Firstly, let me start by saying, WHY DO I KEEP PUTTING MYSELF THROUGH THESE THINGS?!
Then I remind myself that the answer is quite simple.
As Steven and I travel from island to island together, we love the differences that each island possesses which innately makes them unique. Steven and I have indeed hiked a mountain (Gros Piton) in the past [find out more about that adventure here] so hence my logical reasoning was – we have done it before, so why shouldn’t we hike this one?
Gros Piton Vs La Soufrière Volcano
First of all, La Soufrière isn’t just a mountain, it’s a freaking volcano and an active volcano at that. But, for some reason, because I kept saying ‘La Soufrière’ rather than ‘La Soufrière VOLCANO’, I conveniently forgot that this volcano, which violently erupted in 1718, 1812, and 1902, in fact, wasn’t a joke, nonetheless, we set off to climb this 1234m (4049 ft) volcano.
Now if you have climbed Gros Piton, that mountain is a mere 2619 ft tall when compared to the 4049 ft beast of a volcano! But let’s not downplay this mountain, because this wasn’t easy either. After you passed the halfway point, it looked a lot like this….
There was a lot of holding onto branches and stumbling on rocks but we conquered that so it was time for another and hence we set off to climb this volcano, but unknowingly from the wrong side. You see, this was supposed to be a relaxing 4-day getaway and I really didn’t do as much research as I usually would. So, on this occasion, I typed “La Soufrière Volcano” but was redirected to this…
I assumed Google had a very good reason for doing this so I didn’t question it, after all, we heard that the movie ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ was filmed at Wallilabou Bay which was on the way to Wallibou so we had more than one reason to be heading in that direction.
The Leeward Trail or The Windward Trail?
When we finally arrived at the location and asked for directions, the local folk (who were very helpful) essentially laughed at us. Google Maps had directed us to the Leeward Trail (from the village of Richmond), the harder trail, the trail that would take about 3 hours to hike (3 hours up and 3 hours down)……SHIT.
Now we arrived in the afternoon and after driving about 2 hours (an hour through nothing but pouring rain), dammit we were going to give it a try. Within an hour we returned. You see, the Leeward Trail wasn’t well maintained, it was overgrown with grass and the signs weren’t really helpful. Plus, if we were to start hiking at 1pm and the trial was 6 hours long, we really didn’t want to get lost by ourselves….in the middle of nowhere….on a volcano. So we aborted the mission. But it wasn’t all bad as there were a few things to do on that side of the island.
On returning to our Airbnb, our host was quite shocked that we went on the Leeward Side. Despite the fact that Steven and I told more than one person of our plans to hike this volcano, no one, ever, ever, ever, told us that there were two completely different routes. It seemed to have slipped everyone’s minds. But on that night, he gave us some pretty good advice and here’s what he said:
“If you leave here by 5:30am, it’s going to take you less than an hour to make it to the volcano from the Windward Side [from Rabacca], so you’ll get there before 6:30am. You’ll see the amazing sunrise and you’ll be back here before midday!”
And that is exactly what we did. We were due to leave St.Vincent later in the evening, so on our very last day, we set off for the volcano, for the second time. He did suggest we get a guide but a lot of our “Vincy” friends said we didn’t need one, so we decided to save the money and do without.
Steven and I were the only persons on the trail for a long time as we did indeed get there at 6:30am which had its benefits – early morning hikes equal a cool and enjoyable hike.
As the trail from the Windward side was more popular, it had clear paths to the top and we didn’t have much trouble finding our way there until we got to the very top and the environment clearly changed. When you are getting closer to the very top of the volcano, the trees get shorter, the sound of the birds chirping disappear and now you’re surrounded by clouds and the mud that was once under your feet is now replaced by gravel and rocks.
It’s an amazing feeling, very surreal and can be very daunting.
I think at this point, a guide may be useful because on a few occasions we actually thought we were at the top! The view was amazing, we were in the clouds, so how much further did we have to go?!
And at that very moment, a very friendly “farmer” came along and walked with us another 20 more minutes until we were finally at the very edge of the crater.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have any clear shots from the top of the volcano because we were amidst a lot of clouds. But one this is for sure, even if I complain about how hard the hike is, or even cry because I was so scared of the journey back down (no seriously, we couldn’t see more than 2 feet in front of us as some points and I was terrified), the challenge is simply exhilarating and the views are breathtaking worth the journey.
If you’re thinking about embarking on this journey, here are some tips that we think you’ll find useful:
- Go first thing in the morning if you can
- Wear layered clothing if you go in the morning as it can get quite chilly at the very top.
- Bring plenty of water
- Bring snacks for the boost of energy
- Bring insect repellent – around the river, the mosquitos are certainly active and vicious.
- A walking stick can be useful for the muddy bits but not mandatory
Would we do it again? Personally, once Steven is by my side, of course I would, because I really don’t think anyone else would be as fun, caring and patient as he is.
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