After years of eschewing any/all calls of the wild, I seem to have settled into a once-a-year hiking routine. Earlier this year, I enjoyed a snake-filled solo-trek along The Mastic Trail in Grand Cayman. This followed a 2010 lover’s romp with my wife up and down The Source Trail in Nevis. Both journeys were fun and inspiring in their own special ways, but now, with 2012 just a few short days away, I’m planning an even more uncommon adventure to the very heart of a Caribbean volcano!
Destination: St. Eustatius (Sint Eustatius), the Dutch West Indies paradise in the Lesser Antilles better-known in the islands as Statia.
Volcano: The Quill Volcano, which as you can see in the photo above and in the 1795 map below, is the dominant geographic feature on predominantly flat Statia.
As a lover of history and all things uncommon/Caribbean, Statia has always appealed to me. The island is super tiny – just 8.1 square miles in size with a population barely pushing 2,500. Even so, this was once one of the wealthiest ports in all of the Caribbean!
In the 18th century, the competing European colonial powers did not trade or engage in any legal commerce among themselves. If you were a French island, you traded with France; Spanish with Spain, etc.
Dutch Statia, though, was different. The local powers that were on the island adopted a neutral stance toward commerce, inviting trade with the French, English, Spanish, Portugese and anyone else who happened to sail to her shores. Statia’s economy flourished, of course, earning the island a lofty nickname: The Golden Rock.
However, Statia’s neutrality eventually came back to bite the island (and the Netherlands in general) mainly because its arms dealers had no problem supplying American revolutionaries with enough guns and ammo to defeat the British. Some say there would be no United States of America today had it not been for tiny Statia, something the English couldn’t let slide once it lost the 13 Colonies for good. The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War ensued, devastating the Dutch Republic, plus The Netherland Antilles including little Statia.
It’s a rich history, and one certainly every red-blooded American should be keen on exploring, but as noted above, the hike up and into the Quill is worth the trip as well.
The Quill Volcano soars to an elevation of just under 2,000 feet. There are eight different trails around and in (literally) the volcano and the surrounding Quill/Boven National Park, each offering varying levels of difficulty. The shortest, The Bird Observation Trail, only takes 20 minutes, meandering through the Park’s Botanical Garden. It links with The Round the Mountain Trail, which traces the boundary of the Park over a five-hour trek.
Those hikes sound nice, but I’m gearing up for the bigger thrill of combining the Quill and Crater trails.
The Quill Trail starts in upper Oranjestad, Statia’s capital,and takes you right to the rim of the volcano in just under an hour. Piece of cake, right? Well, here’s where the fun really starts…
From the rim, you can pick up the Crater Trail, which true to its name, takes you right down to the crater floor inside the Quill Volcano, some 273 feet above sea-level. The trail winds around a 90-minute loop in the heart of the crater’s thick rainforest. Imagine the size and lushness of the plant life growing there?! I’ve read that breadfruit, plantains, figs and even edible raspberries can be found to fuel your hike.
What else might you find inside the Quill? From the Statia Tourist Office website:
There are at least 17 different kinds of orchids, some quite rare on the island. You may also come across iguanas, land crabs, butterflies and exotic birds.
Notice how they don’t say anything about snakes? I’ve read that you might find those too, but like the slithery friends I made in Grand Cayman, they’re said to be non-poisonous, so no worries there.
For more info on hiking the Quill Volcano, click here to visit the Quill/Boven National Park website.
For details on how to get to Statia, where to stay and more, click here.