Chas­ing Wa­ter­falls or Ban­dits?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Re­cently I’ve come to love some­thing other than the sun, sand, sea and salt wa­ter of Saint Lu­cia’s lovely white sand beaches. There is so much more adventure in chas­ing wa­ter­falls deep in the lush, trop­i­cal rain­forests of the is­land. The air seems fresher and the ex­pe­ri­ence more re­lax­ing, at least to me. When I do go wa­ter­fall chas­ing with a girl­friend or in a small group, my par­ents sit home wor­ry­ing and those friends who stayed back try call­ing, then start to panic be­cause there’s no ser­vice in the heart of the is­land.

Of course, I know it’s hardly a safe prac­tice for young women, in par­tic­u­lar, to go any­where alone on this is­land, far less deep into the for­est. There’s al­ways the risk of run­ning into strange men who can­not use their pri­vates and phys­i­cal strength re­spon­si­bly, as well as those who may be suf­fer­ing from the eco­nomic cri­sis and VAT. The lat­ter seems to be more preva­lent at wa­ter­falls since nu­mer­ous tourists have been re­lieved of their valu­ables whilst vis­it­ing wa­ter­falls in the past.

In De­cem­ber 2009 four­teen tourists were robbed at River Rock Wa­ter­fall in Anse La Raye. The rob­bery was com­mit­ted by lo­cals. The sit­u­a­tion caused may­hem and cast a crim­i­nal light on Saint Lu­cia by some of our most val­ued tourism cus­tomers. Even more re­cently, in De­cem­ber of last year, the keeper of the pop­u­lar New Jerusalem Falls in Soufriere was ad­mit­ted to St. Jude Hospi­tal af­ter be­ing beaten by three masked ban­dits. Mr. St Prix was try­ing to res­cue tourists vis­it­ing New Jerusalem Falls from the rob­bers but came off worst.

God’s beau­ti­ful cre­ation of crys­talline wa­ters melo­di­ously top­pling over a precipice of rich earth and crash­ing with grav­i­ta­tional force into its des­tiny be­low is al­most off-lim­its to de­sirous visi­tors be­cause, well, other peo­ple find dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties in the same area.

Vic­tims of rob­beries and sim­i­lar crimes near wa­ter­falls are not lim­ited to tourists only, our lo­cals get a blow too. The most vis­ited wa­ter­falls are lo­cated in Soufriere in­clud­ing To­raille Falls, New Jerusalem Falls and Pi­ton Falls. Although the po­lice were un­able to com­ment or pro­vide sta­tis­tics specif­i­cally about in­ci­dents at wa­ter­falls in the Soufriere area, a few own­ers and care­tak­ers have claimed that on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions their visi­tors have been trau­ma­tized by rob­bers lurk­ing in the bushes on the way.

The more se­cluded and not as vis­ited wa­ter­falls could be har­bour­ing dan­gers other than snakes. Lo­cals and res­i­dents have ad­mit­ted to at­tacks and rob­beries along the trails to some but not all wa­ter­falls. They are quick to em­pha­size to ques­tion­ing visi­tors the need to be safe. “Just make sure you ladies have your cut­lass or a knife to go in that bush,” I re­mem­ber one in Den­nery telling me be­cause “some dan­ger­ous peo­ple up there some­times.”

How­ever, most owned wa­ter­fall lands are pro­tected by care­tak­ers to en­sure a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment for their visi­tors. New Jerusalem Falls is in­cluded in that list - staff have en­sured that se­cu­rity is in place espe­cially dur­ing pub­lic hol­i­days to pre­vent an­other in­ci­dent sim­i­lar to last year’s. Oth­ers like To­raille and La Tille say that they have yet to ex­pe­ri­ence that kind of trou­ble.

Then again, sim­i­lar crimes oc­cur in the con­crete and tar streets of the city. It’s just a mat­ter of be­ing as mind­ful and pre­pared as pos­si­ble when go­ing on an ex­pe­di­tion.

Bushy ar­eas near wa­ter­falls have in the past served as hid­ing places for crim­i­nals. Only a few care­tak­ers have taken steps to spruce up se­cu­rity at these at­trac­tions.

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