On the list of things to do in Trinidad, hiking El Tucuche doesn’t rank up in the “must-do” category for me. It’s not because it is lacking in beauty, lovely trailside waterfalls, interesting flora and fauna, but because I am just too damn lazy. I’ve hiked up El Tucuche twice in my life and that was good enough for me … especially because in that one time, I almost killed my brother when he decided to leave us and find a trail to the top, got lost, had to backtrack … without summiting and then proceeded to have us searching for him, while it was close to dusk at the top of the second highest peak in Trinidad on a rainy day.
If I knew now that, I could charge 100$ USD a person to lead people on the trail up El Tucuche, I would have surely changed jobs and become a bush ranger. There are some unique tree frogs and the signs will tell you so
- This is a tough day long hike of about 4 hours each way to Trinidad’s second highest mountain. This hike is not for the day tripper or for the stroller. It is a kick ass hike filled with possible hazards, especially if you’re doing this in the rainy season.
- There is no camping on the trail and it is paramount that the hike be completed in daylight, as you really do not want to be stuck on this trail at night. The recommended starting time should be 7am – if you start at 10am like I once did, prepare to run down the mountain lest you be caught in darkness.
- The hike starts at an elevation of 800 feet on an old donkey trail that takes you to a pass in the between St Joseph and Maracas Bay. It takes at least an hour and a half to get to the pass and here we leave the donkey trail to climb to El Tucuche’s second peak. On the way you pass through cocoa estates and emerge into Lower Montane Rainforest. At the turn off there is an old broken down shack where an old “Obeah Woman” used to reside as she was rejected by the villages. She practiced her own brand of various religions. She had a black iron cross that she stuck in the ground and claimed Christ would return to earth in all His glory there. She often moved the cross. The elevation is about 1800 feet here and there is just about half the upward journey to go.
Going up the eastern face of “El Tucuche”, the forest will change in character from Montane to Elfin, the forest shade will decrease and the temperature will get cooler. There will be the sounds of Toucans, Howler Monkeys, Cicadas and various birds filling the aural void. You might even see the mountain crabs ambling across the trail …
The slopes going up can get steep and muddy but the cool, clean mountain air is invigorating. Close to the first summit, the trees become shorter, and it is usually quite wet up here, even when it is not raining, and quite often cloud covered. Along the path to you’ll pass waterfalls in the wet season …
- The first summit is at about 2800 feet and has a 1000-foot cliff to one side. From a break in the vegetation the view is spectacular, when not cloud covered. Bathers can be seen at Maracas beach with binoculars even though you are several miles away.
The last push to the real El Tucuche summit is then made. Slipping and sliding up the steep, muddy slopes, it is a hard push to get to the summit, about 4 1/2 hours after leaving base camp. If it is not a cloudy day, you can get clear views of the Caroni Plains and swamp, the North Coast, and rest of the Northern Range.
- There are two ways to descend the mountain. You can either the plunge down the Western face along Caurita Trail or basically go back down the Eastern face to find your way home.
- Approximate Hike Distance: 4 mile each way
- Approximate Hike Duration: 9 to 12 hours return
- Highest Elevation: 3072ft
- Lowest Elevation: 500ft
- Approximate Total increase in Elevation: 2800ft
- Level of Difficulty: Difficult and Strenuous (Or as we say .. “it flecking hard”)
- Hiking boots or trail shoes are recommended as the trail can get quite muddy and slippery.
- Slippers are not appropriate
- Be prepared for rain, hence waterproof hiking sacks or bags are recommended
- In case of rain, ensure a dry change of clothes and towel in the car to change into for the drive home