Last Saturday night I learnt that there was to be a Hike starting at the Old USA Navy Base in St. Lucy with a relatively new group called Xtreme Hikers of Barbados.
I was reluctant to go as my physical level of activity in recent months has not been the greatest. I had contacted one of the members in charge, Kealon Mayers, and he had encouraged me to try the hike and promised he wouldn’t let me get left behind.
Sunday morning broke, grey and dismal and the last thing on earth I wanted to do was to get out of bed and …hike. Yuck!
I lay there as my inner self fought whether to go or not and finally I got up….pulled on my tennis shoes and set off to drive to St. Lucy Parish Church where the group was congregating to follow the leader to the designated start of hike in Barbados.
The convoy snaked its way through sleepy villages and tiny roads until we finally parked in the now desolate and decaying encampment of what was once the prosperious USA Navy Base in Barbados.
What an absolute waste of property. Houses upon houses with gaping holes that use to be windows and doors now open to the elements. One can’t help but wonder why when the USA Navy left, why the government did not sell these properties or assign them to people in desperate need of housing.
All the way driving I was having serious doubts about this adventure I had set out on all alone.
Then I opened my car door and the “sub -zero” temperature surrounded me (about 69 degrees Fahrenheit). It was freezing, for a Bajan, and having had no previous hiking experience I hadn’t bought a jacket or anything. As I was seriously contemplating ducking out Kealon approached me and welcomed me to the hike. How could I possible leave now?
So I put on my happy face :-) and followed the group of other hikers into one of the abandoned houses for our briefing of what to expect on the hike.
We were introduced to the team who organized the Hike. They were absolute characters dressed in their brilliant yellow t-shirts, khaki army pants and combat boots. They all had nicknames like Ras, Jonez, Slims, and Sarg, to name a few. We discovered that the guides where either present or past members of the Barbados Defence Force or Police Force. We even had a medic in the group in case of an emergency.
The friendliness and camaraderie between these guys was very catching and now I was hyped and ready to go. We were given small zip lock bags with some candy for energy and a bottle of water. Outside we gathered, did I say in the cold, to take group pictures and as they said lets go…the heavens opened and we were drenched to the bone in seconds.
Don’t know where all the stuff came from but the other women came prepared and pulled out plastic bags from in their bosoms and promptly place them on their heads to save their hair styles.
Imagine a group of ladies all dressed in their tennis shoes, long track pants, sweaters and PLASTIC bags on there heads. So typically Barbadian it made me smile. I had no such supplies and I didn’t need a plastic bag for my hair but the candy Ziploc came in very useful for my cell phone to save it from the elements. I was cold before but now I am dripping wet and colder than ever.
The weather did not daunt the Guides and they quickly rallied everyone’s spirits and off we set at a good clip to try and warm up everyone.
Barbadians are so welcoming…the village was waking up and many came out to wave and greet us with cheery good mornings. Not feeling so cold now and the rain had stopped and thank goodness did not return for the duration of this adventure.
I am feeling good now…Bajans both hikers and guides stopping to pick dunks along the way as we walk through a neighborhood. I can do this I am thinking;-).
Well after about 15 minutes the true hike started as we scrambled down a slippery muddy slope through thick over hanging trees. Definitely a feeling of back to the wilderness.
It was quite an incline but the guides were wonderful, holding out helping hands, guiding you where to place your feet and very encouraging. So many laughs, many many pictures…as we had a resident photographer (one of the guides) documenting everything.
At the bottom we arrived at the beach called Maycock’s Bay. It was spectacular, the rain clouds had blown away and the sky was crystal clear and brilliant blue, the waves were very full and rolling. Quite a sight after scrambling through the dense brush.
We really do live on an amazing island. It was worth the reluctance of getting out of bed just to witness such beauty. We could see the cement plant jetty to our left.
After a few minutes we set off towards the cement factory to go and see some rock formations. I thought we were going to walk and see but to my amazement we were encouraged to climb up and over the rocks.
Due to the elements the rocks were very sharp and precarious…many hikers decided not to attempt the climb but I was in for the ride so once again with the gentle encouragement and helping hands I scrambled and climbed across the cliff.
Once again the views were spectacular and Jonez explained that the cliff face had fallen off during Hurricane Janet more than 50 years ago and it had been calculated that the broken rock would have fallen into the sea by now…but it’s still clinging to the land.
The climb in some instances is very narrow and down below you is the crashing seas and sharp rocks waiting for one false move but the guides are very diligent and keep you safe at all time.
Back where we came from…to the beach where the other hikers awaited us. Now a hike across the thick heavy sand…blood pumping, heart beating and temperatures rising. What a wonderful feeling.
We walked by a natural river gorge to the sea which extends deep into the parish of St. Lucy. We also witnessed many blow holes in the rocks which the sea pounded up through and caught unsuspecting hikers splashing them in salt water.
Once again we came to outcrops of rocks, copse of coconut trees, many Manchineel trees and long lengths of virginal sand.
Once again the group was encouraged to stop as the guides introduced us to different sea life trapped in a pool under a rock things like hermit crabs, sea spiders and whelks, a sea creature in a hard shell that clings to the rocks like a barnacle, some brave souls tried eating the raw oyster like delicacies. Not me as I like my food cooked thank you very much.
In the distance you could hear the shrieking of the wild green monkeys and the singing of different birds along with the waves crashing against the beach.
You could almost picture you were on a deserted island except for the fifty people on the venture with you. At the beginning of the hike we were warned that there would be an obstacle to overcome at some point.
Well we reached that point after we had scrambled across more rocks and cliff fronts. We reached a dead end and the the only way to continue was to jump off of a rock and run around the corner of an outcrop to safety – I must mention that this had to be carefully timed with the waves as if you did not move fast enough and time it correctly you would get absolutely soaked by the incoming wave.
I can’t do this I think. But then I think what’s the worse that can happen? You get wet….that never hurt anyone. I also got very competitive…I have to do this…everyone else is doing it with loud screams of laugher. I did it I did it….and I didn’t get wet. I felt so accomplished.
Unfortunately I had a call about an emergency at home and one of the guides immediately offered to walk me back to the start without waiting for the rest of the group.
At the end of the beach we arrived at an abandoned road from days of old which had belonged to the base. It was quite a steep hill but it was tarmacked so no mud to deal with but I was breathless as we marched up quickly so I could go home. The road meandered through more abandoned buildings back to the USA naval base.
I felt so accomplished, so alive, so healthy and more than grateful that I had stepped out of my box, made the effort to attend the hike and had an incredible time.
Thank you Xtreme hikers for the Experience.
Read other experiences of mine in and about Barbados.
By: Anna Page