‘Have you climbed Mount Christoffel yet?’ Was a question that we had to answer daily in Curacao. Everyone who we spoke – whether a tourist or a local – wanted to know it. Mount Christoffel felt like a must do in a way stronger meaning. A must do in the sense of ‘If you don’t do it, you haven’t seen the island properly’ and in the sense of ‘You can’t skip Mount Christoffel, it’s the heart of Curacao’. A local man told me he was ‘proud’ of us being such good tourists. He normally sees tourists going straight to their beach resort from out the airport, without making the effort of seeing something of the island during their stay. These tourists only have one goal: returning home with a tan. Still, Mount Christoffel is a highlight of the island, and while many tourists forget that Curacao is the home of some wonderful nature areas, a lot of the foreign students DO make the effort to climb the mountain. Some slightly unprepared – still wearing their beach clothes and flip-flops, some wearing proper hiking gear.
Of course we were planning on hiking Mount Christoffel. I always appreciate a good hike, I believe that it is the best way of experiencing a nature area and I have a soft spot for mountain views. I told my boyfriend months before leaving that he had to ‘reserve’ this activity for me in stead of hiking it with friends or colleagues – my boyfriend spent two months on the island for his work. So he did, and so we planned a friday morning of hiking Mount Christoffel – we’d picked friday morning because it would be clouded – and less sunshine means less difficulties during the hike.
It had to be a morning, if you’re wondering. After eleven o’clock you can’t access the mountain anymore because it would be to dangerous climbing it in the burning sun – Curacao has a standard temperature of 32 degrees. The hike that would lead us up to the top of the mountain only took about 50 minutes. But in that hour my endurance would be properly tested. The problem was, that only within 50 minutes, you’d have to climb 400 meters while sweating like a pig because of the heat. I’m guessing that a mountain like this in The Netherlands (if only we would have mountains) would be fairly easy to climb. But the heat.. the heat is what made it so difficult.
The first half hour of the climb was nothing else but a steep walk. Me and my boyfriend, both familiair with hiking, started in a fast pace – determined to make it within 50 minutes time. But quickly I learned that my endurance (I used to run 10 kilometers without any difficulties) wasn’t as good as it used to be. I was colored red like a tomato, and in desperate need to catch my breath. However, I didn’t want my boyfriend to notice I had a hard time with the hike so I tried my hardest to keep up with him (quite hard as he serves the army and has a WAY better endurance than me).
The path was getting steeper and steeper, and after half an hour we noticed that we barely walked the path but in stead were climbing it, from rock to rock. It seemed hard, as the rocks were so big, so massive that it felt like we were actually mountain climbing in stead of hiking (the photo above exactly describes what we had to climb). But as the climbing part required different muscles and was done in a slower pace I could finally catch my breath again. With my super long legs I found it easy to climb the rocks which made it that the second part of the hike was way easier than the first part.
While not seeing anything that looked like the top of Mount Christoffel we heard more and more people saying ‘Almost there!’. I kept climbing, putting my hands on the top of the rocks, quickly followed by my legs. I was so concentrated on climbing that I didn’t notice that I bumped into a woman, who stood there, making photos. I turned my head to see what she was photographing when I finally saw it: there were no more rocks to climb, there were no more trees surrounding us. There was nothing more than air around us, the rest of Curacao was 400 meters below us. We’d reached the top of the Mount Christoffel.
As hard as the hike seemed during the hiking and climbing itself, was as quickly as I forgot it when I saw my view. From ocean to ocean, from North to South, from mountain to mountain… The view was incredible. (You can’t see the view very good on the photos but trust me: the view was definitely there.)
After enjoying our view for about half an hour we returned to descend Mount Christoffel. The descend was fun: we jumped off every rock we earlier climbed, we raced down paths that we (read: I) earlier struggled to hike, and we saw views we missed before. We spoke the same as others did to us: ‘Keep up! You’re almost there!’. We yelled and we talked to other hikers and we even stumbled upon an old friend, who coincidentally spent his weekend in Curacao.
Mount Christoffel was definitely a highlight of my trip to Curacao, and I now understand why everyone asked us if we would climb it. Because really: you haven’t seen Curacao if you haven’t seen Mount Christoffel. And to those tourists who only spend their days in a fancy beach resort I would have one thing to say: you’re a fool.