A holiday in Saint Lucia can be a refreshing escape from the hum drum of ordinary life; stretching back on white-sand beaches at the edge of the Caribbean Sea or trekking through tropical jungles and hiking the local land create beautifully refreshing holidays on their own, while a mix of the two forms a once in a lifetime, never to be forgotten break. The fantastic sight of Gros and Petite Piton rearing into the sky from their watery roots is one of the most photographed on the island, and a trip up the mountains is an adventure worth having. From the top of Gros Piton, the view is a remarkable 360 degree panorama of blue skies and turquoise waves bathed in golden sunshine. The local towns of Vieux Fort and Soufriere can be seen, along with the islands of Saint Vincent, Maria and Choiseul.
Gros Piton is much more than a mere mountain in Saint Lucia; the interpretive centre at the foot explains the importance of the mountain. Fond Gens Libre is a town of Saint Lucia whose name means ‘Valley of the Free People’, and it’s here that the interpretive centre is located. Gros Piton was seen as a haven by the black freedom fighters during the slave rebellion which took place in Saint Lucia in 1748. A local guide can make the climb both easier and more compelling, as many of the descendants of those who fought in the rebellion live still in Fond Gens Libre and can relay tales of history and local myth. The town also offers a profusion of the local fare, from bananas and coconuts to locally made craftwork. A number of items are vital to bring with you on Saint Lucia’s famous hiking trail. Comfortable footwear is a given, as it can be a long walk with some awkwardly steep stretches. Water too must be carried, and probably a snack or two to enjoy along the way or at the summit. Though the heavy canopy coating Gros Piton shades the trail from a lot of the sunshine, sun lotion is essential to protect your skin. Finally, a camera is a must to capture the moment of success as you reach the top!
The 3,000 feet high Gros Piton is the legally climbable of the twin mounts and is quite accessible for amateurs, though it can become extremely steep in places. The climb can take in the neighbourhood of three to six hours one way, so it should be started early in the morning get down at a reasonable time. Saint Lucia’s Gros Piton started life thousands of years ago as strato-volcanos, and as such are situated beside the Qualibou Depression, which was formed by a collapse of lava. Today it offers relaxing Sulphur Springs to all who visit. As with a lot of Saint Lucia’s interior landscape, Gros Piton and its twin are covered with tropical rainforests and natural woods. These trees provide shade from the blazing sunshine, while brief breaks in the cover allow hikers to look upon the magnificent view of Gros Piton. While at first the trail is easily traversable, it becomes steeper as it begins to wind up the side of the mountain. Loose scree can make the way more difficult, but the beautiful tropical vegetation offers not only a sight to be seen, but plenty of handholds should you begin to slide. ‘Challenging’ is one way to describe the hike, but it is just enough to give a real sense of accomplish once you reach the top – which your local guide will ensure you do safely.
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