Everyone we met in Grenada loved Dominica and while we were underwhelmed with Portsmouth on the way down, the Boiling Lakes hike kept coming up as a “must see” attraction. We initially thought that we would stage out of Portsmouth, after a night stopover in Roseau along the way, however, we ended up spending three days in Roseau and were delightfully surprised.
After a super sail from Martinique, we were met at the entrance to the bay by Pancho in his fishing boat and led to one of his mooring balls. He is a local fisherman/tour guide/entrepreneur and was both friendly, welcoming and accommodating. We were in consort with Del Max, Discovery and La Jeannoise and were all moored right in front of his house which made us feel better about security. The Boiling Lake hike was advertised as a tough six hour trek and after just climbing Mt. Pelee three days prior, you two were less than enthusiastic, however, having the other kids provided needed inertia. We decided to hire Pancho to lead us and with our party of 14 we headed off into the rainforest the following morning.
The term “rainforest” is not a euphemism, and we spent the first two hours climbing in heavy, and for the first time, cold rain. It was a spirited climb and we were all still aching from Pelee, however the route was well defined with carved steps for most of the ascent. After two hours we descended into the Valley of Desolation, which was devoid of vegetation, reeked of sulphur and had active geysers of boiling water spurting all around us. I initially thought it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie or the result of aerial bombardment, however it would make a perfect setting for a Lord of the Rings movie.
Pancho had brought a dozen eggs and proceeded to cook them in one of the ever-present geysers which, while touristy, was pretty cool. He also said that the mineral mud from the river was good for the complexion and everyone proceeded to smear it on their faces and pose for pictures. I wasn’t completely convinced that this wasn’t a “make-fun-of-the-tourist” stunt so your mother and I refrained.
The boiling (138 degree) water mixed with regular river water and flowed through a series of pools which were lovely and warm, covered with a dense canopy of vegetation. We soaked in the lower pool while you and the other children scampered up and down the falls discovering more upstream.
Reluctantly leaving the warm, soothing water of the pools, we continued the climb up to the Boiling Lake which really is…..a boiling lake. About 400 meters across, it sits at 135 degrees and spews steam into the air making visibility poor and the air pungent with sulphur. When the volcano erupted on Martinique in 1902, this lake stopped boiling and went cold. The French sent a team of scientists to investigate and, unfortunately for them, during their work, the lakes reactivated, spewing sulphur and steam in the air, killing the team. In the Tsuanimi of 2004, the lake again stopped boiling and Pancho actually swam across the lake to the other side before it reactivated several weeks later. We often say, “no man is an island”, but apparently no island is an island either.
The walk out was uneventful. At the trail head we were treated to a small river flowing down from a break in the rock cliff and we were able to swim the 100 meters up this six foot opening with water carved cliffs reaching up into the rainforest on either side of us. The river ended up at a small waterfall and we clung to the rocks, fighting the pull of the cold water as the fading light reflected off the walls of this secret tomb.
The next day, bruised but not broken, we went into town and were very pleasantly surprised. The capital city of Dominica, Roseau, is a vibrant, clean and well maintained port city. Mommy expressed it best when she said there was an obvious pride of ownership and people were generally friendly and helpful. We wandered around for an afternoon and returned to the boat very glad that we had decided to make a stop in Dominica and experience the forgotten island.