Exploring Mt. Liamuiga
Stories of Christophe Harbour: ADVENTURE
My legs ache and my knees are weak. Did I really just hike to the top of...a volcano?
We woke up early, before the sun, and set out for what was sure to be a long and exhausting day. As our car pulls to the base of the mountain, we take it all in and look up. It may only be a three and a half mile hike, but it's almost 1,800 feet to the crater lip. The tops of the trees rise overhead like giants, coaxing us up into the mist.
We put on our gear and meet our guide, O'Neal, who prepares us for our challenge: the hike to Mount Liamuiga’s volcanic crater. And with that, we start out - in the rainforest, the mist magically rising from a tangle of deep green trees and plants whose names sound like a language from a secret place.
Rays of sun appear through the canopy overhead as if from a dream, sparkling as they wind their way through the mist. The whole world is waking, and we with it.
We eagerly follow O'Neal's lead, carefully avoiding the slippery roots and moss-covered rocks. Along the way, O'Neal frequently checks on us with a smile you cannot help but return. He thrills us with stories of his father and grandfather, who hiked these same hills and taught him about the flora and fauna that inhabit the "Valley of the Giants."
We take breaks to learn about the beauty that surrounds us: great, prehistoric-looking trees, their massive exposed roots reaching out like giant hands, regal birds soaring high above the canopy. I lean into the trunk of one to center myself against its ancient strength; others take a rest on the roots.
As I do, O'Neal brandishes his hiking stick and begins to tap out a melody on the roots. He "plays" the roots like his own xylophone. The sound is deep, hollow, and soulful – an ancient chant from a nearly forgotten time.
- 3,792 ft (1,156 m)
- Crater Lip
- 2,700 ft (822 m)
- Cloud Forest
- 2,500 ft (762 m)
- Trail Head
- 1,500 ft (457 m)
- 1,792 feet Vertical Ascent
- 5 hours Hike Time
- 3.5 miles Hiking Distance
We forge ahead, scrambling up and over rocks until we finally reach the top. From here we can see the ocean, the caldera, the entire rim of the volcano, and below us the crater lake. We scramble over a rocky outcrop to the right of our path and watch in amazement as the crater seems to inhale the passing clouds like a puff of smoke. It's incredible (and totally worth it). Before long, we are heading back down the mountain, our muscles burning. It takes some time and a few careful shimmies down some rocks and roots but eventually we return to the base.
At the end of the journey, we are tired, wet and muddy, but also proud - the cuts and scrapes our badges of honor. Today, we accomplished something incredible. Today, we conquered the "Valley of the Giants."