When I awoke on Sunday morning to torrents of rain hammering on my roof, I thanked the Almighty for sparing us such a persistent deluge on our lengthy hike through the rainforest less than 24 hours earlier.
Of course we experienced some showers. That would be expected, as ‘rainforest’ ‘is aptly named. But even if it had poured relentlessly, die-hard Hike Fest enthusiasts would not have been deterred. Over the past couple of years, collective determination and good cheer have always enabled sopping wet participants to complete each trek, despite unrelenting inclement weather.
There is something really special about getting together in Dominica’s great outdoors, with both old friends and new ones – to take on different treks over three Saturdays in May. It’s always an adventure!
Fortunately, sunshine accompanied us on our first hike of this year’s Fest, which took us into the interior of Dominica on the Waitukubuli National Trail’s (WNT) Segment # 5, a 12.5 kilometre (7.5 mile) journey between Pond Casse in the centre of the island and Castle Bruce, a village in the east coast. Seventy-one people, comprised of Dominicans and an amazing assembly of returnees, expatriates and visitors from South Africa, Canada, the United States, Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, England, Martinique and St. Martin convinced me that hiking certainly has universal appeal. In this day and age, that’s a really positive vibe!
Some of these trekkers demonstrated great skill and familiarity with rugged terrain, as they raced on ahead to the finish an hour or two ahead of me and my party.But we were not distressed about our own moderate pace. There was plenty of time and we enjoyed congenial conversation, lots of laughs and a few R+R (rest and relaxation) stops along the way. Despite our leisurely strides, we arrived in Castle Bruce after six hours on the trail, right on target as the estimated length of time noted by WNT officials.
This particular track is historic, as well as beautiful. It was once an ancient Carib (Kalinago)trace (very narrow old road) and in the 18th century it was a route used by escaped slaves (called Negre-Mawon in Creole) as well as the troops who sought to capture them. In this central mountainous area, the slaves hid from their captors, often for many years. The path in this area was once marked with stones (some are still there). This route crisscrossed many little streams and even bigger rivers, as we quickly discovered.
About one-third of the way along, the trail passed through the pretty Emerald Pool eco-site, much to the delight of visitors in the group. We then gently descended for some distance until the trail intersected with the main road to Castle Bruce. There, under a sheltered picnic table, we fortified ourselves for the last half of the day’s adventure. After a few minutes on the road, we again disappeared into the forest on the well-marked trail. After another hour, we collectively “cooled out” in a forest stream and emerged after 20 minutes much refreshed for the final couple of hours left on the journey.
As we continued to descend, we skirted the shoreline of the beautiful Belle Fille River and marveled at magnificent heliconia flowers. They’re such a brilliant contrast with the ever-present shades of green.
For me, the biggest thrill was bouncing along a strongly built suspension bridge over the mighty Belle Fille. As we made our way along increasingly level lands, we admired a lovely farm and its bountiful plants. We thought we were nearing the end of the trek, when the trail took us back to the main road for a good half hour or so. We slowly sauntered along the very last bit, which passed through pastures leading into the village of Castle Bruce.
Just as we arrived to enjoy a hearty fish broth, the heavens opened up so we quickly boarded the bus and headed back to the city (Roseau). Despite extreme fatigue and sore feet, we looked forward to seeing each other at the next hike two weeks hence.
To be continued!
A Peek at Peeps on the Path: