Tuesday, November 27, 2012

La Soufriere : A Priceless Journey



(An excerpt from my personal Travelogue) by Marlon. L. Joseph, Hospitality Officer, St. Vincent & the Grenadines Tourism Authority

The bamboo leaves are loyal to our trudge, sacrificing themselves as rugs to cushion our feet. On either side of us the branches embrace to repel the scorch of the sun thereby giving us cool passage. But there are times when the bamboos are not as selfless; when they are more self- indulgent. Those are the times when they click like voices mired in the breeze or their swooshing breath is echoed like a crescendo of snores.  We climb with the wind sweeping uphill. The same wind that contributes to the illusion of snowfall afar off, as the white underside of a fleet of Trumpet Bush are exposed.  Below us, within a steeping ravine, a black hawk is suspended in flight. We watch the black shadow glide at ease above a narrow stream and we suggest that it is hunting for crabs. The hunter and the hunted paired in this wilderness of conveniences! The birds are never silent. What songs do they sing? What stories do they tell? All we know is that their language is music and they speak in choruses.

Suddenly, a Bull Finch appears in our path: a shiny black bird with a bright orange crest. We know from its stunning beauty that it is male. In the world of birds males are more beautiful than females because it is their duty to attract. And with such beauty, how can they not flutter in the vista of many hearts? Green Helicones are protruding from the varnished bark of Pine trees like the funnels of measuring cups,trapping rain water,attracting tree frogs whose droppings are then digested by the leaves, engendering sprawling growth and strongly recommending to my daunting curiosity, the theory of Intelligent Design. There is a decisive hand in nature, there are no random occurrences, I ponder as I tackle the winding path. Farther up, we behold Begonias in full bloom.  Their bright pink petals suggesting that we are in a floral boutique where the necessary trading apparatus are nothing but our eyes. We pay them our attention and they happily dance for us and for a moment we ponder on the existence of such genteel creatures in such a hardened place.  But we have left them behind and we are now standing in a clearing where the forest lies beneath us. We look down upon the blinding green patina of trees.  We see the village of Georgetown seated at the instep of the Atlantic Ocean and with great fascination we watch the multitude of silver house roofs break onto the shore of the mountain we have ascended. To our right, the crowning landscape splits into three mighty peaks elegantly punctuated by valleys: “Brisbane,Guru,Bonhomme!”  We call their names and watch them respond with motionless fortitude.  

“This is Jacob’s Well,” our guide draws our attention to a gorge casted in molten rock that bears a shiny resemblance to zinc . It is fenced by foliage including plants bearing tiny red berries. The berries are delicious. Also visible are fern trees that declare themselves like prehistoric graffiti on the vast mountainside to the East. I imagine that an aquatic dinosaur once lifted its head from the neighboring blue Atlantic and nibbled upon the mountain vines that look so much like sea weed.  I stop to admire the strawberry flower shaped like a red heart with a yellow pouting beaker.  Now the mountain before us is rising to our breasts. The path is a chaos of options. It is no longer narrow and structured. It is wide open and encumbered with rocks. Here you choose your own path: digress to the right or left, go ahead, turn back.  Now the soil is sagging like a stony beach. We can almost hear our muscles and sinews cry out as they tighten in revolt against almost two hours of constant climbing.  We can feel the grey granite soil in our shoes. There is ice in the breeze wheezing about us. There is yearning in our hearts and frantic urgency in our bones like men lost at sea suddenly energized by the sight of birds that promises the emergence of what they seek. And now, the smell of sulfur! Certainly, we are nearing the crater! Amidst the excitement I am thinking of the Kalinago, the Garifuna, and the derring –do- minded Europeans of centuries past who must have ascended this mountain before us perhaps, in search of sacramental tranquility, swashbuckling adventure or may be just to pander to the kind of wanderlust that drove Marco Polo and Columbus. Yet in spite of such recurring human contact, La Soufriere remains an immaculate character that seduces us into thinking that the poet John Keats was perfectly correct when he concluded in his poem ENDYMION, that “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”