You would assume that after three years of hiking on eight square miles nothing can surprise you no
more. But not in St. Eustatius. My favorite area to hike is Boven National Park and together with my
hiking partner we took of early, the first daylight just starting to show. The first part of the route we
went fast and in less than two hours we were overlooking the tidal pool. Like a sponge we soaked up the
sound of the northern swell, a sound both addictive and terrifying at the same time. After at least an
hour of this soothing spectacle we climbed back up and continued our hike to North Point. Graceful
frigate birds and red-billed tropicbirds accompanied us. The coastal line stops abruptly, leaving you to
gaze into a depth, showing the stones in the clear sea far below. We walked as far out as we dared until
a stomachache prevented us from going any further. We tried to see where the red-billed tropicbirds
went. At that moment we see them disappear somewhere right below us, but the precipice is too steep
to see where exactly they entered their nest in the wall. Sometimes they need four attempts and the
only way we knew that the birds entered their nest is not seeing them circle back out. After watching
these touch-and-goes for a while our legs got restless again. With my back to the Atlantic sea I am
impressed with the massive part of Boven rising in front of us. The big boulders far above resemble faces
with asymmetric eyes, crooked noses and drooping mouths like ancient gods suffering of brain
hemorrhage. They seemed to call out to me.
“What about we go straight up, along that goat path?” I pointed out.
“That looks pretty steep, don’t you think?” replied Leontine.
“Far less steep than what is behind us.” I smiled. Leontine also smiled and I cannot tell you how
happy I was (and still am) with my hike partner, always in for something new. We started walking and
climbed from goat path to goat path until we reached the foot of the first boulders.
“I see goat droppings”, sounded the enthusiastic voice of Leontine. She started climbing and
carefully picked her way between the smaller and bigger boulders.
“Don’t cheer too soon. Goats are better climbers than we are.” But I was glad she took the lead.
We climbed and we climbed. The sun started to burn in my neck. I expected to see the top now, but
another row of boulders towered above me. I hesitated.
“Don’t look back, I take small steps and I avoid the big boulders and I go, and I go,” I heard
Leontine saying as if she was speaking to herself. Or was she trying to encourage me? I am not a hero
with heights. I love to climb but looking down makes my belly hurt and my stomach twist. I stayed right
behind Leontine and my hand almost touched her heel. She stopped.
“I think we are stuck.” I moved myself next to her. We were so close. I climbed a bit to the left,
but that boulder was too smooth and too big for us to safely pass. Above the boulder towered the man-built wall we wanted to reach. A goat looked at us in utmost surprise. Not many people come here these days.
“We have to turn and look at the right side.” I said, but I felt less brave than my voice sounded.
“We have to go down a little bit and then try again. I saw a spot with an opening between two
boulders. Maybe we can crawl through there.” But to reach the opening we had to climb down, making
us face the wide-open space of the distance and depth we just ascended. Just climb and do not let your
thoughts take over, I kept repeating and repeating in my head. Before I knew I was on my knees, on
both sides protected by two big safe boulders, my ancient gods. When I looked up, I saw Leontine
climbing over the stone wall. Hah, familiar territory those walls, surrounding the whole platform at the
lowest side of Boven. Two big steps and I also jumped behind the wall. We looked at each other and we
“We did it!”
“Am I happy to be within these walls. They really give you a feeling of protection.” Was
that the reason these walls were built in ancient times? We strolled along the stone wall while looking
out over the sea again. No stone is the same and they are stacked, seemingly randomly, without any
glue or cement to keep them together. Yet this wall, marking the boundary between North Point and
Booby Point, has stood here for centuries and endured many hurricanes. We walked past it with respect.
The sun now burned relentlessly. We walked in the direction of the top of Boven, passed a jungle and
imagined ourselves starring in the movie of Indiana Jones. All shadow, a nice breeze and trees with roots
growing down from the branches. Suddenly tired, we decided to take a lunch break while overlooking
Saba. Embraced by the roots of an old tree a power nap was natural.
Rested, we decided not to go to the top but instead, we walked and climbed around the top of
Boven in the direction of Jenkins Bay. Again, we saw boulders, faces, and various trees. On this side of
Boven, mighty gum trees between mighty boulders dominate the scene. We felt small. We passed a field
of blooming aloes and we wandered around. A grey kingbird watched us coming but stayed put and
gave us time to observe his elegant outfit. The silence was deafening. Suddenly Leontine yelled.
Excitement in the air.
“Come and have a look!” Expecting a red bellied racer snake, knowing that snakes give her the
creeps, I walked towards her. She was standing in the shadow and at first, I did not see anything special.
Then I saw it. A large cistern, an ancient water reservoir, built with natural stones, mixed with flat stones
and bricks. The inside plaster looked unaffected by time, but this cistern must be at least three hundred
years. We walked around it and were further impressed by boundary walls and tamarind trees. Here
must have been a settlement. Tamarind trees were planted in the old days to provide shade for man
and cattle. We found another rectangular construction plastered from the inside. What was it used for?
It looked solid and beautiful. We felt grateful, close to nature and close to history. Where in the world
can you make hikes like this? We climbed down a gully and encountered another gully between Jenkins
Bay and Venus Bay. It is almost dark when we finally reached the car parked at the entrance of Boven
National Park. We felt thankful and like having an ice-cold beer. When we reached Rita’s Bar we poured
one out for the gods.