Monday, May 30, 2016

Dominica Warm Up Hike #2 - Section 1 Waitukubuli National Trail

Closed?  We were told parts were closed.  Oops.

The Waitukubuli National Trail is a trail that stretches the entirety of the island of Dominica. It starts in the south at Scotts Head and runs to Cabrits National Park in the north.  It passes through villages, farm land, old plantation ruins and Morne Trois Pitons. National Park World Heritage Site.  Terrain includes everything Dominica has to offer;  rain forest, dramatic gorges, waterfalls, rivers, steep volcano hillsides and coastline.  All total, the trail is 115 miles, split into 14 sections.  Some easier than others.  Hiking the entire trail is no easy feat.  Many local guides have not even accomplished that.  The trail itself is fairly new, started in 2007 and completed in 2011.  Very impressive. 
Landslide area

Previously we have hiked section 14 along the NW coast of Dominica. 
Detour with ropes to assist in climbing

We also purchased a book from the Dominica Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - Wildlife and Parks Division that details the entire Waitukubuli National Trial by section.  A great book for anyone interested in hiking on Dominica.
Steep incline - huff, puff

After reading the book again, we decided Section #1 would be a good trail to tackle.  Further investigation online hinted that part or parts of that section might be closed due to landslides from Hurricane Erika last year.  We needed local, first hand knowledge.  We checked with our boat guy Greg, tour guides Sea Cat and Nahgie.  They confirmed that indeed part of Section #1 was closed but detours had been set up.  Ok.
Top of massive landslide area

We caught a bus to Scotts Head at the SW tip of the island.  The bus driver pointed us in the direction of the trail.  Getting dropped seaside, we immediately begin climbing up through the village of Scotts Head.  Up, up, up.  At the top of Scotts Head we found the trailhead for Section #1. 
Green pasture plateau

We kept climbing up and up on a very steep incline, no downhill break as often found in hikes.  I was really huffing and puffing.  It was steep.  After a bit we found the closed area.  The detour was very rough.  We had to negotiate our way across the landslide area and up using ropes to climb over rocks. 
Happy cow on the plateau
Still more up and more.  Never any down.  Sheesh.  Finally we came to the top of landslide area and plateau.  It was lush and green, filled with a few happy cows, half a dozen mango trees and a lonely guy acting as cow shepherd, munching on mangoes.  It was almost surreal compared to the last hour of hiking.  

More up

Through the grassy pasture, we entered forest again with typical up and down hiking. 
Any guesses?  Each section is fuzzy with a seed, so soft.  Balsa

The vegetation was fascinating.  Dozens of fallen coconuts, undisturbed spouted into the next coconut grove.  Fuzzy seed pods filled the ground in one area.  The pods were as soft as angora wool - softer.  We learned later these were the seeds pods from balsa trees.  Mango trees were everywhere.  We had to be careful of falling fruit. 
Coconuts sprouting - coconut grove

In populated areas, the coconuts don't have a chance to sprout because someone is there to cut them down.  The same is true for the mango trees, someone is collecting the fruit.  However, up here it's much less populated.  We saw only a handful of locals, usually tending small farms as we hiked Section #1. 
Another landslide/washout area

Section #1 end at the Sulphur Springs (their spelling).  What a bonus.  Four and a half hours later we happily hopped in one of five warm pools to sooth our tired muscles.  While the water was yellow - brown, luckily it didn't smell of sulfur. 
Sulphur Springs (their spelling)

Refreshed we walked down the hills to the seaside village of Soufriere.  Tour guide Sea Cat had told us that near the church we could find the Bubble Beach.  Hot steam escapes along shore in the shallow water.  It mixes with the seawater and creates a warm, bubbly bath. 
Bubble Beach

Actually the bubbles were really tiny so it didn't really bubble to anything significant.   But the water was warm.  It was nice.  Our tired muscles were really getting a nice treatment, first with the Sulphur Springs and now the Bubble Beach - ahhhhhhh.
Bubble Beach

We wondered through town and found the bus stop along the sea wall.

Boat builder - yes, really

Tom waiting for the bus - new dinghy prototype

As we waited for the bus, we took in the local scene of people coming and going with the dramatic backdrop of ancient volcanic hills shrouded in clouds.  Beautiful.

View inland
The bus came and we made our way north again to Roseau, carefully traversing the one lane washed out areas of this main road.  Dominica is still recovering from Hurricane Erika last year.  The massive rains that accompanied that storm, caused many, many landslides.  Roads, bridges, houses, and small villages were wiped out.  Even now, evidence remains of the destruction.  

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