Mt. Qua Qua
More sights along the way to the summit of Mt. Qua Qua.
Q4: This is razor grass, which you want to avoid. It's sharp enough even to cut through light clothing. If you feel compelled to test its edge but want to avoid drawing blood, use a blade of it to shave some hair off the back of your arm.
Q5 is a mountain almond (Bandizabocu) which has a distinctive mottled bark; it produces a large, inedible fruit in the fall.
Q6 is a bois gris or bagui tree, an excellent hardwood that becomes even stronger in water, making it a preferred material for docks and sea jetties.
Q7 is a possible landslide area, so be careful near the edge. It offers a good view of Grand Anse beach and the southern end of the island. Many of the trees descending to the valley below (an important watershed region) are bois jab or tree ferns.
Proceeding, you'll see a clearing on the left: a firebreak not worth following. Instead, keep bearing to the right, where purple orchids drape over the different bushes.
Q8 marks the boundary into true elfin forest, which looks like it's kept cut back and miniaturized by Japanese bonsai artists; yet it's all wind effect.
As long as you grab tree roots and trunks where necessary to combat the mud, you should have no real problem making it to the top of Mt. Qua Qua, 2,372 feet above sea level.
Near the summit you won't even be walking on clay, but a thick mat of tree roots. You'll know when you've begun walking on air because your ground support will suddenly feel spongy, almost trampoline-like.
The situation lasts for only a few yards; and quite memorable ones they are, too, since the real ground is a couple of hundred feet below.
Even though the Mt. Qua Qua trail is marked clearly enough that no guide is necessary, I met several people who'd turned back, claiming the trail was too slippery and impassable: even German hikers, and I didn't think anything could deter them.
We made the summit with no difficulty. If you feel you might need a little extra moral support, don't hesitate to contact professional guides Denis Henry or Telfor Bedeau, who are always good company. The view from Mt. Qua Qua (in clear weather) is well worth any effort.
At the summit is a tall boulder on the right and a wonderful view of the eastern mountains, the windward coast and the Point Salines airport.
Walk around the high boulder to a pathway between it and another large rock. Step to the edge and--after the hot, humid climb--greet what feels like all the winds of the world.
Amazingly, its only the full, unblunted force of the 22-mph trades that blow constantly across the peak, the same northeast-north breezes that brought Columbus and the other early explorers across the Atlantic.
If the breeze is too much (it will be around twelve degrees colder than at sea level), backtrack and shelter in the boulder's lee side. If you're up for some rock climbing, it's possible to scale the summit boulder for an even more elevated look around.
On the return trip are wonderful views of Grand Etang you'll have missed unless you kept looking over your shoulder on the way up. To me, the descent is far more picturesque than the climb up.