Hiking The Source Trail
This is Nevis' most popular hike.
Time: 3 hours, round trip. Length: about 4 miles. Difficulty: 3-4. Trailhead: You have 2 possible starting points. One is at the Golden Rock Hotel, a magnificently preserved sugar estate with its own nature trail. That walk eventually leads to the Stonyhill Reservoir at Rawlins, where The Sources Trail officially begins.
Or you can simply begin at the reservoir. To reach the Golden Rock Hotel, go east from Charlestown and on the left look for the sign leading to the estate. Ask at the office for the map keyed to Golden Rock's nature trail.
The most popular hike on Nevis goes up a well-maintained trail to a small stream, the main water source for Nevis. The pathway passes through semi-tropical to tropical rain forest. At several points you will pass by a centuries-old pipeline which brings water down from the stream to Stonyhill Reservoir, official starting point of the hike.
An easy trail to follow, because the path has been used for centuries, it's maintained by the government. The hike is more rewarding with a guide to explain the scenery. The path is 3-4 feet wide in most places, up to six or seven feet across in others.
Most of the area is unpopulated, although Nevisians apparently lived in the region until the 1950s and '60s. My guide, Sylvester Pemberton, explained that one reason people have abandoned farming in the area is the continuing monkey menace.
How and why vervet monkeys ever got to Nevis is open to speculation. Evidently they were brought in for pets by the French. Sylvester warns these are not tiny creatures, but reportedly can grow to a height of three feet, their tails almost twice as long as their bodies.
Traveling in packs of up to 40, they can take a big bite out of the local agriculture, which is why little farming is done in the high mountains today.
Starting out, you may be surprised to hear the continual pounding of the ocean surf, a good distance away. It is a pleasant sound that fades away about halfway up.
You'll pass by lemon trees, mangoes (ripe from April to August) and patches of what is known as "dung cane."