Dominica: To Hell and Back

I should preface this post by saying I was the only one who didn’t want to go on this hike. Call me crazy, but 7 hours on a Stairmaster did not sound like my idea of a good time! Nonetheless, Sunday morning found me up and preparing for Dominica’s famous hike to the Boiling Lake.

This little… no BIG guy was up to greet us as well!  Luckily he was one of the only big insects/animals we came across! Yes, he really was THAT big.
The trek began with a drive through Laudat and lots of photo ops, thanks to our guide, Peter, the Bushman!
The beginning of the trail is less than obvious. We crossed a thin bridge, passing a wooden pipe that is used to generate hydro-electric power. (I’m so bummed this came out blurry!)

From there the walk was pretty leisurely through the forest.

Peter pointed out the flora and fauna: Tree bark that is used as an aphrodisiac, sap that is flammable, and lots of birds making beautiful bird calls.
We swung from tree vines.
Two at a time, we were able to lean over and look at Titou Gorge, where parts of the second Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed.  That’s water crashing down there!

As we went further up, the terrain became steeper and there were stair steps built into the hill sides, which helped to prevent falls in the slick mud. Though, “What goes up must come down, and what goes down must come back up,” as The Bushman liked to say!

We climbed up, then we climbed down.

After lots and lots of stairs we reached the summit of the hill we were climbing, which made for some great views of the surrounding hillsides.

We climbed up and down some more.

The Bushman liked to have us all pose together, knowing we’d be way too exhausted for photo ops on the way back.

We crossed over several streams and passed both hot and cold pools fed by small waterfalls.  We were also able to fill our water bottles from a freshwater stream.  Isn’t it great how that leaf is strategically placed to make a perfect water spout?  It was some of the best water any of us had ever tasted!

Then it was time to start down again.
Calf-destroying stairs gave way to steep slopes and awkward crab-walks as the terrain quickly became rockier and the smell of sulphur more pungent.  We were approaching the Valley of Desolation.

Coming around a bend, the Valley came into view.

That is steam escaping from the Earth’s crust through sulphurous steam vents. We also saw water of all different colours due to the different minerals in the water.

We each got a facial mask with mud from the Valley of Desolation, which really did live up to its name! The water Tony is standing next looks orange due to the sulphur in the water.

It was so strange to be walking through this smelly, Hellish place, and be looking at lush forrest in the background!  As we headed up the last stretch to the boiling lake, I looked back to see a black river (left) and a white river (right) meeting one-another in gray swirls.
As we made the final ascent around the corner, the rotton-egg smell reached a peak, and I knew we’d reached The Boiling Lake.

Another group photo and it was lunch time.  Unfortunately, this meal didn’t have nearly the draw that the homemade Italian one did when it practically pulled me up the hill that Amy and I biked through Tuscany.  However, it was just what a battered and bruised body needed! And with such great ambiance:
Rumour has it the lake maintains a steamy 235 degrees F at all times.

It did feel really good to have finally made it to our destination.  That pride was somewhat negated though by the knowledge that we still had to go all the way back!

The return trip went much faster and was punctuated with a few minor injuries and occasional dips in both hot and cold springs. By this point, most of us waded in with our shoes still on.  We were beyond caring… and it gave us a chance to try and clean all the mud off them!

When we finally made it back to Titou Gorge we’d travelled an approximate 12 miles (though some estimates are up to 16 miles!) and approxomately 4,000 stairs in 7 hours.  We earned a dip into the cold water at the Gorge.

Everyone tried swimming back into the Gorge to see the waterfall that was feeding the pool, and a few made it!  I tried really hard, but between the crashing water and my exhausted muscles, I just couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t worth it to drown in the attempt.  I did try to take a picture, but I had the camera attached to my swimsuit so I could use my hands to swim, and it was too difficult to get the camera above water level while keeping my head above as well!  This is as good as I could get!

When the swim was over we piled back into The Bushman’s van for the trip back to Ruseau, enjoying some much deserved Cokes, where we’d wait for Kurt to take us back to Roots.  Kurt was running a little late, so we made a pit stop at KFC.  That’s right!  Kentucky Fried Chicken!  And man, was it delicious!

It was a 2 hour ride back to Roots (and an unusal one at that) for our Brick Oven Pizza dinner, so I think all were glad we stopped for the snack.

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