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The Guanapo Gorge located at the Heights of the Guanapo region is a spectacular place worth exploring. It is a favourite destination for hikers and those looking for a river adventure. What makes this natural wonder so appealing is its magnificent rock formations. A visit through its channel is loaded with lots of exciting fun challenges. The Gorge which is four hundred metres in length is enclosed by steep walls of pre-historic rock. In some sections, its passageway is narrow and V-shaped with bluff slopes created by lateral river erosion.
Its rocks are magnificently carved by the kinetic energy of the river into colourful prehistoric shapes. Over time they become superbly polished with smooth and shiny surfaces. Interlocking spurs occur on the slopes of the inside of each bend. They jut out giving an interlocking appearance that divides the gorge into compartments. The rays of the sun, shining through the narrow passages give a heaven-like appearance.
The gorge is nested in a secluded valley between Lalaja to the north and Guanapo to the south. The downstream energy of the river has penetrated the landscape to form this breathtaking canyon. The source comes from Trinidad’s highest peak El Cerro Del Aripo (940m). As it cascades into the valley, the river force intensifies to combine with other tributaries from the Lalaja foothills.
The entrance of the gorge can be accessed from two routes. The first is a steep descent from Lalaja located six miles north of Arima, on the Arima, Blanchisseuse Road. The second and preferred route is from the Guanapo Quarry situated at the end of the dusty Guanapo Road. The trek from the quarry to reach the exit point or mouth of the gorge will take an hour.
Growing wild and abundantly alongside the bank are locally called Maraval Liles (Spathiphyllum cannifolium) with their oval-shaped, large, dark green, and glossy leaves. Their flowers are white to pale yellow, folding backward in order to expose the slender spadix which is ivory in colour. Another noticeable flower that brings brilliance to the forest is the Black Stick or the Cardinals guard (Pachystachys coccinea) with its red petals on terminal spikes.
The landscape at the mouth of the gorge is enhanced by towering bamboo. This is a good area to leave the bags for the start of the exploration. A tributary to the right flows into the main river to form a small confluence where the turbulence has formed a shallow pool. Exploring the channel of the nearby tributary will lead to another fascinating destination the Tombasson Waterfall. For those not wishing to venture inside the gorge, the mouth is a good area to spend time relaxing.
Getting to the gorge entrance requires an additional twenty-minute hike through the thick canopy of the evergreen forest. The boisterous call of the bellbird can be heard echoing throughout the trees. Exploring the gorge requires firstly, jumping into a deep pool. Once inside there is no getting out and the only way out is downstream. The journey through its channel is full of fun and excitement. It requires one to jump into pools, paddle through the water and climb over obstacles of fallen debris. Sometimes seen in the river are the giant lobster-like crayfish which play hide and seek between the rocks. They breathe through feather-like gills and are members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastocoidea.
The exploration and hike to the gorge will take an average of 5 hours and the one-way distance to get there is 3km. To avoid the risk of being trapped in the canyon by unexpected flash flooding it is best to venture there during the dry seasons when there is less heavy rainfall. As a safety measure life jackets are always recommended.