This is a travelogue, a personal essay about my time in the Caribbean island of Grenada. I describe my experience hiking the ‘7 Sister’s Waterfall’ trail.
Grenada is located at the tail end of the Grenadine island chain and actually consists of numerous islands: Grenada (the largest and where we currently were), Carriacou, Petite Martinique and several smaller islands.
Grenada is also known as the ‘Island of Spice’ due to its production of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and ginger crops. It is in fact the world’s second largest producer of nutmeg after Indonesia.
As well as spices, various types of cocoa beans grow in Granada. The cocoa beans are so prominent that Grenada even hosts its own chocolate festival
The bus juddered as its rattling engine roared to life. The tyres crunched against the tarmac and we rolled through Grenada’s colourful capital.
Soon we left the busy streets behind us as we drove further inland. As the characterful city streets faded away, the road was swallowed up by thick vegetation.
I was absolutely fascinated by the landscape which we drove through and found myself gazing in awe out the dusty minivan window.
Lush green trees grew all around us with simple yet colourful houses nestled in between them. The island was very mountainous, with looming hills covered in tropical forests poking from all directions.
As I soaked up the raw and wild interior of Grenada, I realised that I had never been to a destination that had felt this magical.
When I had visited the Caribbean in the past, the emphasis had always been on the coastline, with beaches being the key attraction. However, I was really loving venturing through the jungle-clad mountains, being surrounded by dense forests which housed a plethora of different flora and fauna, many endemic to the island.
I couldn’t believe I’d been visiting the Caribbean for so long but had never experienced anything like this before.
The road bent sharply as we began to ascend. My eyes fell upon a vibrant red minibus at the side of the road, its windows smashed and tyres missing. Paint flaked away from its decaying carcass. I hoped we wouldn’t meet the same fate tackling these steep mountain roads.
The winding roads took us high into the mountains, reaching an elevation of 1,900 ft. As we ventured into Grand Etang National Park, we waved goodbye to clear blue skies and welcomed the looming, grey clouds, promising tropical downpours. We were in the rainforest now.
The Grand Etang National Park consisted of over 1,000 hectares of mountainous forest and was located right in the centre of the island. The name Grand Etang translates to large lake in French and was in reference to the large crater lake which sat at an elevation of 530m, found to the south of the park.
The park housed countless waterfalls alongside steep and narrow mountainous ridges. Numerous tropical trees could be found in the forests including gommier, which was a tall gum tree, as well as teak.
Our hiking trail was near the south-eastern border of the park, ever so slightly north of Grand Etang lake.
As I stepped out of the bus, I became overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest. I could feel the humidity closing in around me and my senses were alive with the unique, lush smells of all the jungle plants. Insects buzzed and from a nearby tree I heard the shrill cry of a bird.
Small stones crunched beneath my trainers as I stepped on the trail. Before me, the land sloped down in a gentle curve, revealing a gorgeous panoramic view. A small, baby-blue bungalow stood beside the path, its tin roof rusting slightly. It was the only building to be seen. On either side of the narrow path, lush grass stretched away, dotted with numerous trees which grew produce such as bananas and pineapples.
It was the huge strip of mountains in the background, however, that took my breath away. Dressed head to toe in thick rainforests, I marvelled at its untouched beauty. That was where we were heading.
Our group made its way down the stony path, dotted with grass, following two guides. I noticed that one of the guides was carrying a clear, plastic bag with dark brown biscuits in. I pondered what this could possibly be for. They didn’t look all that edible so I highly doubted this would be a snack.
Just then, two spotted tabby cats emerged from the long grass, their tails raised in greeting and excited mews escaping their throats. At once I felt my heart swell with excitement. Cats! One had a dusty brown pelt whilst the other was dressed in pale grey.
The guide gently bent down and the cats rushed to his side. I watched as the bag was tipped upside down and the biscuits rushed like an avalanche to the ground.
In no time at all, the cats were crunching their meal, eyes closing in satisfaction.
The great field in which we walked was in fact a plantation which grew a variety of produce. Our guide was keen to show us the different foods. We saw pineapples and bananas and an interesting-looking fruit which I had never seen before.
Our guide plucked one from a nearby tree, holding out a round, yellow fruit which looked almost like a yellow apple. Using a knife, he sliced the fruit down the middle, the blade digging several centimetres into the flesh. He ran his knife round the circumference of the fruit before popping it open, revealing a dark brown seed with a vibrant red coating called an aril.
“This is a nutmeg fruit,” our guide announced. “The seed can be ground to make nutmeg spice and the red covering on the seed is used to make mace.”
I stared at the strange-looking fruit, fascinated.
An incredibly fertile island, Grenada was home to a whole host of incredible plants. As well as spices, various types of cocoa beans were grown in Granada. The cocoa beans were so prominent that Grenada even hosed its own chocolate festival. We wouldn’t be trying any chocolate today, however.
The next plant which we encountered was a very small, ground-dwelling fern. Our guide bent down and touched one of its leaves. To my surprise, the plant curled up. My eyes widened in amazement.
I knelt down beside another example of the plant and tentatively reached out a finger to its vibrant green leaves. This one, too, elegantly folded its leaves together. Incredible!
This was the Mimosa pudica plant which is Latin for shy or bashful. The plants curled up when they felt like they were in danger, for a few minutes, before reopening again. They also closed up in the night and reopened again in daylight.
The trek through the field passed areas of the plantation which were alive with work. A couple of workers were perched on a bench, a great tray of nutmeg seeds in front of them. I watched as one opened a nutmeg fruit and delicately plucked the seed out and placed it on the tray.
A little further down was a small bridge which stood over a sleepy, trickling river. A man holding a machete sat on the bridge’s railings, his eyes drooping as he allowed the sun to warm his skin.
My eyes danced as something in the background caught my attention. I laid eyes on a thin brown and black dog which stood in the long grass. It eyed our group warily.
We continued our journey, leaving the open fields behind us. Ahead, the forest opened up, tall trees lining the winding path, their thick canopies shrouding it in darkness.
As soon as we entered the rainforest, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. I was already starting to see why they called these types of forest ‘rainforests’.
The trail sloped steeply downwards and I found myself carefully descending down a flight of muddy, stone steps. The lashing rain made it all the more difficult to navigate down such a steep incline.
Almost as quickly as the rain started, it then stopped and it wasn’t long before rays of sunlight began to filter down through the canopy and onto the forest floor.
Around us, the forest was dense, casting shadows on the forest floor and concealing any views with their tangle of branches and thick dressing of leaves. Occasionally, however, there would be a break in the forest and a beautiful vista would greet us. Jagged mountains, like a backbone stretching from one end of the panorama to the other, would reveal themselves. They stood proudly in the near distance, separated from us by swathes of untouched forest.
The jungle trail wound through the forest, curving round trees and over trickling streams. I wobbled precariously onto a stepping stone, feeling my trainer slip slightly on the grimy surface. The gentle stream gurgled round my feet as if trying to embrace them. Confidently I leapt to the next stone and then the next until once again I was on solid – albeit muddy – ground.
The raging of water began to increase in volume, drowning out the peaceful singing of birds and constant drone of insects. I suspected we must be getting close to the falls. A river ran to our left, flowing rapidly over a jumble of weathered rocks.
Just then, the trees opened up in front of us and I laid eyes on two gorgeous waterfalls. A large waterfall stood at the back, water cascading down the great drop from the lush jungle. The pool below the waterfall shone cyan in the morning sunlight, and if it wasn’t for the violent ripples dispersing round the pool as a result of the falls, we’d have been able to clearly see the bottom of it.
At the edge of this pool was another drop, a smaller waterfall leading to a second pool beneath. The water here was just as clear as the higher pool and provided a larger space for swimming.
These waterfalls were two of the seven sisters. As the name suggests, there were seven falls in total on this trail. If you journeyed further upstream you could encounter the rest, but that wasn’t part of our tour today. The two falls we were facing now were in fact the largest falls on the trail.
Other than a handful of smiling locals, some children and others young adults, the falls were peaceful and serene.
I watched as some of the locals clambered up the side of the large waterfall at the back before standing at the edge overlooking the pool far below. I held my breath as they then leapt without hesitation, gliding smoothly through the air before slicing beneath the waves with careful precision. They obviously were no amateurs at jumping off this waterfall.
I was impressed by their display. I certainly wasn’t feeling brave enough to leap into the falls myself.
Once the locals had finished showing off their acrobatics, we wandered over to the bottom pool and prepared for a swim.
The thundering of the falls in my ears, I approached the edge of the lagoon, tentatively dipping my toes in the tantalising water. I shuddered with cold. The water was icy but it was soothing after such a long trek through the stifling heat.
I began to wade deeper into the water, the gentle waves lapping at my legs. I stared at the beautiful turquoise water in front of me, so inviting, before taking the plunge and submerging myself fully beneath the fresh water.
I swam through the icy water, heading towards the base of the waterfall. The closer I swam to the never ending cascade, the more tricky it became. The waterfall was creating a current, pushing everything away from it with surprisingly powerful force. Therefore battling against that current was incredibly challenging and I started to tire quite quickly.
But I didn’t give up. I would pride myself in being a relatively strong swimmer with stamina that continued to surprise my parents. I moved my arms and legs rhythmically through the water, the foaming white cascade becoming ever closer and its roaring drowning out any other sound.
Eventually, I made it. I swam underneath the waterfall, the powerful torrent beating against my head, before emerging in a little crevice behind it. I watched the cascade pouring down before me, feeling safe in my small cove. I managed to grip the rock at the back, holding on for as long as I could. The rock was slimy to the touch, smoothed by centuries of water droplets spraying up from the falls.
After a while, I allowed myself to get drawn back into the pool and swam underneath the downfall of water, the icy drops falling onto my head like a very heavy shower.
Swimming back to the other end of the lagoon was easy. The waterfall just pushed me the whole way. I practically floated to the other side.
My face beamed with delight. I couldn’t believe I’d just swum under a waterfall!
After a nice, relaxing swim, it was time to head back the way we came. We retraced our steps in our damp clothing, wincing slightly when we realised that the way back was all up-hill.
We took to the muddy, stone steps, becoming increasingly tired as we neared the field. I was panting by the time the grass opened up in front of me.
Fortunately we had some treats awaiting us. Beside the minivan was a little store where we enjoyed some ice-creams and drinks. It was the perfect end to the perfect excursion.
It was with a heavy heart that I stepped back onto the minibus. I was only starting to get to know the island and already it was time to leave.
I stared longingly outside the misted window as the rainforest blurred past.
I noticed we were slowing down and turned my attention to the front of the bus. It juddered to a halt beside perhaps the most unique tree I had ever seen in my life.
The guide at the front of the bus stood up and faced the sea of inquisitive faces behind.
“We call this the Rainbow Tree,” he stated.
I stared at the tree in amazement. It stood proudly, the same shape as just your bog-standard tree. However, its bark was a mixture of striking colours including: green, orange and purple.
The tree was a rainbow eucalyptus or rainbow gum tree. As the tree shed its bark, beautiful colours revealed themselves underneath.
It was picturesque and fascinating. The tree almost looked like someone had gone up to it and painted streaks down it. But no. These colours were entirely natural.
After taking in the beauty of the Rainbow Tree, the bus continued its journey back to St George’s, the island’s capital.
I glanced at the city in the near-distance, looking so pretty. The colourful buildings of the city stood amongst green foliage and were hugged by a picturesque coastline. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be here, having experienced what I had that day.