Stacy, Jeanette, and I were going to do the six waterfalls hike so I got up at six. After helping Stacy with some chores down at MERIP we met Jeanette and jumped in to Eileen's pick up truck (the one Stacy and I have been borrowing for the last week plus) for the drive to Kolonia. In town we meet up with the people who had organized the hike - a random collection of expats (lawyers, bankers, a couple tourists, etc - and convoyed out to the trail head. About an hour out Stacy asked me to drive because the road had turned ugly - dirt, with lots of mud and hills and she wasn't very comfortable with it. I found the driving very stressful (it's been a long time since I've tried to drive on roads like that without four wheel drive), but we made it. There were a couple steep down hill sections that seemed to be made of wet clay - I was convinced it would only take a little rain and we wouldn't make it back. My main comfort at this point is that we had picked up our guides - there must have been more than ten of them (there were eight hikers) - so if we did have a problem getting out we'd have plenty of muscle power to help!
The hike was through very dense rain forest. Several of our guides carried machetes and occasionally they were used to clear the way. Several of the guides also carried sling shots and one even had a .22 rifle with which they bird hunted along the way - it was kind of disconcerting because every time we stopped the women and children would pull out little bird (small finch size) carcasses and rub the feathers off. It took us a hard hour of hiking through terrible mud to get to the first falls. It was a tallish single drop fall into a large pool surrounded by lush greenery. There I discovered the real advantage to this kind of hike - six waterfalls meant at least six stops to swim!
From the first falls to the second falls was a quick five minute hike along the river. The second fall was really something spectacular - a perfect fancy three tier cascade that looked almost to good to be real. Another five minutes got us to the third - another beautiful single drop cascade. From the third to the fourth falls the hike started to get really difficult lots more steep muddy sections and several slippery river crossings - including at least one spot where I gave up my backpack to one of the guides and swam. After forty-five minutes we got to the fourth fall - another Hallmark Card like beautiful three tiered
When we continued on it was just a short ten minutes to the fifth fall. The waterfall had a long top drop, then split into three small drops - very nice. From the fifth to the six waterfall was another long 45 minute slog, including a couple places where swimming was required. Near the falls there was a narrow overhanging canyon with the river gently flowing through - way to deep to walk - swimming through felt like it was part of some water amusement park attraction - again, it was just to perfect! The final waterfall was the shortest of the falls we'd seen, but it was located at the end of an incredibly green box canyon - very shady, and almost grotto like. We stopped for a long swimming break and by the end (to my amazement) I was getting cold.
The hike back to the car too nearly two hours and was pretty tough - no convenient swim holes, lots of ups and downs, and, of course, a lot more mud. Jeanette twisted her ankle which was scary, but she pushed on (and was a lot faster than I was). Back at the car I was very nervous about the drive back to the paved road, but it went very smoothly (actually a very bad choice of words) and we had no problems. Back in Kolonia we spent at least an hour going to all the shops first looking for tape for Jeanette's ankle, and then cottage cheese (so we could make lasagna). We eventually found some tape, but there doesn't appear to be any cottage or ricotta cheese on the island, though we did find ice cream. Rather than jam all three of us (all smelling very ripe) into the cab I rode back to PATS in the back. Most of it was standing up (much easier on the body through the bumpy parts) and I was amazed at how different the perspective was - I saw tons of things I'd never noticed before, I didn't even recognize a lot of the road!
Back home after I had a very necessary shower diner was already over, so I met up with Stacy and we had leftover quiche at the place she was house sitting. Power goes off at eleven, so I ended up walking back in the dark and everything looked so different (I swear that I had never seen some of the buildings) that I got a little lost. I could see the lab lights (MERIP has 24 hour power) so eventually I just headed cross country giving up on finding the road and I made it.