On-Site Nevis: Rekindling Romance Along ‘The Source’ Hiking Trail
I never had any intention of hiking when I traveled to Nevis last month. After all, I was staying at the posh Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, the #1 Caribbean property on Travel + Leisure’s prestigious World’s Best List for 2010. I anticipated a long weekend of relaxing, fine dining and pampering at the hands of the wonderful staff of this legendary property… and not much else.
At the same time, though, I had EVERY intention of doing whatever my wife, Kelly, wanted to do on this trip. It’s rare that Kelly gets to tag along on my travel adventures, and considering I missed our 10th wedding anniversary while enjoying one such adventure last November, I felt it best that I remain 100% open and amenable to her whims lest I be cast out on a long solo hike off a short cliff.
The minute the dinner conversation on our first night at Nisbet turned to talk of a thrilling mountain hike to a mysterious place known simply as The Source, I knew that my relaxing weekend was over before it even began.
You see, Kelly loves to hike. She’s from Pennsylvania where hiking opportunities are plentiful. We live in South Florida where there are, essentially, none. Just hearing about The Source lit a fire in her eyes that I hadn’t seen since we hiked Hawk Mountain in PA some 15 or so years ago. The pampering would have to wait.
The source of our info on The Source hike was Reggie Douglas, a young, 20-something local well-known throughout Nevis as the island’s top athlete. Nevis’ Sportsman of the Year for 2008 and 2009, and a four-time OECS Triathlon Champion, Reggie assured us that The Source hike would be a piece of cake. Problem was, I was enjoying a piece of cake and the latest in a long line of Carib Beers when he said it. Yeah, I won’t be confused with any island’s top athlete any time soon, but I wasn’t about to let anything stand in the way of fulfilling my wife’s hiking desires.
Lucky for us, Reggie had just taken a couple friends up to The Source a few days prior to our arrival and was anxious to return. We quickly made arrangements, and two mornings later we were off!
So what is The Source? Essentially, it’s the spot high up in the clouds along the slopes of Mt. Nevis (elevation: 3,232 feet) where the island’s fresh spring water emerges from the ground. The trail appears on Nevis maps dating back to the 1600’s when some very industrious, strong and incredibly determined Brits constructed an iron pipeline to bring the water from its source high in the mountain to the populace living below. The trail follows the pipe and is still used by local workers to access the pipe to make repairs today.
The Source trail starts out quite wide at the bottom with the only challenges for us being the muddy ground and uneven footing on slick, moss-covered rocks of varying sizes. It’s shady for the most part, not too steep, and if you’re lucky you may spot some wild monkeys along the way. Nice and fairly easy.
Then, about halfway up, things change. The path narrows considerably with a steep drop, slippery moss-covered concrete stairs and other natural hurdles testing your balance and agility most of the rest of the way. In a word, it’s thrilling, especially if you, like us, get to experience The Source while hiking in a small group. With just the three of us on the trail (there was NO ONE else up there) we were really able to listen to the sounds of the rainforest and feel the living, breathing natural wonder all around us. It’s truly amazing trekking through the bush with clouds passing all around you, the temperature dropping as you climb higher and higher following an ancient, yet still vital pipeline.
If you don’t stop as often as we did to take pictures, admire the surroundings (or in my case catch your breath), you’ll reach the imposing sight pictured at left in under two hours. This is where it gets really tricky, especially if you fear heights because you have to climb this old, rickety metal ladder to finally reach The Source. The photo doesn’t do it justice as the ladder is REALLY tall. We estimated it at over 100-feet, and it’s not really an easy climb as some of the rungs offer less than ideal footing.
Conquer the ladder, though, and the payoff is what you see pictured below. This is The Source, a short waterfall emptying into a small pool, no more than 6-8 feet in diameter, where the pipeline begins. It’s pretty cool to think when standing here that for centuries a good portion of Nevis’ fresh water has emanated from this one, singular spot. What’s even better, though, is drinking the water itself. Completely fresh, natural and absolutely the greatest reward after such a challenging trek.
The hike back is just as challenging as the way up, but if you’re smart, you’ll at least have a full bottle of Nevis’ finest spring water to cool your thirst all the way down the mountain.
As for me, I survived The Source trail just fine – no scrapes, falls or faintings. My wife did even better, emerging from the four-hour hike with nary a stain on her white shorts (not recommended).
As she nibbled on a piece of fresh sour-sop picked along the trail near the end of our adventure, I noticed another fire in her eyes. This one clearly had nothing to do with hiking, though… I knew then that all was forgiven, thanks to my new friend, Reggie, and some quality time in the wilds of the Nevis jungle.