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The Spice Isle: Where trails are paved with nutmeg shells
"You can use it for tea" he says after picking the small leaf and handing it to me to smell.
There doesn't seem to be anything that Telfor Bedeau doesn't know about Grenada's plants. In the past 50 yards alone, he's pointed out trees that would've gone unnoticed as anything other than anonymous tropical trees. But now they're recognized as some of my favorite things in the world: guava, mango, cinnamon. I'm already imagining my next supermarket trip back home going a little differently.
Telfor would be considered spry for any age, but especially since he just turned 70. He celebrated the day by doing what he seems to do (and love) best: hiking up to the top of Grenada's highest peak, Mount Saint Catharine (2,757 feet).
It was his 157th time.
Known as the "Indiana Jones of Grenada," he reached the milestone of having hiked 10,000 miles throughout Grenada in 2005. Guiding since 1990, he hikes in jellies (plastic sandals) while everybody else on the trail relies on treaded sneakers and walking sticks. He's easy to extend a smile to everyone, and a hand to anyone who needs one.
It's not that I'm writing this to flatter him -- there's little chance that he'll read this, since he doesn't use a computer or have email. No doubt it contributes to his youthful appearance. That and all the hiking. And the fact that his diet solely consists of raw fruits and vegetables.
So it was with intrigue –- both in my hiking guide Telfor and the trail –- that I hiked to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls in Grand Etang National Park.
Gallery: Grand Etang National Park, Grenada
After paying EC$5 fee (per person) because the trail is on private property, we descend between plantations that are growing food I'm just getting to know for the first time, like callaloo and sorrel. We continue down steeper terrain where steps are made of large rocks, or clay that's reinforced by bamboo (which also grows along the trail and creaks in the wind at intervals). The path meanders through lush greenery of all shapes and heights –- ferns, banana trees, strangler figs, palm trees.
Telfor takes a swipe at a vine stock with his machete, to show me its hollow core. "It'll grow back," he explains. Such is the nature of these quick-growing plants here -- the first to sprout after Hurricane Ivan.
Areas that are muddy are mulched by nutmeg shells -- an ingenious use of the island's abundant throw-away. (You can even catch a subtle whiff of fragrance after the shells break underfoot.)
After rock-hopping across a river, we reach the two cascades of water, each falling into its own pool. There's room for lounging along the side, but most people seem to head straight into the waterfall of the upper pool. My preferred vantage point: mid-way in the upper pool, looking up at the steep cliffs on either side, covered in a mix of big-leafed, exotic greenery.
The return trip is the same route back. In this direction, you'll likely use the walking stick (on loan from the start) to help with the upward climb, rather than to navigate slippery sections downhill. I figure that the slower uphill pace gives me more time to look for the rain forest's mona monkeys and armadillos, but no such sightings.
If you want to replicate the Seven Sisters hike on your own, you can reach it by hiring a car or joining a tour. Or you can specifically hire Telfor as a guide for the day (US$40 for 1 person, $30/each for 2 people, $25 for 3+ people, regardless of how long the day is. Phone: 473.442.6200).
Alison Brick traveled through Grenada on a trip sponsored by the Grenada Board of Tourism. That said, she could write about anything that struck her fancy. (And it just so happens that these are the things that struck her fancy.) You can read more from her The Spice Isle: Grenada series here.