Hiking La Soufriere Volcano from the Windward Side and back to Richmond Vale

Rabacca Travel Blog

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On Monday morning I woke up and headed to breakfast where I had a nice chat with a girl named Moxy who had been to Mustique for a day. She is from Switzerland, but spoke excellent English. Some people (like Carole who greeted me on the first day) come to the Academy without speaking any English at all. I think it would be very difficult to learn English among a group of people from so many different countries, who all have different accents, some of which are--at times-- difficult for an English speaking person to decipher.

A guy named Alex also sat at my table, as well as Stina. Alex is from Romania and I had played a couple games of ping pong with him. He is the only other visitor at the Hiking Center, and arrived a day before me. As Franklyn had told me yesterday, he is here for a month to visit his friend Deanna (who was his girlfriend before she left for Richmond Vale) also from Romania, who ended up befriending Phillipe from Argentina on the first day of the program. Phillipe and Deanna are now boyfriend and girlfriend, and while I have no idea what Deanna has told Alex about the situation, Alex is clearly not having a great time. Franklyn sat down with us and invited Alex to come on the hike with us. (Franklyn later told me that Phillipe had put him up to asking Alex to go.) Alex seemed interested, but admitted to being unfit as he has a desk job at an IT company back home.
I told him I didn't mind if he came, and he agreed to go.
After Alex got a few things together, we were all set to go. As Nick-- a teacher at the Academy-- was heading into Kingstown, Franklyn, Alex and myself piled into the little Suzuki with him and headed off on our adventure. The plan was to hike to the volcano from the Windward side of the island. After getting into Kinstown, we would take a minibus-- a really inexpensive mode of transport on the island which all the locals use-- to Georgetown. We planned on taking the minibus into Georgetown to buy bottled water at the supermarket, then figure out a ride to the trail head. Franklyn and I had planned to walk to the trail head from Georgetown, but as Alex came along we decided to change the plans a bit.
We would hike to the volcano, let Alex rest if he wanted while we hiked around the rim. We would then climb down into the crater and back up, then hike back to Richmond Vale Academy before dark.
When we go into Georgetown Alex wanted to top up his cell phone card, so we set out to find a provider. As we walked around Kingstown, Alex checked out a few stores, and stopped at a couple street vendors to look for a rasta hat. He finally found a hat, then he got the phone card, and then we headed to the the minibus station. While there he tried to find the driver who had taken him to Richmond Vale as he had left his cell phone on the bus. (I was a bit confused as to why he wanted to put more minutes on a cell phone that was not in his possession, but that's just me!) Anyway, Alex's driver wasn't there, so we looked for a bus that would take us to Georgetown.

The bus station was packed with buses, and on each bus there seemed to be a driver, another guy in the front passenger seat--whose job description I was clueless about--as well a third guy who collected your money and opened and closed the door along the way for passengers. The guy who took your money also seemed to be the marketing guru as well, as he walked throughout the station trying to get business for his particular bus.
We had a choice of at least two heading to Georgetown, and as Franklyn didn't know either one of the drivers, he picked one at random. The minibusses are minivans which have four bench seats in them behind the driver. There is a section missing in each of the middle two benchseats to create a walkway to the back of the bus without having to climb over seats or people. It is eventually filled with extra cushions, so by the time the bus is full, there is not an inch of seat uncovered.
They won't pull out until it is completely full, which means at least 18 passengers. They squish four accross on each bench seat (whether large or small) except the seat directly behind the driver seats five as there are a few additional inches to allow for the sliding door. Then, one person sits between the driver and his "first mate" in the passengers seat. The money collector/ doorman guy doesn't get a seat, so he was actually standing by the door and leaning over the driver's shoulder which happened to be right by me. He did manage to mostly keep from stepping on my feet! Needless to say, it was packed! There is little knee room as the bench seats are really close together.
We pull out and start to wind up, down, and around the narrow roads at what seemed to be 65 miles per hour. Somehow, I felt safe with the capability of the driver.
As I was by the window, and it felt a little cramped, I ended up hanging out the window for most of the ride. We passed through several small towns, much like the Leeward side, thouh often the houses were seemingly farther apart and there looked to be a higher number of nicer houses than the Leeward side. We passed by Beachcomber Hotel where I stayed in November when the Mustique Airport was flooded. The five minute taxi ride just to the Beachcomber cost me twenty dollars US, and we drove for over an hour to Georgetown on the minibus for about a buck fifty.
Franklyn let the driver know where he wanted us to get off, which we later found out from a manky looking rasta man smoking a huge joint on the side of the road that we were well past the supermarket. Franklyn asked if he knew anyone we could pay to give us a ride to the trail head.
Pointing to a two seater rusted hunk of junk which had been converted into a very small truck like thing with standing room in the back and a handrail above the back window, he offered to give us a ride.
Since we still needed bottled water, the rasta agreed to meet us at the Dry River in about a half an hour. We stopped at several little minimarts--I am using this term loosely as they were basically shacks which offered a small selection of canned goods or snacks-- along the way. As some of them didn't have water, and others only had a couple of small bottles each, it took several stops before we had enough. In the mean time, Alex decided he was hungry, so we then went in search of something for him to eat. As you can imagine, all this is taking much longer than we planned for. We finally are set to meet our rasta man, so we walked the now short distance along the ocean's edge on the road to the Dry River crossing--which got its name practically as it was created by the volcano erupting and doesn't ever have water in it!
We arrived at our pick up point about 40 minutes after we talked to rasta man, and he wasn't there.
We hung out for about 20 minutes before asking another guy doing some yardwork outside of a church for a lift. He said he would be happy to take us but that it would take him about ten minutes to finish up what he was doing. I was more than fine with waiting, as his ride had both a front AND a back seat, unlike the dodgy looking thing on wheels driving the rasta man around, and it appeared the man outside the church had NOT been smoking any pot. As he pulled his car up to where we sat, the rasta guy pulls up as well, still puffing on his joint--or maybe a new one! Franklyn apologized for the inconvenience and tells him we thought he wasn't coming, as it was over an hour since we talked to him, and we had gotten another ride. He didn't seem bothered as he headed on his way.

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photo by: hoofinnit