The View from the Top of a Fat Lady's Stomach!
Location: Gorda Peak, Virgin Gorda Island, BVI
by Wayne & Karen Brown
This morning we flew from Anegada back to Virgin Gorda. Tomorrow we will be leaving Virgin Gorda to board our expedition ship, Yorktown Clipper. Before we leave Virgin Gorda we want to visit the highest point in Virgin Gorda, Gorda Peak.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered the Virgin Islands. He had never seen so many islands in one place before. He named all these islands the Las Once Mil Virgenes (The 11,000 Virgins) in honor St. Ursula's 11,000 martyred virgins of Christian belief. Columbus named this island Virgin Gorda or "Fat Virgin" because from a ship this island looks like a fat lady laying on her back!
Today we will be climbing up to the top of what Columbus thought looked like the fat lady's stomach. We rented a 4-wheel drive jeep so we can drive to Gorda Peak National Park and climb to the top of Gorda Peak. Gorda Peak is in the middle of the island. It is not hard to find because there is only one road that goes across the island!
We leave the airport, and drive the winding road that goes across the island. Then we park our jeep next to a sign that is at the start of the trail up to Gorda Peak. It is hot as usual here and our climb to the top will make us even hotter, so we are bringing plenty of water with us. We start our hike up the trail.
The trail has been cut through the forest and is surrounded and covered over by trees and other plants. This is not a rain forest like we visited during our expedition last year in Central America (From the Jungle to the Sea Expedition).The Virgin Islands do not get a lot of rain, so the plants that grow here are mostly cactus, yucca, scrub, and small trees.
We discover that the trail is a little tricky. It is not tricky to follow the trail. The tricky part is to keep from falling down! Rocks, large and small cover the trail. Tree roots catch our feet, looking like brown snakes slithering across the trail. Wait a minute! One of the tree roots moved! It is a brown snake, about 2 feet long! It seems like we surprised him as much as he surprised us! Before we can take a picture of him he quickly slithers into the brush and disappears. Even though the snake surprised us we really weren't scared of him because we know that there are no poisonous snakes in the Virgin Islands.
Further up the trail we find another reptile that is not so shy. We see a movement in the leaves next to the trail. It is a small lizard, about 5 inches long! It is brown with gold stripes on each side of its body. It freezes in place and watches us. Maybe it thinks we can't see him because he is so well camouflaged among the leaves.
We finally reach the top. Gorda Peak is 1,370 feet high. We had hoped to see Anegada, but the trees surround us so we can't see out. We continue along the trail at the top of Gorda Peak. We discover that someone has built an observation platform that stands high above the trees! We climb to the top of the wooden platform and are now above the trees so we can see all around us! Now we can look for Anegada!
We look to the north. In the distance we can barely see the white sand beaches on Anegada's south shore. Anegada is so flat it is hard to see. We can see why pirates liked to use the island as a hideout because it is hard to see.
We look to the west and see all the Virgin Islands, both British and US. These islands are easy to see because they are not flat like Anegada. Next week we will be visiting many of these islands on our expedition ship Yorktown Clipper.
It is time for us to hike back down and return to our jeep. We have to pack up everything tonight and get ready to leave Virgin Gorda tomorrow. In the morning we will take a ferry boat to St. Thomas and get on our expedition ship.
Join us tomorrow as we start the next part of our expedition. We will be joined by some student explorers as we investigate the nature above water in the Virgin Islands.
Wayne & Karen
Gorda Peak, Virgin Gorda Island
Position: 18º 43' N / 64º 22' W
Air Temp: 85ºF
Weather: light breeze, sunny with scattered clouds.
We parked our 4-wheel drive jeep at the entrance to Gorda Peak National Park and started our climb to the highest point on Virgin Gorda. (You can see Karen standing at the start of the trail.)
Karen looks back down the trail up to Gorda Peak. We have to watch our step because the trail is covered with rocks and tree roots.
This small lizard (about 5 inches long) we found probably thinks we can't see him. He is well camouflaged among the fallen leaves along the edge of the trail.
Karen stands at the top of the observation platform looking toward Anegada Island.
In the distance we can see Anegada Island and its white sand beaches. (Enlarge the picture and look for the thin white line in the water.)
Looking to the west we can see the British and US Virgin Islands lined up like beads on a string.