"At the top is a bubbling cauldron of steam which periodically clears to reveal the huge bubbles of the boiling water, heated by the magma beneath..."
Dominica is not known as ‘nature’s isle’ for nothing. We completed an awesome trek to the boiling lake this week - the second largest hot lake in the world, enjoyed a trip up the protected Indian River and explored the Red Rocks of the north east coast.
The trek to the boiling lake in the south of Dominica took us through beautiful green rainforest and up into the greyish landscape of the volcano, puffing steam out of its vents, bubbling hot grey mud pools and spewing warm sulphur-yellow waterfalls down its rivers. Steep and slippery in places, it was well worth the trek! At the top is a bubbling cauldron of steam which periodically clears to reveal the huge bubbles of the boiing water, heated by the magma beneath. We were pretty knackered on our return and enjoyed a nice cup of local coffee at the bottom.
The next morning we set sail for the short journey to Mero, a sandy beach halfway up the west coast. It was a beautiful sail with calm waters, but a decent breeze and we only needed the headsail to move at a good pace. It was a nice gentle introduction to sailing for Luciano’s sister. The beach is quite dark sand and so too hot to walk on in bare feet, but we had a lovely time, paddleboarding, swimming and walking (in flip flops) to the next beach where we came across a giant boulder painted in all different colours. We also caught up with our guides from the river tubing, who live in Mero and had a beer with them while listening to the live music jamming on the beach.
From Mero, we sailed to Portsmouth in the north of the island. We went on the beautiful Indian river boat trip. You must be taken by a guide who must row - the use of outboard engines is forbidden as the river is protected. Our guide, Alexis talked us through all the different types of trees and animals along the river and explained how a lot of herbal medicinal knowledge was passed by the kalinago to the Dominicans of African heritage. The kalinago still live in Dominica, in a reserve in the north east of the island and Alexis had a deep reverence for the local knowledge they have passed on and fervently believes in the healthful properties of natural unprocessed local foods, the healing impact of being in the forest and this is why he has never wanted to leave Dominica, as so much of the island remains unexploited and has been protected in national parks. When he retires, he wants to build a cabin and live in the woods.
The following day we took a bus to the village of Calibishie. From here it is a short walk to the Pointe Baptiste Estate. This estate was set up by Elma Napier, a Scottish aristocrat who settled here and became the first female politician in a colonial Caribbean parliament. She wrote extensively about Dominica and was a contemporary of Jean Rhys (author of Wide Sargasso Sea) and fellow writer and politician Phyllis Shand Allfrey (who wrote The Orchid House). One of her grandsons has converted the estate to manufacture chocolate - and of course we bought some of the delicious bars made with local flavours, such as lemongrass. Another of her grandsons, Lennox Honychurch. became a historian of Dominica. The estate is set on a cliff high above two beaches, one of white sand and one of black, which gave the name Black and White Sands to Elma’s memoir of her time in Dominica.
We walked down to the beach and clambered over the rocks and swam in the sea. From there we visited the Red Rocks, a smooth red geological formation with passages in the canyons and little caves, feeling like little explorers. In one narrow passage we looked up and saw some plants overhanging above us, lime green against the bright blue sky. And there buzzed the wings of a dainty hummingbird. We walked along part of the the trail back over to the estate boundaries and came across the woodland graves of Elma and some of her family members, simple stone outlines in the forest. Now seen only by people trekking this way on Dominica’s national Waitukubuli trail, which runs the entire length of the island.
If you love nature and hiking, I can think of no better place to visit than Dominica - and you will get a welcome that is second to none.
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