|Are we nuts? That thing looks freaking huge!|
Today we climbed a volcano.
St. Eustatius is a volcanic island, with two volcanoes that eventually merged their flows to form the island. The taller, single cone is called "The Quill", the name of which is a mangling of the Dutch word "Kuil" which means "pit". The center of the volcano forms a deep circular valley or pit - in the days of slavery runaway slaves supposedly went there to hide.
The highest point of the Quill is almost 2000 feet (600 meters) above sea level. The bottom of the pit is 895 feet (273 meters) above sea level, so the drop from the peak to the floor is around 1,100 feet deep. This is a dormant volcano, meaning it is not "Extinct" in that there was volcanic activity about 1,600 years ago. On the nearby island of Montserrat the volcano there was believed to be extinct, until it erupted in 1995. This one seems pretty quiet though - there is absolutely no evidence of any sort of activity that scientists are aware of though it is considered "Dormant."
|Obligatory "gorgeous flowers we saw on the walk" photo.|
We intended to set off early this morning, but early this morning it was raining. So instead we made waffles and waited for the rain to let up, finally getting to shore around 11:00 a.m. to being the long hike upward.
|Even 1/1000th of a second couldn't catch his wings!|
The dirt road eventually comes to the start of the path up the hill. At this point you've already climbed up a fair amount, and the huge tankers in the harbor below look like child's toys. We can't even see out boat because it's lost under the edge of the cliff, and the volcano still looms over head, wreathed in clouds.
Because of it's height and the enclosed crater/pit, the volcano supports several distinct ecosystems which you can see as you climb. The St. Eustasius Parks site describes it better than I can, but suffice it to say you can clearly see the changes in the vegetation as you get higher and higher and the inside of the cone looks like a different place entirely.
The main fauna on the volcano are large hermit crabs, iguanas, red bellied racer snakes, vzarious small grounds lizards, a variety of birds...and chickens.
The trails are well marked, and the roughest part of the hike was after the sign that pointed to "Crater Rim, 10 Minutes", at the top of which I was puffing like the bellows in a blast furnace run amok. After six weeks in St. Martin wallowing in a sea of French bread and cheese floating in a small ocean of French wines I thought, somehow, climbing a volcano would be a good idea. Well...it wasn't pretty but I made it up there.
|Me having words with a rather pushy chicken.|
|View of the crater|
At the top of the trail we met a couple of English cruisers with an appreciation for this sort of natural beauty as well. We had a companionable chat about the volcano and cruising while we all were catching our breath and resting our trembling limbs for the trip down.
|One of two Red Bellied Racers at the top of the trail|
We headed back to town on a mission - find someplace to sit, drink something cold, and eat which we finally did just across from the dinghy dock. So we did our first volcano...where's the next one?