Mt Chaguaramal, 859m (2819 ft) situated in the remote village of Aripo is Trinidad’s fourth highest peak, and a climb to its summit will take one-and-a-half hours.
Concealed to the north of Chaguaramal is the tallest mountain El Cerro Del Aripo 940m (3085ft) and to the northwest is the fifth highest, Morne Bleu 848m (2781ft).
Recently, distinguished land surveyor Glenn Wilkes discovered another hidden peak located between Mt Chaguaramal and El Cerro, which he called Pico Escondido, however, a survey to determine its altitude is required. Mt Chaguaramal with its majestic and mysterious appearance seems like a guardian to the villagers of Aripo. It provides the necessary wild meat and today boys still set traps for semps (Violaceous Euphonia).
A noticeable feature while climbing the summit is the massive limestone outcrop, which shows that the area was once under the sea. The geological structures of the Aripo region consist of permeable limestone, which leads to the formation of caves. Joints and fissures in the rocks enlarged as the limestone is weathered by carbonation and dissolved. Rainfall seeps down and through the coral limestone until it meets a layer of impermeable clay.
Underground rivers, which flow beneath the coral limestone cap, deposit tiny crystals of the mineral. Over time the droplets of water create stalagmites, growing up from the floor and stalactites which grown down from the roof. Those that join from the ceiling to the ground are called pillars. Aripo is known for its caves, and many of them still need to be explored for Amerindian remains.
The cool humidity of the Aripo Valley produce some of the best cocoa in the world and other favourite crops cultivated are citrus, christophene and watercress. Other highlights on the trail are the manakins, the two species found are the white-bearded (Manacus trinitatis 11.5cm long) and the golden-headed manakin (Pipra erythrocephala 9cm long).
At leks, males of the white-bearded manakin make a snapping sound by flicking their secondaries and uttering a double whit-whip sound. They can be spotted lower to the ground whereas the golden-headed manakin stays higher in the trees.
In many of the Aripo caves nesting in colonies are the oilbirds (Steatornis caripensis), locally known as the guacharo. They are the only nocturnal fly-fruit eating birds in the world, and they eat the fruit of the moriche palms and tropical laurels.
The uphill climb to the summit although not long and over challenging feels like an accomplishment to conquer the pride of Aripo. The vegetation is undisturbed montane forest and elfin woodland along with some seasonal fruit trees. At the crest, there is a plateau and a concrete trig block along with a monument of the national flag.
Assembly: 7 am at Corner of O’Meara Rd and Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Arima.
Rating: 5 moderately challenging.
Hiking time: 1 - 1 1/2 hours
For more info: www.islandhikers.com