Savonet Hike Christoffel National Park Curacao

Christoffel National Park Hike
The Savonet Hike

The first part of the hike takes you by the fine old plantation house of Savonet.

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The Savonet Hike

The Savonet hike is almost 6 miles in length and requires up to 3 hours of walking. This is a difficult walk to do in the open sun. Take drinks and snacks.

Trailhead:   Blazed in a very obvious shade of blue, this route begins on the left just inside the park, at the Savonet country house. Walk this route first to become oriented to the park plant life. The route goes along the north coast and includes a look at caves with Indian drawings.

Savonet Plantation, one of Curacao 's largest, was established sometime before 1662. Dairy products, sheep wool and cattle raising provided what one 1861 planter called a "moderate and relatively decent living" in this fairly harsh land.

The medium-sized country house of Savonet, rebuilt after a surprise English attack in 1806, is considered typical 18th-century architecture. It is oriented east-west as was typical, surrounded by a parapet, and has no interior corridors.   

Continuing, you will pass mesquite (Prosopis juiliflora) widely used for making charcoal because of its rapid growth; and the divi-divi trees, whose pods were in great demand for their high tannin content (60 percent).

Savonet exported about 40 tons of pods annually in the late 1800s, until chrome alum replaced tannin as the favored tanning agent.

Large fields of prickly pear cactus have been flourishing since the mid-1950s. Prickly pears were able to establish themselves quickly because the discs readily snap off, to be transported by animals or humans. The discs then fall to ground and take root.

It's possible to use prickly pears for animal forage, but you have to eliminate the thorns first. One way the farmers attempted--this is true, not a joke--was with flame throwers. They worked well but were too expensive.

Lignum vitae, which often has black tears of resin on its spotted trunk, was an important wood for shipbuilding. Because of the high resin content, the wood formed a water-tight seal around propeller shafts. Always green, its blossoms are blue flowers which produces a heart-shaped orange fruit.

Resembling the lignum vitae tree but with a much rougher trunk is the "mata piska" or fish killer (Jacquinia barbasco) which exudes a penetrating sweet smell when in bloom.

If you throw berries, leaves or bruised branches into still (non-flowing) water, dead fish soon start floating on the surface. Fish have been caught this way for centuries by South American Indians. The toxin is not harmful to humans.

Next Page (Savonet Hike Part 2)

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