National Park Hike
|Don't annoy the "fighting young lady" who stalks the side of the trail.|
Christophel National Park Hike
As the road bears right on the Savonet plantation trail, you'll pass dyewood trees, another important export crop for Savonet. Rasping the wood produces a red color suitable for dyeing cloth. The trees are easy to distinguish because their trunks are unusually grooved.
At the crossroads, go straight and descend into a "rooi," from the Spanish word "arroyo," a dry bed that holds running water only after a heavy shower. Growing in the rooi and along the sides of the road is a shrub you don't want to touch called locally "bringamosa" (fighting young lady).
The stinging hairs on the leaves and branches contain a substance that causes itching and scratching and, for very allergic people, a high fever.
Also growing in the same area is a natural antidote called Flaira (Jatrophya gossypifolia). It looks just like the fighting young lady but has red flowers and lacks the stinging hairs.
Next you emerge onto a plateau and a sign that indicates a good view of the north coast. Boka Grandi is a rough, wave-swept beach on one side of the viewpoint; Savonet house and Christoffel Hill are on the other.
Look carefully among the melocaccti if they are in bloom. Whiptail lizards love dining on the pink flowers and fruits, as do several species of hummingbirds, including the ruby-topaz (Chrysolampis mosquitus) and blue-tailed emerald hummingbird (Chlorostilbon mellisugus).
The limestone soil is full of ribbed milky-white shells that look like wicker bee hives. These land snails are endemic to the Dutch islands. The fact that no South American snail species are present seems to destroy the theory that the ABCs were once connected to South America.
The road next makes a steep descent onto a shallow salt flat (or salina)
where you may see herons and American oyster catchers. Soon you'll reach
a parking lot near Indian drawings and caves.
Based on the pottery shards found here, it appears the artists originated in Venezuela. The Indians did not live in the caves hereabouts but in oval houses made of wood and intertwined branches.
Figures drawn in the caves, estimated between 500 and 2,000 years old, are considered abstracts that may have had some religious significance. The figures are drawn in white and black, as well as terra cotta.
The most interesting cave is the second one, but the bottleneck at the entrance requires that you scuttle inside on all fours. You'll need a light to go farther, but the cave soon opens so you can standing upright again.
The cave extends for a distance of about 410 feet. Its ground is covered with grayish-brown guano from the four species of bats that reside here. You'll make a sharp right to enter a white chamber whose walls are made of soft marl. Drops of water over thousands of years have formed the stalactites and stalagmites.
Don't worry about any fearsome-looking cave spiders you see. Although relatives of the whip scorpion, the spiders lack poison glands.
Finally you'll enter the well-lit sanctuary of the "cathedral" hall where barn owls sometimes are seen.
The return road also offers fine coastal views with the opportunity to scale a couple of large boulders.
Christoffel National Park Homepage
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