“Welcome to Nature Island” announced our guide.
I did not doubt him.
Our bus ride to the starting point of Middleham Falls had been a bombardment of information about the local flora and fauna with sights to match.
But, I’m moving ahead too fast. Let’s rewind a little.
When it comes to vacation time, I’m more of the – relax on a lounge chair with music in my ears and a good book to read – kind of person. I’d rather do the occasional touristy sightseeing mixed with a nice siesta and a swim in the ocean leaving adventurous activities for others.
Sometimes though, I’m tempted to move my arse and do something different.
During a pretty relaxing yet busy (too many activities) cruise in the Caribbean, my first attempt at doing something new was going snorkelling in Bonaire.
If you have ever had the chance to be on a cruise – if not, you should get down to it now – you will know that the number one activity on board is eating. Towards the end of the little trip, eating five to six times a day was taking its toll and I had gained a good 5-6 kilos.
I had booked my tour through the ship’s travel desk and as a result, found it to be well organised. One of the advantages of booking an excursion through the travel centre on the cruise-ship – even though it is likely to be a little more expensive – is that if you were to get delayed for some reason, the ship would wait for you. On the other hand, if you wander off on your own and are not back on time, they will leave you behind.
Dominica is known as the “Nature Island” so it came as no surprise when our well-informed guide introduced himself as simply ” Mr Green”. Enthusiastic about sharing information, informative and educated about the region, he went on to explain how the locals rely heavily on what nature provides – for free – rather than on modern foods and medicines.
I hadn’t hiked in almost a decade, and with specific medical issues that I live with, I am always unsure about venturing into the unknown. However, after seeing that our little group consisted of individuals of all ages, eventually the apprehension cleared and once I took a small step across a stream – and partially fell into it – my mind has crossed the imaginary line of no return.
The hike was a good 45-minute walk which included some Tarzan like swinging from trees – planned in advance by the guide – and a lot of experiencing the wonders of nature. Baby bananas, a leaf that tasted just like an apple, and steps on a climb which were naturally made with roots of trees, it indeed was an eye-opening insight into the beauty of nature and all that it has to offer us, with the sad realisation of how little of that we make use of.
In terms of difficulty, the hike was a little strenuous at places with a couple of extreme climbs, but nothing an average hiker could not manage – or even a beginner with a bit of help – accompanied by of course a good pair of shoes and a bottle of water.
Upon reaching Middleham Falls, the physical strain of the previous 45 minutes disappeared in an instant. Water crashing down into a pool below, surrounded with rocks, it was a magnificent sight. Hidden from the world in thick vegetation, I often wonder the awe and excitement of the first person who would have discovered this natural beauty.
Mr Green at this point climbed up 40 ft and jumped into the base pool which was 20 feet deep. After some deliberation, I too finally decided to plunge – not via the 40ft jump mind you – into the icy cold water of the pool that literally was the most refreshing “shower” I had had in my life. Tip – Carry an extra pair of clothes for after the swim.
Half an hour of swimming in this natural wonder and it was finally time to head back. The quietness of the forest finally struck me as we all made our way towards the waiting bus in smaller groups, all busy in silent introspection.
No longer tired, hearing distant footsteps and the occasional laughter of the hikers, mixed in perfect harmony with bird calls and the faint sound of the falls we had left behind, the walk back proved to be a beautiful parting gift.
With the thought of a nice rum punch waiting for us on our return, I walked back admiring and having experienced nature like I had never before.
I would love to say that the stroll back to the bus or the swim in the pool by the fall was the highlight of the day, but nothing beats the hilarity and amusement of coming across a couple of girls – not from our group – hiking to the falls in heels – you read that right!
Just the type of light entertainment one needs at the end of a strenuous day.
Planning a trip to the Caribbean?
Dominica, a nature island in most authentic form, should be on your list of must-visit Caribbean islands. Don’t just visit the island because you can go hiking up to Middleham Falls or as some of the others, go tubing down a river. But also because of its charming people and appreciation for what the earth has to offer us. And because you have to try their local beer, Kubuli, after a long hike, to get that extra boost of energy.