Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Up the Hill & Up the Creek

It started on Sunday just after church. I was talking with one of my students and his grandmother (with whom he lives) when I mentioned that someday I would enjoy seeing the view of the village from high atop a neighboring ridge. Since they live near there, they invited me to come up that afternoon. Thus a memorable day of hiking began.

After changing and grabbing a bite to eat, I headed down the main street of the village. One parent struck up a conversation with me about my plans for the day, and suggested his son should come along, too (this was secretly beneficial to me, because I had only a vague idea of where the house I was heading for was located). So the two of us walked down the village street, turned left, and headed up the steep hill on the main road.

Two of my guides, with part of the village visible to the right of them.
We were warmly greeted at the house high above the village. Then my two 4th grade tour guides took me further up the hill to the clearing where you can look down on the village. It was a new and interesting point of view for me. They beckoned me further up the ridge line, past several interesting trees, and then over to the home of another student, who ended up joining our adventure.
They don't have these trees in West Virginia (also note the apex of the ridge).
My three young tour guides then led me further up the main road along the other side of the ridge, past the new construction which repaired the road from a landslide. We went a long ways along the road. Suddenly, the boys darted ahead to a gap in the embankment beside the road. To my shock and amazement, the short trail led to a spot overlooking a sheer cliff, with the ocean hundreds of feet below. No fence, no warning signs, just a steep drop-off to what must be a certain death. However, I couldn't help but stare in absolute wonder of this incredible view. There appeared to be large rocks (or coral reefs?) visible while gazing down on the clear blue water. Needless to say, I was a bit concerned about our safety on the edge of this precipice. But it was an amazing sight to look downward (as much as you dared) at what must be an impossible-to-reach cove along the coast.
This picture cannot capture the adrenaline from this view (the tree grows out and then up). Notice that I didn't go out far enough to see where the ocean ends and the hillside begins.
We walked further, turning in the road for the Seventh Day Adventist Church. We talked with some folks up there whom the boys knew, and then went out on a point beyond their house. From there we got a good view of the next major town, with its large Catholic church prominently visible. The beach area near this town was also within view. Even more interesting to me was the view we had of the French island of Guadeloupe, which can't be seen from our village.
My three young guides—the church is the large building near the top of the next town, which stretches from the ocean up the hill.
As we turned around and headed back the couple of miles we had walked, the boys decided that they would also take me to the baths in the forest above our village. They let me stop at my place and change into my bathing suit, before heading up the creek (without a paddle—or a camera, hence no pictures from this part of the hike).

In the days before the water system came to my village, people would often bathe (and do laundry) in the nearby creeks and river. They would create what West Virginians might refer to as “swimming holes” by digging out a deeper part of the creek, and piling up the rocks on the downstream side to create a dam for additional depth. Although the flooding from Tropical Storm Erika damaged some of these, a few of them survived.

Despite my warnings, the boys enjoyed showing me their skills at jumping from large nearby rocks into these shallow pools. Thankfully, they knew what they were doing and everyone ended up fine. Obviously, I refrained from cannonballing into these pint-sized pools.

It ended up being a great day hike—from the spectacular views at the top of the ridge above the village, to the simple hike through the forest along the creek to several of their favorite swimming holes. Even though I've lived in this village for nearly a hundred days, I'm still discovering new and wonderful things to see and do here.

Our beach can be seen between the palm trees, and our school is just to the right of the right-most palm tree (one of my guides can also be seen relocating his tethered goat to a grassier spot).

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