After spending a week staring at my computer, I really needed to get outdoors. Hiking is my therapy, and St. Kitts & Nevis are the perfect places to find trail therapists. The Hike Club put together a trek to the Nevis Peak Sunday, and about 3 dozen of us ended up going. We met up at 6am and hopped on the Shiggidy Shack Express. It was a nice, serene trip over.
We couldn't help but notice the usual "snow" cloud over the peak, but you never know when it might clear. It was early yet.
We met up with Ounce Ervin, our guide (and photographer), and off we went. Within 10 minutes we were warmed up thanks to the steep neighborhood streets, and the next thing we knew we'd hit our first rope.
The ropes are extremely helpful to pull yourself up or to just hold onto until you've got your feet where you want them. If you don't trust the ropes, there are plenty of tree roots to help as well. That said, the roots are both your nemesis and your savior. They're great handholds and footholds, but they're also very slippery. It helps to have gloves - both to keep the slip down a bit, but also to keep your hands clean. The higher you go, the wetter and therefore muddier it gets. Everyone starts out trying to stay clean but after awhile you really don't care anymore. One person said it was like playing in an adult jungle gym. That's about right.
I didn't take a lot of photos because 1) my hands were filthy, 2) there were nothing but trees around us, and 3) I was basically staring at everyone's bum as we climbed and climbed up the mountain. About half way up we got a break in the trees and were able to get a nice view.
I'm glad I took that shot because once we got to the top, after exactly 2 hours of climbing (3,232 feet!), we saw this:
We were wet, dirty, and happy to have reached the summit, view or not. (The photo of filthy shoes was also taken by Ounce. Most people's tushes looked the same.)
We were also chilly. No one believed that it would be cold up there (I brought a sweatshirt, thank you). The first hour of the hike is warm & humid, so you can't believe it's going to get cool enough for you to actually be cold, but trust me - it's nippy up there. I was told it's nature's a/c. That it is.
After a bunch of selfies & even a few phone calls (I overheard one person saying to someone on the phone, "I saw Moses on the peak, and he said to tell you 'hi'"), it was time to go down. I liked that we could come down a different way, a way supposedly slightly less steep. Slightly. If the way up was a jungle gym, the way down was a Slip-N-Slide slide (anyone remember those?).
About 1/2 way down, we were starting to get a little separated despite trying to stay within yelling distance of each other. At one point, we realized we were too far apart and put everyone on hold until the people behind could catch up. While Mr. X & I were waiting, we heard yelling from the front and a shout from someone that they'd been stung by a bee. Then a young girl was shrieking that they were in her hair while her parents tried to calm her. Uh oh. This was not a great place to panic, we were still pretty high up. Clearly someone had grabbed a tree that had a hive up high in it, and the bees were not pleased. Things got quiet, and we didn't all get moving again until about another 20 minutes, so we had hoped that all was well and that the bees were long gone.
They weren't. I'm not scared of bees and didn't react when the 1st one came at me, but when I realized that I was starting to get stung over and over again, I panicked. I didn't have parents around to tell me to "make good decisions," and I lost the trail and then went over the edge. If that hadn't sucked enough, the bees followed me. They were in my shirt, in my hair, buzzing around my ears, stung my lip - eeeek!
Once I stopped rolling, the swarm caught up to me, so I stood up to get away, lost my footing, and rolled downhill again. Incredibly this happened one more time, and the next thing I knew I was at a seriously steep drop off that I did not want to go over. Believe it or not, what was going through my head at that time was that similar scene from The Princess Bride.
My neck & shoulders were tingling from all the stings, but I was thankful that I didn't seem to be reacting allergically to them. I started crawling horizontally and just hoped the bees didn't come after me again. I was blissfully bee-free but that's because by then, they'd hit up the people that had been behind me high up on the trail. Yes, everyone had been warned by now, and Percy & his group even made an effort to calm the bees, but the bees weren't having it. All we could do was get past the spot and keep moving. I was simply taking the long way.
I kept climbing until I could hear Mr. X calling for others and was quite cheery when I realized that he could hear and see me. Once I'd dragged myself back up on to the trail, Mr. X said, "I wondered where you went and why all those boulders were falling down the cliff." I sort of wanted to deck him, but I was more relieved than irritated, so we just carried on. It took 3 1/2 hours to get down from the top.
Is this the happy face of someone done with a long hike or what?
But we weren't quite finished yet, we had to get back to the beach. One group ran down - no thank you - and some of us started walking.
Eventually, it occurred us to that we weren't sure where we were going since the roads seemed to be curving away from where we wanted to go. We kept asking for directions and got answers like this (incidentally, this is what I heard when 2 people tried to explain where I might find a phone repair guy - "Do you know where the police station is? Head to the park, find the Spanish bar..."):
Our walking group split up when we thought we heard a set of directions differently, and while we were walking, a bus full of other hikers passed us. %*(@!
Our curses turned to cheers though when the now-empty bus magically showed back up to get us. Once we were in, we sent the driver over to pick up the folks that had gone the other way. You have never seen such happy & relieved people. Yippee!
All was forgotten when we got to the beach & could take our shoes off, rinse off in the sea, and grab a few cold brewskies or Killer Bees, no pun intended. NO, I did NOT have a Killer Bee.
In addition to my um, excitement, there were two other people who had tales of their own, but it turns out, we're a hardy bunch.
We had a very pleasant trip back after a very full day.
As soon as I got home, I headed straight for the shower. When I took off my clothes, 2 dead bees fell out of my sports bra, and a huge fly dropped out of my hair along with about 1/2 the flora from the rainforest. I had plenty of scrapes and bruises both front & back, but the shower helped, and I looked at all my boo boos as badges of honor. None of us who did this hike are ever going to sit on a beach overlooking the Nevis peak again and not (proudly) think about what it takes to get up there.
Ben wrote about this on an Island Babble blog post as well and agreed it was difficult, but he was rewarded by somewhat clear skies at the top. You just never know. And as scary as the bees were, Ounce did this hike over 100 times last year alone (as have many others) and nothing like that has ever happened before. We've hiked a lot too and never had any issues, so don't let this one-off incident (and my panicked reaction) scare you off from doing this or any other hike (If I'd stayed on the trail & kept walking, I'd have been fine; plus there's a surprise up there I haven't mentioned). It's tough, but it's also rewarding. I've braved rattle snakes in AZ - this was nothing...
Here are a few more pics for you die hards.