The Peak

Rising from the center of Isla de Providencia, the highest point is known simply as The Peak. With an elevation of roughly 1,190 feet (I’ve converted from roughly 363 meters), The Peak presented quite a climb for us having been previously in the Bahamas where our hikes brought us to astonishing heights near 100 feet. In addition, it was HOT! The heat of course was no surprise because once again we gringos were hiking mid-day when normal people were siesta-ing. We were accompanied by our friends David & Victoria (s/v Eva Marie) as we hopped a bus to begin our venture to the peak.

Mopeds are the primary mode of transportation on Providencia. It seems everyone has a moped, some serve as taxis, and for $25/day tourists can “Rent a Moto.” There are cars and trucks and vans, many of which serve as taxis; also available for rent are 4×4 vehicles called Mules (imagine my dismay to learn that the mules were in fact vehicles and not furry, four-legged animals). The circumference of the island, however, is only 8 miles and so Brian and I had been determined to not rent any sort of vehicle. We do, after all, have capable legs and we are accustomed to walking everywhere. But we wanted to save our leg power for the hike up The Peak, and so we discovered the bus. For $2.50 total for both of us we could ride the bus around the entire island; the bus being a blue van. I’d learned from the woman at the Information booth that the busses run from morning until 6:00pm, with an afternoon break. The Information woman confirmed we could pick up a return bus at one of the many Bus Stops around the island or flag one down along the road. So we got on a bus at Santa Isabel and told the driver we wanted to go to The Peak. Our plan; hike The Peak and catch a bus back. The bus was comfortable, not cramming in too many people, and the driver and passengers were helpful at getting us to the start of the trail. We were dropped at Bottom House, a small village on the southeast side of the island, and directed toward The Peak. Once again we were told we needed a guide, but this time we knew there was actually a trail. Even as we began our hike, a man on a moped stopped alongside us and asked if we needed a guide. I’m sure he wanted to make a few extra bucks that day; but I told him, “If we get scared, we’ll come back.” The man smiled, chuckled, and said, “OK,” as he turned to drive away.

We followed the side street to the very end, turned left toward two houses as we’d been directed, and spotted a trail. It took a bit of meandering on cow paths into and out of several pastures for us to realize that we’d started a trail too early. This was not The Peak trail. We found our way back to the two houses at the end of the lane and walked between them where we located the actual trail. Guide!? Humph! Who needs a guide!?

20140421-114815.jpg

20140421-114821.jpg

Cows on the island seem to be the only animals that are restricted to pastures.

20140421-120611.jpg

Other animals; horses, dogs, cats, and chickens were all roaming free. We did on one occasion discover two pigs snoozing in a pig-pen. So maybe just the edible animals are pastured or penned.

20140421-114827.jpg

The Peak trail was well maintained and provided informative signs to teach us about the flora and fauna on Providencia.

20140421-120737.jpg

It wasn’t until near the top of the trail that Dave discovered the informative signs were also written in English, on the back! At least we got some practice translating. Guide!? Humph! Who needs a guide!? This sign describes the Green Iguana. We’d spotted several iguanas on the island. The locals, particularly teen boys, kill the iguanas. Not only for sport, they do eat the meat and eggs. The elder locals are trying to put a stop to this behavior because of the negative impact on the iguana population.

20140421-120918.jpg

Blue Iguanas seem to be abundant; and they are BLUE!

20140421-121205.jpg

20140421-121217.jpg

It was evident that we were visiting Providencia during the island’s dry season.

20140421-121318.jpg

20140421-121333.jpg

20140421-121438.jpg

The scenery did change as we hiked into the mountains along a stream bed; becoming more green, with more dense trees and grasses. Here we found a Nursery: I am one of the key pieces in the designing of strategies for forest recovery. I multiply plant species who are threatened or have particular interest to an area that will enriched and increase forest quality and density for conservation.

20140421-121737.jpg

20140421-121748.jpg

Almost to the top!

20140421-122840.jpg

Just a little farther…

20140421-123028.jpg

King (and Queen) of the hill!

20140421-123137.jpg

20140421-123238.jpg

Our view from the summit was a bit hazy that day, good though. The first shot is a nice view of Santa Catalina and the anchorage.

20140421-123348.jpg

20140421-123401.jpg

20140421-123413.jpg

20140421-123422.jpg

We hiked down much more quickly, anxious to return to Santa Isabel for COLD beer. We waited at the Bus Stop at Bottom House for nearly half an hour. We chatted with some locals and rested our legs. Then, we opted to walk toward town knowing that we could flag down a bus or stop at another Bus Stop if we wanted to rest. We walked, and walked, and walked…no busses came! For nearly 2 hours and 4.5 miles we walked and did not spot a single bus until we were just about to town. Then, two busses drove by in the opposite direction, one right after the other! Good thing Providencia is a small island. We certainly saw the sights that afternoon and were never happier to sit down to a cold beer and order a very large pizza!

Pina Colada in a Pint Glass, Yes Please!

I thoroughly enjoy all of the music produced by Gaelic Storm but one song in particular, Pina Colada in a Pint Glass, I hold near and dear to my heart. This is the story of a working gal; all she wants to do is get outa dodge. Her dreams and mine are closely aligned, “…She wants a pina colada in a pint glass, she wants to be where the summer don’t stop! She wants gin clear water and milk white sand, a sunburned nose and a drink in her hand with a pink umbrella on top! I had successfully eliminated winter, found the gin clear water and milk white sand, had many a sunburned nose, and now finally…the pina colada!

Brian and I invited friends, David and Victoria, to join us for sundowners. Not just any sundowners, but excursion sundowners at Almond Bay where we hoped to find the highly sought after pina colada. We dinghied along the coast of Providencia about one-mile south from the anchorage. Almond Bay was a charming little sandy beach where the main attraction was a funky, Rasta-looking beach bar.

20140417-102912.jpg

“Pina colada bar?” I asked a friendly hostess. I received a big smile, “Si.” We arranged some chairs and found a comfortable seat with a lovely view of the bay while we awaited four drinks.

20140417-103901.jpg

20140417-103908.jpg

20140417-103916.jpg

Meantime, one of the most hilarious sights I have seen… We’re sitting with a lookout of a fantastic bay, behind us tall mountains and swaying palms, and we watch as a pair of tourists get out of the water and walk down the beach toward our dinghies. The tourists pause at David and Victoria’s dinghy. The man takes out his camera and begins backing away, nice time for a lovely photo in front of the water. But, no! The lady sits down beside the dinghy and poses for a photo! Seriously! She’s working the lens with at least three different seductive poses before the photo shoot ends. I couldn’t believe in this little slice of paradise that the inflatable dinghy was their choice backdrop!

20140417-104447.jpg

When the pina coladas arrived we were still laughing. “Cheers!” And just like that it wasn’t the icy cold, tall, sweet drink in our hands that made our day but the experience of obtaining it. No pink umbrella necessary!

Split Hill

Split Hill, often referred to as Morgan’s Crack (or Morgan´s Ass for those with a sailor´s tounge) because it is located just behind the Morgan’s Head rock formation found on Santa Catalina, is a curious mountain with a large crack in the peak. We’d read in the library that Split Hill obtained it’s shape when a demon fell from the sky. The demon’s horns crashed into the peak, splitting the peak into two, and sending the demon’s horns off in separate directions. It was said that the cockspur tree grew from beneath the demon’s fallen horns. (We’ve knick named the cockspur tree “death tree” because it looks fierce, has sharp spikes all over it, and it has stinging ants living all over it that eat the sap from the tree.)

20140414-144041.jpg

It remains questionable whether there is an actual trail up Split Hill. When we began asking the locals some told us we needed a guide and some sent us up concrete side-streets and walks and simply said, “…just keep going.” Challenge accepted! We set out with fellow cruisers, Rich (s/v Kelly Rae), and Dave & Victoria (s/v Eva Marie). We were directed by Marta, an excellent chef at Lucy’s one of our favorite lunch spots, and she led us directly to a pasture and said, “Here you go, you go up!” Marta looked on as the crazy gringoes trampled off during the mid-afternoon heat.

20140414-145436.jpg

We had a lovely stroll through the cow pasture, dodging cow pies along the way. At the base of Split Hill, we scrambled up rocks that appeared to be lain out in a trail but soon scattered and bushwhacking was necessary. We dodged death trees, but I of course couldn’t resist the full bushwhacking experience for a few stinging ant bites and some scratches from other sharp fauna. Up and up!

20140414-145959.jpg

20140414-150011.jpg

At the top of Split Hill we enjoyed fabulous views of Providencia.

20140414-150341.jpg

20140414-150359.jpg

20140414-150410.jpg

On the back side of the mountain we found a trail which we believed to be a cow path. It involved no bushwhacking, however, and switchbacked smoothly all the way down. We ended by crawling under a barbed-wire fence across someone’s backyard and back onto the the main road. Just ahead, a little stand with cold beers awaiting us!