Hiking Diana’s Peak by Emma Thomson
Freelance travel journalist Emma Thomson visited St Helena in October 2017. Her articles have appeared in titles including The Telegraph and Metro. Here she shares her experience of hiking to Diana’s Peak.
I’m reclined on the bench outside the tourist office, eyes closed, soaking up the sunshine. “Gud morning, luvie!” chimes a voice. I lift my lids to see the beaming smile of our hiking guide, Val Joshua. “Ready to see Diana’s Peak?” she asks my fellow trekker, Leon, and me. We nod our heads vigorously in unison.
We hop in the car and wind our way out of Jamestown. But the sunbeams sink away with each metre we climb. By the time we park at the start of the trail, a spooky mist swirls around us. Undeterred, we lift up our hoods and start wading through the waist-height ferns. Val peels back a leaf to reveal the minute blushing snail (endemic) and admits the sail spider “hasn’t been seen for years.” Most fetching of all are the arum lilies – the national flower of island – that spring like white goblets from the greenery.
Hiking higher we reach fields of flax. Their leaves rustle like whispering voices on the breeze. So much so, that when we reach Mount Actaean I ignore the sounds echoing from the mist-shrouded valley below. “Send us up some good weather!” Val hollers into the abyss. “Are you sure they’re not shouting for help?” asks Leon, concerned. “Nah, they’re just working,” laughs Val.
After a few hours we reach her peak. “Diana offers some of the best views of the whole island,” says Val. The irony isn’t lost on her as we scan the horizon blotted out by fog. I’m still chuffed we’ve made it, so we open the post box and mark our signatures on the limp pages and stamp our notebooks – proof we were here.
As we coil the car back down the hill, the mist pulls back to reveal blue skies. “Pull over here, love,” says Val. I park the car in the bosom of a large bend and we clamber out. “Come and see this,” she waves, walking towards a thick outcrop of flax and disappearing inside. I follow and, peeling back the rough leaves, am met with a jaw-dropping emerald vista of rolling hills with Lot’s Peak glinting in the distance. That’s the beauty of St Helena – she’ll sweep you off your feet when you least expect it.