We are still in Roseau, Dominica. Not only because it is a beautiful place with friendly people, it is also the best place to access the south of the island and its several jungle and mountain hikes, dive sites and waterfalls.
After visiting Champagne Reef on the south point of Dominica we decided that although it is a significant impact to our budget we have to do some diving on the island. On Wednesday we had already made arrangements for visiting Victoria Falls so we scheduled diving for Thursday.
The hike to Victoria Falls turned out to be a rather wet adventure. The path to the cascade follows the riverbed of the White River that originates at the Boiling Lake and derives its name from the sulphur that gives its water a whitish colour. The river has to be crossed several times during the hike, the crossings getting increasingly more difficult and deep, soaking every one of the party completely once we reached the falls. To access the pool that the water falls into we had to conquer a barrier of slippery moss-covered rock. We were rewarded with wonderful sights of the majestic waterfall and a bath in the cool water.
Returning from the hike we had lunch in Moses’ Rastafarian Restaurant. Despite the appearance of the kitchen, it was probably healthy vegan food from the garden surrounding the place, served in calabass dishes, eaten with a coconut shell spoon. Next time we would probably choose to eat our own picnic but it was an interesting experience anyway…
We were accompanied on the hike by a minibus-load of French yachties. Ben and Katia, a nice young couple and their visitor, were willing and able to communicate with us in English and we agreed to keep in touch and eventually organize another hike together to save some money by sharing costs for guide and taxi.
On Thursday morning we called Aldive – a local dive company that we had been in touch with the day before as they passed the boat. They had obviously forgotten about our arrangement but picked us up from the boat only 15 minutes later. We had chosen to invest the money for a dive after snorkeling at Champagne Beach and seeing the untouched state and impressive variety of the local coral reefs. Diving here is expensive because instead of doing it on our own we are forced to spend a fair amount of money and engage a local dive operator.
Looking back, the two tank dive was well worth the money. Our equipment and Gaylyn, who had some weight problems getting along with the lighter aluminium tanks and her new gear, was taken care of very well. We where guided along a wall that sloped down into seemingly endless depth. It was full of beautiful hard coral and we were surrounded by a variety of fish. The dive-site held up to what its name promised: The Abyss. The highlight of the dive was a turtle patrolling the wall. It was surrounded by the air of calmness that makes turtle encounters so special.
The second dive led us around Champagne Reef into more shallow water. The place resembles a magical underwater garden full of colourful corals and creatures. Dive Master Rudy even managed to find the promised seahorse for us.
Coming back from diving we tried to get our outboard motor to work. We had been trying to organise a tour to Boiling Lake and wanted to visit our new French friends to team up with them. The Yamaha motor refused to cooperate but luckily Ben paid us a long distance snorkeling visit. He accepted our invitation for a sundowner and dinner and swam home to get the rest of the crew. Later on Craig, our guide from the first tour, and his son Keanu were dropped of on the boat and joined us for a beer and to negotiate the conditions of the tour.
The Boiling Lake tour is said to be the most strenuous of the major tours on the island. After climbing a steep and partly slippery trail through lush rainforest it then crosses a high ridge and descends into the Valley of Desolation. In the valley the tropical vegetation is boiled and poisoned away by several hot springs emitting gushes of boiling water and steam as well as white and deep black streams of sulphuric sediment. The valley is partly hidden in clouds of foul-smelling steam. The colour of the soil varies between the white and an intense yellow sulphur washed out of the underground and the red colours of the surrounding rock. The valley is drained by a stream of warm whitish water that is collected in several pools along the way – inviting the wanderer to a hot bath.
After about 3 hours of strenuous hike the path ascends to the actual Boiling Lake. The lake resembles a crater of approximately 60 meters width and is filled with steaming hot water. From time to time a gust of wind pushes the steam aside allowing a view of a strong bubble of hot water rising in the middle of the lake. Our guide Bamboo climbed straight down to the shore of the lake to heat up his lunch in the hot water. Meanwhile my legs, rather untrained from 9 months of life on a boat and an Atlantic crossing with hardly any movement, felt like jelly. I was more than worried how I would accomplish another 3 hours of hiking back to civilisation. My fears came true on our return. The ascent from the Valley of Desolation was extremely steep, it made my legs refuse my command and and I was forced to stop every 20 paces to allow my heartbeat slow down to an acceptable frequency. Luckily, I had asked Bamboo for a walking stick that he had deposited somewhere on the way on a previous tour. It helped me on the ascent as well as on the descent which was just as steep and often cut into the slopes with partly very high steps built of slippery wooden logs.
Pretty much limping, we arrived at the start and endpoint of the track, the Titou Gorge, already mentioned in an earlier article, and cooled our steaming feet in the cold clear water. Our Taxi driver was already there but had another couple which he was taking to Trafalgar Falls. So after restoring our strength with a rum punch on the way we ended the hike in the hot pools of the Trafalgar Falls. A strenuous but unique tour. Our guide Bamboo joined us to the boat for a couple of beers, rum punches and dinner giving us an insight into local culture, politics and gossip.
Today we are taking a day off – moving slowly on our sore legs and restricting activity to the very necessary moves.