Dominica lived up to our expectations, the magnificent landscape and friendly people made it one of our favorite stops. On the day we arrived we all dinghied to the main town called Roseau to check-in. We must of passed the dinghy dock that all the cruisers used without realizing it so we made our way around to this break wall with many colorful fishing boats all tied up haphazardly inside. As we went through the narrow channel it was pretty apparent that this wasn't the spot that all the cruisers came into but it was within eye sight of customs, so we pulled up to the side.
Right away we were approached by a few of the men standing about and of course my defenses went up ready for them to want something from us. It didn't take more than a couple minutes to realize they were all just really nice fishermen. They hadn't seen cruisers dinghy in there before but they wanted to help us out and told us where to secure it and one fellow even made sure everyone went around it as they came through the narrow channel.
Graham and Alex went off to check in and Amelia and I had such a nice time chatting with everyone and watching them bring in their catch from various boats. While standing there we met a nice fellow named Lara who was a retired police officer who now fishes in his spare time and also occasionally offers taxi service. We mentioned we had heard of the boiling lake and that we were wanting to hiked to it but were thinking we didn't want to do a guided tour. Funny how things work out, he offered to drop us off and pick us up the next day and show us to the trail head. His price was a fraction of what it would of cost us to have a guide along. We were so happy we could do the trip "Perry Style."
The hike is described as advanced and estimated at 6-8 hours in the guide book. We knew we were up for a long day so the next morning we were off at 6:30 am. Unfortunately the day was rainy and overcast. Turns out that hiking in a rain forest in the rain is REALLY muddy! I am sure I still have mud in places I haven't yet found ;-). Lara got us to the end of the road and at this point it was pouring rain and he says that he will hike with us to the trail head. He gets out of the van and takes off like a jack rabbit. I realized that my idea of hiking is more like walking than his. He estimated 8 hours for our return trip due to the rain and we waved goodbye to him in the pouring rain. For a brief moment I wished I was returning to the dry warm van with him.
The trail went through all different types of landscapes. The first part was through the dense rain forest. The trail had log steps along it as these were often the only thing you could see amongst the mud to step on. The first few hours were slow going and we tried to choose our steps carefully avoiding mud holes and water but eventually it was a lost cause and we just started sloshing through. The hard parts were either the straight ups or downs in the mud. Our hands, legs and bums were covered.
Just when I was at my breaking point we reach "the valley of desolation." This is where the ground is hot and the river flows hot, and steam and bubbling water and mud is everywhere. We found a spot where we could of actually boiled an egg. The contrast of the stark light grey steamy valley against the rain forest mountain we had just climbed down was jaw dropping.
After the valley we continued on the trail and a short while later we came to the most beautiful natural hot pool and waterfall. The water was the perfect hot tub temperature as a bit of the fresh water from the mountain was mixing with the hot. Most folks wait until they have made the summit and are on their way back before taking a soak but there was no way you could of got me to wait. Graham was a harder sell but once he saw the three of us laying back in the hot water with looks of euphoria on our faces, he realized that either way he was going to be waiting and in he came.
After our hot tub I felt invigorated for the last hour of our hike. Since we had started out so early we didn't see many folks for the first few hours but after we stopped a few groups were catching up. The groups had guides and we realized what a good decision it had been to go alone. The guides were all business and the hike seemed to be literally all about "hiking." We were all paused taking pictures of something as one group passed and the guide said to me, "looks like you guys are on more of a stroll!" Oiy my fiery red head temper wanted to pounce out but I kept it in check ;-).
There were a few parts where we had to try and find the trail but this made it a bit more exciting, scaling up rock walls and calling to each other if we found it. When we reach the lake it was pretty cool. You walk out to this look out area and the boiling lake is below and it is almost as if you are standing in the middle of the top of a volcano and the boiling lake is where you would see the lava. There was a geyser in the middle so the lake was truly rapidly boiling. There was also clouds rolling over us so at times it felt like we were in a hot boiling steamy pot of water. It was pretty cool and worth googling if you haven't heard of it and seeing the many pictures online. We divided up chocolate, cheese and crackers overlooking the lake and felt pretty pleased with ourselves. I tried not to think about the 3 hours ahead.
We were all back at the boat by 4 and truly exhausted. The next day was spent scrubbing mud off of everything....shoes, backpacks, jackets, clothes, bodies....The worst part was that our feet were wet for almost our entire hike and also soaked in hot water, so they were extremely shriveled up.......seriously shriveled up.......like I have never seen feet do this kind of shriveled up. They ached when we walked on them it took a couple days before we truly felt they were dry and could walk on them without wincing. They are still peeling and it is a week and half later!
Now all of that said, this was one of our best days. I love challenging ourselves together as a family and experiencing firsts. I like the conversations that happen on these hikes and interactions we have with each other. I like the moments where we all look out at something together in awe. I like sitting exhausted at a rest stop passing a bottle of water around. I like following in the footsteps that the lead person has chosen as we make our way up a trail. I like watching the kids race off ahead together laughing and being silly. I like how a hike is a collection of many many unique moments and emotions that make for the best memories.