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November 20, 2012

Hikes and history in Barbados

Hikers going through grassy fields, with beautiful vistas in the background. Photos courtesy Hike Barbados.

If we were asked to come up with a way to combine a healthful hike with historical tidbits, we couldn’t have done better than the Hike Barbados programme. Run by the Barbados National Trust, Hike Barbados takes locals and visitors on three-hour treks across the island to enjoy the open air and learn more about the island’s history.

Not a seasoned hiker? Not a problem.  There are two hikes every Sunday. The 6 am morning hikes are divided into quirkily-named groups according to varying levels of difficulty:  Stop ‘n stare (6 miles), Brisk and fast medium (c 10 miles) and Grin ‘n bear (c 12 miles). The afternoon hikes begin at 3:30 pm or at %:30 pm it it’s a moonlight hike, and all hikers proceed at the ‘brisk and fast’ pace. All hikers should expect some hilly terrain on their walk.

Although the group started with only 12 committed hikers in 1983, Hike Barbados has evolved into a national treasure, birthing several other private and corporate hiking groups.

“It is estimated that more than 8000 Barbadians and visitors annually experience Hike Barbados,” said William Gollop, one of the Hike Barbados organisers. “The objectives of the hikes are enjoyment, exercise and, most importantly, education. We educate Barbadians and visitors to enjoy and understand the amazing country which is Barbados – its scenery, people, plants, animals, architecture, beauty, ugliness, history, geology, the sun, sky, weather, hopes and its fears.”

The group also hosts an annual hiking event in February, called the Great Train Hike. This event honours the late Dr. Colin Hudson, an inventor, naturalist and a healthy lifestyle pioneer who was so dedicated to the sport that he hiked every Sunday, in all weather conditions, both morning and evening.

The 26-mile Great Train Hike starts at 6 am  at Independence Square, a short distance from where the main train terminus was once located. Hikers follows the train line through the parishes of St. Michael, St. George, St. Philip, St. John, St. Joseph to ‘the end of the line’ at Belleplaine in St. Andrew. Remnants of the line still exist and many of the train stops can be identified. Parts of the hike also take participants along the part of Barbados’ beautiful Atlantic coast.

“The beauty about the hike is that hikers can do all 26 miles all at once – the avid hiker completing the ‘ride’ in five hours – or at an even pace in seven hours,” Gollop explained. “The other option is completing the distance in stages. Just like the train, you may board or disembark at any station and resume the hike the following year at the point where you would have disembarked the previous year.”

For more information about Hike Barbados, please contact the Barbados National Trust at natrust@sunbeach.net.

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