Christoffelberg 372m

Christoffelberg, also known as Mt Christoffel or Mt St Christoffel, is the highest hill on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. It hardly ranks as one of the world's significant mountains, nor is Curaçao an obvious destination for the hillwalker since this is the only summit of any note. However it gains a place on my pages partly just for being an enjoyable climb and partly because I could find no other helpful reference to it on the net. It lies within a National Park where access is restricted to the hours of 8am to 4pm. It will also cost 25NAF per person to enter the park although it is worth searching the tourist handouts for money saving vouchers. These restrictions should not be seen as wholly negative since a good trail is maintained to the summit without which the ascent would require machetes and protective clothing against the profusion of particularly vicious thorn bushes.

A bus (destination Westpunt) leaves Otrabunda at 7am and every 2 hours thereafter. An early start is recommended but you will get hot and sticky anyway so the 9am bus may be most practical. This had the advantage, for us at least, of avoiding a large party of schoolkids who had presumably come by private bus. We met the crowds coming down and enjoyed the summit in solitude. Also avoid Sundays when the number of buses and by implication the number of visitors is doubled.

At the visitor centre is a map of the trail. This starts by undulating through the forest and the mountain soon appears as shown in the first picture. Beyond a parking area the real climb begins. Colourful lizards dart into the scrub in all directions. To the untrained eye by far the most spectacular plants are the red centred Bromeliads. A couple of clearings provided with benches give retrospective views across the trees. Towards the top the climb steepens abruptly and the well marked way winds up amongst rocks with a few awkward steps aided by conveniently situated trees, their trunks worn smooth by many clutching hands over the years. The route finishes up a rocky rake which emerges somewhat dizzily above the trees and you realize how far you have climbed. In a few moments you are at the summit, an area of large rocks, one crowned by a trig point, with views across the forest to the coast in all directions. Because this hill is so much higher than everything else the prospect can hardly be called spectacular.

There is now little choice but to reverse the route of ascent but beyond the carpark we followed the vehicle route marked on the map as 'short cut'. Since vehicles can only use these tracks if accompanied by a ranger they are not overcrowded. in fact we met only lizards and a beautiful black and yellow bird which we later identified as a Golden Oriole. This route took us amongst some of the giant cacti which are characteristic of the area and the final picture shows the mountain from this road.

After returning from this trip I found Reis naar Curaçao, Christoffelpark., an excellent page of pictures mainly of the wildlife on Christoffelberg with a description in Dutch

Also worth a visit is the tourist board site Curaçao - Christoffel Park

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