Location: Rousseau, Dominica
Today was a gargantuan of a day, and I am proud to say that everyone has made it out on the other side, a little smarter, a little fitter, and in love with Dominica. At 6 am this morning, I came quietly into the salon, took command of the auxiliary cord to our salon speakers, and woke everyone up with the majestic voice of Andrea Bocelli. Once everyone was awake and positive, we convened on deck for a scrumptious breakfast of cinnamon toast and eggs. Everyone ate their fill and drank lots of water because at 8 am. We were meeting our trail guide, Pancho, hiking to the infamous Boiling Lake. Pancho met us in full form, wearing two different camouflage patterns, and we piled into vans to get to the trailhead. The car ride was an early highlight in the day as we wound our way up narrower and narrower roads through the stunningly luscious hills of the rainforest that is Dominica. Once at the trailhead, everyone was eager to get going, and immediately, we started up the trail. The morning was cool, with a nice cloud cover and some light sprinkles to keep things moist. The first part of the trail was through a rather thick jungle, but the trail was wide and easy to follow. Mud and wet leaves were the stories of the morning, mostly because it was treacherous not to plan out every footfall, but everyone quickly warmed up to the terrain. We plodded along uphill for the most part getting our shoes nice and muddy on the way; then, the trail quickly turned downhill until we came across Breakfast River, aptly named for its location on the hike as the place where people stop to have breakfast. It was only about 9:30 am at this point. A couple of people got their feet wet, but everyone kept trekking onward almost straight uphill but in high spirits. This part of the hike was arduous and had you thanking Poseidon whenever the stairs tampered off into a short flat bit, which always seemed to end a little too soon with more stairs. It was tough, but the fact that we were climbing along a ridgeline in-between two valleys that each had a river flowing through them was amazing. Around 10:30 am, we made it to the halfway point and the highest point on the hike (3,000ft) and took a little break to let everyone catch up and drink some water. From there, it was mostly downhill, and when I say downhill, I mean steep stairs that turned into slow rock crawls at points, but it was a grand time. We were descending into what is known as the Valley of Desolation, named for its desolate Martian-like landscape. There were open sulfuric thermal vents both in the ground and in the small stream that ran down the valley. It was here that we took a break as Pancho produced a carton of eggs from his pack, put them in his strainer that he had been carrying from when we met him, and placed the eggs into one of the streams hot springs. Ten minutes later, we were all enjoying hard-boiled eggs. The desolate valley proved to be quite nutritious and delicious, but we were also able to get a nice cheap hot mud facial from the side of one of the streams that exfoliated our sweaty pores nicely. Once we were out of the valley, we came to some waterfalls and pools where we all, of course, took a dip. Just go ahead and imagine the most perfect bathtub you have ever sat in, and these springs and waterfalls were just a little bit better than that. Far enough from the heat that they weren’t too hot, but close enough that they weren’t too cold, perfect. We suited back up to climb our way out of the valley and then down into another valley and then finally up to the mountain that coveted away the Boiling Lake. When we got to the lake, it was indeed boiling, and the smell of sulfur was pungent. Everyone was tired at this point, so we stopped to refuel with some lunch and to take in the absurd view of a good size lake
emitting steam and boiling in the middle. If you are trying to picture this at home, just go into your kitchen, put a pot on the stove, and wait. Once at least some strength was regained, we started retracing our steps. Even though we were on our way back because we had one uphill and downhill so much, we weren’t quite in the clear. Everyone trooped along, and after a few stops, a couple of motivational speeches, and one piggyback ride, we made it back to the trailhead. A cool spring and stream were waiting for our aching and sweaty bodies, and after one jump in, people were feeling refreshed. We finally piled back into the cabs and met Captain Eric at the dock to take us back to Ocean Star. If you think this day is over, you underestimate my use of the word gargantuan. After a delicious dinner of franks and beans, we rolled straight into the Competent Crew test and the VHF Radio Operator test. Everyone had been quizzing each other and asking me questions all day, and, although tired, we were ready to knock the tests out and did so in short order. Things are winding down here on Ocean Star as shipmates are eagerly taking to their bunks (it’s 8:45) for some much-deserved rest. From my coffin, here in the chart house, I am signing off, happily putting a cap on an epic day.