We approached Dominica in our anciently old and small airplane with 70 75 year-old captain Mike at the controls. The airport was as small as it is possible for an airport to be, But Mike made a miraculous landing on the short runway with his heap-of-junk aircraft . Finally we were on the fruit island of Dominica - The forgotten paradise island in the Caribbean sea.
It was one of the few islands we travelled to without having any idea of where we were going to stay. We took a bus to the capital Roseau and wandered around with our big backpacks . The people there were not particularly friendly or helpful, but this was a phenomenon we discovered was similar on most of the islands we visited.
We had not booked a hotel in advance because it was impossible to find anything at a reasonable rate on the internet. After an hour of searching around, in the dirty and congested streets of Roseau, we found a place to stay. It would be wrong to characterize it as a hotel, motel, hostel or guesthouse. It was one step down from all those characterizations.
There was no reception, just an anonymous old door that led straight into a kitchen. There was an ancient lady in pajamas who led us up to the second floor. The second floor looked like the inside of a 200 years old woodshed, and smelled like it as well. There was a kind of living room with some dusty furnitures, and several doors that led into the various rooms. The rooms were all occupied with local rastas who did what Rastas enjoy doing; smoking pot.
The old woman in pajamas led us into a dark corridor, to a room that reeked of mildew, and there were gaps in the floor where we
could look down to the room on the first floor. The beds were exceedingly unpleasant, full of metal springs that almost poked through the top of the mattress.
Luckily I managed to persuade Torunn to stay there with me, all in the name of budget travelling!!
The only compromise I had to conceed was that we would take the "nicer" of the two rooms she showed us.
Roseau is not a city worth spending any amount of time in, It is simply a good base to see the west side of the island.
The streets of Roseau are very busy, with lots of traffic and local Caribs chugging back and forth. On the 4 days we stayed there we discovered that it was virtually impossible to find a grocery store, and the same with restaurants. There was many a night where we walked around for hours looking for food before we finally had to give up and go to Pizzahut. Pizzahut was the only open restaurant we found, but we tried to avoid it, as we sort of wanted to eat local Dominican food. The result was that we had to eat our breakfast at Subway and dinners at Pizzahut, so all american food and no local food.
Another thing that was annoying about Roseau was that there was alot of cruise ships there every single day. One day we were wandering around in the streets, and minding our own business, and suddenly we saw a long line of tanned old people with cameras around their neck and the classic panama hat on their heads. Typical cruise tourists. Fortunately we managed to escape them by going deeper into the twisting streets of Roseau, but we had already concluded that this was not a prospective place to stay!
Dominica is a very nice little island with an incredible amount of rainforests, waterfalls, hot springs, fruit trees everywhere and lots of colorful birds.
In a place like Dominica it is a real shame to stay in the only congested city, but it is necessary for those who are on a budget. There are lots of so-called "EcoResorts" – which are small cabins that are far out in the jungle. Some of them have sea views and an open design, so there are actually parrots entering the rooms during the days. The disadvantage of these places is that they typically cost 1000-1500 kroner each night(200$), Unlike the 200 kroner(30$) we paid in Roseau.
We only had 6 days for Dominica, but got to experience alot
of the island in that time. We travelled to one of the many waterfalls that the island had to offer. There was a waterfall surrounded by pristine rainforest named Trafalgar falls. The only way to describe it is to imagine the floating mountains of Avatar with waterfalls coming of them.
This is the number 1 tourist attraction on the island, but me and Torunn were completely alone when we were there. Thank God that there were no cruise ships in that day!
We climbed over the large stones that lay around the mouth of the waterfall . From there we followed the river downwards and bathed in various pristine pools. The water was just the perfect cold temperature - around 20 degrees, which is about three times hotter than any Norwegian river water.
The best thing about it all was that in parallel with the river flowed a stream of water that came out of the mountain in the same area where the falls come down. The creek was formed by water that came from deep inside the mountain and kept a very high temperature. At the start of the stream the water was almost boiling temperature, but further down it was around 40 C . We bathed first in the cold water, and then in the warm water that stank of sulfur, Just like at the spa!
Where the warm stream met the river it was possible to be in the cold river, while we got a hot shower from the sulfur water. The rest of the day was spent in an outdoor spa, where they had several sulfur springs with different temperatures, and an area with sulfurous mud. There was also lots of tasty fruits falling off the myriads of fruit trees there. I picked avacados, grapefruit, oranges and star fruit so that we had something to munch on while we relaxed in the warm mineral water.
It's the best day we had on the entire trip. A wonderful nature experience without us having to walk through miles of forest and mountains to get there (as we did with all the mountains we have climbed)
On our second day in Dominica, we had to work a little harder for nature experiences. We were going to go deep into the forest to find the fabled world's second largest boiling lake.
We almost wore ourselves out just to get to the beginning of the trail, because there was not much public transportation up in the mountains.
We got a bus to drop us off on a random road far up in the mountains, and started walking from there. After an hour of walking, vertically, we were already exhausted before
we had come to the start of the tough path that led to the lake. Luckily we hiked with a car that took us even higher up the mountain to the trail. At the start of the trail we met a group of middle-aged barbadossians that had a guide who were taking them to the lake. We decided join the gang, as a guide apparently was mandatory on the trail, and they had found a local guide to take them.
They were a nice bunch who shared all sorts of strange Barbados food with us, but me and Torunn would probably have walked the trail twice as fast without them.
It was actually a pretty tough trail that went up one tropical rainforest mountain, and down the next, until finally we arrived at a valley called «valley of desolation". A very appropriate name as it was a valley with no plants, and with lots of volcanic activity. The air stank from sulphur, and everywhere there were pools of actively boiling water, and streams that were colored chalkwhite from the minerals.
It felt like we were in Mordor on the way to Mount Doom, only without the ring. It is the most fairy tale-like place I have ever visited, and made more magical by the effort it took to get there. For every step we walked we had to be careful not to fall into a boiling puddle. There are reportedly many tourists who have been burned there, which is one of the reasons that a guide is required. We proceeded deeper into the rainforest on the other side of the valley. After a while we came to yet another smelly sulfuric Mordor-world. It was the last major effort towards the boiling lake. We saw the cloud of vapor from the bottom of the mountain and started climbing with renewed eager for an imminent reward.
When we finally got to the lake we were not disappointed - it was boiling like like mad!
Those who climbed up there a few years ago however was very disappointed when they found out that not only had the lake stopped boiling, but it had disappeared altogether.
Over the next few months it came back again, but did not start boiling. Some were even stupid enough to bathe there…seriously Darwin Awards candidates. A few months later it started boiling like before, which marked the end of the bathing season.
Since we came with a group of middle-aged barbadians (hehe , maybe barbadossians sounds better?) it took over 4 hours to go up to the lake. Some of them did not make it all the way, but most of them got there by turtle speed. Me and Torunn were a bit restless.
The lake was a worthwhile destination, incredible to see it. We walked into a misty valley of water vapor and when it finally dissolved, we saw the bright green boiling sea. There are not many such oddities in the world, and this is the second largest, just after one in New Zealand. It was definitely worth a long walk through the rainforest. Actually the trip itself was worth it, even if there had not been a cool(maybe not the right adjective..) boiling lake at the end of it. We ditched the group, and went back to the start on less than half the time it took to go with the barbadossians..
The next day we rented a car and drove around the island. We drove all the way to the south of the island and snorkeled at a reef called "champagne reef». The name comes from the fact that there is volcanic activity below the reef
so that there is plenty of bubbles coming up from the rocks. It was just like swimming in a giant aquarium with a massive air pump. The fish looked like they enjoyed the bubbles, and to swim through them. We also visited some wonderful fishing villages south on the island, with many rasta fishermen.
We also drove to the north of the island and visited a town called Plymouth, apparently named after Plymouth in England.
On the way up we took a detour far into a jungleroad to take a walk in a rain forest. On the way we passed thousands of fruit trees that were chock full of ripe oranges, grapefruit, avacado, mango and star fruit. Amazingly lovely to be able to pick your own lunch.
The rainforest was very beautiful. The trees were massively big and ancient, and the forest was silent and magical, .Luckily we were alone there. After an hour on the trail, we heard some intense screams from farther in the woods, and we knew that it could only be one thing; Parrots. We went off the trail and sneaked gently deeper and deeper into the forest. As we came closer to the pack we suddenly saw 10-15 green screaming-machines fleeing from the tree they were sitting in; we had been discovered. We followed them deeper into the jungle, and I felt like a spy as I was lurking on tiptoe in an attempt to remain undetected. Finally we managed to get ourselves close enough to approach the herd without scaring them off, and got lots of nice photos and movies. These parrots were quite rare, of a type found only on this island (Red-necked amazon – close to extinction), so it was fun to get as close to them as we did.
The day ended with a visit to a beautiful fort, which was full of snakes and lizards, and then snorkeling on the reef at sunset. After sunset we were going to a new hotel on the north side of the island in a town called Marigot. We decided not to go the direct road, but instead take a route that went a little further north along the coast. It would later prove to be a bad idea. The road was insanely steep, so much so that I wondered if the car was going to topple over at times. It was an unusually poorly maintained road, It is not an exaggeration to say that there were more holes than road. It was up one mountain, and down the next, without really getting much closer to the where we were going. It took 3 hours to reach the hotel, while the other way would have taken less than an hour. It was a very long drive on the bad roads in the mountains, and in the dark as well.
The guesthouse we would stay in at Marigot was an Ecoresort; lots of small cottages and bungalows surrounded by forest, Flowers and untouched nature. They had messed up the booking so we got a cabin that was gigantic with our own huge terrace. The sound of the running water from the river was constant, and the following morning we woke up in a paradise of birds chirping, water flowing and the smell of flowers. There was a swarm of hummingbirds right outside our front porch.
It was definitely a place where we could have spent one week, or maybe one month. If I'm ever going to write a book this is where I would stay for inspiration; far in the forest, surrounded by nature and animals.
The last day we drove around along the northeast coast and visited a Carib village . Dominica is the only island in the Caribbean where you can still find survivors of the original Carib people.
All the Caribs were slaughtered when Europeans came to the islands to grow sugarcane so that the britts could have sugar in their tea. The only reason that there were a few who survived in Dominica is that they had a number of mountain ranges where they could hide from bloodthirsty Europeans. The village was a replica of how they lived, so it was just some straw huts here and there that we had to visit with a local overpriced guide . We saw a few more waterfalls in miscellaneous rain forests around the island.
Dominica has definitely been a highlight of our journey through the Caribbean, and is an island I could easily imagine myself going back to (although we DID manage to see most of the attractions on the days we were there).The hot springs (which are everywhere), the juicy fruits, the amazing rainforest with waterfalls everywhere, and the diversity of birds were all helping to make this our favorite island.