. Well, maybe Martinique was well integrated but not to this level of natural friendliness. We fully understand why people come to Nevis to retire. Beautiful island, lots to do, no pretentious development or exclusive housing, super friendly people and above all, very safe and secure. We declare we will be sad to leave.
Once infused with the minerals of the natural spring hot water and adequately crinkled, we head for our main meal of the day at Yachtsmen Grill on Pinney’s Beach to have comfort food in the form of 2 delicious pizzas, just as the sun sets. Then back to Turtle Time for a cocktail before we retire back to the boat for a nice hot shower and a big footwear cleaning session!
What a great day!