Trail Pace Journal –
17th December, 2015

I did the hike to Highland Waterfall with
Nick and Rose in the afternoon the day we arrived in Tobago. Coming from Mt.
Irvine Bay (where we snorkeled) on the Arnos Vale Road, we passed through Les
Coteaux then turned onto the Mason Hall – Les Coteaux Road. From some research I
knew that the trail started along a river and from Google Earth, there was only
one valley between Les Coteaux and Mason Hall. Thus, when a bridge came into view, we knew we found the trailhead. 

We then turned onto a paved road on the eastern side of the bridge.

This road turned into a dirt track and
became quite narrow with bamboo patches lining the route. As we were in Nick’s
pickup, we continued on this path and eventually stopped at a ford. The river
was shallow and narrow but the route ended only a little further after the
river crossing so we decided to proceed on foot from there.

As we began walking along the river bank,
we noticed cow droppings on the route. I was bare feet as I didn’t anticipate
us doing this hike after going snorkeling so I had to be extra careful where
walking. Around the first bend in the river, there were two large mango trees
along the trail which were covered in bromeliads and hanging mosses; it was a
lovely sight. Further along, the trail became lined with various fruit trees
and we gained some elevation from the river bed. Suddenly, something came out
from the bushes into the middle of the trail a little distance in front of us.
Rose and I went closer to it and to our surprise, I realized it was an agouti that
stopped to feed. We quickly got out or cameras and got a couple photos before
it noticed us and scurried away.

The trail then descended to the river and generally
disappeared. From this point onwards, we just followed the river upstream,
keeping to the banks where possible. We crossed the river several times but
didn’t have to get more than our feet wet. As we made our way, we began seeing
cows on either side of the river. They were tethered but we kept our distance
from them. Even though they seemed peaceful, I didn’t want tomorrow’s headline
to read “hiker trampled by cows.” Most of them just kept on munching
on the grass as we passed by or looked at us curiously. However, there was one
instance where there were two cows on either side of the banks and a calf at
the river’s edge. We paused for a while and surveyed the area but realized
there was no easy way around them. I then decided to pass by the calf and hope
the other cows didn’t think I was a threat to it. I approached cautiously but
the calf moved away clearing the path for us forward. Higher up, there were
some bushes with thorns which we had to walk through and as I was barefoot, it
hurt quite a lot.

Eventually, the banks opened up and we were
greeted by a large pool. The roaring sounds of the waterfall could be heard but
the view of it was blocked by a gorge. I climbed up on the rocks on the right
side of the gorge fairly easily and from there, I got my first glimpse of
Highland Waterfall. It was an absolutely incredible sight with the water
spilling over one side of the rock face then crashing into another and
cascading down into the plunge pool. Rose followed me up but Nick went through
the gorges and went under the waterfall. For some reason, I didn’t realize how
tall the waterfall was until I saw Nick being dwarfed standing next to it. Rose
and I went down to meet Nick after taking a couple pictures.

I had to wade through the gorge as it was
actually quite deep but as I got to the plunge pool, the water was only about
waist high. Looking up at the waterfall was breathtaking and the waters were so
inviting. The warm afternoon sun was doing a good job of keeping the usual coldness
of mountain rivers away. The pool wasn’t very large but there was enough room
to splash and frolic around. We spent a good time there swimming around and
relaxing in the gorge before deciding to head back out.

On the way back, we noticed a trail on the
right heading up on the valley sides which Nick thought we should follow to
bypass the cows. We did so for a while but realized that the trail began
turning away from the river so we decided to head back down. Had to go down a
steep spur to get back to the river but we made it back safely. Probably wasn’t
the best idea to divert from the river but so be it. Back at the vehicle, Nick
had to reverse for some distance before finding enough space to turn around.
Driving back out, we recalled our snorkeling adventure to Mt. Irvine Bay and
then our hike to Highland Waterfall and it seemed like our Tobago experience
was getting off to a great start.