Rain had been pummelling the roof of our guesthouse during the night, while thunder had appeared to break the sky in two. Surprisingly, when I opened the door, I found the sun shining, as if reconfirming that nothing changes as fast as weather in the Caribbean. We had an appointment at 7am in the mountain village of Laudat, the trailhead of the hike to Boiling Lake, which should be a short drive up from Roseau. But when we entered the rainforest, we were confronted with large stones on the road. After the unfortunate rock that had shattered our windscreen the previous day, the last thing we needed was another mishap with the car. A driver coming down stopped to tell us that the road higher up was actually blocked, and that we needed to take an alternative one. Needless to say, we arrived late in Laudat, where a most friendly and honest guide waited for us. Confronted with the sub-optimal conditions we had expected anyway, we decided to try our luck and prepared to get very wet. The rain had stopped for the moment, but it didn't take a meteorologist to predict that more would come down the rest of the day. A young guide accompanied us, and turned out to be yet another friendly and helpful Dominican, explaining all about medicinal use of the trees we saw, walking trees, buttressed giants, and much more. The trail was easy, and under cover of the canopy we hardly got wet even when we heard the raindrops hitting the strong leaves high above us - a wonderful natural umbrella. When we got to viewpoints, we saw clouds emerging from the dense forest - a majestic sight, like a giant green creature breathing. The sweeping views over the coastline and even neighbouring islands: we did not see them. But we thorouhgly enjoyed the hike as it was; and were happy with the cooler weather, especially when hiking uphill.
After the summit, we descended towards the infamous Valley of Desolation, which we could smell before we reached it. Much of the vegetation disappeared, exposing us to the skies above, and also greatly increasing our view, also because it had stopped raining. Before our eyes, we saw steam coming out of the earth, everywhere, streams running down the mountain, on yellow-brownish river beds of sulphur, heard the hissing sound of hot air pushing itself out to the open. The guide knew well what he was doing: he showed us the way through this treacherous section of the hike without getting our feet burned. This area was actually shaped during and after a volcanic eruption in 1880, destroying the rainforest and creating a scenery that one would not easily associate with the Caribbean. Judging from the constant hissing of the earth, it was clear that the geothermal activity is still very high. As we descended further, we found ourselves in the rainforest again, this time with the special sensation that the small rivers we had to cross, felt warm on our feet. Leaving the rainforest behind, we crossed to another valley, exposing us to the elements again. Fortunately, it had stopped raining when we worked our way up on the last climb. We saw bromeliads which were endemic to this particular region; it was easy to understand that this small part of Dominica has its very own microclimate and therefore special vegetation. It only took us a couple of minutes more to reach a small plateau. Judging from the names carved out in the rocks, it was clear we had reached our destination: the Boiling Lake.
Steam and clouds were coming from below, and we could barely see the contours of some trees on the other side of a wide emptiness. Wind was blowing constantly, and we ventured to the very border of the crater. From below the clouds, we heard a special sound of restless water and wondered what it would look like. And then, suddenly, in a matter of seconds the air cleared, the clouds were blown away, and we could see the Boiling Lake, water bubbling as if about to boil. We noted two huge areas in the lake which were the constantly bubbling with lots of power. Constant volcanic activity from below means that the water in this old crater is being heated up, resulting in temperatures only 10 degrees under boiling point. The force of the water is impressive in this 70 metres wide lake. We continued looking; clouds came, and disappeared. It was obvious we would never get a full view of the surroundings, but at the same time, the cloud-covered lake added mystery to the place. Our guide told us that once a local had fallen in accidentally, trying to recover a camera. He was taken out by helicopter, and spent 8 months in a hospital in Martinique recovering from the burns, mostly on his legs. After hearing this story, we were a little more cautious walking the edge of the crater for the best views. It was clear the weather would not improve more, and we started our hike back after thoroughly enjoying the Boiling Lake views. Still below the Valley of Desolation, we undressed and got into a small natural pool under a small waterfall, like a natural jacuzzi with warm water. We could have stayed for the rest of the day, but still had a few hours of hiking ahead of us, so we continued working our way up to the amazing Valley of Desolation. The rest of the hike back to the trailhead we enjoyed the close view of the rainforest as much as possible. When we finally reached a small hut at the end of the trail, the rain finally started pouring down in a torrential way. We were very happy having chosen to hike, despite the weather conditions; the Boiling Lake is a wonderful natural sight.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Boiling Lake (Dominica). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Boiling Lake. Read more about this site.