Journey to the Lost Waterfall

Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountain accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there’s no single fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsing

.

.

The island of St Kitts is of volcanic origin with tall steep mountain hills covered in tropical rainforest. There, in the mountains, rivers of cool delicious water cascade down carving small canyons among centennial trees, and then through the valleys they reach the sea.

.

.

A waterfall is hidden in these forests, high in the hills home of shy vervet monkeys and spirits, far away from people and towns, at the edge of a river canyon.
There is no path leading to this waterfall and to reach it you have to walk parcour style for three hours up a river, climb over rocks, big and small, and fallen trees, until you are all soaked wet from the river and the sudden rain, and your hair is covered with gentle spider webs full of tiny disoriented spiders.

.

.

It is not a famous, big, roaring waterfall, like the ones that pop up in your imagination when you think about waterfalls. It is rather a very small, very gentle, almost transparent, almost silent trickle of water hidden among green shadows, and many people wouldn’t go through all the trouble to reach it. They would be disappointed. They would say: Is this the waterfall, after three hours of walking inside a river, climbing across boulders and fallen trees?

Oh, but is worth it. Both the journey and the destination.

.

.

We needed someone who knew the way to lead us to the waterfall, and of course our friend Sejah Joseph came along as our guide. He said he knew how to get there, even though he only went once a few years ago.

Sejah Joseph

Sejah Joseph

The first attempt to reach our goal failed. We start unprepared, wearing flip-flops , thinking that the place is not far away and the path to get there is easy. We start up a dry riverbed and soon it becomes not only difficult but dangerous climbing over huge boulders. We don’t know how far away the fall is, and even though Maya wants to continue and not admit failure, we have to turn back.

Maya

Maya

The second time, a few days later, we put on our serious climbing shoes and chose a different path walking inside a river with the water rushing against us.
Chances to find a waterfall up a river are much bigger.

.

.

– Are we almost there, Sejah?, we ask after some time.
– Maybe.

.

.

We walk inside the river which is knee-deep most of the time and the water is cold and refreshing ‘like water from the fridge’, Sejah says.

When it rains we hide under trees and eat the sandwiches I made and the mangos we found along the way.

We drink the water from the river-fridge, it is cool and sweet and precious.

 

Sandwich break under the rain

Sandwich break under the rain

– These trees are four or five hundred years old, Sejah says.
– Oh, so they were here at the time when Columbus found the island?
– The island was never lost…

Evo and Sejah

Evo and Sejah

Nor is our waterfall.

We have reached our destination, the point in time where we stop for a while and turn back. At the end of the river, the end of our journey, from a rock covered with eternal moss: a silent waterfall.

Mira

Mira

Share

Sejah and Ayutee

Sejah Joseph  (a few years ago)

Sejah Joseph
(a few years ago)

 

We met Sejah Joseph the day we arrived in St Kitts. He and a bunch of other local kids came to the pier near the boatyard at Sandy Point to check out the boat and the newcomers. We spent that first day with our new friends doing crazy jumps in the water, playing at the beach, rolling in the sand, and stuffing ourselves with mangos from a tree across the road while waiting to be hauled out for a bottom job.

 

.

.

 

Sejah, Maya, Earnest, Rajji, Evo

Sejah, Maya, Earnest, Rajji, Evo

 

Earnest and Maya

Earnest and Maya

 

Maya and Earnest

Maya and Earnest

 

Maya and Earnest

Maya and Earnest

 

Maya and Earnest

Maya and Earnest

 

Earnest

Earnest

 

Under the mango tree. Earnest Maya and Rahim

Under the mango tree.
Earnest Maya and Rahim

 

Sejah

The next day Sejah, the guy I started telling you about, a tall boy the same age as Viktor, almost 17, with a deep subdued voice and tender melancholy eyes, brings us a bag of skinups, small sweet green fruits that are a lot of fun to eat trying to separate the mushy pulp from the big round seed rolling it inside your mouth with teeth and tongue. And from then on, for the next week and a half, Sejah became a part of our family.

Because Sejah had to stay home and take care of his little brother while his mom is at work, Viktor, sometimes together with Maya, would go to his place in the morning bringing his X-box and they would play video games for hours, until Sejah’s mom returns from work, at noon.

X-ox at Sejah's place

X-ox at Sejah’s place

Then, in the afternoons, while Evo is sanding and painting the hulls of the boat, Sejah would come to the boatyard and we would go for walks to the hills, or to the village, or at the beach, or in the forest, or to town in Basseterre.

 

In Basseterre with Sejah

In Basseterre with Sejah

And in the evenings, Sejah would help us wash the boat from the boatyard dust and then join us for diner and a movie.

 

Washing the boat. Maya and Sejah

Washing the boat.
Maya and Sejah

Thus, little by little, we got to know and love Sejah Joseph, and we couldn’t imagine a day in St Kitts without him.

Sejah lives with his mom and two of his eight siblings in a house not far from the boatyard up in the New Project, a small unpaved area at the foot of the hills in the outskirts of the village where the government has recently built a few rows of similar houses all painted in bright colors for people with limited means. It is a nice comfortable house, big enough for the four of them.

 

New Project housing development in St Kitts

New Project housing development in St Kitts

 

New Project houses

New Project houses

 

Sejah's house

Sejah’s house

 

Sejah and his pets, a bunny and a fighting fowl

Sejah and his pets, a bunny and a fighting fowl

– You want to see where we used to live before?, Sejah asks me one day and I detect a sort of enthusiasm in his voice as we walk down the road to his old place.

He brings me to a small ruined shack a few minutes away from his new home, on a ridge overlooking the sea. The place is completely abandoned, the wood rotten and moldy, all covered with weeds, reclaimed by nature.

Sejah at his old place

Sejah at his old place

– The kitchen was outside, under this tree. We had running water and the stove was there. The toilet was further that way but it is not there anymore.

Inside, two tiny rooms, one for Sejah and his brothers, and one for his mother and sisters. He shows me where his mom used to hang things on the walls, where he signed his name Sejah above his bed, and his brother’s posters and drawings still glued to the planks on the wall.

 

Sejah's old home

Sejah’s old home

 

Sejah Joseph

Sejah Joseph

 

Sejah in his childhood room

Sejah in his childhood room

 

Sejah in his room

Sejah in his room

– My father got shot and died many years ago, when I was little.

Ayutee

Sejah’s mother, Ayutee, a Rastafarian,  brought up her nine children, seven boys and two girls, alone, knitting hats and bags for a living. She would sell the hats and bags in town to the tourists from the cruise ships coming to visit the island. Only recently she started working for a regular salary through a government program cleaning and maintaing the local football field and thus could afford the new house. Her children, except Sejah and his 5-years-old brother from another father who lives in another village somewhere on the island, are grown up now and have their own homes. Some of her older sons have families and kids and her two daughters are studying abroad one to become a lawyer the other a doctor.

 

On the couch: Sejah and his 5-years-old brother. Pictures: His mom and his two sisters

On the couch: Sejah and his 5-years-old brother. Pictures: His mom and his two sisters

– I never left the country, never traveled anywhere, Ayutee tells me one day as I go to finally meet her. Because of the children, I had to take care of them. Only once I went to Nevis by boat (2 miles from St Kitts) to sell hats and bags there during a cultural festival. I was planing to go again the next year, but the boat sank a few weeks before I was supposed to go, and I got scared and did’t go. So, I never left the country. I am 52. I would love to travel some day, to go somewhere on a vacation, but I still have to take care of the little one and to pay for the house.

 

Ayutee

Ayutee

Ayutee loves her country St Kitts and Nevis, an independent twin-island federation with British tradition, the smallest sovereign state in the Americas in both area and population, today populated by descendants of African slaves brought to the island during the sugarcane and slave trade period in the 17th century. She says life now is much better than it was before, in the years after the independence (1983) and even before that, thanks to the many housing, employment, and other social programs implemented by the government, although there is still poverty and lots of crime especially in St Kitts, and the cost of living is very high while people don’t make a lot of money. But she wouldn’t live anywhere else. She still knits hats and bags and sells them to tourists in town on the weekends. She made one bag for me, the colors and size I chose, and one for Maya too. She finished our two bags in just a few hours. Now Maya goes everywhere with her new bag.

 

Sejah, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to leave St Kitts and travel, like us. Despite everything that happened to him in his life so far, his poor childhood, the death of his father and older brother, and some other unfortunate events, he has preserved his optimism and his ability to enjoy life and to dream.

– In my mind, I can do anything.

 

Sejah holding a photograph of his dead brother

Sejah holding a photograph of his dead brother

 

Sejah's younger brother

Sejah’s younger brother

 

Sejah with dreadlocks.  When he started high school he was forced to get a haircut.

Sejah with dreadlocks.
When he started high school he was forced to get a haircut.

We spend hours talking with Sejah about life in other countries, about sailing and traveling, about the world. He knows much about world history and geography thanks to Discovery Chanel and one day, we promised each other, we will meet again.

Some other time, some other place.

 

Sejah at the beach

Sejah at the beach

Share

St. Kits Marine Works: Welcome to The Boatyard

SKMW boatyard

SKMW boatyard

Every once in a while a boat has to come out of the water for repairs or survey, for storage during hurricane season, or a quick bottom job. But finding the perfect haul out yard can be a pain in the stern. Ultimately, some of the most important factors that determine our choice of a boatyard are: convenient location, good facilities and equipment, a team of professionals, and reasonable prices. But does such a place exist? Yes, and we found it.

As we sailed from Florida through the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and the Leeward Islands looking for a place to haul out our boat, a 38 feet catamaran, in order to sand and paint the hulls, we have finally found one boatyard that has it all: St Kitts Marine Works.

 St Kitts Marine Works

Located on the southwest lee shore of the island of St Kitts, a few miles from St Marten, Antigua and Guadeloupe, and not too far from the BVI and Puerto Rico, SKMW lies at the heart of the Caribbean region providing the perfect strategic location for many mariners cruising in this area who wish to store their vessels for short or long term periods or during the hurricane season, between the months of June and December. The recently expanded boatyard, a 30-acre field, has plenty of space for vessels big and small. Each boat hauled out for storage is carefully secured and grounded with specially dugout keel holes, custom-made for each vessel. So far none of the storms that hit the island, including hurricane Earl in 2010 had caused any damage to the boats there.

.

.

The boatyard is also conveniently located near a small dark-sand beach, a place to escape the Caribbean summer heat and make new local friends, and directly under Brimstone Hill Fortress, one of the most important forts in the Caribbean and UNESCO World Heritage Site populated by vervet monkeys. The small historical town of Sandy Point is within a walking distance and the capital Basseterre where you can find all types of marine materials and services specializing in boat-building and repairs, is only a 15-minute bus ride away.

Fta Morgana in SKMW boatyard.  Brimstone Hill on the background

Fata Morgana in SKMW boatyard.
Brimstone Hill on the background

Another main reason to choose SKMW is the big travelift, one of only three in the entire Caribbean region that can handle up to 150-ton boats with beam up to 35 feet, perfect for catamarans. And even though our 8-ton boat with 22 feet beam is not huge at all she almost doesn’t fit in the small travelifts getting scratches on the sides. But the big one at SKMW barely touches her. Man, that machine is mighty! Fata looks like a toy in the hands of a gentle giant when he picks her up and out of the water.

.

.

The SKMW boatyard also has a crane for removing masts as well as all sorts of other heavy equipment and machinery for boat works.

But the best part of St Kitts Marine Works boatyard is the people who work there, a dedicated team of professionals, engineers, top quality technicians, and first class operators. The owner and director, Regiwell Francis, an expert in salvage and heavy equipment, is also a hardworking, hands-on, extremely knowledgeable and capable person, who will do anything in his power to help and accommodate your needs. Reggie is a great guy and this matters a lot. There is also a very good mechanic, a metalworking team, as well as a few boat repair specialists working full time in SKMW, and if you need any materials or services not provided on location, they will find them for you.

Regiwel

Regiwell Francis

And last but not least, the prices here are unbeatable. The SKMW prices are probably comparable to those in the Dominican Republic, only there they don’t have the facilities and equipment, the space and the specialists available in St Kitts Marine Works. For more information on rates click here.

SKMW boatyard, also featured in Chris Doyle’s cruising guide, is so far our favorite haul out facility. We had a very positive experience there (even Evo who worked 12 hours per day for a week sanding and painting agrees). All our needs were met with enthusiasm and generosity. We would recommend it to everyone.

SKMW boatyard

SKMW boatyard

Reggie has very ambitious plans to build an 80 slips marina where the dock currently is. The project is already developed and is all a matter of time now.

You can contact Reggie or Bruce at the boatyard if you have any questions or to make arrangements at (869) 662-8930 e-mail bentels@hotmail.com; or visit their website for more information at www.SKMW.net; or you can simply pop-up at the dock there, like we did. We were very pleasantly surprised that we could clear customs right there, in the boatyard, as we arrived. Thanks to Reggie, the place is now an official port of entry to St Kitts and you don’t have to go to Basseterre to clear in nor pay any port fees or per day per person fees, only 35 EC$ (the equivalent of 12 U.S. dollars).

Evo, Maya, Viktor and Fata Morgana

Evo, Maya, Viktor and Fata Morgana

We are also every grateful and happy and extremely proud to announce that St Kitts Marine Works boatyard became our sponsor, supporting us and our journey.

Share

A Visit to Brimstone Hill Fortress

.
.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance: a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. One of the best preserved historical fortifications in the Americas, it is located on the island of St. Kitts in the Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean.

From Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The Nomadiks in St Kitts

Waiting for a few days at the dock near Sandy Point where St Kitts Marine Works boatyard is to be hauled out for „a quick bottom job“, we fill our nothing-to-do days with chilling on the small beach near by, jumping from the pier and meeting new friends. Right where we are Brimstone Hill is looming above us so close we can see the Fortress form the boat.

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

We decide to go for a visit. It is a 20 minute walk from the boatyard to the foot of the hill and another 30-40 minutes hike up the hill to the Fortress. Tourists have to pay 10 dollars per person to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress, expensive but worth it.

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

 

St Kitts. Historical Background

St. Christopher is the first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English and the French shared between the two nations throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Africans were brought as slaves and a massive sugar production begun which together with the slave trade yielded a great wealth well worth defending. The construction of a vast network of fortified coastal defenses on the island of St Kitts started in 1690 and continued until 1790.

.

.

The ideal site for the fortress was chosen atop a volcanic hill 800 feet high with steep and precipitous slopes standing near the southwest shore of the island, Brimstone Hill, often referred to as „the Gibraltar of the Caribbean“. The location of the Fortress presents panoramic vistas of forested mountains to the north, cultivated fields and picturesque small villages to the west, the historical township of Sandy Point to the south, and neighbouring Dutch, English and French islands across the Caribbean Sea.

Brimstone Hill

Brimstone Hill

The fortress was built using entirely local materials found on site. The walls of the structures were made from the hard volcanic rocks of the hill itself and the mortar to cement the stones was produced from the limestone covering much of the middle and lower slopes. The Fortress is virtually a man-made out growth of the natural hill.

 

.

.

 

The Fortress

We are stunned at the scale and level of preservation of the Fortress designed by British Army engineers. It is an entire complex, like a small military village built on 38 acres of land on the flat top of the hill, one of the largest Caribbean fortresses, with many buildings, officer’s quarters, soldiers’ barracks, a citadel, two places of arms, and a cemetery.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Brimstone Hill Fortress

This is the site of the historical battle between the British and French fighting over control of the sugar island. In January 1782 8,000 French troops attacked the island and besieged the Fortress. For one month 1,000 defenders from the Royal Scots and East Yorkshire Regiment fought valiantly before surrendering, allowed by the French to march out of the Fortress with full honor. Only a year later, the island was returned to the British after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1965 The Society for the Restoration of Brimstone Hill Fortress was found and major works contributed for the restoration and rebuilding of the Fortress, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

.

.

As we walk down the hill we come across a troupe of about 20 vervet monkeys. Brought to the island as pets during the slave trade period, they are now populating the hills and forests of St Kitts&Navis in great numbers. One of their popular hangouts is the Brimstone Hill Fortress.

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

 

Share