Perils on the hiking trail
Instead of the usual scenario for hikers to be confronted by mischievous youths announcing a hold-up, it was the other way around for a member of the tribal Earth People along the Paria coastal trail.
Pepper, a man who has lived in the forests of Cachipa for 25 years and who is known to everyone who travels through the forests between Matelot and Paria, experienced shock for the first time in his life when one of two hikers left straggling behind their tour group pulled a blade and pointed it at him.
"I was coming from Cachipa that morning, and I met a group of hikers coming along the trail with a tour guide. The tour guide greeted me, saying, 'What's happening, Pepper; you still in the mountains?' We spoke briefly then he told me that there were two more hikers behind.
"I eventually met the two hikers, a man and a woman, and moved aside for them to pass. I usually step aside into the bush to give people the right of way to pass because they don't know how to look for mapepire in the bush like us forest dwellers. I do this to save them from harm.
"The man pulled out a blade, raised it and pointed it at me. I was surprised by his action but knew that I had to defend myself, so I took up my staff and held it in front of me.
"I asked him if he didn't recognise me as one of the indigenous people who has been in the bush for the past 25 years. He shouted that he didn't want to f------ know anything about that. He just cursed and didn't want to hear anything I had to say.
"When I reached Matelot, I was still upset by the whole incident because I am accustomed to meeting other groups and interacting with tourists, and not one person has ever said that I disrespected or interfered with him.
"It is unfair now that I should be so disrespected and threatened by people who come along the trail to learn about nature and enjoy it when I am a tour guide myself who tries to educate people about this part of the forest."
Pepper went on to say there are more indigenous people like him in the forest who have been there for more than 33 years, and they are just like other tribes all over the world who just want to live their lives in peace.
It is now the common practice by tour guides to take hikers along the trails in our forests without first dispensing the necessary relevant information about the area. Had these two people been informed about the presence and possible encounter of Earth People who live in these forests, at least they would have been prepared.
It is also an irresponsible and dangerous practice by tour guides to leave hikers straggling behind the rest of the group. An experienced assistant must take up position at the rear to monitor those slower-paced hikers. Had Pepper not been accustomed to groups traversing this territory and had he not been able to handle the situation at hand, things could have gotten out of control.
"I want the nation to know that we live according to the laws of life, and we just want to be left alone to live that life. People are always welcome to learn about the benefits we enjoy by living a natural life, and we only ask that our knowledge and living example be respected. Our motto is 'Just another day clean'. If everybody should do that, then we would have a better world."