Our Hidden Pool in the Sea

I’ve been away for a little while as I try to adjust being back in my hometown but although I’m home I still have a bunch of stories to share with you all. Today, I want to bring you back to a quiet corner of the world in St. Vincent. A short walk from the highway, down a bumpy road and past a friendly goat eating his grass, you’ll come to the house of an artist. It was in this open-concept inspired home filled with colorful paintings and a porch that overlooked the ocean that we lived in for our last weekend on the island.

After four months of travel this house became my refuge and the place where I indulged in lazy days filled with tea and the occasional walk to the store or the beach. Journal and blog writing happened with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean as my background music and on one particular afternoon, we were introduced to a pool of sea water surrounded by rocks.

Our host for the weekend led the way, taking us to Brighton Salt Pond and then up and onwards through a trail above the sea, across a small field and into a cluster of rocky cliffs that held the pools of sea water. Sheltered from the larger ocean by the rocks, these pools of water were shallow and calm, perfect for lounging and sea-shell finding, which is exactly what we spent our time doing. Oh, and playing with the many hermit crabs that inhabited the pool. Here is our journey in photos.

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Brighton Salt Pond Beach is one of St. Vincent’s black sand beaches due to the volcanic land. This beach was popular with the locals, with lots of children running in and out of the waves and loud music playing.

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Below is the calm pool of water we eagerly made our way to.

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The waves occasionally made it over the barrier, tossing us around for just a moment.

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Chasing Waterfalls in St. Vincent

I have been spending my days chasing waterfalls, in search of the tallest, most beautiful one. Ideally one that is hiding a secret cave for me to explore.

After a turn in the wrong direction and a hike up the side of a mountain, we finally made it to the main road just north of Chateaubelair. We said hello to the goats, donkeys and cows that we passed by until we reached the sign.

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The fact that there is a very obvious sign to Dark View Falls is a blessing. In my experience in the Caribbean even notable tourist attractions are completely unmarked, making directionally-challenged people like myself walk and/or drive around in circles and missing it completely in the end anyways.

After scaling a mountainside in the relentless Vincentian heat the prospect of cool, fresh water was a beautiful invitation. With a small fee of $5 EC, we crossed over the bamboo bridge and raced towards the base of the falls. We wasted no time in stripping down and dunking ourselves into the pool.

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Well-maintained, Dark View Falls cascades down the rock face into a pool of water no more than 5 ft. deep and then further into another little pool. With wooden gazebos in the vicinity, washrooms and a snack bar, this makes for a perfect way to spend an afternoon. We brought along with us an assortment of local fruits — mangoes, wax apples, and guava — to snack on after the cool temperatures of the water became too much and we had to find warmth in the sunshine.

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Can you spot the rainbow?

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The Richmond Vale Academy

Melissa and I arrived in St. Vincent five days ago, hopping  in a cab in the late afternoon that would take us on a journey through narrow, winding mountain roads to the leeward side of the island. The first thing we saw as we drove up was a fat, happy looking pig walking beside the road, free from any confines with as much room to roam as he liked.

Isolated in a corner of the island just next to La Soufriere volcano, the Richmond Vale Hiking and Nature Center.. or more commonly known as The Academy… is an environmentally conscious gem away from everything. As our driver pulled the car into the property, we were greeted by a young man in breezy tie-dye clothing. The fresh mountain air is an instant mood-changer and the calm atmosphere of the academy instantly makes you breath a sigh of relief.

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An academy, Richmond Vale runs two programs, one regarding environmental sustainability, awareness and education, etc. and another regarding poverty. These programs are open for anyone local or international to apply but if you’re not wanting to commit to furthering your education, guests are also welcome to stay. As guests, the academy was the perfect retreat to unwind after nearly five months of non-stop exploration and travel. The entire place reminded me of a hippie commune filled with like-minded activists passionate about the environment and poverty.

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Our time at the academy introduced us to a special little place with a unique lifestyle. Everyone living at the compound (apart from guests) work together to keep the place running smoothly, with students having a set schedule of daily chores and classes. As guests, our stay there was easy, calm and peaceful. We spent our mornings waking up slowly on hammocks, waiting for the blessed sound of the bell ringing to indicate that breakfast was served, which we then ate overlooking the Caribbean Sea below. With plenty of vegetarian options to be had, meals at the academy were healthy and locally grown, with an emphasis on providing GMO-free, organic produce straight from their organic garden.

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Though we only stayed for three nights our time at the academy had a rejuvenating effect that only being surrounded by nature can achieve. I would highly recommend staying there if you find yourself in St. Vincent. There is easy access to attractions such as the Falls of Baleine, La Soufriere volcano, the palm tree trail, Richmond Beach, Dark View Falls, Vermont Nature Trail, and more. Surrounded by raw, unspoilt nature, there are endless opportunities for the nature lover.

Permission To Do Nothing

I have a cup of tea beside me, a bowl of mangoes and am looking out over the waves from the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the black sand beach at the bottom of the hill.

My only plan for today is to have a pot of tea being constantly refilled and perhaps taking a stroll down to the water. There’s no urgency to play tourist today, no desire to leave the house at all.

I know, it sounds blissful, doesn’t it? To be sitting up in a beautiful, open concept home for free thanks to an amazing offer on Couchsurfing.com, perched on a hill high above the sea in the Caribbean, with the freedom to do absolutely nothing but drink tea, nap on the beach and take a dip in the water if that’s what I so choose.

Why then is there a voice inside my head screaming at me to pack my day bag, pull on my sunglasses and go out into the world and do something?! Why can’t I give myself permission to take a day off from constant motion and sight-seeing?

As a traveler with an insatiable need to explore as much of the world as I can, to immerse myself into new cultures and push myself out of my comfort zone, I long ago made the decision to say YES to everything that came my way. But with that decision comes an inevitable result: exhaustion. It has been 143 days since I left home and I am exhausted.

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It has been nearly five months of having something to do every single day and nearly every night. My study abroad experience in Barbados was filled with activity, from the Monday-Friday work hours for my practicum to exploring every inch of the island and partaking in the nightlife.. sometimes five days a week. These last five months have been full of life, ending with the opportunity to explore four more islands in the Caribbean before heading home.

I will probably never make it back to this part of the world, to this exact spot on this beautiful island with temperatures that I can only dream of in the never-ending Canadian winters. I should be out, exploring! Seeing everything there is to see! Hiking every mountain and volcano, swimming in every waterfall, visiting every beach!

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Permission to do nothing is probably the hardest thing I can give myself, but also the most necessary. Constant motion, for me, leads to resentment. Of the heat, of getting lost, of language barriers. Resentment of the very things that make travel so beautiful. The beauty of being able to visit other countries for more than a day or two is that you can enjoy your time there however you damn well please.

And if that means laying in this bed, with the ocean as my view and my music, and some Netflix on in the background, then so be it. If that means making big, healthy breakfasts, sitting on the porch and catching up with blog posts and journal writing, then that’s what I will do. As of today, I give myself that permission and, if you need justification for yourself, then I give you permission as well.

Volcanoes and Foggy Days, St. Vincent

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people
are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is
going home; that wildness is a necessity,”
-John Muir

His name is Franklin and at the age of 58 he has hiked St. Vincent’s active volcano 317 times. His trip with us up to the summit will bring his count up to 318, with the majority of his hikes being on the leeward side, where the hike doubles in time and the difficulty intensifies.

Feeling a little intimidated by the thought of hiking up this 4049 ft. active volcano on the more difficult side (Barbados has instilled a little bit too much of a sense of “slowness” for that daunting task), we chose to take the route on the windward side.

This side of the volcano takes about half the time as the other side and after nearly three hours in the car, we finally reach Georgetown and make our way to the path that will take us to the starting point of our hike. Backpacks filled with bottles of water and a packed lunch, we strapped on our sneakers and set off into the rainforest, Franklin leading the way.

The hike to the top is filled with dirt paths, bamboo steps, rocks and boulders that make up a dry riverbed that it’s said was caused by the flowing lava from one of the volcano’s past eruptions. As an active volcano La Soufriere has the potential to erupt again, although the last eruption was in 1979 with no fatalities.

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The hike to the top was a challenge and we came to the conclusion that Franklin must be mad to do this hike sometimes four to five days a week. Why does he do it? To support his daughter through her university degree, which she has just completed. Legs burning and lungs screaming, we made it to the top after an hour and a half of nearly constant incline.

My imagination of the top of a volcano was a stark contrast to the reality. Unfortunately for us, we had picked a cloudy, rainy day to do the hike. Much of our climb was spent in fog and the clouds were so low at the summit that you could see nothing but the haze that it created. The wind blew forcefully against us and with no sun to be seen, it felt like a Canadian winter. Far from the heat that I thought would be rising from the crater.

La Soufriere typically offer stunning views of the island below and, once at the top, you can usually peer over the edge of the 1.6km (diameter) crater for a glimpse inside. If you hike from the leeward side, you can actually go inside the crater and walk around. I was told you could fry eggs inside the crater, though I was unable to put it to the test.

If you go, please try it out and let me know!