5. Journey's End
At one point, the twisting narrow track winds in a large loop around a steep ravine. Some of the group take a short cut. They scramble down the stony slope to splash through the shallow water at the bottom and climb up to wait for us on the other side.
Here, in the mountainous heart of the island the Vieux Fort River, the River Ger, the Troumassee River and the Canelles River all have their beginning. As long as the forest is there, these rivers will continue to flow. As they make their way to the sea they carry water to the people, the gardens and the fields of the dryer lowlands.
Our own journey is almost over. The path is wider and the trees that we are seeing now have been quite recently introduced. Blue mahoe, Honduras mahogany, and Caribbean pine shade the path where we walk. Fallen pine cones cover the ground. Each one holds dozens of little seeds within its polished brown case. From the lower branch of one of the trees a flycatcher watches us pass.
Now we are in a clearing with buildings and billboards and the first people we have seen since we started our walk. We are surrounded on all sides by the beauty and splendour of nature. Our bus is parked on one side and we pile in hot, sweaty and tired from the hike but happy and content. Our forest walk is over. For three and a half hours we have been in another world. Now we must return to our own.
We drive down the winding road through Fond St. Jacques passing plantations of coconuts and cocoa, citrus and bananas. We reach Soufrière and start the long drive back up the winding West Coast Road to Castries. Back to the noise and the dust and all the traffic and to all the places that we have made ugly by our misuse of them. With us we carry the memory of tall trees, a heron's flight, a parrot's cry and tree frogs singing in the middle of the day.