On Wednesday, I undertook the most arduous, asinine, amazing adventure I’ve ever attempted (except for, of course, this whole sailing and cruising thing). I signed up for a hike to Dominica’s boiling lake, the second largest in the world (the largest is in New Zealand, but not as dramatic according to one of the hikers today who has seen both now). It is a boiling cauldron of water approximately 250 feet across which is heated by a continuous flux of steam or gas generated by underlying magma which drives water up into the lake.
Sounds cool, huh? And it was. Even the hike was cool — except for its difficulty. It is an 8-mile hike through the jungle climbing up mountains and descending into valleys until you arrive at the longed-for lake. One of my fellow-hikers told me she looked up hikes on Dominica which were rated in difficulty on the following scale: Easy, Medium, Difficult, Advanced, and Very Advanced. This hike was, of course, very advanced! My nearly 6-decade old body did not appreciate what I put it through. As I sit here writing this on Wednesday evening, I am chilled and shivering and I can hardly move secondary to stiffness and joint pain. Thankfully, my thoughtful wife had cooked some of her delicious spaghetti and had it ready and waiting when I arrived back aboard.
It was about the 1.5 mile mark on the way to the lake that I realized I was in trouble. My legs and arms were already shaky and I felt a sense of doom. This feeling of impending death continued for the next 2.5 miles as we continued from Titou Gorge to Breakfast River, where we stopped for some fresh water. We then continued up Morne Nicholls which has an altitude of 3,168 feet. From there we completed a dangerous descent into the Valley of Desolation (aptly named), hiking past sulfur springs and hot pools. Finally, we ascended another mountain until reaching a peak overlooking the boiling lake. There, we had a brief lunch that Sea Cat, our guide, had carried up in his backpack. Unfortunately, the only way out was four more miles of grueling, and at times treacherous, climbing and hiking back to Titou Gorge. I would never have done it if I had known how difficult the hike was, and I’ll never do it again… but I’m glad that I did it this one time.
When Christopher Columbus was trying to describe the topography of Dominica to the Queen and King upon his return to Europe, he was unable to do so except by crumpling up a piece of paper into a ball and showing it to them said it looks like this. I can verify Columbus’ account as being completely accurate, for I have hiked the steep mountains and valleys myself.