On a blistering hot day in early May 2015, with brush fires and choking smoke persisting near my neighbourhood, I high-tailed it out of Roseau and headed for the ‘Heart of Dominica’. Friend Jenny was game for a little ‘cool out’ as well, so I drove us out-of-town and up the Imperial Road, passing by Springfield en route to the Pond Cassé round-about, in the center of the island. From there, we proceeded in an easterly direction on the road to Marigot and the Melville Hall (Douglas-Charles) Airport. By the time we reached this central plateau in the island’s interior, the temperatures were lower by a few degrees and the air was sweet and pure. We gazed in awe at Morne Trois Pitons, Dominica’s second highest peak, which dominates prominently in this area, and we were glad to be in her soothing shadow!
My agenda was three-fold, and I was determined to realize a couple of leisurely activities outside of a pre-planned
lunch and ‘lime’ at the peaceful and popular River Stone Bar & Grill on the westerly outskirts of the village of Bells (Belles). Managing Director Maxine Alleyne-Esprit had told me only a few days earlier that she is now open for lunch from Wednesdays to Saturdays, as well as on her usual Sunday afternoons. Once I knew that, and the weather was more than fine, I couldn’t wait a moment longer to go there! I was long overdue to spend a little time in this lovely setting, as I had enjoyed other afternoons in this pristine locale. You can read about them here and there.
Our first stop along the way before our lunch destination was at a popular little site located close to the Spanny Disco, just before Bells and about a 15 minute drive from Pond Cassé. The original proprietor of this bar/snackette (now deceased) had developed a trail to take people to two pretty waterfalls about 15 -20 minutes by foot into the rainforest. The Penrice Falls, now commonly known as the Spanny Falls have been admired by thousands, but for me, it would be the first time I went right to the viewing platform. Fifteen years ago, I had taken a visitor there, and we had commenced the mini-hike. However, it had been very rainy and we did not have on proper footwear to negotiate extra-large mud puddles, so I never actually got there! Better late than never. I did explain this to the current proprietor, Spanny Junior, and I think he was amazed. We paid him $10 ECD each to enter the private property to cover maintenance costs for the upkeep of the trail, as it is not a government eco-site.
As we walked along the cleared track, we admired flowers that had obviously been planted and well-tended by the owner. Then we passed quickly through a bit of farmland and directly entered the forest. Jenny examined some bright red insects and I too studied them with curiosity. We descended stone steps, cut into the rock and home-made handrails ,which at times were a bit loose, therefore, I grabbed onto them with care. We descended further into the woods until we came upon a constructed platform and the first of the two falls directly in front of us .
In the dappled sunlight, the tumbling waters took on jewel-like colours at its base. We noticed a rope attached to some trees to our right of the first waterfall, and assumed it led to the second cascade, apparently five minutes further. We did not attempt it at that time, as we were not dressed to grapple and climb over rocks and loose soil. We also remarked that the dry season was clearly evident, as the river below the falls was almost completely dry!
After a short while, we headed back to the Spanny Bar (where I had parked the car) and spent some time looking at the pretty flowers, marvelling at distant mountain vistas and listening to some Jaco Parrots, which had been perched nearby and took flight when they saw/heard us!
I thanked Spanny Jr. for the viewing opportunity and we drove further into the Bells area for the main event: lunch and ‘lime’ at River Stone!
When we arrived a few minutes later, we were warmly welcomed by wait-staffer Carlos and Chef Kevin Gregoire. They had been expecting us as I had made a reservation the day before. We sat under a large umbrella on the cozy veranda overlooking the Laurent River. I remarked once again that the dry season was clearly evident, as the water level was so low, as compared to how I had seen it at other times of the year. We first enjoyed some fresh pineapple and mango juice, delicious and sweet. This generous drink held us well so that we could ‘bathe’ in the river before having a big lunch.
Jenny stuck her toe in, and decided that she would not go further. Besides, she was entertained by little fishes that were fascinated by her feet, the only part of her body that she dipped into the cool rushing river. I, on the other hand, ventured further into the flow. Even though the level of water was low, the powerful current forced me to proceed cautiously and hang on to nearby boulders. Otherwise, I would have definitely ended a little further down river. Because it was more shallow than at other times of the year, I did not swim about, but contented myself in submerging between two big rocks! In no time, I was definitely cooled off! We both focused on the upriver scene before us. While butterflies and birds flitted about, we wondered about the power of nature and the strength of the waters rushing down Morne Trois Pitons, regardless of the season.
After this commune with the river, we wandered around the property. Once again, we admired the gorgeous flowers that grow prolifically on the grounds. When we were satiated with the views of the Nature Isle in this pristine locale, we returned to the cozy outdoor dining room to order lunch.
We both ordered a very tasty mahi-mahi fish wrap, with purple cabbage salad on the side. The delightful combination of herbs on the fish and in the dressing
caused us to slowly savor every morsel.
While we had only ordered small portions instead of possible large ones, we were surprised to be filled up by the generous serving, and as such, had no room for dessert!
In the freshest air imaginable, high in the mountains, surrounded by verdant rainforest and a rushing river, we both totally relaxed and forgot about our cares back in the city.
After almost four hours of ‘lime’ time, I suggested reluctantly that we move off and head back to our respective homes. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to stay all night! We said good-bye to Carlos and Chef Kevin, with assurances that we would return as soon as we could!
As we drove back to Pond Cassé, the third part of my plan was eventually realized. It took me two drive-by’s,
along with assurances from Jenny (and what she could read on the sign), as well as a query to a bus driver who had parked at Spanny’s Bar that we had actually passed the nature site that is originally known as Jaco Falls. I had been confused because the sign in a brightly coloured kiosk refers to the setting as Hibiscus Falls. However, I now understand that the two names mean the same thing! I pulled over by the side of the road and went to the attendant to make enquiries about entrance fees. The charge in 2015 is $3 USD for visitors and $5 ECD for citizens of Dominica. As I am the latter, I paid the lesser fee; however I felt unsure that the lady was convinced of my status. But I am what I said I am, and that’s the truth!
I entered under a large sign announcing Hibiscus Falls, and immediately descended numerous steps before I arrived at the viewing area. All in all, it probably took me 5 minutes. The stairs are well constructed with a strong railing, and one can even view the Jaco/Hibiscus Falls near the top of them. Therefore, no need to exert energy to see another lovely waterfall, just minutes off of the main road. I took a few photos in the late afternoon sunlight. As Jenny had seen this site before and remained outside ,I did not linger, but I was glad to have finally ‘found’ this waterfall.
After many years of driving by the property, it had been right under my nose, with a different name than I had expected!
A few minutes closer to the round-about at the center of the island, we pulled in to the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT)office. A friendly neighbour saw us drive up, and he quickly advised us that the staff had just left, as it was now 4:30 p.m. We still got out and looked around, as we were curious about the building and its lay-out in this natural setting. It is conveniently located near the trail-end of WNT Segment # 4 at Pond Cassé, and is very near to the trail-head of WNT Segment # 5.
Finally we stopped at Pond Cassé to admire majestic Morne Trois Pitons and to photograph her, even though her three peaks were slightly shrouded in clouds. I recalled a day many years ago when I had attempted the challenging climb to her summit. While I didn’t quite reach the top, the views from my very high vantage point of the countryside below were unforgettable!
By now, the light in the mountains was fading, and we returned to the oppressive heat that lingered along the west coast and the Roseau area. However, I managed to ‘stay cool’ that evening, as I fondly recalled the wonderful day spent at River Stone Bar & Grill and the ‘Heart of Dominica‘!