Week of November 2-9, 1995
Fear not the volcanoes of New Zealand
Montserrat's the spot for Caribbean cycling
Q: I would like to take one to two weeks in February/March and do some mountain biking. I have thought of the Caribbean because I'm inclined to the warm weather, but there doesn't seem to be a plethora of mountain biking there. Can you recommend a place, either in the Caribbean or United States where the temperatures will be in the 70s or 80s and there are ample trails?
A: Your best bet is to head down to mountain-bike-friendly Montserrat, 39 square miles of lush rainforests, waterfalls, and sawtooth mountains--and one of the Caribbean's least-developed islands. Fat-tire devotees come for the tortuous terrain and the friendly competition: The annual Mountain Bike Challenge, a week-long festival sponsored by Island Bikes, is being held this year from November 8-15. Whether or not you're around for the festival, you'll have no shortage of challenging trails to choose from. One of the most spectacular off-road routes is a day-long trip through the South Soufriere Hills. You'll get your warm-up on the climb to the top of 1,700-foot Galway's Soufriere but will have ample time to catch your breath as you race downhill through head-high ferns and bamboo thickets. From there, you'll cross elfin woodland, steep gullies, and banana fields before ending with a rollercoaster ride over the Centre Hills back into town. If all this grueling exercise makes you long for a real bed, book yourself a room at the Providence Estate House, a secluded bed-and-breakfast plantation home; expect to pay anywhere from $77 to $92 per night for a double room (809-491-6476). For bike rentals, detailed trail maps, and route suggestions, head down to Island Bikes in Plymouth, Montserrat's only real town ($25 per day, $140 a week; 809-675-1945). And, before you go, be sure to check out the Montserrat write-up in the "Leeward Islands" section of our winter Travel Guide, online and on newsstands now.
Here's one final tip: participants in the Montserrat Mountain Bike Challenge get special rates from American Airlines. Call (800) 237-7981. Ask the representative to consult Starfile N, Display BIKES95, or for more information contact Susan Goldin at (809) 491-5552 or Goldins@candw.ag