Union Island, Mt. Taboi & Big Hill

As you sit at anchor off Frigate Island in Union, look up to the left of Ashton and you will see the islands highest point, Mount Taboi 304 meters above you. It is the highest peak on a hills range. Let your eye follow this hill line towards Ashton and you will see it dip, then rises to another lower peak right above Ashton often known as Big Hill. Think how it would be to be up there way on those peaks, high in the air with the world laid out below you. Then put on your hiking boots, or your toughest sandals and head out.

The trip from the dock in Ashton to Big Hill and back is probably around an hour and half, allow another half an hour at the top. If you decide to go all the way to Mount Taboi as well, you will need an extra hour or so each way.

From the dock in Ashton walk up the main street past the road to Clifton till you see on your right a guest house with a big wall with conch shells along the top and on your left F & M Mackie’s Mini Mart. This is a good place to stop and buy a bottle of water, or to take a cold soft drink from Merle Mackie to see you on your way. A few steps beyond Mackie’s on the other side of the road is the Kingdom Hall of the Jehova’s Witnesses, a more modest building than the image conjured by the name. Right opposite this building is a road that leads uphill. Follow it right to the top, where it turns into steps, continue up these steps up to next road and the continue climbing the few steps on the other side of the road that appear to lead nowhere. Continue directly up the grassy slope (you can pass either side of the small bush stand ahead) and you will come to a clear and rather good path which winds up the north side of the hill. If you have any path divisions just keep left. There is considerable shade on this path especially in the morning where the hill keeps blocks the sun and the dry woodland trees are well above your head.

You emerge at the top into a partially cleared field that rises to the ridge. Near this ridge on your left hand side look for the path that leads again into the woods. Follow this up to the top. Just before the top is a fairly large rock face, the path follows this up to the left. You come out onto Big Hill peak that runs quite a distance is both direction and at various points offers panoramic views straight down onto Ashton and the abandoned marina, and over the island to Mount Olympus (the Pinnacle) with Mayreau and Canouan in the distance. Don’t get so enthralled with the view you forget to watch your step because the path here is narrow and heavily bounded by prickly pear cactus, devil nettle and even the toxic Brazil. Parts of the path are steep and slippery.

When you get back down as far as the ridge, you can see Mount Taboi inviting you to further explore. As you can see the very top of this mountain is a giant slab of rock with sheer cliff facing you. The path from here is usually unclear, variable, and often no more than a few goat trails, so you need to be a good at navigating bush. Prickles, typical of these dry areas, abound, and if you do not carry a machete, you will likely gain a few scratches (I did). You basically follow the ridgeline up until you enter woods and then emerge in another open area used for grazing cows. After this feel you way – find what paths you can. You need to skirt round the north side of Mount Taboi so you can approach it from the far side where it is not sheer cliff. The views from the top are magnificent, you can see all around even down onto Chatham Bay. My friend Janti (Happy Island) went up one late afternoon, and darkness found him still there. He realized descent in the dark would be impossible so he spent the night on the peak. He said it was cold.