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Grenada: A trek with Telfor

Looks can be deceiving. I’m standing before a tiny, white-haired man sporting a backpack, vest, faded beach shorts and luridly bright jelly shoes. This wasn’t the Grenadian Indiana Jones I’d been expecting.

Grenada: A trek with Telfor

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Roger, my guide, had described Telfor Bedeau as not only Grenada’s greatest hiker and naturalist but also one of life’s true adventurers — regularly undergoing ambitious feats of mental and physical endurance, from circumnavigating the island by boat to climbing Mt St Catherine — Grenada’s highest peak — twice in one day.

But it doesn’t take long to realise Telfor’s diminutive stature and calm presence belie a fiercely determined spirit. And at 73 years young, his nimble, wiry frame is moulded with honed muscle and sinew, confirming he’s not lived an idle life.

A one-time sailor, surveyor and rail worker, Bedeau began hiking in the early 1960s and has since traversed every mountain, trail and pathway in Grenada, clocking up well over 10,000 miles in 50 years. For the past 22 of these, he’s guided everyone from novice hikers to specialist trekkers to become the island’s leading expert and, thanks to his penchant for ambitious challenges, something of a local celebrity. Just minutes into our 40-minute hike into Grand Etang National Park in Grenada’s rainforest interior, he’s been recognised by several passers-by as “that guy”.

Telfor’s most recent feat saw him kayak over 25 miles around Grenada, to much fanfare, bearing a blazing sun and tumultuous seas for around 18 hours to complete his third circuit of the island. In the past two decades, he’s also windsurfed and rowed around the country and, to date, has completed 188 ascents of Mt St Catherine — when he hits 200, Telfor plans to hold a huge island-wide party.

He moves swiftly through the rainforest, deftly bounding down a trail towards the Seven Sisters Waterfalls — a series of interconnected falls — regaling us with vivid tales of his life and impressing with his unrivalled knowledge of the local flora that springs from the rich volcanic soil. He points out callaloo, bananas, papaya, wild peas, cinnamon, nutmeg and bamboo, and beautifully, bright heliconia flowers, noting the history and medicinal properties of each with inexhaustible enthusiasm.

The hike down to the falls from the park’s entrance, through a private plantation and thick rainforest, is manageable but increasingly muddy. Where I approach each step tentatively with the aid of stick, Telfor glides over the surface of the gnarled, rocky and muddy track with his well-worn jellies — plastic sandals he swears by as the greatest footwear for hiking.

As we approach the first, thundering, two-tiered falls, we’re greeted by another charismatic local, Super Butterfly, who for a nominal tip performs outrageously daring dives into the pools beneath the cascading water. After watching two impressive aerial back-flips, it’s time to cool ourselves off with a long swim in the deep, clear pools, washing away the morning’s mud, grime and sweat.

The hike down to, and back up from, the falls is merely a warm-up for Telfor, a man who thinks nothing of waking at dawn to stroll for miles before the day begins in earnest. As we part, I ask what he has planned next and he shrugs his shoulders with a nonchalant laugh. “I might go for a swim,” he says. But knowing Telfor, his kind of swim will likely be a gruelling slog to neighbouring Trinidad and back.

Telfor Bedeau private guided treks and hikes. T: 00 1 473 442 6200.