Currently, we are resting up from a major six hour, roller coaster hike to the Boiling Lake high in the volcanically active area of Dominica which is proudly claimed as the second largest in the world. My calves and thighs are reminding me that we have been getting a little soft with the Atlantic Crossing. Despite the unavoidable discomfort, the hike was truly worth it. The rainforest was beautiful and we could hear all types of bird calls. The last kilometre of the hike led us down to the Valley of Desolation which resembled the gateway to hell, (not that I’ve been there, but how I would imagine it to be).
The lush greenery was replaced with a desert as a result of sulphur oozing from the earth. Hot springs were bubbling away creating streams leading to the boiling lake. Hot spurts of steam burned your ankles if you stood in the wrong place. At the sides away from the actual springs the vegetation changed to low grasses that were clumped together. A large land slide had recently altered the landscape. The rainforest continued to thrive to the side of the valley and there a beautiful stream cascaded amongst the rocks. Its aqua coloured appearance hinted at the tepid waters within. We got to swim there on the return hike, relaxing our weary legs. Unfortunately, we still had another two hours to go.
Once we were at the Boiling Lake we could overlook the valley on the other side amongst the clouds. Every now and then the clouds would rise and one enormous bubble would rise from the centre of the Olympic pool sized lake covering about 20% of it. It was quite a spectacle. Our guide, Bamboo, climbed down the bank to the lake and placed his lunch in the hot water to cook it, using a stick to hold the plastic bag. The lake is fed by various springs and then runs into the opposite valley feeding the Victoria falls, amongst others. We were lucky enough to have visited these two days before. The smell of sulphur reminded me of places throughout New Zealand. Everyone here knows a fair bit about New Zealand because the biggest boiling lake is there. The small number of tourists here, and especially in the Valley of Desolation, was a lot different though, (with the exception of ‘Cruise Ship’ days when the locals earn a lot of their salary).
We now understand why it is important to purchase a ‘good looking’ pair of hiking boots as when carefully navigating a mountainous and muddy terrain, one spends a vast amount of time peering at one’s feet. This also accounted for spotting the only bit of wild life that we got to see on the path – a 20cm long centipede. Upon its discovery, our guide, Bamboo, wanted to take it to later put it into a bottle of rum. This supposedly being a natural replacement for Viagra, (They seem to claim that a lot of their fauna and flora can be used for this, including Sleeping Weed in rum. Actually, the rum seems to be the common ingredient).
Our hike to Victoria Falls was unique also. Upon hearing that there were five river crossings I assumed they were the cute kind that you rock hopped over to the other side. But, NO. They were up to the top of your legs and navigating through slippery waterfalls. Each crossing became more treacherous than the last and several members of the group slipped and took a dip. Our guide, Jones, bounced around the path like a rock wallaby. Towards the end of the hike we had to stretch up and pull ourselves over large boulders. I can thank Thomas for dragging me up onto most of these. I don’t think I would’ve had the strength or height to do it on my own. We helped balance each other on the river crossings also. My wrists were quite sore afterwards, (he’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey so I think he’s getting a bit rough, lol).
The reward was a beautiful moss garden and the roaring falls landing in quite a large pool at the end. Although it wasn’t hot, it was a comfortable temperature as it was being fed from the Boiling Lake. We had an organic vegan stew with rice at Moses’ ‘Rastaurant’ for lunch where the hike began. Most of the contents were from his own garden which was overgrown in many places due to the high rainfall.
On the day in between our hikes we went for two dives with a local company. This was arranged through negotiations after calling passing boats over to our boat, discussing the rates and inclusions. After enjoying snorkeling at Champagne Reef so much, we decided it would be a nice dive. We also did a wall dive off Scott’s Head at the southern end of the island. Rudy, our dive master, did a wonderful job looking after us. My new wet suit and BCD that Thomas had given me for Christmas had changed my requirements for weights. We also used their aluminium tanks so they were lighter too. Rudy was very patient as we sorted that out. After seven minutes on the surface, Thomas was timing, I finally sank down to enjoy the wall.
Tree type corals seemed to stretch out to grab at you as they swayed with the current. A huge variety of fish were darting in and out of different plants and corals carrying out their every day chores. We caught sight of a few moray eels and Rudy played with a tagged turtle that moved majestically through the water. Our second dive was back at Champagne Reef and it was way better than our snorkel. It was the best dive I’ve ever had and it was like a botanical garden. Small outcrops of coral and plants were in amongst the sandy bottom. Rudy managed to seek out a sea horse and brought it to us. He wrapped his tail around our fingers. After returning him to his home plant, Rudy found a lobster in a small cave as well. The light was perfect for the colours of the corals and fish. Watching this society busily swimming about their business was like an alien world. We went to where the bubbles were surfacing from the ocean bottom and Rudy showed us where to place our hands to feel the change in temperature. We were unable to sustain the heat for very long.
Only the need for a few vital provisions has called us to shore and we enjoyed the bustle of the colourful markets.
On the way to the bus stop on the way home we spotted a guy selling drums and I was on the look out for this. I wanted to buy one for Thomas as he’s always drumming something. We chose a nice medium sized bongo for Thomas and the maker of ‘Moon Bongos’ is making a smaller one this week for me. I’m looking forward to jam sessions on the boat. Bring a musical instrument if you come to visit us or you might have to just play the tambourine.
One of the things I love about Dominica is the way they run their business. It is all run on honour and with a population of around 70 000 people, everyone just about knows everyone else, or is related to them at least. People come to the boat to negotiate different things that you might want to do and the local marine authority worker runs messages between the companies for us and comes over every now and then to say hi. Locals are entrepreneurial about life and on the way to town they will have BBQs out with chicken, mangoes and home sweets to purchase. In the morning we saw a guy selling juices to passing cars. There was no pull off area, he would just run out to a stopped car in the middle of the road. The market also gives locals an opportunity to sell their home crafts and cooking. Even though Thomas has covered most of the same events, he has made the effort to write an article in English and I highly recommend that you read this and view his gallery of photos from the last few days. At www.etnur.net