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Mt. Liamuiga, St. Kitts - Catherine Fischer [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Catherine Fischer

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Mt. Liamuiga, St. Kitts [Aug. 30th, 2002|07:42 pm]
Catherine Fischer
Friday, August 30. Just got back from a vertical trek to the top of the highest mountain on St. Kitts. Oog. Too tired to lift my arms. Way beyond my capabilities, but I did it anyway. Also the first proper rainy day on the island, meaning that where I went (the RAINforest), I had to lean over to make a space in which to breathe, periodically. The only time I've actually been COLD on the island (that didn't involve being underwater for more than an hour) - the wind SHRIEKED over the lip of the crater at the top of the climb (drove the rain blindingly into the eyes). The thunder rolled deafeningly for minutes at a time with lightning flashing pretty much continuously, and I had only 30 seconds in which it was clear enough to see across the crater (which is about 3/4 of a mile across, and a few hundred feet deep — have to make the descent by rope, and only crazy-ass mountain climbers do that). At the top of the crater, the wind was so strong that the rainforest was replaced by “Elfin Forest” – miniature, stunted trees tangled with myriad green vines and mosses. Beautiful, and ever so slightly eerie.

Have vague memory of amazingly full spectrum of greens (palms, mangoes, gummier trees, rainforest hardwoods, tree ferns, lycopodium, lianas, strangler figs, a variety of ground ferns, to name a few), mud running into my boots (in which my socks went squish-squish-squish), slipping and almost doing a faceplant (gave myself a terrific goose-egg on the shin), clocking myself TWICE on overhanging trees (saw stars), all seen through curtains of rain and a haze of pain. Thought my poor heart was going to beat its way out of my chest. Climbed 3000' in 3 hours.

Uf da.

I can’t do this yet.

It’s my goal to be able to do that again without the pain and exhaustion. Brian and Leonie normally make that trek in 2 hours. I had to stop every 50 feet and gasp for air. They weren’t, at any point, even slightly winded. After I brained myself on the tree so hard I saw stars, Brian asked if I knew where I was. I told him “on a fool’s errand with two mountain goats.” I may be able to free-dive better than Brian, and hold my breath longer, but just how in-shape those two are was driven fairly forcibly home today. There were times I thought I was going to black out or vomit or both — leaned against a tree, gasping and clutching my chest.

Taking cocktail of hot milk with almond extract, glucosamine/MSM, lots and lots of tylenol, and echinacea (I don’t think I’ve ever been drenched like that. I’ve been drier underwater). Remember when we hiked in the rain in Mossman Gorge, Kevin? This was almost like that, except VERTICAL for 3 hours. (And, blessedly, no lawyer cane or gimpi gimpi). And it rained HARDER here (remember the rain on the tin roof at the Coral Cay?). I do mean vertical. The last 3/4 of the hike were up ladder-like root structures, with waterfalls of muddy water pouring down our fronts, crawling on hands and knees under great giant downed trees, scrambling over boulders, pulling ourselves up by using trees (I thank the gods that be for the smooth trunks of palm trees). This climb was just shy of having to use ropes. The only sounds we heard were the oncoming-train sound of the rain on the canopy, the wailing of the wind, the occasional piping of the tree frogs, the occasional screech of a bird, and this weird low howling noise that Leonie says was a ground dove. Put the wind up my back. I personally thought it might be a lost dog, or a ghost in pain. We collected Jumbie beads — the hard red-and-black seeds of a vine imported from Africa with the slaves — thought to scare off evil spirits. At least they kept the howling thing from getting closer to us. I’m going to drill them with my dremel tool and make a couple of necklaces, for Leonie and me. I think I’ll send a few to Mom, too. Several of them have started to sprout; Leonie is planting them, to surround the house with good luck. She says that wherever Jumbie beads are found in the mountains is a sign a runaway slave planted the vine there.

Only animals we saw, apart from two guided trips full of healthy, fit young people, were butterflies (one black and orange, one yellow and black tiger-striped, one pale green), a tiny little tree frog (big piping voice for such a little guy), and a bizarre, wonderful snail — white conical spiral shell, and a BLUE translucent body. (Was too tired by then to take a picture.) Had a hard time keeping my legs under me on the way down — they’d turned to jelly on the way up. Knees gave without warning, hip wouldn’t stay in the socket, ankles turned more frequently than not. Had to use my hands as much as my feet, and wrenched both shoulders when my legs gave.

I’m going to have to crawl to the incoming student catamaran trip tomorrow. My kingdom for a hot tub. Drying the contents of my wallet on the couch; pressing my passport under the computer. Grateful neither my petzel headlight, which I brought with me just in case, nor my camera were destroyed (wrapped the latter in a towel I brought with me). Backpack will take a few days to dry, I think. I hosed off in the yard before I came into the apartment — still had to wash all my clothes and boots twice to get rid of the mud, and still need badly to mop. Can’t contemplate it right now, though. Am thinking of eating something... but that would involve getting up.

Yesterday I went snorkeling with Brian in Ballast Bay – the best snorkeling to date! Saw a lobster within the first 25 feet of entering the water – hiding under this grand ledge and surrounded by the really spiny sea urchins. (It was too shallow for boats, there, and lobster hunters usually don’t snorkel, so that guy is probably safe. He certainly was a big one!) Also saw red short-spined urchins – and white ones, too. Saw two lobster molts, left under a rock. A turtle – sightings have become increasingly rare in St. Kitts (apart from the annual haul-out and egg-laying). Saw a wonderful, colorful variety of healthy corals, and a purple anemone with fat finger-like tentacles. My first sighting of sponges in St. Kitts, too. Delicate blue and orange encrusting corals.

The giant cruiseship millennium was in – Leonie was selling her art on the pier – but none of the hundreds of tourists made it out as far as Ballast Bay (which is off the beaten track, anyway, and requires a short 4-wheel drive and a short hike, and the ability to launch into the water from the sliding stones that comprise the beach). After two fishermen left, we had the place to ourselves. They were, however, out in force in Friar’s Bay, where Brian always goes for lunch. I drank two rum punches and staggered back to the Land Rover, then had to lie down when I got home. Oog, but that stuff is strong! Better here than anywhere else in the world, though. Anchored in Friar’s Bay was a sailing schooner/cruise ship, too – for the REALLY rich people, Brian tells me. They were packed in Olivia’s beach bar and restaurant, although they all left before we finished our lunch – but they drank all the beer! Brian was bummed. After that, home to help Leonie unpack, and early to bed (although Brian called in the middle of the night – my terrible old air-conditioner was keeping them awake).
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