My best friend Kathy visited Dominica in December, and prior to arriving, announced that she will be hiking to the Boiling Lake. If you are like me, you will do what it takes to grasp quality time with someone who is dear to you, so that urge superseded the deep-seated fear of even contemplating undertaking such a hike. So, I surrendered to that urge and invited myself to accompany my friend and the guests that she was taking along with her to the island. Boy, did I know what I was about to encounter?
With a mixture of apprehension and excitement, application for two days of vacation leave from work was made, and the count down began. I must tell you that days before that hike, I thought I’d pass out with anxiety. It was then that I tried all sorts of excuses as to why I would not be able to fulfill my wish to join my friend. Of-course, she constantly just laughed at me and brushed the fear off, as if I was just being coward. Well, of-course I was being coward. After all, I was really afraid.
If you ever listened to the horror stories of people who have undertaken the hike, the long hours to be constantly moving, and the need to complete it within reasonable time since it can get dark quite early, you would have probably shared my trepidation. Fear is a real dark enemy you know, because it really almost deprived me of a never to be forgotten adventure of a lifetime.
As if by fate, two days prior to the hike, I accompanied that friend and her guests up the Indian River on a soothing boat ride captained by a capable staff member of Cobra Tours.
We were joined by some additional visitors, one such being a young man from New York City who shared that he took five days off just to visit the island. He was a first -time visitor to Dominica as well. During our descend, he shared that he had an exceptional visit thus far, and was particularly pleased with his hike to the Boiling Lake. That immediately caught my attention. In quizzing him about the hike, he offered some things that we should expect, including using ropes, and climbing some rocks, and Lord did I again experience mixed feelings of fear and excitement. His calm and joy in talking about that particular hike got me sold – I thought to myself, if he could do it, why can’t I?
For the next 30 or so hours prior to the hike, I came to terms with the fact that, this too shall pass, and I must live up to my word. Besides, this is the opportunity I should relish since I do not get to enjoy much in-person time with my high school friend like this would present. That was a given, I was expected to honor my promise!
Early Tuesday morning, December, 11th, 2018 a white mini-van (for us a 16 seater bus) arrived by my home and honked its horn to collect this here passenger. Having been up early, I was set to go. Everyone seemed quite excited, and that put me at ease. On the way to Roseau, the conversation about things Dominican was easy and put to flight the inner fright, at least for the time being. I learned that I was not alone in being a first time hiker to the Boiling Lake – even our driver from Calibishie had never walked it. Meanwhile, Kathy’s cousin Kelvin was about to undertake the hike for the (wait for it) – for the Fourteenth – yes the 14th time, while Kathy was about to undertake it for the 4th or 5th time. I thought to myself, these people cannot be serious. After all the scary stories I heard about that hike, how in the world would someone do this even twice?
Once we got to Roseau, I learned that we would have to meet a tour guide and again that helped to put me at some ease. We had a tour-guide, that means someone else knows what this hike is about and will most likely be able to make this a good experience. We met Lenny after a few phone calls and he requested we make one stop to collect eggs. I thought to myself, this guy knows his stuff. Lenny got those eggs, and interestingly with all the ebbs and flows of that hike, he maintained carrying them in a flimsy plastic bag only cracking one out of seven while being an exceptional guide all along.
Anyway, by now you must be wondering when am I going to get to the actual hike. Well yes we got to the Roseau Valley, got off the bus, refreshed our selves and got our hike on the road. That was easily shaken when one of our guests got a hard fall that scared us all. Her hike was cut short, we were down to six! Did that shake me? Oh yes it did. That was a decision moment – “to go or not to go?”
For roughly six hours and forty-five minutes, we conquered what can be easily described as a grueling course. The moments when we ascended the mountain was refreshing and literally breath-taking. The sights were shockingly threatening, the heights were growing and we were growing tired. Once we reached that peak, I was struck with a certain level of fear and frustration that we were in for another 45 minutes or so before we could reach destination – Boiling Lake.
At that point, our tour-guide handed the job to Kelvin in order to precede us to the Valley of Desolation where he could get eggs boiled for us before our getting there. You would be amazed at the speed at which Lenny descended that mountain – I am still baffled. Meanwhile, the rest of us pressed on and later enjoyed the sulfuric – boiled eggs (as dubbed by Kelvin). That protein certainly did us well to face the laborious ascension that followed to the actual Boiling Lake itself.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I was close to quitting at several points, but that would have left me feeling like a looser, and generally it is unlike me to incomplete tasks – so after much pains, but with great encouragement from the hiking party we all pressed on.
You would think that returning would have been a piece of cake? Well that was where I was tested to the core. My getting back to the starting point required that I dug deeply into the recesses of my mental power, it demanded that I silently talked to God asking for strength both physical and mental, and that I hung strongly unto a make-shift hiking stick sought for me by our guide. It is my hope you will realize that by then, my feet were so weak, they were shaking. My thighs felt like jello, and the pain from a fall on my behind didn’t soothe me in anyway.
I must tell you that all the way up my dear friend Kathy was like a mother hen, reminding our guide to take care of her friends, while she easily stayed at the back like a starring. I wondered about her, but I think she was storing energy while watching us tackle each step. This is because on our way back, she showed that she had what it took to complete this hike more than 45 minutes ahead of us. Her patience was tested, and she eventually gave in. It was time to move and moved she did with the assurance that we were in safe and capable hands. Meanwhile, I struggled along with a painful left knee, ridiculously holding back the group.
To say the hike to the Boiling Lake was easy would be a lie. At least for me it was not. To tell you that I have an eagerness to return there, would be misleading you, but was this a huge achievement for me? – You bet it was. Will I return? Initially my answer to this question was an immediate NO. Today, I reflect upon this whole experience and I am so thankful. It built my friendships, gave me new connections with new people, and certainly tested my metal – an exam I believe I passed though not with flying colors – Passed I did!
If I can take anything from this hike, it would be that we can do anything we have set our minds to – as cliche as this may be. Factually, had I been hiking and exercising as regularly as I did before, with the aim to prepare for it, the week of soreness that followed my Boiling Lake Hike, would have been a lot less. I am convinced of that. Lessons learned, but oh the joy of having this achievement in my memory bank. Do not talk about the fact that I can now “brag” a little – “YES, I Have Conquered and Hiked the Boiling Lake which is nestled in Dominica’s highest point.”
If you are ever going to such a treacherous hike, get a tour-guide. Lenny is a great one, I can always establish that link. I say this because we encountered quite a few foreigners who decided to do the hike with no guide and certainly missed some of the key secrets along the way, as were ably pointed out by our guide. Plus, the risky nature of this hike requires that you have someone who knows the terrain and dynamics of the place. Lenny describes his work as a Boiling Lake Tour-guide as “Boiling Lake is like my front door, like my yard.”
Do you think You can do it? If you have hiked it, would you do it again? One thing is for certain, the beauty was beyond unprecedented. Try It! See for yourself.
Photos Compliment – Yours Truly – Ceez Paul