The following is a Field Trip Report of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club’s trip to El Cerro del Aripo. The trip was on 28th April, 2013 and is written by Reg Potter. It is an excerpt from the TTFNC’s quarterly bulletin, The Field Naturalist, Issue No. 2/2013.

The first rains of the season had started the day before and from the junction of La Laja road it was
evident that rain had fallen throughout the night.
The weather forecast had predicted rain, which
must have put off many members. At the junction
we picked up Jobe Millington and Denise Etienne
who work at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, and
when the rest of the convoy arrived we drove on
along the La Laja road which was a narrow paved
road with just a few pot holes. Parking location was
decided by Dan just before the last steep incline,
because of the damage to the road beyond that
point that made it obviously impassable to ordinary
vehicles. Parking at this point means one gets an advantage
of 1600 ft above sea level which is important
when climbing Trinidad’s highest mountain
(3085 feet). 

After the introductory talk by Dan we set off at
about 9.00 am along what was still a drivable road
for 4-wheel drive SUVs. This did not last long past
the first incline where we entered forest. Along the
way we heard Bruce Lauckner’s description of the
occasion back in the 70s when he and his party got
lost on the return from the summit and spent 2
nights in the bush. Helicopters were deployed for
the search but they managed to get out on their
own in the end. 

Curiously the forest in this area is not designated as
a forest reserve as one would expect. How or why
it escaped such protection I do not know, but we
noted some squatting properties. The trail soon enters
what certainly appears to be forest reserve as it
snakes generally northwards toward the ridge which
includes Morne Bleu and El Cerro del Aripo. At the
ridge the trail continues through a pass, down into
Brasso Seco, but our route was to the right where
we would follow the east-west ridge. 

The ridge trail is generally not difficult, having only
about three steep sections, and keeping to the ridge
is simple since any deviation will result in leaving the
ridge and descending. Only occasionally does the
ridge widen and the trail may be lost to such obstacles
as a fallen tree. All the ridge area and surrounding
slopes are covered with lower montane and
montane forest. Views are possible looking north into and across the Brasso Seco valley and to the
sea, but on the ascent these were obscured by mist.
A glimpse of Chaguaramal to the south was had but it
quickly disappeared in the mist. We passed the wellknown
“nursery log” – a fallen Bois Bande , Richeria
grandis tree that continues to send up new vertical
growth from its trunk. Higher up we encountered
prolific bamboo grass, Arthrostylidium sp., and wild
anthurium and as we neared the summit the Anare
palm Genoma is very common. Manac, Euterpe and
Gris-gris palms and tree ferns are also present in
abundance. Sightings of birds included Tropical
Mocking birds, Cocoa Thrush, Rufous-breasted
Wren, Trogans, Black-faced Ant Thrush, Little
Tinamou, and ‘Yellow-tail Cornbirds’ Orependola,
mainly at lower levels in the agricultural environment
at the beginning of the walk. 

Along the way we lost Stanley Araujo who after
struggling up the first steep incline, decided to stay
behind and make his way slowly back to the cars.
This was a wise decision and he was waiting safely in
the car park on our return.

The first arrivals at the top, Bobby Oumdath and
Denise Etienne, had a pleasant surprise when they
startled a deer that, of course, ran off immediately.
Some clearing of vegetation had been done by previous
visitors and the growth of grasses on the exposed
summit must have been the attraction to the
deer, which is normally a nocturnal feeder, and
which probably had decided this was a nice spot for
its day time nap. The concrete survey mark with its
brass plate was found to be loose in the earth which
does not bode well for its continued accuracy. We
had taken 3 hours to reach the top. 

On the summit while eating our lunch the rain
started more seriously. It became more than the
canopy could retain, so we packed up and started
the descent. This was uneventful, noting mainly the
improved view of Brasso Seco as the mist cleared
after the rain. One item of significance is the very
sharp ‘kink’ in the trail where it turns almost NE
again in its westerly descent and this spot is located
at the top of a branching ridge which descends to
the south, although this cannot be clearly seen in the forest. This is almost certainly where Bruce had
left the trail and descended into the Guanapo/
Sombasson basin when he lost his way in the 70s. I
had also wrongly turned off the trail on this ridge on
a previous Club trip, and only turned back when
others became alarmed at the unfamiliar ‘bushiness’
of the trail. It is well worth being aware of this potential ‘loss point’. 

We noted a very brazen example of squatting when
off the ridge and returning on the first portion of
the trail to Brasso Seco. This establishment is
shielded from view by a thin fringe of trees and is
located at 1186444 N, 691920 E. We found the
shack and cleared garden unoccupied at the time