Volcano hiking in a oceanic rainforest

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News,Entertainment,Business,Health,Robin Tierney

"Feel the bliss of the sea," Cynthia Bristol intones while leading beachside yoga at St. Kitts Marriott Resort. As trade winds cool guests doing sun salutations, palm fronds rustle overhead and kite boarders sail the blue Atlantic rimming this side of the Caribbean isle.

The resort offers ample antidotes to Beltway hustle and bustle. "You won't want to hurry, and because you're on island time, you don't have to," says Kirstin Prell, visiting from Hampstead, Md. At the Emerald Mist Spa, she's having the Kittitian, during which virtuoso therapist Ruthlyn Tyrell massages away desk jockey stiffness with rhythmic strokes in time with Caribbean melodies. Kittitian's the moniker for St. Kitts local.

 

If you go:  

 

stkittsmarriott.com

869-466-1200

 

gregsafaris.com

869-465-4121

Limin' -- relaxing -- is easy with the pools, golf, music, casino and eateries, but opt for the Escape! package and the resort will get you to other island pleasures. Chief among these: 3,792-foot Mount Liamuiga, the dormant volcano hovering dreamlike beyond villages and sugar cane fields planted after the British arrived in 1624.

 

Volcano hiking is transcendent in every sense. Since 1987, Greg Pereira has led tours up narrow, vine- and rock-strewn trails through the lush rain forest and cloud forest leading to the volcano rim. There, hikers are rewarded with spectacular views in every direction. "Twenty-four percent of St. Kitts is protected reserve," he notes. "It's among the few places in the world where rain forest is expanding."

The fifth-generation Kittitian reveals secret overlooks: Beneath the aptly named Devil's Tooth rock formation, you gaze out to shimmering sea, pure skies, cottony clouds and mist-ringed Mount Eustatia -- it's hard to believe this is not a mystic's vision.

The rocky perch chosen for lunch break faces the mile-wide volcano crater Pereira calls "the Giant's Salad Bowl." Last exploding 1,600 years ago, the rich soil supports a patchwork quilt of greenery. Liamuiga translates to "fertile land."

Along the surprisingly bug-free six-hour round-trip trek, Pereira points out vines used as aphrodisiacs, plants harvested by voodoo men, floating kapok seedpods believed to bestow good luck, thumbnail-sized frogs with outsized mating chirps and vervet monkeys foraging walnut-size mangos. "Hear the hammer hitting an anvil? That's the mountain blacksmith cricket."

During the hour-long coastline drive between the Marriott and the volcano trailhead, Pereira stops at massive "Black Rocks" formed from volcanic matter, villages where sheep and goats frolic, signboards curious and instructional ("Be True to Yourself") and the church where slave ship doctor-turned-pastor James Ramsay preached for abolition, inspiring the song "Amazing Grace."

Inspiration's endless in this amazing place.

Reach Robin Tierney at robintierney@gmail.com

 

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