The gurgling river water, the twittering birds, the rustling tree leaves and the sparkling fireflies, waking up in Dominica for eight nights felt like paradise. There is probably no word in a dictionary to do justice to the solemn beauty of Dominica, and Roots Jungle Retreat in the middle of a jungle took me back to my childhood in India. Each day at Roots Jungle Retreat took me back down childhood lane in India where mosquito nets were perfect playing accessories to play dark room at night, the open windows put modern air conditioners to shame, and novels transported us to places televisions never could.
We arrived in Dominica on a warm Friday afternoon and were welcomed by a dimpled Lorena, whose effervescence instantly made you feel at home. She drove us to Roots through windy Margot streets. Having battled motion sickness since forever, I tried real hard to enjoy the ride but the best of windy roads were yet to come. We turned to a street that had roots sign, and it was bumpy to say the very least. I tried to stay focused on not throwing up for the next 15 minutes, all the while contemplating if Dramamine time had arrived. We finally parked the car after a 15-minute roller coaster road trip, and were welcomed by a tall Olaf and an eight-month bundle of energy named Cucho. Cucho took to us instantly, and was welcoming us like family who had returned home. His lovey-dovey eyes made a place in my heart instantly, and I knew at that very instant, Dominica and Roots would be more than just a vacation.
We were showed to our cabin, and then we hung out with Lorena, Olaf and Cucho in their cabin/restaurant. Instantly, we started planning our agenda for the next eight days. After spending a few hours together, my husband and I decided it was time to relax and get acquainted to our cabin. We did also plan to take a small hike around our surrounding. Little did we know the rain God’s had other plans for us; plans that included staying in our cabin for the night. We went to the restaurant for dinner and met another couple that was from Germany, and for the next few days we spent charting our agenda’s, and sharing experiences.
The next morning my husband and I decided we were going to rent a car. We had couple of decisions which included automatic or manual considering we would have to drive through the “roller coaster” road to Roots twice a day, a 4 wheel drive and of course pep talking ourselves into driving on the left on the road. Dominica is an island less explored, so most streets have no signs. As a co-pilot to my driver, I am the worst at directions with a GPS in tow telling us turn left. I am so bad with directions that I need to think which hand I use to write to know which is right. So here I was guiding my poor husband through the streets of Dominica, but we survived and barring the first day we did not get lost- thanks to Olaf’s great direction skills and in some occasions personally autographed hand drawn maps.
The first day we toured Rosseau, the capitol of Dominica to Soufriere volcano (or so we thought). We drove to Scott’s head, and since neither of us were water friendly, we looked at the beautiful Scott’s head from a distance, snorkeling in our heads. We thought we were hiking through Soufriere to the volcano but we hiked through Waitukubuli National Trail into a valley I call “crab valley” because I don’t know the name. We walked the valley through crabs walking all around us. It was eerie for a not so much of a crab lover like me. We hiked through an easy trail and reached a point where the trail seemed marked on rocks. Were we supposed to walk the rocks? Not sure but we decided not to. First day in Dominica was not so adventurous? Not really because we still had to find our way back to Roots. I was guiding my driver through Rosseau hoping to see Canesfield airport to turn into the road that would take us back home, but instead I never saw Canesfield and we were headed to Portsmouth. We stopped to ask directions and somehow got to a round four-way point and dilemma struck us again. As Robert Frost said, “which road should I take?” We did what the locals would do, picked up a firefighting hitchhiker who showed us the way to Roots. Hitchhiking firefighter- they only make them in Dominica!
I called our trip to Dominica a hike fest. I knew we were going to be hiking a lot. We started off by doing what the tourist’s did -Traffalgar Falls. Two falls called the Mama and Papa falls, one being hot water and the other being cold water. Your guess is as good as mine as to which one is which, but being a woman I am going to say Mama is the hot one. A quick hike to the falls down stairs and few rocks and we were soaking our feet in warm water from the falls. I have never seen a hot water fall before, and my feet loved it. It felt therapeutic to say the very least. We climbed rocks hoping to see where the foothills of the falls were, but since we were the water resistant couple, we decided it was not worth it. Instead, we decided to hike to Middleham falls. The guidebooks call it an intermediate hike, 4 miles that should take 4 hours. The signs at the falls were more realistic- 45 minutes to the falls it said. We started by climbing endless slippery stairs, crossed a stream of slippery rocks, used tree roots as stairs and we had not even reached the middle. We continued our hiking by climbing more big slippery rocks, all the while fighting fatigue and painful legs. What started off as sprinting became a slow walk with many rests. Finally we were at the falls, and the view made the pain worthwhile. Now, no one told us we would have to trek back the same way. We fatigued our way back, and after a day of intense hiking we were ready for Lorena and Olaf’s food.
The next day we decided to take it easy and visit Portsmouth. Portsmouth hosts the most American section of Dominica. Home to Ross Medical University, an American medical college the vibe of the city is very American. Restaurants sell expensive $25 burgers, but if you want to try local food, you could get it for less than $10. Our bodies were tired from Middleham hike, so hiking to the old Fort Shirley felt like hiking Mt Everest. We walked around Fort Shirley enjoying the view and the fort. They had some small hikes to various ruined buildings. We hiked couple of them and decided it was time for lunch. Near Ross Medical College, we ate at a restaurant that sold Creole chicken and I was in love. It was by far the best chicken I had tasted. Callibashe is a beach town in Dominica. If you love beaches, then I don’t think it gets better than this. We drove about 45 minutes from Portsmouth through trees and windy roads to get to Batibou beach. We parked the car on the street, and walked down a short trail to the beach. Pristine blue water welcomed us. This was my first experience on a beach that felt like ours. We were alone, and I recapped movies like Castaway as I walked Batibou with my Wilson. It was beautiful, calm and serene, and if I ever have to find my happy place during turmoil, I will be at Batibou in spirit and mind. I fell in love with Batibou, and I am not a beach bum! We went back to Portsmouth for dinner, and had the best spicy curry chicken ever. I am spice junkie, and when my palette felt the first rush of spice in almost three days, it was soup to my soul. I went back three times more for the crack curry chicken!
The next day we went to Callibashe to stroll the other beaches. We saw Londonberry beach, a black sand beach in the Pirates of the Caribbean. We drove by that beach to Callibashe. We visited Number one Beach, the site of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. I was where Johnny Depp was- not that it really mattered. A hike down a small trail took us to Number one beach. It was beautiful, but Batibou had changed beaches for us forever. We went back to Portsmouth for the crack curry chicken, and hiked Syndicate trail. Syndicate trail promised parrots and a waterfall. There were no parrots, and the fall barely existed. We climbed some rocks and tried to make our own trail to find the waterfall. But after a while, we accepted our defeat and walked back.
We began the next day with a visit to the Kallinga Territory. The Kallinga’s were the original inhabitants of Dominica. Olaf’s made a handmade map got us through the scenic less traveled route to the Territory. I was stoked to try the Cassava coconut bread from Daniel’s bakery. When we got there, the bakery was packed so we decided to return back. We went to the model village where we took an hour tour of the place, where our awesome tour guide told us about how they lived. We visited two churches, one that had roots and trees growing through it and the other church, which was a new one. We made our way to the L’ Escalier Tete Chien. While Dominica has several beautiful views, L’Escalier Tete Chien is by the far the best one. A walk to the viewpoint and you see the natural staircase from the Atlantic Ocean. It was tranquility at it’s best. You just want to soak the peaceful ambience, refresh your soul and capture the moment in your heart for a lifetime. Our next stop was another beautiful beach called Castle Bruce and we were on our way to Roseau to buy Gatorade for our big day tomorrow.
We were finally going to hike Boiling Lake, an eight-hour hike to the second largest boiling lake in the world. This was our second to last day and we were ready to hike the indomitable Boiling Lake through the Valley of Desolation. We woke up early, ate breakfast and were on our way to Boiling Lake. As we got near Boiling Lake, it started pouring. We got to the parking lot sign and sat there in the car waiting for the rain to subside. It was 11’o’ clock, and knowing we did not have 8 hours to hike, and the rain continued to pour down, we made our way back to Roots. The rain continued through the next day until 11 am and we knew our boiling lake plans were washed away. Boiling Lake is still on my agenda, and I am going back for it yet again. We visited Emerald Pool, another waterfall and the Spanny waterfall in the rain. It was beautiful to say the very least, and a perfect end to a very beautiful Dominica trip.
Cucho watching us leave:-(
Roots and Dominica will forever be special. Lorena and Olaf treated us like family, tending to our every need. We spent eight days with them, sharing stories, laughing and in each of those moments feeling like we were home with family. Dominica became more special because of Cucho and his lovey doveyness. As we drove away from Roots to the airport, I saw Cucho run behind our car. I wanted to pet, hold him close, but all I could do was promise to be back again to see him. I have left every place I have visited with a heavy heart, not wanting to go back to reality. But in Dominica, I left a part of my heart with Cucho and as we made our way to the airport, I felt a knot in my heart and tears in my eyes knowing I will miss Cucho and his unfiltered love. He made Dominica special, and for me it will forever be Cucho’s Dominica.