Hikeseekers Hike to Shark River
by hikemaster Joanne Mike-Ventour
On its own, the scenic drive along Trinidad’s north coast was enough upliftment for any weary soul on this brilliant tropical day in March. Fortunately for the eleven carloads of Hike Seekers this was just the beginning of a thrilling hike down the Marianne River and, along with a Maracas bake and shark breakfast, it was the icing on the first slab of cake that would make a beautiful day a fantastic one.
Our hike master, Lawrence ‘Snake’ Pierre was waiting for us at the hike site, having gone there the night before to make preparations for our arrival. He had carried up the life jackets, pots and pans, ring stoves and foodstuff and had kept the company of ‘Pops’ whose home is located just at the beginning of the trail.
We knew that we had reached our first destination when we saw the faded white sign welcoming us to the waterfall and informing us that ‘Pops’ was our tour guide. . Nobody bothered to find out what Pops’ real name was because he so well fitted the nickname that he was called, acting as a loving and welcoming host to all in the group. No one even hazarded a guess as to when last Pops had even conducted a tour, but the flourishing pepper garden and the hundreds of vegetable seedlings around was enough proof that he had the strength to do it. He did tell us that he used to be an Artificial Insemination technician for the Ministry of Agriculture before his retirement and with the help of some of Caroni’s finest rum, he recalled many of stories from his colourful past…….and he had many many stories. The one that comes quickly to mind is that about a ten year old boy who could not quite understand the Artificial Insemination process and proceeded to use his own intimate words to describe the technique. But that is for another tale.
We left Pops and the designated cooks at the house and began our trek towards the river. We soon began to wonder why on earth we had to climb a steep hill to get to a river, but we put it down to Snake’s attempts to always present us with a challenge. We later realized that there was a flat track running just at the base of the same hill that we had been struggling over. Many hikers became immediately bilingual at that point, speaking two local languages at the same time.
But we did appreciate the welcoming cool of the forest after the blistering sun of the harsh dry season with the charred vegetation of the hills showing the destruction from the thousands of bush fires that had scourged the land over the past few months. Five minutes later we were on the river bank, and one minute after we had crossed the shallow water, we were looking at the Marianne-Avocat waterfall. It was the cutest little thing, secluded and private, with the water cascading about three metres down to shower us with the most refreshing water coming straight from heaven.
The water babies among us quickly found their way in and frolicked for about forty five minutes before we remembered that we were supposed to be on a hike down the river. Among the hikers there were agile ‘mountain goats’ as well as people with two left feet
(nothing personal Susie) so the fun was in us helping each other along and laughing with each other as we picked our ways carefully among the rocks. We still managed to be awed by the beauty of the landscape and the way each piece fitted into the other like pieces of a giant jig saw puzzle. There were times when we were high above the river looking down on its snaking path as we scrambled around the slopes using sturdy ropes to guide us. We were the ultimate mountain climbers!. Other times we were down in deep river water, using those same ropes and life jackets to cross the gorges. Halfway down the river we met a short ‘water slide’ carved out of the riverbed by the force of the gushing water. It did not take much coaxing for hikers especially Johanna’s lively kids from South, to let themselves be carried down the stony two meter slope squealing and shrieking all the way.
All too soon, we came to the end of the river hike and climbed back onto the bank to make our way to the main road. We passed a young gardener who greeted us warmly insisted that he was planting caraille (bitter gourd) although there was no visible evidence of the trellises that are necessary for this production, and one hill later, we were on to the Blanchisseuse road, ten meters from the beautiful Caribbean Sea.
While we waited for the cars to take us back to Pops’ place, we mingled with the holiday makers who covered the sands and we watched others enjoying the kayaking activities up the river. At that point we were a bit too worn out to attempt any other physical activity and our minds were already ahead of us, trying to keep up with our stomachs which were anticipating the hot meal back at the house. There are few things as fulfilling or as tasty as a hot meal after a challenging hike, and the fact that the pots were emptied of the rice, stewed chicken and peas within half an hour of our return, proved the point.
The cooks were blessed over and over again by the weary, happy hikers and all expressed their hearty thanks to Hikemaster Snake and his able hike leaders for yet another successful outing. The next hot date was set for the traditional long Easter weekend at Shark River in Matelot. See you there.