Rainforest Revelry: A Wonder-Filled Trek from Springfield to Middleham Falls, Dominica

There's Dominica's Morne Micotrin (Macaque) again!  It welcomes eager hikers to the trailhead of Middleham Falls above Cochrane village.

There’s Dominica’s Morne Micotrin (Macaque) again! It welcomes eager hikers to the trail-head for Middleham Falls above Cochrane village.

With some lingering arthritic-like symptoms  and residual lower energy levels resulting from my bout of  Chikungunya in April 2014, I was unsure about my strength and stamina in terms of a day-long hike in Dominica’s interior. I had done well so far, with walks of up to four hours.  However, there was only one way to find out if I could do more – and  you will have to read on to see how I made out!

Sunday May 3rd, 2015 was a very significant day for me, as it marked the first anniversary of the passing of my dear kitty, Tia-pet into the next life.  Before hiking partner Jenny and I set off from Springfield Plantation to

Plants are flourishing at Tia's grave site at Springfield.  The little kitty is resting in spectacular natural surroundings.

Plants are flourishing at Tia’s grave site at Springfield Plantation. The little kitty is resting in spectacular natural surroundings.

commence our ambitious ‘walk’ to Middleham Falls, we visited Tia’s grave site and laid flowers there.  While I miss him dearly, I can still ‘feel the love’ and I will always be grateful to my friends who have helped me cope with this loss.

The dry, hot season had set in with a vengeance on Dominica.  Everyone was complaining about the oppressive heat.  But what better place to go than into the cool of the rainforest, and that was our primary objective!  We commenced just after 8:30 a.m. and immediately I huffed and puffed as my muscles warmed  to the steep climb up the Cochrane Back Road, the first leg of the journey.  Despite the initial breathlessness on my part, Jenny and I chatted away, and within half an hour, we arrived at the next uphill road that would take us to the trail-head to Middleham Falls. While the sun shone brilliantly overhead, we admired distant views of some of the mountains in Morne Trois Pitons National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). As we trekked along, we  stopped to chat with a couple who were cleaning the yard in front of their beautiful, secluded home.  The gentleman mentioned that hikers did pass by now and then, but I was well aware that most intrepids access the Middleham Falls eco-site from the Laudat side, as it is shorter, although a bit steeper in sections.  I had taken that track a few months earlier, and you can read about that fun-filled foray here.

from high above teh Cochrane Village, the views across the Roseau Valley are spectacular.  I believe this prominent massif is Morne Watt.

From high above the Cochrane Village, the views across the Roseau Valley are spectacular. I believe this prominent massif is Morne Watt in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

As we climbed higher into the rainforest, we were grateful for the cool breezes and shady trees that lined the overgrown through-way. When we came to a fork in the road, I couldn’t exactly recall which track to take, as it had been ten years since I had ventured this way.  At that moment, a friendly farmer drove by and stopped to answer my query.  Right away, he directed us to the right (hikers, take note), as the concreted lane to the left accesses private property.

Thereafter, our conversation kept us moving along, and after an hour or so of continuous incline, we arrived at a grassy plateau with an abandoned

Morne Micotrin (Macaque) provides a dramatic backdrop to the entrance to the Middleham Falls trail.

Morne Micotrin (Macaque) provides a dramatic backdrop to the trail-head to the Middleham Falls track above Cochrane.

house, and we noticed the end of the road a short distance away. Right before us, was the entrance to the Middleham Falls Trail!

The enchanting entrance to Middleham Falls trail beckons visitors to enter Morne Trois Pitons National Aprk.

The enchanting entrance to Middleham Falls trail above Cochrane village beckons visitors to enter Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

As we entered the dense forest, we were immediately entranced by sweet sounds of revelry emanating from the tree-tops high above us. Finches, thrushes, and particularly Mountain Whistlers (Siffleur Montagne) accompanied us for the

The start of the Middleham Falls trail from the Cochrane side is level and easy to walk on.

The start of the Middleham Falls trail from the Cochrane side is level and easy to walk on.

duration of our day in the ‘woods’.  Although we were a little fatigued from the challenging uphill climb on the back roads in the heat, we instantly felt refreshed under the cover of the canopy. A well-maintained track, with steps made from carapit, a sturdy, slip-proof local wood enabled us to move along very easily.

After a few minutes, we passed by a sign indicating that we were now officially inside the 17,000 acre Morne Trois Pitons National Park boundary.  A  number of steps  later,  we found ourselves beside the renowned ‘Stinking Hole’ (Tou Santi). While we were curious about this sulphurous crevice in the earth, which is home to thousands of bats, the foul-smelling fumes chased us away.  Jenny and I did agree though, that it would be fun to see these

The 'Stinking Hole' filled with thousands of bats during the day, lives up to its name!

The ‘Stinking Hole’ is  filled with thousands of bats and their ‘guano’, and lives up to its name!

Jenny stands at the boundary sign as we entered Morne Trois Pitons National Park en route to Middleham Falls.

Jenny stood at the boundary sign as we entered Morne Trois Pitons National Park en route to Middleham Falls.

nocturnal mammals fly out  en masse at dusk someday.

We continued from there in peaceful reverie as we listened to the cheery revelry of ubiquitous bird-songs above and around us. We forded several streams along the way,  of which the first two were bone dry due to the  lack of rainfall and intense heat. However, the next few did require some strategizing to avoid a slip on a slick rock or a wet boot. I generally let Jenny go first over these mini-challenges; she was more nimble in her agile attempts, however, I carefully (but successfully) picked my way to the other side.

Jenny considers the best approach for crossing slippery rocks in the river.

Jenny considered the best approach for crossing slippery rocks in the river.

Jenny manouevers over slippery rocks in a river bed.

Jenny manoeuvred over slippery rocks in a river bed.

DSCF4820

It is possible to hike right through from Cochrane to Laudat (and vice versa) on the Middleham Falls trail. It also intersects with Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

As we neared the falls, the ravines on either side of the mini-rivers became steeper and more slippery.  Good thing it was the dry season or those areas would have required more effort to reach the top of the opposite bank.  The track also became narrower, a little greasy and uneven where there were above-ground streams and prominent tree  roots.  We had to keep our eyes to the ground so that we did not trip or twist an ankle.  Soon we came to a junction with a sign that indicated our close proximity to the destination.  At that point, we encountered a couple who had hiked from the Laudat side and we all more or less hiked the last several minutes together.

We could hear the roar first and then we caught a glimpse of the tall waterfall through the trees.  But suddenly, we came to a dead end, and realized that we had ‘overshot’ the eco-site.  Jenny scouted around while I explained to French visitors in their language about the situation.  Then my intrepid friend backtracked and we followed her until she found the main path, which we had all overlooked for some reason. (Perhaps a sign would be helpful at that junction).

In the hot sunny weather, this site was beyond beautiful.

In the hot sunny weather, this site was beyond beautiful.

The top of Middleham Falls is about 270' up.  It has less flow in this photo, as it was taken in the dry seaon, that is no or very little rainfall and intense heat.  This is usual during the month of May.

The top of Middleham Falls is about 270′ up. It has less flow in this photo, as it was taken in the dry season, that is, no or very little rainfall and intense heat. This is usual during the month of May in Dominica.

We took a few photos right away as we gawked at this dramatic cascade, which is one of the tallest on the island. (I cannot fit it all into my camera lens!)  Then we plopped down on some large boulders overlooking this lovely scene and its pretty pool below.  While we munched on our snacks, two young ladies came along and asked about swimming under the waterfall.  I enthusiastically encouraged them to go below and try it.  There were now six of us in the area, and I felt it was better to have a few people

Middleham Falls glistened in the dappled sunlight on Sunday May 3, 2015.

Middleham Falls glistened in the dappled sunlight on Sunday May 3, 2015.

A visitor enjoys a refreshing dip in the deep pool at the base of the waterfall.

A visitor enjoyed a refreshing dip in the deep pool at the base of the waterfall.

around when others were in the water. So on that day, Jenny and I became unofficial ‘lifeguards’ . I had indeed jumped in to the refreshing waters many years ago, but did not think my knees could take further challenge on the rocky descent to the pool, as this was my first long trek in two years.

The others truly enjoyed their ‘bath’, and they actually left the site just ahead of Jenny and me.  We had lingered for about 45 minutes, and the refreshing repose (without getting wet) was worth every second! On the return journey, I let Jenny lead, which I felt was good for me, as she helped me to quicken my pace slightly.  We were again enraptured by the music over our heads, and we heard an assortment of tunes from various mountain whistlers along the route.  It also intrigued us to listen to melodious tinkling sounds from unidentified insects.  The rainforest was truly full of music that day and I felt as if I were walking in a heaven on earth.

A pair of insects in this hole within an ancient gommier tree exchanged tuneful phrases (until they noticed that we were listening!)

A pair of insects in this hole within an ancient gommier tree exchanged tuneful phrases (until they noticed that we were listening!)

While we retraced our steps, we also admired the tall trees which shaded us and housed those harmonious creatures:  expansive chatanier, with huge buttresses and  stately gommier, with  aromatic sticky resin made us think that this forest must be very ancient indeed.

While the forest was relatively dry, fungi did still thrive in the dark, cool environment.

While the forest was relatively dry, fungi did still thrive in the dark, cool environment.

While we were looking around at all the beautiful plants in the rainforest, we heard a rustling in the dry leaves.  All of a sudden, a rodent-like agouti scooted across the path just behind us.  I had not seen one in the wild for many years, and it added to my delight with this day.

Many leaves have fallen from the trees in the rainforest, as a natural phenomenon during the dry season.

Many leaves had fallen from the trees in the rainforest, which is a natural phenomenon during the dry season.

As we moved out of the trail and onto the open  back road that would take us ‘down’ to Springfield, we also appreciated lovely wildflowers and the gorgeous views in every direction.

Lovely heliconia flowers contrasted perfectly with the surrounding greens.

Lovely red heliconia flowers contrasted perfectly with the surrounding greens.

Pretty wildflowers provided a pause and cause for admiration.

Pretty wildflowers provided a pause and cause for admiration.

We quickened our steps, so that we could reward ourselves with a cool dip in the Springfield River.

The revitalizing Springfield River was a refreshing reward after a day-long trek to and through the rainforest.

The revitalizing Springfield River was a refreshing reward after a day-long trek to and through the rainforest.

When I looked at my watch once we were back at our base at Springfield, I remarked that we had taken about 6 1/2 hours to thoroughly enjoy a spectacular part of paradise.  As I slipped into the refreshing river, I reveled in the joy of a remarkable journey into  the essence of the Nature Island. And I was also thrilled to have accomplished my

An beautiful May sunset was another reward for a wonderful day on the Nature Island.

A beautiful May sunset  marked the conclusion of wonderful day on the Nature Island.

first day-long trek since having fallen ill just over a year ago.  Time spent in Dominica’s rainforest is definitely a healing tonic for  body, mind and soul.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

En Route to a Healing Weekend on the East Coast of Dominica

As I recovered from chikungunya and reflected on the loss of my little  cat, Tia, I felt that a weekend away from my home might be a boost to body, mind and soul.  It had been a long time (six years!) since I ventured over to the central east coast of Dominica and I could not wait a moment longer.  When Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive, a lovely boutique hotel near Castle Bruce replied to my query about  room availability with an affirmative,  I unhesitatingly booked it right away. I had stayed there a few times in previous years, so I already knew that I would highly enjoy my short stay there.

I headed out on a showery Saturday morning with some trepidation.  I knew that I would meet more rain as I passed through the  mountainous interior of the island and I was

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

anxious about road and weather conditions.  But the little voice in my head urged me on. While it was little scary and almost as dark as night  at midday when I passed in the shadow of majestic  Morne Trois Pitons, I took my time and carefully maneuvered around occasional potholes.

There was hardly any traffic on the road and  45 minutes after my departure , I arrived at the Emerald Pool Eco-Site.  By then, it was pouring, but I felt in need of a little outdoor ‘refreshment’.  Besides, it was  an easy walk  on a well-maintained track to this famous waterfall and I  carried my umbrella.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica's interior.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica’s interior.

Although my joints reminded me that  I was not ready for any big hike, I strode carefully and sometimes gingerly through the dripping rainforest to check out this popular cascade. I kept my head down as I sheltered under my umbrella.  After a few minutes, I heard the distinctive roar of a powerful torrent of water.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool.  Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool. Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

Within 10 minutes, I glimpsed the beauty of the small but enchanting Emerald Pool.  Although the rain persisted, I felt invigorated in the fresh, pure mountain air.  And there was not a soul in sight!  It was the perfect day to take in this little gem of the Nature Island.  During the cruise ship season, this eco-site is a frequented attraction.  Over the years. I have only been here once with a crowd – and numerous other times on my own, with my brother, a few friends or a handful of visitors.  In those days-gone-by, I would even take a dip in the refreshing waters – but not today!  I’ve long acclimatised to the tropical climate and as a result, Dominica’s mountainous interior is too cold for me, unless I am on the move!

As I approached a view-point close to the waterfall, I was thankful for a handrail and constructed steps.  Normally, I would not have given rough terrain a second thought, but living with the arthritic after-effects of chikungunya has given me greater respect for accessibility issues. I did have my hiking pole with me as usual, which gave me extra support with occasional balance challenges (vertigo) since the mosquito-borne virus became part of my life.

By just gazing at the lovely work of nature, all alone in the rainforest and listening to its persistent, but gentle roar, I felt just “that much” better than I had the day before.  As I hobbled towards the exit from the site, I took the time to  look in an easterly direction towards the

The  easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking - no matter what the weather!

The easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking – no matter what the weather!

Atlantic where I was heading.  It seemed to me, that despite the pouring rain in my location, it was clearing on the coast.

I arrived in the parking lot a few minutes later and could feel hunger pangs returning that had been absent during my illness.   I was ahead of check-in time at Beau Rive so I decided to revisit an old favorite haunt for lunch, which overlooks the Castle Bruce Bay.  In only 15 minutes, I was there –  at Islet View Restaurant where proprietor and chef  ‘Rudy’, a Dominican-Canadian was in the house.

I’ve always enjoyed his home-cooked meals in the past, and this time was no different.

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the meals inside are unforgettable!

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the`home-cooked meals inside are unforgettable!

After reacquainting and reminding him of our Canadian connection, Rudy went in to the kitchen to prepare a fish lunch that would sustain me until dinner later at Beau Rive. I enjoyed sipping on sweetsop juice – not commonly served in restaurants and I really appreciated this treat.

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container - a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container – a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

 

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The lovely view of the islets, the quaint village of Castle Bruce and its bay and beach distracted me from what ailed me. I was

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

quite amazed at how easily my spirits soared with such inspiring natural beauty before me.  Before much time had passed,

My lunch at islet View Restaurant: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin - but not the Flipper variety!), provsions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, rice, lentils, salad.  It would be hard to go hungry on the Nature Island!

My lunch at Islet View Restaurant near Castle Bruce: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin – but not the Flipper variety!), provisions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, dasheen) rice, lentils,cooked cabbage, salad fixings. It would be hard to go hungry if Rudy`s cooking!

Rudy appeared with a gigantic plate of food that caused me to worry and wonder (for a moment): `How will I eat dinner later!`

I did pretty well by all accounts – but I had to leave some on my plate.  It was impossible to eat it all as I had not been able to consume any large meals during my illness.  I was encouraged by the return of my appetite!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica.  It contains an herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica. It contains a herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

Dessert was declined this

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

time, but I did have a chance to ask Rudy about his extensive `bush rum`collection. This simply means that various local herbs, purported to have medicinal properties for various ailments are `steeped`in a potent cask rum so that the ingredients are infused in the alcohol.  I was quite amazed by his knowledge of the various remedies“ that could be imbibed for longevity, virility and vitality, just to name a few common health concerns.  I was his first `case`of chikungunya.  Alcohol was out of the question, but he did take me to the roadside where he pulled out some lemon grass and advised me to steep it in hot water and then drink it as a `tea`.

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

As typical Canadians, we discussed a range of topics, including the weather but NOT Rob Ford, Toronto`s infamous mayor (sorry! 😉 ).  When I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was already almost 3 p.m.. Time to check in at Beau Rive and take a nap before dinner!

I wished Rudy a safe visit up north and promised to return for another wholesome meal when we both were back on-island!

My healing weekend was off to a great start, and I`d only been on the east coast for a few hours.  There was much more goodness to come!

 

 

 

 

Touring Soufriere and Scotts Head in Southwestern Dominica

Fishing boats silently bobbed in Soufriere Bay at midday on a Saturday. Scotts Head is in the background.

Fishing boats quietly bobbed in calm Soufriere Bay at midday on a Saturday. Scotts Head, the southernmost point of Dominica is in the background.

The mid-morning weather was a little dreary and drizzly when I convinced myself that I must go ahead with my long overdue plan to revisit Soufriere and Scotts Head, two lovely  Dominican villages about a half hour south of Roseau.  But I  had no idea of current road conditions beyond my frequented hang-out, Champagne Beach since the infamous Christmas Eve Storm.    Therefore, I decided to wait for a bus in the village of Loubiere, which is very close to my home.  I really had it in my mind that I would ‘play tourist’ on this mini holiday, so I dressed  for the part and hoped that no one would recognize me.

After about 20 minutes, a bus came along and I hopped on, while anticipating a rough ride.  Surprisingly, the road was not too bad, all things considered, and the only other passenger, a villager from Soufriere and I engaged in friendly conversation.  While we carefully avoided  local politics, I did mention Toronto’s mayor and his  recent antics when I declared myself a Canadian!  From there, we talked about the recent storm, where we were and what we doing at that time (Christmas Eve morning) and our personal feelings about pets.  While our views were quite divergent about domestic animals, I did tell them about Tia-pet, my 16-year-old cat who has been my long-time companion on the Nature Isle.

The pretty Catholic Church in the southern village of Soufriere.

The pretty Catholic Church in the southern village of Soufriere.

The driver dropped me and his other passenger near the Catholic Church in Soufriere and wished me a pleasant day in his neck-of-

The murals of village life and scenery on either side of the altar give teh Soufriere Catholic Church a unique beauty.

The murals of village life and scenery on either side of the altar give the Soufriere Catholic Church a unique beauty. (Left side: traditional Creole dancing; centre: Soufriere bay and Scotts Head; Right: fishermen).

the-woods.  This 19th century House of Worship, which was recently renovated, is certainly an attraction to behold, and a pride and joy of the parish of St. Mark.  Its sea-facing entrance and colourful external decor definitely complement the remarkable interior: beautiful murals of local life are found on either side of the altar. They were painted by renowned local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who is currently coordinating the restoration of Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National park near Portsmouth.  I gazed in awe and reverence at  these splendid scenes of Dominican life and culture.

When I stepped outside of the church, I noticed that the skies had cleared and the temperature was rising.  Although I had brought along my bathing suit, I was not quite warmed up enough for a dip in the sea.  However, I did take a few moments to wander along ‘Bubbles Beach’,  which is located directly in front of the church.  This is where villagers have cordoned off an area with rocks so that hot waters rising from volcanic vents on the sea floor are contained for those who would like to have a warm and relaxing soak.  I did stick my hand in and it was quite hot!  However, I thought I would wait to do  that on my next visit, as I was determined to walk to Scotts Head before the sun climbed any higher.

As I walked along the seaside on a well constructed sidewalk, I admired to views of the promontory of Scotts Head before me and the village of Soufriere behind me.  About mid-way, I observed the entrance to the trail that goes up to the lovely little village of Gallion.

The trailhead of the 1/2 hour track to the village of Gallion is adorned with flowers.

The trailhead of the 1/2 hour track to the village of Gallion is adorned with flowers.

Northerly view from Gallion of Soufriere Bay and the village of Soufriere.

Northerly view from Gallion of Soufriere Bay and the village of Soufriere. Photo by Edwin.

The village of Scotts head as seen from the northern approach by road.

The village of Scotts Head as seen from the northern approach by road.

While I didn’t have time to take the half hour switch-back track on this day, I have enjoyed it on other occasions.  The view from the look-off at the top is spectacular, so it’s definitely worth the sweat!

I enjoyed the fresh breezes off Soufriere Bay as I continued along and before half an hour passed, the village of Scotts Head came into view.

It was a pleasant saunter through the village, as I made my way to its southern end.  It was my intention to climb Scotts Head, where a few ruins of an old British battery from the 18th century, Fort Cachacrou were still in place.

Although I was starting to get hungry, I knew that I should do the work-out first, because after a big meal at Chez Wen, I wouldn’t be able to move much.

Chez Wen in Scotts Head serves up delicious  fresh fish meals in a gorgeous seaside ambience with friendly service.

Chez Wen in Scotts Head serves up delicious fresh fish meals in a pleasant seaside atmosphere with friendly service.

I stopped in to the cheery café on the way through and informed the friendly waitress that I would be back for a  fresh-caught marlin fish lunch after my foray.

Fishermen hall in their nets at Scotts Head, one of Dominica's  renowned fishing villages.

Fishermen hall in their nets at Scotts Head, one of Dominica’s renowned fishing villages.

I chatted briefly with some villagers along the way – but at least two people weren’t fooled by my tourist outfit. “Hi Gwen!  How are you?” called out Casey, a former fellow teacher from Orion Academy.  “Look over there!  They’re hauling in nets,” he shouted as he and his friend drove away.  Another man who works in my neighbourhood also greeted me, to my surprise.  I guess after all this time, I can’t fool everyone…

The strong Atlantic surf is only a short distance from the calm Caribbean along the isthmus that connects Scotts Head to the village.

The strong Atlantic surf is only a short distance from the calm Caribbean along the isthmus that connects Scotts Head to the village.

As I crossed the narrow isthmus en route to the promontory, I admired the contrast between the wild Atlantic surf and the calm

Segment One of the Waitukubuli National Trail Begins at the isthmus at Scotts Head!

Segment One of the Waitukubuli National Trail begins at the isthmus at Scotts Head!

Caribbean Sea.  To be so close to both bodies of

The sheltered cove on the right side of the Scotts Head promontory is ideal for snorkelling. Its outer edge is known as an are where divers can go very deep.

The sheltered cove on the right side of the Scotts Head promontory is ideal for snorkelling. Its outer edge is known as an area where divers can go very deep.

water at one time is another special thrill for me when I visit this part of Dominica.  Then I took a little time to walk along the  promenade in the sheltered Caribbean-side cove which is a popular snorkelling spot due to its close coral reef.  A little farther along this outcrop, divers can drop very deep in a chasm called ‘L’Abym’ where they can see plentiful sea life.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that this area forms part of the Scotts Head Soufriere Marine Reserve (SSMR), which is a protected underwater site.

I walked  a little further along, and just before turning back to walk up the Scotts Head promontory, I met a man and a woman heading back to the isthmus (I thought): “Are you staying in the area? the lady asked. “No, but I live in Dominica,” I replied. “Oh, well, do you know this restaurant?” the man queried as he showed me two words that were written on a piece of paper. I laughed as I responded.  “Oh yes, that’s Chez Wen and I am going there when I finish my walk.  It’s very good.  My brother in Canada likes it too.”  In my usual chatty style, I probably said too much.  They didn’t seem to mind.  I gave them a general description of its seaside location in the village and mentioned that I would probably see them there later.

Rick and Cathy head down the hill at Scotts Head en route to Chez Wen, across the isthmus in the village.

Rick and Cathy head down the hill at Scotts Head en route to lunch at Chez Wen, across the isthmus in the village.

When I turned and walked out of the  sheltered cove, I ascended the steep hill towards the ruins of Fort Cachacrou.  It was very windy

A breathtaking view and blustery breeze ruffled hair while overlooking the village of Soufriere.

A breathtaking view and blustery breeze ruffled hair while overlooking Soufriere Bay. Photo taken by Cathy.

with the stiff breeze blowing in from the Atlantic.  I kept my head down and placed my feet carefully, as the stones on the path were loose and it was easy to slip.  When I finally reached a decrepid stone wall after several minutes, I glanced ahead of me, and there was the couple I had met down below in the cove! I took a few pictures and then continued towards their viewpoint, situated by a small cannon.They stood  there admiring the spectacular view of Scotts Head, Soufriere Bay and points north.  ‘Hi again.  Would you mind taking our picture?’ the lady asked.  “Sure, no problem and I hope you won’t mind taking mine,” I answered.  It is not often that I get a chance to ask a stranger to do the honours, so I was thrilled.  Even though the seemingly gale force wind was making it difficult to hold steady, we got a few pics with free-flowing hair-dos, thanks to the conditions.

Then they wandered ahead of me, and by the cell tower, they took a somewhat overgrown path that climbed up to the very top of Scotts Head.  I never would have attempted it on my own, but as they were a little ahead of me, I took the chance . It was very steep, uneven and unstable due to loose stones.  I grabbed on to scrubby bushes when I felt a little off-balance.  After only five minutes, I arrived at the blustery summit.  The view was stunning, despite a haze over the water.  “Look over there – that’s Martinique,” I informed the couple as we gazed southward.  I watched a huge ship that makes monthly deliveries of vehicles in Dominica churn steadily across the Martinique Channel.

A large vessel that carries newly purchased vehicles to various islands crosses the open Martinique Channel, south of Scotts Head.

A large vessel that carries newly purchased vehicles to various islands crosses the open Martinique Channel, south of Scotts Head.

On a clear day, one can see beyond Roseau from the top of Scotts Head.  The white smudge is Roseau!

On a clear day, one can see beyond Roseau from the top of Scotts Head. The white smudge on the far left is Roseau!

The wind was so strong that we didn’t stay long.  As we returned towards the village, we engaged in conversation – about island life and then about pets.  We quickly discovered that we shared a love of cats so we told stories about their long and fascinating lives!

When we arrived at Chez Wen, we finally introduced ourselves and ordered fish lunches, of course.  Cathy and I selected Marlin in Creole sauce.  Rick chose the Red Fish plate. I warned him that they were small and bony, but he was not deterred and I later discovered that he had eaten this type of seafood before.   While we waited  for our orders, we exchanged stories about Dominica – and the challenges involved in getting here.They also asked me a few questions about Roseau.    As it turned out, we were amazed to discover that they had referred to Dominica 100+ Things to Do!, a little guide-book that I had written annually from 2003-11.  I doubted that they had a copy that I had compiled a few years ago, but as it turns out, they did – the 2011 issue – a friend had given it to them.  We kept declaring that it was a small world!  I had even been to their home state, North Carolina once before and have a friend who has family ties there.  I guess one should never be surprised about connections in the global village of the 21st century!

I enjoyed meeting visitors Rick and Cathy from North Carolina USA. We enjoyed great meals and good conversation at Chez Wen in Scotts Head.

I enjoyed meeting visitors Rick and Cathy from North Carolina USA. We enjoyed great meals and good conversation at Chez Wen in Scotts Head.

After our congenial meal, Rick and Cathy dropped me off in Soufriere, where I caught a bus back home within a few minutes.  They were going to visit the Catholic Church, check out the Bubbles Beach and then head to Champagne , where they planned to do some snorkelling before driving back to the eastern side of the island. There, they would continue their stay on Dominica for a few more days.  I truly hope that they had a fabulous time on the Nature Isle!

I was so uplifted by my mini-holiday as a tourist in Soufriere and Scotts Head that I must plan a foray to another Dominican destination very soon!

Dominica’s Middleham Falls: A Wondrous Site/Sight to Behold*

 

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike.  However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike. However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Middleham Falls

It’s a long, arduous, painful trek from Springfield –

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls.  They may be dry or they may have flwoing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year!  Rocks can be slippery.

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls. They may be dry or they may have flowing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year! Rocks can be slippery.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

clambering over slippery rocks,

 fording shallow streams,

clinging to steep cliffs –

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction.

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction from this vantage point.

endlessly uphill.

 

There is no turning back, however.

Too much pride gets in the way.

My guide`s persistent encouragement

makes me more determined

to find my way.

 

My pace diminishes with perpetual distractions.

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks on the Middleham Falls trail - but it`s well worth it!

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks and roots on the Middleham Falls trail – but it`s well worth it! Photo by Edwin Whitford.

The wonders of the rainforest

enchant and intrigue

like a recurrent sensual fantasy,

except that this is not a dream.

 

The rainforest can be a distraction.  It is best to stop  walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain!

The rainforest can be a distraction. It is best to stop walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain! (even though it might add a little time to the journey)

Suddenly, I awake from my reveries:

“Don`t slow down  –

you`ll lose the momentum!

Take it in as you go.“

That voice drifts back to me from somewhere up ahead.

 

After seemingly endless hours,

bruised, weary and sore,

I am finally there.

Breathlessly, I admire the splendor of the site.

 

Before me is the most magnificent torrential cascade

Middleham Falls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Middleham  Falls is found at about 2,500′ above sea level in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This cascade is around 270′ high and is known as one of the tallest on the island. It can be difficult to photograph due to its exceptional height! It has  a strong flow year-round. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

towering far above

and showering me with a cold mist

that revitalizes and invigorates my entire being.

 

I gaze longingly at this Dominican wonder,

hoping that I can capture its mighty spirit

and carry it with me always.

 

On a dry day, a dip in the cool pôol belwo Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

On a hot, dry day, a dip in the cool pool below Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

A torrential rain begins to pour 

and it is time to turn back.

But I always long for the day

when I can return to Middleham Falls again.

 

-written near Lakefield, Ontario, Canada

March 1998

* Middleham Falls is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It can be approached from Springfield via the Cochrane Village Feeder Road  (4 – 5 hours return at a leisurely pace)  or from the trailhead near Laudat (a shorter trip) in the Roseau Valley.  It is also possible to reach it from Segment Four of the Waitukubuli National Trail. 

You can also hike right through from the Cochrane side to the Laudat side, or vice versa!  Allow the better part of a day to do that – and take some time to check out Tou Santi –  the `Stinking Hole` which is a huge bat cave.  You`ll likely smell it before you see it!

** References:

Dominica: Bradt Travel Guide by Paul Crask. Edition 2 (2011), pp. 127-128. Paul is a longtime island resident (British expatriate) who has provided very detailed background information and  descriptions of the hikes to Middleham Falls, as well particulars about flora and fauna in this area.

Dominica: Discover the Real Dominica: A Travel Guide Written by Former Peace Corps Volunteers by Anna McCanse. Other Places Publishing, 2011, pp. 255-257 A helpful detailed map and specific directions are contained therein.

 

Winter Solstice on Dominica: Experiencing the Essence of the Nature Island

Even in Dominica, the hype about December 21st and the hubbub of the approaching yule-tide were having less than desired effects on me. Fortunately, I had already decided that that particular Friday was a day to escape to “the country” (that is, away from Roseau, the capital!) if the world hadn’t ended by then.

I headed off to somewhat familiar territory, my destination being the wonderful Papillote Wilderness Retreat at Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley.  I ‘d already booked my massage with physiotherapist Ariane Magloire and was looking forward to soaking in the hot pools after my session with her. As there was no cruise ship in port, I decided to go early and explore the very popular Trafalgar Falls eco-site, which can be very crowded when hundreds of people are on-island for a few hours.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

It was a beautiful day in paradise and that is no exaggeration! Brilliant sunshine, nary a cloud in sight and slightly cooler temperatures were ideal conditions for my little hike from Papillote up the hill to the twin falls at Trafalgar. As I approached the Visitor Centre, I was completely surprised that there were no visitors or tour buses in sight.  I spoke to the forestry officer and the attendant on duty and informed them of my plan to work my way up to what is called the “mother” fall which is more readily accessible than the “father” fall.  We chatted for a few moments and then I headed off on the well marked  and groomed trail to the viewing platform, about 15 minutes along the route.

So many shades of green on the approach to the "mother" fall at Trafalgar.

So many shades of green on the approach to the “mother” fall at Trafalgar.

A mountain whistler (rufus-throated solitaire) high up in the tree-tops  cheerily accompanied me with its melodious trills. Antillean bull finches and peewees flitted about the lower limbs of the trees, capturing my attention now and then as I paused to look at pretty plants along the path. I marvelled at so many shades of green all about me in the dense forest.  I could sense my breathing becoming deeper and more even as I steadily walked up a gradual incline.  After about 10 minutes, I arrived at the sturdy wooden platform and gasped with delight at the sights before me.

The higher  "father" fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

The higher “father” fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

To my left, the taller and slimmer “father” fall glistened in the shadowy sunlight.  Its seemingly remote location added to the intrigue.  I did recall a time many years ago when I did actually work my way over treacherous boulders and slippery stones (with the assistance of a guide).  But a landslide changed all that and I was content with the memory of soaking a bruised leg under a man-made bamboo shower of natural hot mineral water.  Now that area is off-limits to visitors.

My only choice was to head  further along the track to the majestic and stately “mother” fall. I was happy to snap shots of the twin cascades from different angles as I followed the trail to the right.  It had been many years since I ventured beyond the platform, mainly because there were always too many people on the trail for my tastes.  Admittedly, I did meet three young men just as I left the viewing point.  They were heading out and now I was completely alone!

DSCF5137

The cascade of the “mother” fall at Trafalgar is powerfully hypnotic!

The “mother” falls’ persistent roar drew me towards her base, over big rocks, a coursing stream of hot water and some huge tree roots. As I was on my own, I decided to stop a bit of a distance away from her as the boulders can be extremely slippery when wet.  I realized that with no-one else around, personal safety was a priority.  I sat on a damp boulder and gazed all around me.  By now, after only 10 minutes beyond the view-point, sweat trickled down my back and my face was wet from the mild exertion. A damp mist from the cascade blew over me and I breathed deeply and slowly for some time.  I stared at the tumbling waters as if in a trance, while recalling its pristine source higher in the mountains in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. 

After a short while, I glanced at my watch and realized that it was time to make my way back to Papillote for my appointment.  As I carefully turned myself around on the over-sized boulder, I cast a backward glance at the “mother.”  Although I had only spent a short time near her torrents, I felt completely invigorated, re-energized and refreshed.  Any stress that I had carried into this spectacular wilderness eco-site had quickly vanished. I was now ready to celebrate the holiday season in the best of spirits!

DSCF5145My few moments of solitude reminded me that nature is indeed a tonic for the mind, body and soul.  I highly recommend it, and urge you to spend a little time in the great outdoors, as well as with family and friends this holiday season –  where-ever you live.  Peace and goodwill to all!