Although we’re in Antigua now, I’m posting on a fantastic hike we went on in Dominica. Finding decent wifi at a price we can afford can be tricky, but I wanted to make sure I got this down so that I can remember this one forever.
I’d heard about the Boiling Lake through the Cruising Guide and from fellow cruisers. This would be our 3rd and last visit to Dominica. If we don’t do it this time, we’ll never have the opportunity again. We’d heard it was a long, hard hike (7-9 hours) and that it was better to start in Roseau. We weren’t going to be staying in Roseau because it’s often rolly and it’s too deep to anchor so you have to pick up a mooring ball. We knew we wanted Seacat as our guide so we contacted him and decided we could catch an early morning bus, which we arranged the day before. Our bus driver told us he passes by the Purple Turtle (where we’d leave our dinghy) at 6:30 a.m. If we were there, he’d take us to Roseau for $10EC/person. The ride would take about an hour and 15 minutes. Seacat showed up at the bus stop and off we went.
Was it a hard hike? YES. We were on the trail for 8.5 hours, at least 6 of those hours were spent going either straight up or straight down, sometimes for my short little legs it was actually climbing or sitting on my butt scraping along the dirt and rocks. I think we averaged about a 45 minute mile. I’ve done many 10-12 mile hikes in the Caribbean and generally average closer to a 30 minute mile on hilly terrain. The trip there is easier than the trip back.
Was it worth the pain? YES. Amazing views from Guadeloupe to Martinique at the top. And I hadn’t read up on the lake, so I didn’t know what I was in for. We arrived at the Valley of Desolation and I thought we’d made it to the Boiling Lake, although it doesn’t look like a lake at all. But with the recent hurricane and mass amounts of rainfall they’d received, I thought maybe the rain had washed soil into the lake and now it was just these strange rivers of extremely hot water, mud pools, sulfur gas and steam with a few cold water streams mixed in. Seacat is a fantastic guide. You get a botany lesson, Dominica history, stories from his crazy life and he boils eggs in the hot river. The minerals turn the shells black, but the eggs were perfectly cooked inside and tasted delicious. He took the hot mud/clay and gave us all mud masks to wear for the next few hours. So here I am having a great time, thinking we’d made it to the end—this isn’t so hard! When Brita says “How much farther?” I tried not to act shocked and just followed along. After another mile or so of moderately hard hiking I see what looks like the edge of a beach, but the water is gray, splashing on the shore. Stan says there’s so much movement in the lake because of the gasses bubbling from below. Little did we know! When you finally get to look into the crater you see a lake about 70 yards wide with huge, rolling boils. It is truly an OH MY GOD moment. The lake is about 200 feet deep (varies depending on the year, but was measured when there was no water in the lake one year), the temperature has only been measured on the edges and is between 180-197 degrees F. I cannot imagine how hot it must be where it is boiling. This is the largest boiling lake in the world. It is a flooded fumarole (a crack through which gases excape from the molten lava below).
Seacat has brought lunch for us—salad, bread, plantains and saltfish dish and he froze several 2 liter plastic bottles of juice so we have icy cold drinks. I’m starving and tired, but I can’t stop looking into the crater. We are fortunate to have had such a beautiful day. The trip back is hard. You’re already tired from the 4 mile hike to get there and it’s harder on the way back. I’m glad it didn’t rain. There was enough slipping and sliding on the semi-dry path. On the way back we stop several times to swim in sheltered hot pools that you’d really need a guide to find (although there are a few that are obvious and we saw lots of people sitting in those). The trail head starts at Titou Gorge, which is a narrow volcanic fault that you can swim through, but I was so tired at the end and I was very muddy from sliding on my butt during the steep downhill portions of the hike that I really just wanted to get changed and back on the bus. Brita went for a swim—it’s cold water and we could hear shrieking as Seacat egged her on.
It was absolutely amazing. Worth the effort, the money, the time. Even if you had to spend two rolly nights in Roseau it would be worth it. I don’t expect to see anything like it again in my life.
Within the next week, we would go on to hike two more long hikes with Mowzer (Catherine and Henry) and Blue Moon (Brita and Jason). Both hikes 11-12 miles, but nothing like the Boiling Lake. I love Dominica. As we hiked around the northern end of the island, people would come out of their little shack houses and wave or ask us to come talk. They are lovely people. And of course we stop for Ray’s Rotis when we get to town (Jason describes them as a curry burrito) as well as a few “bakes”, which are fried dough served either plain or cut in half with saltfish inside. For our last visit to Dominica, it was a remarkable 2 weeks.