St Vincent Update 2
La Soufriére and Program Areas
This issue I am going to talk about the hike up the volcano and then talk about the programs we have selected to do.
La Soufriére is the highest point on the island, more than 4,000 feet. There is a trail from both sides of the island. Because we are on the leeward side of the island we took the one from that side; it is the harder trail. We started by walking down to the beach. We walked north along a beach for about a mile, across a river, and then cut into the island via a dried-up river bed (How it’s dried up in this place I don’t know). The river had formed a beautiful chasm. It has walls made of rock and mud that were quite a thing to see. It looked like someone did a bad concrete job.
The trail proper began with a gentle rise through the rainforest. The trails are not like the U.S. they are very narrow, and many times you have to duck to go through a long arbor of branches. They also don’t take erosion into account, so there are very few cut-backs. On the lower slopes we passed a couple of farms. Many people here are subsistence farmers. They have a small home, and then plant their crops on the public lands that are nearby. They also have animals that they feed in the public lands. They will keep the animals on a long leash and move them every few days. It is not uncommon to walk on a trail or road and meet cows, goats, sheep, and donkeys.
As we got higher the forest would clear, and we would get great views of the volcano. We would also see marijuana plantations growing in the valleys beyond the trail. Although illegal in St Vincent, pot is one of the major exports. It mostly goes to nearby islands. The volcano trail is the last place north most people go on this side of the island, and very few people come here. So the farmers feel comfortable planting here. Often we see motorboats go by our beach filled with people for harvesting. It is a poor country, and this is one of the few ways to make a living here.
After the halfway point the trail starts to go uphill without a break. This is where your legs start burning. The trail also gets harder. There is one tree I almost had to go into a crawl to get under. Near the top we busted out of the forest into a beautiful area of shrubs and tall grass. Some of it was as tall as me. As we got closer to the summit the vegetation went away and we were left with a trail of loose rock. The wind really picked up and made it hard to walk in spots; a couple of times I was nearly blown off the ridge.
At the top we had great view of the mount we had just climbed. Looking into the crater we could see the clouds coming over the ridge on the far side; then go into the crater; only to come out on the side we were on. It was very ethereal. Also cold, the only time I’ve put my windbreaker on was up there. In the center of the crater was a large knob; partly covered with vegetation, and partly exposed rock. There was a small part of the knob that was smoking. It was odd because the crater had to be thousands of feet across, but only a tiny part of it was active.
We were able to go down into the crater. There is a very steep trail that leads into the crater, with a series of ropes to help you down. Because the trail was just loose rock the erosion of everyone walking had created huge wash-outs, some around 5 feet deep. So, it was easier to walk on the side of the trail where people were cutting a new trail; in ten years the wash-out will be twice as wide. The bottom wasn’t very exciting; the best place was about halfway up where you could sit and enjoy the view of the basin.
The walk back took a lot less time than the walk up, but it still hurt the knees and toes. Unfortunately one of my teammates slipped and twisted her ankle, so she needed help coming down. But we all made it up and down. Then we took a swim in the ocean. It is nice having the ocean so close; it makes working out so rewarding.
This week we have begun our program tasks to make the school climate compliant. We have chosen four and are each in charge of organizing one.
Bio Char – This is making charcoal from wood we find and old lumber. The charcoal will be buried in the garden as fertilizer for the roots of the vegetables. We will make an oven to bake the wood into charcoal. All of the wood we use will be dead; no trees will be chopped down. Then we will bury the charcoal. This prevents carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere as the wood decomposes. Instead the gas is stored underground. When done properly we can even return some of the heat energy from the baking process by collecting the oil that is a by-product of the baking process.
Recycled Garden – In one corner of the organic garden we are building a garden out of reused items. We will use old planters and wheelbarrows as pots to plant lettuce, carrots, cabbage, and similar vegetables. We will also reuse other items to decorate the garden; things like old tires, bamboo, and scrap metal. Of course this will make the garden more beautiful, and give us more growing space, but it will also be an educational tool for visitors that come here. Also, we are having a competition in the school where students and teachers have to make something for the garden that is out of reused items. I will make a trophy for the winner.
Low Cost Irrigation System – We will make a gutter and irrigation system for the recycled garden. We will use old hose to make a drip irrigation system using the technique in the “40 Green World Actions” book. We wanted to make a gutter using old plastic, but Jesper is too protective of his plastic, so we will use an old gutter instead. Although we have an irrigation system for the garden, it was made using all new parts, and very expensive. The system we build will only have a few new parts; it will be an example for the Vincy’s in their own gardens. But I am sure it will be harder to build.
Worm Production – A previous team made a worm box, but it hasn’t been cared for. We are going to restart the system. We are not only going to build it to make compost for the garden we are going to try to breed the worms. This way we can add some to the garden to help aerate the soil. Unlike the worms we get for the garden at Gaia we are going to dig up our friends from around the school. I’m sure they’ll like the food we feed them better.
I will keep you all updated on the progress of these projects, and I hope to tell you more details about the environmental impact of the systems we install. I think some of them we can do in Chicago.
The trail begins in a chasm formed by a dried up river
Getting lost in the shrubs as we approach the top
Tools are precious here. We planted a wheelbarrow hoping to grow more
Sunsets are probably the most common sight around here
Rainbows are a close second.
This is the computer repair shop
We had an open house. Vincy’s came and learned the issues, and about the school
A friend I met
Halfway up the volcano
People leave old fridges all over the place.