Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hiking in St. Lucia

We have done very little walking on St Lucia and due to our enforced stay here decided it was time to rectify that situation. Several hours research online showed there were a number of Forestry trails that sounded worth investigating, but little information on them in terms of routes and access. Most searches came up with organised trips or were more of the thrill type of experience like zip wiring through the forest canopy or segue trips on made up tracks. Whatever they were, they all had one thing in common and that was they were very expensive for something we could do quite easily, we thought, without a guide.Having failed with the Internet we decided to resort to the old fashioned method of seeking out the local Tourist Information office as the marina office only had a few leaflets for guided tours. This meant a bus trip into Castries, the capital, a place we have been to on a number of occasions and so we knew where the TIC was, in the cruise ship mall. Fortunately there were no cruise ships in and so we thought we would soon be sorted. How wrong can you be? The one occupant of the Tourist Information booth turned out to be a security guard who informed us that the Tourist Information lady (heirinafter referred to as the TIL) had "just stepped out, but would be back soon". A walk around the centre and a quick visit to the Cathederal of the Immaculate Conception saw us back in the TIC about half an hour later. Here we found the same security guard sitting alone and who informed us that the TIL "had just stepped out, but would be back soon". We reminded her we had already heard this from her and asked how long "soon" might be. She was reluctant to put a time on this but merely advised us she was sure she wouldn't be long and that she had to come back as there were parcels waiting for her.By this time it was late morning and so time for refreshments and so we headed deeper into the mall to the Pirates Rest for some local juice and to catch up on wifi. This occupied us for well over an hour, much to the disappointment of the waiter who was obviously hoping we may stop for lunch. A short walk took us back to the TIC where, once again the security officer with the poor memory for faces and by now looking decidedly fed up, informed us the TIL had "just stepped out, but would be back soon"! Fortunately we were rescued by a friendly taxi driver who obviously thought we could be good for a fare and who proceeded to tell us where the TI Head office was and he could take us there for a small fee. 
As we were in need of some exercise we decided to walk the couple of miles out of Castries.We found the building with no trouble and soon realised this was not the place to pick up leaflets, but managed to arrange an appointment with someone who "could help us". Unfortunately this person was "just stepping out" for lunch, but promised he would email details of the trails as soon as he returned! 
As we were fairly sure we were near the Forestry Offices where one of the short trail starts, we thought we would have a look for it to give the email time to be written and sent. We had an enjoyable walk around the area, but never found any evidence of the Forrestry Offices or the trail, but by the time we were back on Stream the email had arrived and we were able to plan the following days walk.
From the half a dozen trails mentioned we decided that we would enjoy the 'Barre De L'isle'. The trail is along the ridge that divides the eastern and western halves of the island. It is a walk into the Forest Nature Reserve. The description promised panoramic views of the island and views of the mystic rainforest. It also stated that the trail could be extended as it linked to a trail going up Mount La Combe. Another good thing was that this trail was on a bus route from Castries, so we could easily get there and back. 
So after an early start and two bus journeys we arrived at the trail head and met the forest ranger and paid our $50EC entrance dues. She explained it was a well marked in/out trail and that we must tell her when we had completed it for safety reasons. We promised we would and were about to head off when she went on to explain that in the past people would carry on and go up the mountain but due to a hurricane in 2010 this was no longer possible as the path was blocked by a landslide.
So off we went into the rainforest. The path was very well marked and easy to negotiate. The view points did give stunning views of parts of the island. 
The Forest Ranger Office Barre de L'isle.

The well trodden Barre de L'isle trail

Unfortunately it was all a bit tame and was like a walk that you would do with your family and a baby in a buggy from a National Trust car park, but without the tearoom. At the end of the trail is a laminated A4 sign marking the beginning of the Mount La Combe trail. Being us, we thought, despite the warnings, we would give it ago. We wandered along for about 600 metres to the landslide, which of course we tried to traverse and climb up but couldn't find anyway of continuing further. So it was a disappointed pair who caught the bus back into Castries.
As it was only lunchtime,we caught another bus to Union Trail. But the less said about the trail and the disturbing zoo the better. Although Sarah did get a sight of parrots/macaws in a cage and spent time feeding them star fruit. 

Macaws (or St Lucian Parrots as Sarah wanted to believe)

To say the walk back down to the main road, to catch the bus, was more interesting and challenging than the Union Trail is an understatement.

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