It was a good job that Ian did not accompany us the next day. I’d signed up for the longest of the bird monitoring walks, to an area called Letterbox. I am not sure it was the worst; apparently the scree run down to Spire Bay and the long steep climb back was the most challenging but it was relatively short. At the time of this visit, the closest road to the Letterbox was at the NASA tracking station. From here we were to make a sweep of most of the south east coast of Ascension. We arrived as early as we could, and the day started out misty with a drizzly rain blown in from the south east. From the car park you could just about make out most of our route, although it was obscured behind hills or down in dips in a few places. With Tara and Simon, Stedson had come with us. He helped out with the bird monitoring if he had to but he also wanted to check up on one of his plant restoration projects down on Letterbox itself.
We started just back from the NASA station opposite the Devil’s Ash Pit, a very easy track which ran along the edge of a crater called Cricket Valley, which was deep and coated with a unique ecology of dense scrubby plants. After about five minutes we turned off onto a narrow path, and that was the end of the easy walking for the day. This trail passed underneath White Hill and down a steep valley that would eventually drop into the ocean at Spire Beach. There was a path here but it was one foot wide, i.e. the width of my foot. The ground rose at a 75 degree angle above the footpath, and dropped sharply away on the other side; indeed the path itself was often at an angle. Now I do not suffer much with vertigo but I did get a nasty giddy feeling as I went on down. I had to control it because there was no room to sway around here. I was glad that the mist was quite thick as it meant I could not see much of the valley below, and my hand kept touching the wall of hill to my right just to reassure me I was still upright. Stedson pointed out another path which dropped away steeply from ours – this was the route down to Spire Beach. I saw what they meant about this being the most difficult walk and was glad in a way I didn’t have to head that way.
Our path curved around the north side of White Hill and eventually reaches much flatter land with more room to spread out. The mist was beginning to clear and I could see down to Spire Beach below – a beautiful bay cut off on all landward sides by steep cliffs. You could see why birds and turtles would think it safe to leave their eggs down there.