In the following days, we also hiked Middleham Falls. Our driver – Paul – dropped us off this time and pointed us in the right direction. “It should take about an hour to get there,” he said. “OK,” we said, fastened our shoelaces and set off, like characters from an Enid Blyton novel, chattering our way into the lush rainforest.
An hour. Yeah, right.
The cinder path quickly deteriorated to a lumpy trail and by the time we had waded up to our calves across a fast-flowing little stream, the path had become, for the most part, a single file mud paddle through the jungle. Then it turned into a single file, very steep, mud slide through the jungle. I was wishing I had brought gloves and ideally also a helicopter. This was not easy at all and several people took a tumble, thankfully without serious injury, including Dietmar who decided that he would sit this one out after 20 minutes and walked back the way we had come. I pressed on with the crews of IdaLina and Daisy.
The slide turned into a hardcore scramble down, sections of huge boulders intersected with wobbly, mossy steps hammered into the hillside. Occasionally, these steps were nothing more than the buttress roots of enormous trees hanging on to the hillside for dear life. Occasionally, through the dense forest, we caught a glimpse of the steep sides of this valley, like a slash in the landscape. After a while, we could hear the water too.
The guidebooks don’t mention the hardcore scrambling that is involved, or the thick mud, or the streams you have to ford to get there… but the end result after nearly 90 minutes of really hard work was totally worth it. Obviously, like all the best things in life 😀
The boys from Daisy and IdaLina clambered over enormous mossy boulders to swim in the pool under the waterfall, but my legs were like jelly after the last ten minutes of muddy, slippery, mossy descent down the mountainside and so Tina and I just stood and gawped and inhaled deep lungfuls of emerald green. We took photos and batted the mosquitos away. The roar of the waterfall was loud and the air was full of a light, warm spray from the falls, even from a distance of probably a hundred metres.
It’s not every day that you see a 100’ waterfall cascading down a sheer cliff face, surrounded by lush jungle. Unless you live in Dominica, of course, where these things are ten-a-penny, it seems! Having sweated and slithered our way back up – back across the stream where we stood to wash the burnt-sienna-coloured mud off our shoes and legs and hands – we reached the minibus where Dietmar and the driver were sitting in the shade waiting for us.
We drove to Trafalgar Falls, where a five minute walk (or twenty, with stops, if you are one of the puffing cruise ship tourists) will bring you to not one but TWO massive waterfalls 65 metres high – and a very comfortable viewing platform to boot. Very little effort but a massive reward.
Emboldened by our recent expeditions, I spotted a possible route down towards the water and began to scramble over the large but easy rocks towards the falls. A traditionally-built official from the parks authority whistled me back to the anodyne safety of the viewing platform, before I gave any of the dimply cruise shippers ideas, presumably. Yes, ma’am, sorry. That’s me, in the video, before I got called back…
We also visited the Ti Pitou gorge, where you pay a local lad to guide you, don a buoyancy aid and swim awkwardly through the surprisingly cold water in an open-roofed cave system to a waterfall pouring down through a hole in the rock with astonishing force. We were guided to an underwater ledge to one side to sit and witness the power and the deafening roar of the waterfall reverberating around the cavern. It was truly impressive. I found the noise and the spray and the pressure of the flow around my legs almost overwhelming and was happy to get back out into calmer water where I could breathe more freely.
Dried off and back in the van again, we drove past one of the places where the Dominicans are harvesting the power of their 365 rivers and countless waterfalls with hydroelectric power stations and also heard about their use of the volcano-generated underground heat sources. The Boiling Lake was closed due to the risk of poisonous gases but we also visited Ti Kwen Glo Cho (literally: Petit Coin Eau Chaud / Little Corner Water Hot in Creole), which is where the hot water from one of the nine volcanos pours into a series of pools in which you can sit and soak up all the life-giving minerals. It’s like a much chicer version of the mud baths in Soufriere in St Lucia, and surrounded by a beautifully kept tropical garden.
At the bar, as the sun set, Torben from SY Daisy and I sampled a local rum which would have easily doubled as nail varnish remover or bilge cleaner, while the rest of the gang immersed themselves in the soothing hot mud and the hot baths. To be fair, the rum was in fact labelled as ‘General Purpose Rum’ in a large glass decanter and we’d chosen it because they’d run out of Spice Rum and Ginger Rum and Chocolate Rum and all the other rums that sounded good, so we probably got exactly what we’d asked for. It would have been an excellent stainless steel cleaner too, I expect…
Anyway, by the time we got back to the dinghy dock in Portsmouth it was nearly 8pm and it was very dark. We wandered barefoot along the warm sand beach to Madiba, another little local restaurant, and ate alongside familiar faces, both local and other yachties.
Everyone here is the sister or aunt or brother or son or cousin of someone you’ve already met and everyone has a warm smile for you. It’s a wonderful feeling, one of the best parts about this island.
Our incredible week was not over yet though…