For years we have been talking about camping in the crater of La Soufriere, dreaming of what it would be like to call a volcano home for a night under the stars. On the afternoon of Thursday the 4th of October 2018 was when that dream started to come true.
Note, p.c. abbreviated under photos dictates photo credit.
Kai Best, Tolga Akcayli and I stepped onto the trail, each laden with gear that indicated we weren’t just out for a walk. Vibrant with energy we all share our excitement on the trail. We start chatting “We might be talking about this for years to come” I said. Very fittingly Kai sang the phrase “ One billion man talk it, one man walk it” Tolga then exclaimed “ Yooo that’s my new instagram status boy”.
It took us 2 hours of hiking up the trail from the base to our camp sight. Light was dying fast and we were still making sure everything was in place for the night to come. At this point not even a sprinkle of rain had hit us (which was a poor indication of what was to come). We pushed the anchors as deep into the soil as possible and mounted the ‘rain proof’ cover. The first gust of wind came as we carried on and it quickly demonstrated that the anchors wouldn’t hold in something serious. So, we strategically threw all of our equipment, food and water inside to hold it down as we evaluated this very parachutey looking tent.
With the tent up and running, I sprinted as fast as I could over rough rock and bush to meet the ‘lip’ of the crater where we can see the horizon of the Caribbean sea. By the time I got there this photo above was all I could capture with just a glimmer of light left behind the cloud rolling in. The far away clouds had already consumed the adjacent hillside as I stood there looking away from my only security of the elements, I turned around and saw the tent was being swallowed by a yet another cloud that spiraled into our crater, and I knew it was rain. I again sprinted as fast as I could towards the tent. The rain stopped 3/4 of the way during my dash for cover, but the thing about that is even though the rain stops, its still VERY wet. The vegetation and soil hold water so well that anything that touches it becomes soggy, including my pants, boots, camera and most of my jacket.
I spent the next hour trying to place all my now wet gear in places where it could dry, which was futile. The wind and rain moved the top of tent around like a boxer dodging punches in a fight. It bopped and dipped relentlessly, allowing little sentient drips of water to fly there way inside like cunning mosquitos.
Well into the night. after teasingly strong gusts of wind subsided, we ventured out into the dark to find anything that would hold the edges of the tent down, hopefully so that the wind would not find its way underneath the base of the tent. In case the wind got any stronger, the weight would be preventing our tent from potentially giving us an amateur kite surfing lesson. What Kai cleverly found was to use heavy and perpetually wet soil and shrubs as weights on the most important anchors which sit facing the wind. But as soon as he finished anchoring the most important side of the tent, Kai just then said “Boy let me just put these shrubs round the whole damn tent to make sure ” which ultimately saved our backsides from the lightning storm that was to come.
Between 07:30pm and 5:30am is when it all got very real. Lightning and thunder lit up the the entire crater every other moment with a roaring crack to remind us that nature was very much in charge, all the while the rain and wind picked up with increasing intensity as the night went on. During this critical time I didn’t take a single photo, nor did any of us move without a hell of a good reason, reasons which mostly included having a pee. I vividly remember it raining for hours upon hours with wind fighting our tent, while I lay there wondering if the boys would mind if I had to pee inside, luckily I never had to ask them, the rain subsided and I checked the time 10:10pm. I had been staring at the ceiling of the tent for almost 3 hours without a wink of sleep. I stepped outside only to find myself staring at the wall of a cloud I couldn’t see more than 15 feet (3 meters) in-front of me, when I realized surely this is what inside a thunderstorm looks like. I carefully ventured away from the tent with my light and my cutlass, looking back every two steps just to reassure myself that my home was still there, which was assisted by the flashes of lightning. During my pee just far away enough from my temporary home, all of the wind subsided and it went eerily quiet. A very magical moment passed over me where I realized I was standing in a volcano crater, inside of a thunderstorm. I began to think it was near most peoples bed-times in St.Vincent, and my mind started to wander like one’s mind does before they fall asleep. I wondered about what I had and what I wanted in life at times, where now all I really just wanted was to be warm, dry and safe. I stood there vulnerable alone with my thoughts, hours away from home, but a few ounces lighter. I turned my head 360 degrees in awe of the moment. This moment of magic was brief, because I was acutely aware the rain could start anytime within a flash. I slipped back inside and slumped onto the cold hard tarp floor. From then intermittent lightning flashes paced the silence, one of which was so close it had my cousin shaking. I laid there, staring at my cousins glow in the dark watch dancing around with his shivers up until the time reading 4:05, where I then managed to drift off to sleep.
05:05am came the worst of it all. I was woken from a brief sleep by being lifted into the air and dropped onto the ground, I couldn’t figure out what had just happened until it happened again. The wind managed to pick my side of the tent up, I looked over to see Kai holding his side, braced against the wind. I said to him “Dred, I have to hold my side of the tent down, it just flew me into the air big man” He replied “ Yeah man, so glad you are awake, I've only just been holding this down an hour” he replied in a sarcastic tone. After catching up with the boys on our situation I now understood three things and nothing else mattered, the wind was getting very strong, it was getting very wet and very cold. But sunrise was up soon, for the next hour we would battle the wind with our bodies holding up the tent.
We held the tent while Tolga boiled tea. If we were to move it could of very well slapped the tea out of his hands which would have been both mentally and physically painful to loose our only hot source of anything. Feeling the tea against our hands was such an unusual feeling after 12 hours of cold. This was the point where where we had enough time to actually look at each other for any length in the daylight without a rude slap of the tent , we then noticed our breaths were condensing in the cold air before we drank our tea. Which made me think of how cold the middle of the night must of been if the warmer daylight could still fog our breaths.
Because of the wind pushing the cover off the tent it was easy to look outside, which means the rain was really getting in at almost an upside-down angle. All we wanted at this point was for the rain to stop so we could go outside and see what we came to see.
Kai’s expression says it all, we were still in the crater, about half way done our trip in fact not even having taken the tent down, but we felt like we already won. We made it. Now we had to embrace the win, and by luck, the storm that caused us so much grief took away almost all of the clouds and gave us a view to never forget.
I slung my camera over my neck and began shooting, to see what I might have only dreamt of before. From here the photos will do most of the talking.
This is a trip I will never forget. The dreams, the realities, and how it takes an extraordinary step, for an extraordinary adventure. Stay safe everyone, but live large. Thank you to Kai and Tolga for helping with documenting the process and making this possible.