Location: Dominica

The day was finally here! We woke up at 6:15 for a rather chaotic handheld breakfast of banana oatmeal pancakes provided by Chelsea, and then we packed for THE hike of the semester: 8 to 12 hours through the mountains of Dominica to one of the last boiling lakes in the world.
We took Ply to shore and hopped in two vans for a stressful ride into the jungle. Stressful, I say, because whenever the hills got steep, the vans would slow to perhaps five mph, and our driver would joke about us needing to get out and push!. Poor vans, having to drag 25 of us and all our snacks up a mountain.
Upon arrival, we encountered a lovely lady who knew our high-energy best friend/guide Poncho, and we cleared her out of Skittles, snickers, and sour sop juice (which looked disturbingly like 2% milk, and we all know that milk drinkers are demented, but I swear its actually a nice fruit juice). With our rations acquired, we headed into the jungle. I would try and describe the beautiful green green green trees and moss and ferns, and the hazardous terrain, and the crazy clouds that zoomed past us on the wind at every summit, and the sulfurous hot springs that looked like a set in Jurassic Park, but I really cant do it justice, so stare at the photos and then imagine you smell lovely fresh mountain air/rotten eggs.
It soon turned out that this hike was not like the other times seamester had gone to the boiling lake with Poncho. This hike was a mud hike. This hike was the muddiest hike any of us have ever been on. It started low key: we would nimbly leap from rock to log whenever the trail turned into a stream, keeping our shoes somewhat dry and clean. At the summit, we hit the fog and rejoiced about the lack of sunburn opportunities. Then it was down towards the hot springs, and the steep downhill started doing us in. Rob slipped and fell in the mud and then did it again and then another time, too.
We got to the springs a good bit muddier, but we still had hope of keeping our toes dry. Poncho whipped out bread and cod for a lovely snack and then twenty-some eggs, which he popped into the boiling river. They turned black and then into what Chelsea described as the best hard-boiled egg of [her] life. Onwards and downwards, we hit a hot spring that was human-friendly temperature instead of egg boiling temperature, and everyone took our clothes off cuz we came prepared, with swimsuits underneath. There was debate about whether to leave shoes on because the prospect of putting muddy socks and shoes back on afterward was unpleasant, but in the end, only Caroline and Joe opted for that route, and so in swimsuits, socks, and sneakers, they got in the hot spring. We all sat in the warm water, surrounded by ferns and vines and fog, united in commitment to stay until the instructors dragged us out. Then, the instructors dragged us out, and we slowly waded out into a cold, cruel, muddy world. Putting socks back on was just as upsetting as predicted.
The hike continued, and by now, everyone was accepting that there was no staying dry. Or clean. Where once we skirted mud clearings, now we squelched through. No more rock hopping to avoid water; when we hit a river, people just splashed on through.
Oh, and this whole time, we were switching between no rain, light drizzle, and torrential downpour. Things were getting a tad damp. Dont think we werent enjoying ourselves; at every outlook, there were beautiful views of GROUND and GREEN, which you really miss when crossing an ocean for three weeks, and theres something so magical about hiking in the clouds. We joked about how the random wind gusts were causing several degrees of leeway (aka pushing us off course) because after navmaster yesterday, everyone was traumatized. Now, all we can do is calculate course to steer and dead reckonings.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, we hit the boiling lake. We couldnt really see it because there was mist and fog and stuff, but we could see the closest edge of it, and occasionally, youd get a little window in the white and make out the boiling center. Poncho said when its clear, you can see all the way to the ocean. What a concept.
We wanted to swim because we always wanted to swim, but apparently, that thing is 100 degrees Celsius. Egg boiling is not human-friendly. We broke out lunch (macaroni salad by Chelsea), plus the potato chips Amanda squirreled away into as many of our backpacks as she could. I was a proud carrier of the zero salt olive oil flavor. Then, all of a sudden, we were leaving; it was time to retrace our steps and do it all again in reverse!
The rain was raining more, but whatevs. Erik got ahead of us and then lay down in one of the hot spring rivers, looking so at peace that it broke our hearts to catch up and make him go. Then he started hiking straight down the river because now that we had accepted soaking wet socks, the warm water was actually lovely. This river had cool white mud, which was exciting after all the brown, orange, and gray mud.
Erik, out of the river. Everyone is heading up the muddy slopes. Also, slipping down the muddy slopes. I dont know if anyone got out without at least one semi-spectacular fall. Amanda and Stich fell into the same bush, one after another. Rob fell several more times. Callis keens had almost completely disintegrated, which led to some tripping. I slipped into the infinite mud and landed in a beautiful patch of moss. #Blessed.
Caroline, Hilary, and I passed the time by telling each other the most out-of-pocket stories we could come up with while hiking (sometimes on all fours to scramble up the really steep mudslides). Daisy became besties with Poncho as he steered us on the right path back despite our frequent forays in the completely wrong direction. Erik made the executive decision to take off his shoes and freestyle the mud with bare feet. He also acquired a big beetle friend, who traveled the last hour or so on Eriks hat.
Snackless, muddy, and full of joy, we emerged from the jungle. We guiltily got into the two vans, feeling deeply concerned about the amount of mud all over us and the lack of mud all over the car seats. During the car ride, Taylor realized it was our final car ride of the whole semester, which was a jump scare moment for real, and then we got dropped off. Some of us decided to wait for Calum in the dingy, but Gabby jumped in the ocean and led the way on a lovely swim back to Argo. Full of fear over the tiny invisible jellyfish that had been plaguing us, I and a few others waited for Calum. Also, he would be so sad if he pulled up and we were all swimming off into the sunset!
Back on board, we found that Sean and Mac had started on dinner, and Will, Joe, and Chelsea popped into the galley to finish up. After our chicken Caesar salad dinner, I asked what everyones magic city would be made out of. Some memorable answers included Stichs (invisible stuff, so the locals would get around easily and tourists would bump into everything like idiots), Miles (fish scales, but stronger because fish scales arent good building materials, of course), and McGee and Caroline (agreed on a city of trees and treehouses and fruit n stuff).
Saving best for last, Amanda devised a peaceful evening of bush tea, ice cream, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl because we apparently passed a ravine where they filmed a fight scene. Literally so iconic. Thanks, Anna, for getting ice cream and making the bush tea!!!