On Saturday May 26th, two coaster buses transported 37 enthusiastic Hike Fest participants up the west coast from Roseau, then turned in an easterly direction at Portsmouth,following the winding road that passed by quaint northerly villages. After about two hours, we arrived at the start of the third and final adventure on this year’s program. We were all a little queasy when we disembarked, but thankfully, we quickly revived in the fresh stiff breeze that blew in off of the Atlantic Ocean.
Our 3 1/2 hour trek would take us along the north-east coast below Eden Estate (south of Calibishie) and we would head in a southerly direction, ending up in an area on Londonderry Bay called Cabana Beach (north of Melville Hall airport). We were particularly motivated because we knew that some delectable local food awaited us at the finish: crayfish stew; fish broth; chicken and pumpkin soup; and lots more, prepared from scratch by a willing community group from the nearby village of Marigot.
We were accompanied by several experienced guides, including Jerry Brisbane and Clement Rabess. These two men hold the record for being the first to successfully hike the entire 115 mile (180 km) Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) and they did it in record time – 6 days!!! We were definitely in good company – even off of the WNT.
Also joining us on the trail were a team of French journalists from our nearest northerly island neighbour, Guadeloupe. They were filming a documentary about Dominica. Their ‘joie de vivre‘ certainly contributed to the convivial atmosphere on our “beach walk.” And it hardly rained at all!
At the start, the going was easy, but it wasn’t long before we faced our first big challenge – we carefully picked our way along a rocky ledge, with only the sea below to catch us if we fell. We did slip and slide, of course. There was never any real fear as there was also a helping hand close-by to assist anyone in need.
The scenery was simply stunning! As we wended our way along rocky outcrops, through coastal forest,around sheltered bays and windswept coves, we collectively stopped to admire each breathtaking view. As a smaller group, we stuck closely together, making new friends along the way and sharing our snacks too.
I was so grateful for the opportunity to explore this relatively hidden coastline. We all agreed that it was like a dream come true. Cameras flashed at every opportunity. Our relaxed pace even provided a little time for Debra, owner of Ohlala Villas to take a sea bath.
“Beach Hop!” is the best phrase to describe this walk. There were plenty of ‘up’s and down’s’ in the forested areas between each beach, most of them steep and some of them treacherous. A fair number of trekkers occasionally applied the “bottoms-up” technique (intentionally or unintentionally) in order to slide down a slippery (muddy) slope. A kind young man (I think it was Chris) coached me down a particularly challenging incline. With careful, confident and calm instruction, he shadowed me, calling out my hand and feet placements so that I did not go “bottoms-up” at all. Thanks Chris!
After a couple of hours, we could finally see beyond our intended destination. Melville Hall Airport and the large village of Marigot loomed in the distance. And we were getting very hungry from the sea air and the diverse work-out! Only an hour to go!
We did take a little time to climb up a rocky (and somewhat slippery) outcrop between beaches. Most of us didn’t realize that this was a mere diversion and we had to back-track a bit to get on the correct path. On my way down, one of the French videographers caught me in motion as I flapped my arms and jumped a few feet from the rock to the sand. No one overseas would know it was me, but I truly did feel free as a bird in this pristine locale.
It seemed like no time at all when we descended the last section of forest and easily walked the beach along Londonderry Bay. We were basically dry up to that point. But Hike Fest, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is not without its “diversions.” Once again, it did not disappoint me, because at the trail’s end point, a rising river on the Londonderry Estate challenged us to cross it in a hurry. I beckoned to a fellow hiker who had already forded it to show me the most shallow section. I forged on, boots and all. By mid-river, the water was up to my thighs and the strong current pushed me around. I gritted my teeth and followed my friend in front of me. We made it! At least the camera in my pocket was in a sealed plastic bag. And a pair of plastic slippers in my pack would do for the ride home. After urging everyone else to cross quickly and safely, we all converged on a sheltered spot, where we found a couple of vehicles with protruding tents, tables and huge pots of food at the rear for hungry and weary, but happy hikers.
Whether it’s the trails, the unexpected “diversions,” the weather, the friends – both old and new, or the food, there is no doubt in my mind: Dominica’s Hike Fest – it’s definitely “the best!”