An Overdue Visit, by Boat, in Roseau
13 June 2016
When we arrived in Roseau, after texting Sea Cat to reserve a mooring, preferably our favourite one, we realised that it has been a little while since we had stopped in Roseau for more than maybe an overnighter. This time, we had two boats that weren't well acquainted with the area with us, and we wanted to show off some of the incredible things in the area. We reserved moorings for them, too.
The mooring we like is just off Sea Cat's dock, This enables us to put out a stern line to it if the swells are miserable, and it also means we can get good Dominican water from the faucet on his house; nothing some long hoses can't do! Greg very ably, and kindly, got us settled and the hoses in place, so we topped up our tanks and jerry cans with fresh water, without having to carry the jerry cans back and forth. Full water tanks always give us a feeling of contentment.
We arranged with the crews of 'Pinnacle' and 'Wandering Rose' to for a little walk around town. Sunday afternoons are pretty quiet, so it seemed like something to do. One of the destinations was "Jack's Walk", a path up the side of a cliff, basically, from the Botanical Gardens to a great view point over the town. The walk back down can be done by road. Ken had commented as we sailed down that I had never taken him up there (you can see the large crucifix from the water with no difficulty), and suggested we do it. So we dragged the others along. Well, the walk was possibly a little more than some of the others were ready for, but the view was appreciated. We then took them to the little rum shop that we found on New Year's Eve (Old Year's Night) for a cold beverage... and we were remembered from back then! A gracious man gave all of the ladies a ripe mango, which was very much appreciated (I bought him a shot of rum in thanks).
The next day, everyone, except Ken, went back into town to catch the bus up to Trafalgar Falls. There we met Amanda, who offered to guide us up to the base of the Father waterfall, for a tip. It ends up she is studying to be an Architecture Associate at the local college, but in her heart wants to be a full time guide.
I had been to Trafalgar Falls a few years back, and we had walked the trail through the trees, by the stream to some little hot spring fed pools. Well, Tropical Storm Erika's storm waters rearranged the landscape like a boxer rearranges someone's face. Gone were the trees. The stream was buried under tons of boulders. It was like day and night. Where once there were trees, a vista of grey rocks took over. I admit to being in a bit of shock when I initially saw it; I had a hard time reconciling this view with what I had remembered. It struck me as to how much damage those rains had really caused.
Amanda recommended removing shoes (I had my "shandals", which are perfect for this kind of thing) and not carrying anything that might not want to get wet. At this point I regretted not bringing the GoPro. We started up to the base of the leftmost falls. This was less a hike, and more of a scramble, bouldering, climbing adventure. I loved every moment of it. It is not something I would do without an experienced guide, as she knew where to go, and even some of the better places to place a foot or a hand in some spots.
By the time we got to the base of the falls, about an hour later, we were wet with a combo of sweat and spray. The rush of the water created its own wind, and the spray was chilly, making all of us uncomfortably cold fairly quickly; so much for being hardy Canadians, impervious to the cold! We swam in the pool, briefly, then made our way back down away from the spray, before we had a chance to become hypothermic.
It was a very worthwhile experience! The water was starting to rise, and Amanda commented that our timing was good, as she wouldn't want to bring anybody up with the water getting higher. So she ended up walking with us to the town of Wotten Waven.
Wotten Waven has a number of sulfur springs, and is home to a couple of spas that divert and utilise the hot water from the springs with the cold water of the river. They have different pools of different temperatures, and provide a lovely, therapeutic, soak. We chose not to soak, but had drink and caught the bus back into Roseau.
I have a goal, nothing earth shattering, but I want to hike every segment of the Waitukubuli National Trail. The south end of Dominca makes accessing some of the segments quite easy, with bus transportation a viable option. Cool. My mission was to get Segment 2 done, and the part of Segment 3 I had yet to do. Both are really just a stone's throw from Sea Cat's, and I knew I could walk down from the "end" of my Segment 3 portion. The question was whether is would be done in one day, or two days. It ended up being two, due to time considerations (half made plans).
Segment 2 starts at Soufriere, a volcanically active area. By the way, Dominica is the most volcanically active place in the world. It climbs up a slave trail with 14 switchbacks out of the sulfur stench of the caldera, like a mini Valley of Desolation. It then goes through a town (last chance to top up your water), then goes through some agricultural areas (ooh, ripe guava!). Some of the farmers were a little surprised, but delighted, to see my hiking it alone, including one guy who insisted I take ore guavas from his trees. After a stint on the road, you then have a choice - mostly road, or over a slave trail. I chose the slave trail route, which also had a long climb. A very long climb. But it was beautiful, with fields being worked, and of course with elevation comes views. And more views. However, I went uphill on an appreciable grade for a couple of miles, grateful for my hydration bag and the fact that I had topped it up when I could.
The slave trail was cut into the side of the mountain by, you guessed it, slaves. It was the route for getting goods to the coast for shipping by boat, everything was carried by mule or on someone's back. While I found it challenging enough, the idea of carrying heavy loads on that path, where it could be slick, with a couple of dramatic drop offs, made me shake my head in wonderment. What those poor men and women had to do... no wonder they tried to escape to the Kalinagos! The trail was lined with heliconia and false bird of paradise, as well as bamboo and tree ferns. There was a section cut right into the rock.
After about 4 hours, I had done the approximately 16 km of trail, and approach. Not knowing the state of that evening's dinner plans at a friend's place, I decided heading home would be a good idea. I started walking to town, figuring I would catch a bus when I saw one. This is where serendipity, or maybe karma, kicked in. When I had been hiking up the initial ascent of the trail, I had met a young couple making their way up. He was doing well, but she was really struggling. As she sat to catch her breath, I gave her water and my grapefruit; she needed it, and I had more food, and the feeling that I would find some mango or something as I hiked. As I continued on my way, they asked me my age... I think I shocked them that I was blowing them away on the hike. Well, it ends up this same fellow was driving and saw me. He's from Harlem, and was visiting family and friends. He offered me a ride, and I wasn't going to turn it down!
That night we ended up at a friend's place for dinner, just a little "get together" with about 20 people. It felt more like a cocktail party. I ended up talking pepper sauce with the manufacturer of one of the most popular pepper sauces in Dominica.
The next day I did Segment 13, or the part I hadn't done before. Again, Erika's angry reach was seen, as parts of the river crossings were a little confused, and the trail had to be rediscovered. So, that is 9 segments down, 5 to go!
I'll describe our last full day in the Roseau area in the next blog. This post is long enough!