27th April 2022
The names of walks usually tell you what you’re walking on or walking to. ‘The Pacific Coast Trial’ meanders along the length of the Pacific, walking along the ‘Hadrian’s Wall Trail’ you trace the wall that Hadrian built to protect England from the barbaric Scots and if you happen to find yourself on the ‘Camino de Santiago’ your destination is the cathedral at Santiago. In Dominica we’ve taken on the ‘Boiling Lake’ which, as the name would suggests ends at a boiling lake, but there was so much more it to than that.
With the sun still resting firmly below the horizon the alarm clock buzzed and we readied ourselves for a big day in the jungle. Bags were packed to the brim, eggs were carefully cushioned and Larry positioned so he’d not feel excluded. Then we whisked ourselves into the mountains with fellow OCC intrepid explorers Cerulean, Favorita, and Walkabout.
Our hearts dropped at the foot of the trail with a big no entry sign decreeing in no uncertain terms that we were not to pass, but turning the other way we couldn’t see the sign and simply passed starting the first of many arduous climbs. All around the forest was alive with humming birds humming around us, rustling noises emanating from the dense jungle and the jungle growing so quickly we could almost hear it.
The ups and downs became increasingly steep and the mud became increasingly clarty and in the true style of Ruffian hiking we crested into the high point. All around us we had the same view, the inside of a cloud, but what marked this as different was the smell. Wafts of sulphurous gas invaded our nostrils hinting of the wonders to come and the other worldly world that we were destined for.
Scrambling down cliffs turned blue, yellow and orange by Zinc and Sulphur and we gingerly made our way into the aptly named, “Valley of Desolation”. The water boiled and fizzed out of soft rocks with superheated steam adding to the other worldly feeling of this place. Walking through the valley was like playing Russian roulette as you were never quite sure how soft the rocks you were treading on were or if the handy handhold you were about to use would scald you in seconds.
The main event of the day, the Boiling Lake was now within grasp but where once there was a path there was now a shear drop, where hurricane Maria had grabbed a chunk of land and whisked it away. Taking our hearts in our hands and relying on the structure of the non-structural slippery mud under our feet and the tiny roots of plants in our hands, we inched our way along the edge of the precipitous drop. With the drop behind us we now just had the child’s play activity of skipping over rivers of boiling water and through clouds of near piousness gas.
Nothing could have prepared us for the sight of the boiling lake. It really was a boiling lake of extraordinary proportions. In the middle of the 60m wide pool (the 2nd largest in the world), water that had been heated near the centre of the earth erupted, swirling around before falling down a steaming waterfall. Of all the Grapefruit points we have had on our travels; this was the most astonishing.
With time not being on our side as we needed to be back before dark, we started our trip back to civilisation. What were sketchy downs were now scary ups and we knew that if we fell, we’d not only break bones but would then be cooked in the boiling pools, but all this excursion was leaving us hungry.
Luckily as we walked back through the ‘Valley of Desolation’ we’d left ourselves lunch gently cooking in a pool. Eggs of the purest white had been turned black as they cooked in toxic volcanic water and the impact of that water was seen on the outside and tasted on the inside. Eating non rotten eggs that smell rotten is not something we think will catch on as a culinary delight.
After more hours of hiking, we emerged from the forest looking like explorers of old, covered in mud, oozing sweat from every pore and exuding glory. Our dishevelled form was in stark contrast to the cruise ship tourists who mingled around us with their aroma of soap, their clothes of white while in their closeted travelling world.
Walking up to the Boiling Lake and through the Valley of Desolation was exactly as the name suggested. There was a ‘Boiling Lake’, but like the ‘PCT’, ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ and the ‘Camino de Santiago’ there was much more to it than the final destination.
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