Hiking to Avocat Waterfall
During this last week of the 2011 to 2012 academic year, Linda Francis, principal of St Augustine Secondary School, gave her pupils a day of outings to mark the completion of all the hard work in studying and sitting exams.
Some classes opted to visit auto-accessible sites such as the Pitch Lake in La Brea, others went to Siewdass Sadhu's Temple in the Sea in Waterloo and others headed for the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port of Spain.
Dean of Form Three Sharmilla Laltoo-Labban chose to treat her pupils to a day out, with a difference. Known for sharing her passion for nature with pupils under her tutelage over the years, Labban took her youngsters on a short hike to the Avocat Waterfall in Blanchisseuse.
For most of the pupils, this was their first outing to Blanchisseuse. Coming from urban areas, most expressed their amazement at the verdant forested hills around them. They stood in awe as they reached the clear waters of the Marianne River and saw the numerous Blue Emperor butterflies that flitted among
the Maraval lilies lining the banks of the river.
During their form two years, these pupils had embarked on a project called "Adopt-A-Space" where they transformed an unused area in their school into an eco-friendly meeting place for eating and socialising out of the classroom. They placed second and won a trip to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Arima, among other prizes.
This marked the beginning of a true appreciation of nature for these teenagers, who were further impressed by Laltoo-Labban's accounts of hiking to a series of natural sites around Trinidad. These pupils and members of their families now eagerly made their way down the Marianne River on a 20-minute hike to the Avocat Waterfall.
Near the confluence of the Gran Fond and Marianne Rivers, the pupils sprinted across the river and up the short trail to meet the waterfall on the other side of the hill, a short distance up the Gran Fond.
One pupil who had lived in the US since her childhood and had just returned home expressed her amazement at the 30-metre-high waterfall tumbling into a large pool. This was her first hike to a waterfall.
"Miss Labban, this is just awesome," she gasped.
Both the Marianne and its tributary, the Gran Fond, emanate from the mountains around the Brasso Seco community. They represent one of three waterways along the northern face of the Northern Range that begin there, the other two being the Madamas and Paria Rivers. These rivers nurture the heart of the Northern Range into a luxuriance that makes these valleys some of the most pristine in the area. These valleys feature lush tropical forests, lively rivers, gorges, waterfalls and forest pools like Avocat.
There were some 19 pupils present on the hike, from many different backgrounds with so many different stories to tell. Laltoo-Labban maintained a very responsible role in managing this 15-to-16-year-old group.
Some of the boys searched among the rocks for crayfish while the girls were content to bask in the ambience of this forest site. Those parents who accompanied the group assisted in monitoring the safety of all present.
When the time came for the return trek, the pupils were very meticulous in collecting their used material and placing everything in a large garbage bag. Several boys then volunteered to take the large bag out of the forest.
On reaching the assembly point, pupils were pleading with Labban to take them on another such trip very soon.