Hikeseekers Hike to Shark River

by hiker Leticia Fraser

I joined the Hike Seekers Club on an overnight stay at Shark River, Toco. I found out about the club at the end of March, where I participated in leisure hike to Sobo Falls. There I met Lawrence “Snake man “ Pierre (He knows Trinidad’s terrain like the back of his hand) Michael and Carol, who all took me under their wings. I was really interested in embracing my country’s beauty so naturally that was the way to go.

So now I took on the adventure of the three-day camp at Shark River not knowing what to expect. I was a bit skeptical because there wasn’t going to be any “Restrooms” around. Instead, a custom designed toilet done by Lawrence himself. Co-workers teased me tremendously about it, but I decided I had nothing to lose. Mr. Pierre assured that everyone looks out for each other and that the hike would include a good blend of people I was off…

On Good Friday Morning, taxi carried me from Port of Spain to the assembly point at Valencia Junction. There I met a group of really cool people: bankers, doctors, mechanics, you name it; I was already invited to share a tent with a fellow camper.

That day was meant to organize the sleeping tents and make preparations for the other days ahead, however I hurried my responsibilities to embark on a one-hour hike up Shark River with campers. I quickly tamed up with Ozzi, Jan and Frank (German Medical Electives), Hyacinth and my main man Ricardo. It was really a beautiful sight. The atmosphere was so fresh and clean, nothing like back in the city. The rivers’ banks were filled with many rocks and boulders, while the luscious green trees shaded the ever present sunlight. They leaned over a bit as if to welcome me. Cool water gusher down our feet from the river and soaked our shoes, but we didn’t mind… We were having fun!
Admittedly, the climbing was a little tough at times but we all encouraged each other to move forward, not to mention, the tremendous pools of river’s water we had at our beckoning to cool off and to drink. I could not believe this was only the first day and I already felt so alive and free. I knew I had made the right choice by going.
The hike back was equally enjoyable but our hunger compelled us to return sooner. When we arrived Snake was not too please that we had abandoned the preparations, but he kept his smile and said, “don’t worry, next time!” We filled our stomachs with Pelau, settled to play cards, and then off to sleep.

Pradeed! Pradeep! Was the wake up call early Saturday morning. We were heading to Madamas Bay. A four-hour walk (one-way) through the forest and vegetation coupled with gradients to work the little muscles you have. We began our journey through the quiet village of Matelot, and then headed for the trail along the coastline. The trail we hiked on was another beautiful one. The forest was virtually untouched by man, (with the exception of the trail, of course!). The air was filled with jokes and laughter but grew to very few ones after a couple of hours inside. We crossed little streams on the path and we drank from them. The water actually tasted better than bottled water.
Another hour passed, when we had caught sight of the ocean again, which meant we had reached our destination. There, we helped ourselves to fallen coconuts on the beach. I sunbathed for a while, and then slipped into the refreshing river channel that greeted the ocean. The sand was almost white, (shake with the colour of “salt and pepper”) and I took a sea bath despite being advised not too. The waves were really irresistible, but they were also powerful and took a toll on me for the long journey back. Funny enough, I never noticed the many gradients I walked down when we first traveled and now they were the countless inclines I had to face. Damn! But it still remained a wonderful experience.

After four challenging hours we made it back to Matelot around 5pm. We were so elated that we pranced all the way until the campsite. Lawrence was there to congratulate us. “Well done you guys”, “I’m glad to see you all are OK!”
Boy, we were beat, but not enough to take a long bath in the Shark River till nightfall. We fixed ourselves a meal, ate and then walked through camp. Around eight p.m. the hikers gathered around to listen Lawrence talk about my ‘favorite,’ SNAKES.

He really took his time to educate us on the 38 species of snakes in Trinidad and Tobago. There I fell in love with a friend he caught during the day, about four feet in length… a Machette snake. I felt better knowing that out of all the species here, there were only a couple of them that was poisonous (Mapapire & Coral), but he remained us that we must always keep a keen eye out for our “friends” as we were in their homes.

The night was still young; I needed to d o something, so I hitched a ride out to Grande Riviere for Turtle watching, as if I wasn’t tired from the long exploratory day! It was amazing to learn so much about these creatures… slow on land but really fast in water, diving at unbelievable depths and holding their breaths under water for as much as forty-five minutes. And they are here every night on our shores in the north coast. Season: March to August.

Our final day came and I was already dreading the city life I had to go back to. I met a bunch of people, made new friends, and discovered. A lot of hidden treasures on my island. Every thing I initially set my heart out for, but no time for weeping, we still had another adventure to embark on. It was the Matelot Falls. Almost everyone within the camp decided to go this time, which was great, but I stuck with my team as they always kept me laughing through each journey we were on. Matelot Falls was also breath taking. Not too much of a difficult hike, but like Shark River the banks were filled with rocks, so our steps were very careful when we met water. I did not bath right away, instead I choose to admire the scenery and suck a Tonka bean on a big rock I adopted. There I chatted with friends Ozzi and Ricardo, and allowed a couple of beautiful Emperor Butterflies to glide over our heads. As usual, Lawrence was busy, going far past our stop to discover new tracks for his Hike Seekers to explore. It was time to head back to camp. We stopped at Matelot Village to glimpse at the festivities held to raise funds for the village. Lawrence collected donations from some of us and gave it to them, and then headed back to camp.

Sadly, It was time to prepare to leave from Shark River. One by one goodbyes were shouted out and numbers were exchange. I for one had a list of numbers and addresses to take back with me. Every thing was carefully organized: from tents to persons in cars, and alas we bid adieu!

The Hike Seekers group is very commendable organization that I trust to take me on many more adventures. Lawrence “Snake man” Pierre is well-rounded individual. He has vast knowledge of the forest, is very experienced and also listens to your concerns.

Thank you Lawrence for an unforgettable and exciting experience!!!

Leticia Fraser