barbados church Hiking isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I hear the word ‘Barbados’. Like most, I envision white sand beaches shaded by palm trees, along a coast of turquoise water. Beaches abound, but I was determined this time around my visit would include something different, that no honeymooner, retired vacationer, or even locals might not know about. Going on an early Sunday morning hike with a cousin provided just that. I discovered there is much more to Barbados when you go further up and further in.

Our day got off to a rocky start. I woke up late, which put us behind schedule and my cousin in a foul mood. We left my aunt’s house and sped down the desolate and narrow roads of Christ Church to arrive in St. John, nearly missing the 6am ‘6 mile stop and stare tour’ departure time. As we arrived in the parking lot of our group of 15 people had just set out, and had to run to catch up to them. It was an eclectic group; there was the father with his three young sons, all wearing taqiyah, or prayer caps. As he walked they followed dutifully behind, like little ducklings all in a row. There were the two women who mentioned they were on the hike as way to get back in shape. The older British couple and their adult children on a family vacation and a few others. Then there were those who, like me, wanted to explore Barbados, but not in the typical touristy way. Our guides, 2 friendly local men in headbands, held makeshift walking sticks and casually shuffled along, as if out for a morning stroll.

Barbados has long had the reputation of being ‘a flat island’ in the Caribbean. People from other parts of the English West Indies love to tease Bajans (colloquial for Barbadians) about this, using their own island’s natural mountainous beauty as bragging rights. But they would soon change their tune if not too out of breath after the trek led by our guides who, I discovered, may have been nearly twice my age, but also twice as in shape. They took us through fields of sugar cane that towered above our heads, up steep hills with old windmills and down through slippery gullies with rocky terrain.Barbados View from Parish of St-John

It all culminated in reaching the highest point after our 3 hour journey: St John’s Parish Church. From the grounds of this gothic style church built in 1836, we witnessed the break of dawn from a cliff overlooking the east coast of the Atlantic as the sun glistened over sea and sand, rooftops and treetops for miles around. Embarking on this free adventure made me feel as if I got to know the real Barbados, not the one made up of sun umbrellas hammocks and colorful drinks on the shoreline. I discovered the beauty doesn’t stop at the beach. Put down the rum punch, leave the coastline behind, and delve into the island’s interior and you’ll find out it’s been hiding a secret right under its tropical sun.

Tours depart every Sunday from different locations around Barbados at 6 am, 3:30pm or 5:30pm and last roughly 3 hours. They vary in intensity and are divided into categories based on hikers’ experience levels. All hikes are free, but Hike Barbados gladly accepts donations to help preserve the environment through the Barbados National Trust

 

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