04/14/2015, Portsmouth, Dominica
I love hiking, and I enjoy a challenge. When I read in the "Waitukubuli National Trail" guide book that Segment 9 was considered "Advanced" and for "experienced and trained hikers" I KNEW that I wanted to do it. The Segment is listed as having a distance of 10 km, and a projected duration of 8 hrs. The road in is long and rough, and it is not the most accessible area of Grenada. The book also states "The relatively easy start gives no warning of the onslaught to come. From the shelter the trail drops down precipitous terrain. Roots, twigs, trees and stones become necessary hand and foot hold. This is the start of an adrenaline inducing roller coaster ordeal that lasts for hours on end."
I enlisted Martin, of "Providence", to coordinate transportation...and I encouraged him to do it with me. We also got Steve of "Turning Points" to come along, too, as he was keen to test his mettle as well. We got the van to a certain point, then walked the last 1 km into the trail head. Joe took the van back out (he was the smart one).
It really did start out very innocently. The first 3-odd km were on farm feeder road, but it did end up bringing us up about 300m. It was lovely, with active fields surrounding us in a gorgeous valley. Then it all changed drastically.
The book may have downplayed just how much scrambling and climbing there really was. The picture above is not just a nice view, that was a PART OF THE TRAIL. We had just climbed down that. There were areas where I could have sworn somebody threw some paint on a tree in the hopes that enough people walking through would actually turn it into a trail. We would climb down, ford a stream or river, then plunge upwards again. At the top, it would be straight down again. There was no time to let concentration lapse, as this was not a place where one would want to get an injury, as getting help would be very difficult, and a long time coming.
We would stop briefly to top up our water bottles in the rivers (man, that is soooo good, and you just don't get better water), then keep going. The distance estimate was really out to lunch, and the map in the guide book not particularly accurate (it said 4 river crossings when we had done about 8 already). We figured the rest stop at the approximately halfway point was "just up there", and it wasn't.
The point that made Steve and I laugh was when we were hiking on a relatively flat bit, and I had turned to say something to him. I turned to be brought up short at a 5m high rock wall. "Oh Fuck" just came out of my mouth. Yes, we had to climb the rock wall, looking for hand and foot holds.
We made it to the halfway rest area in about 3.5 hours, at a distance of 10km in (umm, wasn't that supposed to be the WHOLE distance?). At this time, we could make a decision. There was a farm feeder road out, to who knew where, exactly, and distance unknown, or continue for another 10km on tough trail, and get more physically and mentally fatigued. It wasn't a difficult choice to say enough was enough, and we started walking out. I could have toughed it out, we all could have, but to what end? It would have turned into an ordeal, and the fun factor would have been long gone. The trail probably would have been a little easier, but it wasn't worth it to us to find out at that time.
So we started walking out. We had some fresh from the tree guava, wild raspberries from the side of the road, and easy footing. About 3.5 km into the road, we heard a vehicle coming out of a side road, and Glory Be! a farmer was heading out, and would happily give us a ride to the main road. Calling Joe to pick us up from up there was not an option, and there was no cell coverage that deep into the interior. We got a ride for another 10km or so to the main road on the west coast. We had solid cell coverage about 4 km from the coast.
We have agreed to finish that *$@%^ trail later this week, as we would like to say we have finished it. And we will.
Would I recommend this segment to others? For most people, no. However, if you want to push yourself hard, and are fit enough, it is up to you. The transportation arrangements will then be the biggest nuisance, as there is no bus anywhere near the trailheads. Once I know how tough the second part is, I may try to do the whole thing in one go, but that remains to be seen. A 20 km or so trail, with over half of it very aggressive, is certainly not a walk in the park.
04/13/2015, Portsmouth, Dominica
If you look to the sidebar on the right of this post, you will see a link to a blog in reference to "The Dreaded QCYC Spam"... I recommend you click on it and read it first, for a little more background history. This is from Ann Vanderhoof's blog from "The Spice Necklace", her follow up book to "An Embarassment of Mangos", a book that has cult following in the cruising community.
Now, if you chose not to click on the link, I will still give a very brief synopsis, and our history with the Spam. When we were getting ready to depart Queen City Yacht Club, we had one heck of a party. During the party, we were given some gifts, some fun, some useful... and "The SPAM". We were the next boat in line to carry this well-travelled can of meat(?), the 6th boat in the line of succession since 1992, to keep the SPAM as some sort of talisman, or as the Black Pill if things were truly that desperate. So we have had this can of SPAM on our boat for 7, yes, seven, years now. A can first purchased in 1992. That would be a 23 year old can of questionable meat product.
Over the last 5 years, we have joked with Ann and Steve that we would surreptitiously leave the can on their boat and sneak off, and I am not entirely sure that Ann's mortification at the thought of that was feigned or not. We did feel that it had to get back to QCYC at some point to maintain the tradition, since we are no longer members of the Club (but we still have a fond place in our hearts for the Club and the people).
This year Ron and Pam Mazza came down to visit with 'Receta' and escape the dregs of the worst Toronto winter since the 1880's. We joked that maybe Ron could take the SPAM back with him. Well, it ends up that he was more than willing to do so, but it never was fully communicated to us, so they flew back to Toronto, sans SPAM. However, Ann had a change of heart, and had acquiesced to taking one for the team and would transport the toxic waste back to Toronto... Steve was (understandably) less willing.
So, we decided to photograph the event for posterity sake, so that the photo journal of me digging the can out of the nasty locker (with the paints, resins and other completely inedible and messy things) and the ceremonial handover of the SPAM could be shared with all.
I dug through the locker, moving things out of the way, to reach into the farthest, least accessible corner of the locker, where Ken had put it only a few months ago after digging for something else. I pulled the double-bagged can out of the locker and brought it out to the light of day...but something did not look "right".
Inside of the bad I could see some discolouration, a little brown (possibly a little leaked resin), but also a greenish/greyish mass on the side of the can. THIS was new. I carefully cracked open the first bag to inspect further, and it wasn't looking promising. The second bag was opened (this was all done in the open air of the cockpit) and I peeled the plastic away to better reveal the contents. And the results were that the can had finally succumbed to 23 years of existence, with at least roughly 18 of those years rattling around in the deepest locker of a sailboat, in the salt water environment of the Caribbean Sea (or at least the Bahamas). There was a small void in the corner of the lid, and a little of the contents of the can had oozed forth. Ken was brave enough to sniff at it (no way would I do that!) and stated that it did, indeed, smell funky; was he expecting lilac?
So it is with mixed emotions that the crews of 'Receta' and 'Silverheels III' drank to the memory of the SPAM. It was kind of sad to see it go that way, although it was inevitable, but relief that it wasn't going to explode in someone's luggage.