Monday, May 30, 2016

Dominica -The Boiling Lake

Warning - This blog posting is picture heavy.   Hey, this hike was a big deal.  Plus the beauty we saw, so... heavy on the pics can't be helped.  As always, deal with it.
Sea Cat

Sea Cat is a well established tour guide here in Dominica.  He is known to the yachties that pass through mainly because he has numerous moorings in the deep water anchorage in Roseau.  Our group was 11 total so Sea Cat recruited another local guide to assist.  Kenny is younger.  He could keep up with the faster hikers in our group despite the fact that he hikes barefoot.  YES - Kenny did the entire hike in his barefeet.  He told Diane that he couldn't afford all the shoes he would wear out otherwise so he just hikes barefoot.  We saw another guide hiking barefoot.  Totally makes me feel like a wimpy hiker for a few sore muscles.  
Diane and Ric early on - Kenny right behind them
In Dominica, tour guides go through rigorous training;  history, flora/fauna, geography, cultural, tribal/bush lore, etc...  This makes any hike on Dominica with a guide a learning lesson.  After years and years of being a guide, Sea Cat is extremely good at what he does.  He not only knows his stuff but can quickly get a sense of his current group - yachties that sit on boats + young adventure hiking Europeans means a challenging group.  But he handles it well.  Stops to teach us about a few of the 75 different ferns are also much needed breaks for those of us whose only climbing is 3 stairs into the cockpit for sundowners.

Tom enjoying the stream water after a fresh mango snack

Our first major rest stop (excluding the little educational stops) was at Breakfast river.  He and Kenny dug out 2 dozen or so fresh mangoes from their packs and submerged them in the cold, running water.  As we snacked on mangoes, he encouraged us to fill our water bottles from the river by taking the lead with several palmfuls of water for himself.  Cool river water - refreshing.  
Breath taking - looking back towards the NW

Sea Cat and Kenny explained the various terrains we were passing through;  scrub woodland, littoral woodland, tropical rainforest, montane (their spelling) and elfin forest and finally fumarole.
Diane climbing up, up, up

The trail was well maintained given the terrain.  Make no mistake, this is a tough hike.  Up and down steep hills with a fair amount of scrambling up and down rocks for added fun.  As I mentioned before, we had terrific weather with light cloud cover to keep us cool.  Rain is often a factor on this hike.  It would make the trail that much tougher so I am glad we didn't have to deal with that. 
At the top

Our second rest stop was at the top of Morne Nicholls - 3000ft above sea level!  Whew!  Strong winds quickly cooled our sweaty bodies.  Sea Cat distributed little glasses of delicious guava juice - aka natural sugar to give us a boost.   
Looking back up at our path down

The next section was our descent down into the Valley of Desolation.  Kenny headed off in advance of the rest of us, quickly disappearing.  This was another scramble down steep rocks, many times on our butts.  Soon we could see the steam rising from the hot sulfur boiling in the Valley of Desolation. 
Valley of Desolation

As we descended, the colors turned from green to rich orange and rust eventually to muddy grey and white sulfuric.  The Valley of Desolation looks like it sounds.
Boiling hot

We found Kenny sitting on a rock with a bag of fresh eggs tied to a sturdy stick and dipped into one of the many boiling potholes of sulfur water.  He had hiked ahead to make us hard boiled eggs.  How kewl is that!  I decided the Valley of Desolation should hence forth be called the Valley of Hard Boiled Eggs. 
Hot enough to boil eggs - note Kenny's barefeet

The eggs turned slightly black on the outside but were perfect inside.  Yes, they had salt for the eggs!  I am telling you, these guys are pros. 

Hard boiled egg - slightly black on outside, yummy on inside

Tom and Diane mud masks applied by Sea Cat, now ready to hike on
Sea Cat scooped up special Valley of Desolation...oops....Valley of Hard Boiled Eggs mud and applied it to all of our faces - the ultimate spa treatment mud mask.  Then he lead us carefully through boiling potholes and steam of the valley floor and up towards the Boiling Lake.

More down, then more up, then down, then up
There were a couple of streams that ran with black water.  I think it's from bacteria caused by the warm water but I am not 100% sure.  
Boiling Lake - we made it

Up and up and up, eventually we reached the Boiling Lake.  Ta-Da! 
Truly a boiling lake

It was very kewl!  Steam clouds rising off of it and the middle really does boil. 
Ridge behind Tom is where we climbed down from

Taking it all in

There is a flat area above the lake where we all sat down to rest and take it all in.  Soon a few other guides with hikers joined us.  None had groups as big as Sea Cat.  Of course all the guides know each other and some lighthearted smack talk started.  It was fun to listen in. 
Sea Cat putting the final touches on our lunch


Sea Cat immediately started putting the finishing touches on our lunch.  Fresh salad with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and more that he made right there.  Fried plantains and marlin - homemade.  And rolls and juice.  It was delish.  We devoured every morsel.  Other hikers sat watching us with envy as they ate their sorry little PBJ sandwiches or whatever sad lunch they packed. 
The money shot

We all snapped pics and reveled in our accomplishment.  We made it! 

Packing up to hike back out - the ridge behind is where we are headed via Valley of Hard Boiled Eggs
But of course we still needed to hike back out.  Rut-row!  By now, some of us were feeling our hiking muscles.  Kenny lead the younger, faster ones while Sea Cat lead the rest of us.  *One young Swiss couple was really fast.  They passed me very early in the hike on the way up.  Okay, I get it, your young.....but did you really have to skip as you went past me on that incline!  And then at the Boiling Lake she pulls out a tobacco pack and proceeds to roll and smoke a ciggie.  Really!  Ugh - I'm old.  A Dutch cruising couple was pretty fast as well.  They are older but in great shape.  A fellow cruiser pointed out "I get the Swiss couple, mountains and all.  But Denmark is flat.  Give me a break."  The morning after the hike (early early), I spotted the Danish couple working out on the deck of their boat.  Overachievers! 

Fresh water pool to wash off our mud masks and trail dirt
Anyway, we slowly make our way back down to the Valley of Hard Boiled Eggs, crawled back out and up to Morne Nicholls and up and down and up and down and up and down towards the Titou Gorge and our starting point.  Sea Cat continued stopping to show us little things or tell us funny stories but we knew, he was really stopping so some of us could 1.) stop our legs from shaking 2.) quiet our screaming muscles for a minute 3.) keep our heart and lungs from exploding 4). wipe the 5 gallon of sweat get it.

Finally we reached Titou gorge.  Tom and I changed out of our sweat soaked hiking clothes into our swimsuits and waded into the cold waters of the gorge.  AHHHHHH!  It felt so good.  We couldn't resist the unique opportunity to swim up the narrow canyon walls that make up the gorge to the first waterfall.  I didn't get any pics because I didn't have the waterproof camera.  It would be kewl swim up the gorge with one.  Maybe next time.

So there you have it.  Our Boiling Lake experience.  It was a great adventure.  Our warm up hikes were worth it.  Without those, I would have been in a world of hurt, literally.  As I mentioned before, even with those warm up hikes, I was sore for two days after the Boiling Lake.  Tom only one day.  We had planned for that so we just chilled.  I am really glad we took the time to make this hike.  Sea Cat and Kenny were excellent guides.  We look forward to coming back to Dominica and doing more hikes.  There are several of you readers that are hikers.  Have you started planning your trip to Dominica yet?  You really need to come here on holiday and experience this wonderful island.  


  1. Very Kewl story. However, Dutch people are not from Denmark, they are from Holland (the Netherlands). Danes are from Denmark. However, both places are relatively flat. So were these super-human cruisers Danes or Dutch?
    -Capt. Annie

    1. Corrected. Good catch. I know that and so does my editor but neither of us caught it. Thanks.

  2. I told Sea Cat he was going to live to at least 100 or more with all the hiking he does - many hikes a week, plus the luscious fruits and veggies on Dominica. At the very least, he should have the smoothest skin from all the Boiling Lake mud masks he does each season.

  3. What an amazing hike! It looks and sounds super tough, but YOU DID IT. You did what 99.9% of people will never do, a strenuous, long hike. And in such a gorgeous place. Pat yourselves on the back! Very glad you got to do this. Hope to get to Dominica someday; it is on my list of islands to visit. :-)