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Highs and Lows on the Nature Island of Dominica

Author: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: November 2009

November 16
The folks at the lodge made us continental breakfast this morning (pineapple slices, fresh orange juice, toast with butter and jam, tea) and sold us a weeklong site pass to get us into all of the national parks for the rest of the trip. They also packed us a couple of tuna sandwiches for lunch since we were planning to hike most of the day.

freshwater lake fresh water dominicaWe headed first to the Freshwater Lake, which our guidebook said could be circumnavigated on foot in about an hour. There was a visitor center there but not a soul around; ours was the only vehicle in the parking lot. The lake itself was a crater lake, surrounded by green hills. You could snap a quick picture of it right from the parking lot, but we decided to give the hike a try.

It was very, very muddy (apparently this lake is one of the wettest places on earth). The trail was clear though, marked by a series of wooden logs and steps that went up and down along the ridges around the lake. In many parts we were walking through pretty thick forest, which helped protect us from the light rain that fell most of the way. But in various places there were breaks in the trees where we could enjoy the views -- not only of the lake, which definitely looked more impressive from above, but also of the surrounding peaks and valleys -- and even, at one point, all the way to the Atlantic coast.

It was a reasonably strenuous hike -- lots of steep ups and painstakingly slippery downs -- and it took us a good hour and a half, with stops for photo ops and water breaks. At one point much of the trail had been taken out by a landslide, leaving a teeny narrow trail overlooking a very steep drop. I am scared of heights and did not like this part of the hike at all, but luckily it was very brief and we made it out alive!

We ate our tuna sandwiches back in the parking lot and then headed down to Middleham Falls, another popular hike in the area. With the sun now out, we set off for what was supposed to be about a 45-minute hike to the falls. We hiked pretty much straight uphill for 15 minutes or so, and though we were both sweating and breathing pretty hard in the humidity, we seemed to be doing okay ... until SO had to stop and lean over, sucking wind and sweating profusely. He definitely didn't look good -- dehydration, we suspected, along with the lingering effects of his illness the week before.

We stopped for a bit so he could rest, but it seemed clear that we didn't have enough water to keep both of us hydrated for the rest of the hike, so we decided to turn around and head back to the lodge for the day, and try the Middleham hike again in the morning. It was disappointing to waste such a beautiful afternoon, but we simply had to accept our bodies' limitations.

We had a lazy few hours back at Roxy's, checking our email on the lodge's computer, and enjoying another sunset and delicious dinner. And we got a better night's sleep too -- no movie on TV!

November 17
We woke up early this morning, checked out of Roxy's, and set forth for our second attempt at Middleham Falls. In keeping with the "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" nature of our trip thus far, however, our car wouldn't start. Sigh.

We walked back into the lodge with our tails between our legs and called the car rental company, who said they'd send someone out from Roseau with another vehicle and a spare battery. So we hung out for another hour and a half or so until the Courtesy Car Rental guy arrived and determined that the car was indeed deader than a doornail. He gave us the replacement car and we were on our way. Time check: about 11 a.m.

middleham falls dominica rainbowWe went to Middleham Falls again and discovered that the hike really was worth the trouble -- it was a pretty good uphill trek at first, but then there was a nice flat stretch in the middle and the vast majority of it was shaded. (The nice thing about the rain forest is that even when it's raining, you rarely get all that wet -- so much of the moisture gets caught in the thick canopy above.) The very end of the trail was a little bit precarious, with a few spots where we had to scramble carefully over mossy, slippery rocks.

But then ... we saw the falls. Wow. It's by far the highest waterfall I've ever seen -- I had to crane my neck to see the top, where it almost looked like Mother Nature was tipping over a huge bucket from a very high window. By the time the water reached the bottom it was crashing with considerable force. Wouldn't want to be standing right under that! (Apparently you can swim in some of the lower cascade pools, but we didn't.)

Back at the main parking area, we chilled out under the little rain shelter and chatted with the park ranger as well as a number of other travelers (some were with a British walking tour group, while others were from the day's cruise ship). The park ranger in particular was really friendly and chatty, clucking his tongue over what happened to us in Calibishie. It was a nice interlude; we'd spent so much time on uncrowded trails and in relatively empty guesthouses/lodges that we were thrilled to get a chance to talk with someone other than each other!

garraway hotel roseau dominicaOur drive back to Roseau was surprisingly uneventful. We took zero wrong turns (!), and it took us less than 40 minutes. We parked behind the Garraway Hotel and checked into what was a pretty standard hotel (of the Super 8 or Holiday Inn variety), with a nondescript bedspread and curtains (but the bed was a king, yay!), air conditioning, fan, desk and fridge. The windows overlooked the cruise ship port and were absolutely huge. It was hardly luxurious, but it was clean and climate-controlled, and felt relatively safe. (We were on the third floor.)

After cleaning up a bit, we headed out in search of dinner. There are a lot of little bars and snackettes in Roseau, but we ended up at La Robe Creole, a pretty little place right behind our hotel. It was very early (maybe 5:30 or so) and we were the only ones there, but they agreed to accommodate us. The service, from a clearly bored teenager, was pretty terrible; instead of reciting the specials she flapped her hand at a board that we couldn't see from where we were sitting, and after we ordered she took SO's menu but left mine behind, where it stayed for the remainder of the meal. But the food was good -- chicken for me, red snapper for SO, with sides of rice, spinach, carrots and provision. We shared a dish of homemade banana ice cream for dessert. Total price for all that plus a rum punch for SO: $130 ECD.

November 18
We started the day with the continental breakfast buffet at the Garraway -- fresh juice, cereal, banana bread, regular bread with butter/jam, pineapple chunks and some slightly sketchy-looking cheese. We watched Ruby Princess pull into port as we ate, then set out for the local supermarket, AC Shillingford, to pick up some breakfast foods and snacks.

emerald pool morne trois pitons national park dominicaThe heat in Roseau was absolutely oppressive -- we were sweating as soon as we stepped out the door at 9 a.m. -- but our destination was much cooler: Emerald Pool, up in the mountains. We knew it was one of the island's most visited attractions, but we still weren't prepared for the huge parking lot filled with tourist vans and lined with trinket stalls. It's so popular because the hike down to the waterfall is incredibly easy, and of course because the waterfall itself is lovely -- nowhere near as high as Middleham, but nicely situated in a little glade with a pool for swimming. (Quite a few of our fellow tourists were doing so.)

On the loop path back to the parking lot were several viewpoints, one over the rain forest canopy, the other all the way down to the Atlantic Coast.

Back in Roseau, we ate lunch at Cocorico's, a cute little restaurant near the waterfront that seemed popular with both locals and visitors. SO got a chef salad and I got pasta primavera (YUM), and the fresh passionfruit juice we shared was really delicious. The waitress was friendly too, and the bill came to just $70 ECD.

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