Although it’s been a while since I took a long hike on the Nature Isle, I am currently contented with little outings around Dominica. Readers of Ti Domnik Tales will know by now that the possibilities of things to do are endless in this lovely little country. For the past few weeks, I have been occupied with preparations for my overseas relocation to Canada, which is timely and necessary. But every now and then, I take a break in order to immerse myself in the intriguing aspects of “nature, culture and adventure” that prevail in this beautiful tropical paradise.
On a Saturday afternoon not long ago, I decided to take the short drive from my home to Soufriere, on the southwestern side of the island. I hadn’t been there for a couple of years, and of course, I was curious to see how things had changed (or not) following Tropical Storm Erika last August. This time, I did not travel down to the end of the main road, where the village of Scotts Head is located. I did enjoy that journey a couple of years ago and you can read about it here.
This time, I decided to check out the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-site, as I hadn’t been there for quite a few years. First I parked at the main crossroads in the village and took a walk up the road to a popular view-point. I gazed at the gorgeous southerly scene, which included tranquil seaside vistas of Soufriere Bay, the distant promontory at Scotts Head, and inland views of the steep hills that form part of an extinct volcanic crater.
I drove beyond the village down well-marked side roads and then entered the park where the famous and historic sulphur springs are located. I could immediately smell the pungent fumes
emanating from the area, which is renowned for its sulphur deposits and hot mineral springs, also indicative of the ancient volcanic terrain. It was very hot and dry in this area, and I perspired profusely as I hiked a short distance uphill to
mineral deposits. I remarked to myself that the area did look somewhat different form my last visit there, as one of the strong streams was not presently flowing. A few people were enjoying natural baths in small enclosed cabanas.Apart from the occasional bird call, all was quiet. I caught an iguana having his midday
nap on a tree. While I stood very close to him to capture his essence on camera, he was not bothered in the least by my presence! When I arrived at the large bathing pool, no one was in it at all. It seemed somewhat eerie to me, as I recalled other times when one had to wait for a turn to enter the murky healing water, as it was filled with bathers. Something didn’t seem quite right, but at that moment I didn’t know what it was.
I had already decided to take a sea/sulphur bath later, so I left the site and drove a short distance to another lovely locale that I had not visited for a few years: Rodney’s Wellness Retreat. As luck would have it, I met a senior forestry officer, Jacqueline André as I walked down the little lane en route to this attractive enterprise. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and I shared my sense of something changed at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site with her. She then told me about the signficant damage that the site had sustained from Tropical Storm Erika, and that the entire park had been buried under several feet of mud! She described the extensive clean-up process, and exclaimed that what had been done to restore the site was quite remarkable. All of the pools had been submerged in silt, and the buildings located there had been damaged too. Now I understood why it didn’t look exactly the same as I had remembered from a few years earlier! .
I was very hungry by this time, and I welcomed the opportunity to have a meal in the open
air restaurant set in a pretty garden on the property. On this lovely Saturday afternoon, I dined on Mahi-mahi, commonly known as Dolphin – but not the Flipper type! Hummingbirds flitted to and fro amongst the colourful hibiscus flowers. In this peaceful setting, with a fresh breeze blowing down from the steep hills, I further relaxed as I chatted with Bevin Lewis, one of the owners of this family run business. He encouraged me to take a garden stroll and to look at the newly built
‘pan house’, where traditional steel pans would be housed to be teach students and entertain visitors and residents .
We also chatted about hiking, as Segments One and Two of the Waitukubuli National Trail are located in this area. Bevin informed me that a large landslide still exists on Segment One in the Morne Crabier area (March 2016). He said he had had to rappel down the slope in that area, so hikers be forewarned! I was so happy to have completed that segment when the trail was first opened. I fell in love with the section of it known as the French Quarter, which is also part of an archeological dig as it was a inhabited by the French in the 18th century (not far from the village of Scotts Head).
Along one of the garden trails, I came upon an inviting hammock and was sorely tempted,but I felt there was too much else to see before taking a nap that day! As I wandered around the lushproperty, I became completely captivated with the concept of ‘caldera’, meaning large volcanic crater. I really gained a sense of being in a ‘bowl’ as I looked up at the verdant hills high above Soufriere. And of course, I could see evidence of changes to the terrain resulting from landslides, thanks to TS Erika. Thankfully, Rodney’s Wellness Retreat did not sustain damage from the devastating storm.
As the afternoon was wearing on, I had one more stop to make before heading home. My reward for my very relaxing afternoon would be a dip and soak at the Bubble Beach Spa, seaside in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in the village of Soufriere.
The angle of the sun was fairly low over the sea as I first submerged myself just outside of the stone enclosed hot water pools. I bounced around in gentle waves in a shallow spot just offshore, and then walked over to warm up in the hot water, which results from sulphuric vents on the sea floor mixed with sea water. I screeched when I stuck my big toe into one of the pools: it seemed to be boiling hot! Then a young man who was in the same location but further away from shore informed me that the temperature was a little cooler in deeper water. Bathers be warned!
I then submerged in another pool of more
moderate temperature. I chatted with some of the other guests, and we even sang along to the oldie-goldies pumping out of the sound system at the beach bar on the premises. Spirits were high and the scenery was out of sight!
After the better part of an hour, I was sufficiently cooked and if I had stayed any longer I would have been overdone! I thanked the proprietor and his wife for arranging this adorable spa, which also offers massages, drinks and food. I was amazed that they only requested donations to help with upkeep of the beach and hot pools. I made my fair contribution and trust that everyone who visits this delightful spot would do the same. It’s good karma, after all!
“Now that was an afternoon that needs to be repeated,” I said to myself as I drove off into
the sunset. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll spend some time meandering around Soufriere Dominica as soon as you can!