Sleep In The Dirt

The Lost World of Dominica

Essays From the Field

By the end of this ski-packed, shoveling-intensive Colorado winter season, Karen and I were ready for a change of scenery. We hadn’t been south of the border in too long of a time and felt the sweet call of warm air and water and of countless shades of green. While we were trying to figure out where to fulfill our tropical desires, a friend of ours suggested Dominica, a place she kept close to her heart after a trip she took there a year earlier. After further research online and finding out that a fourteen-segment trekking trail, called the Waitukubuli National Trail, crisscrossed the island in its entirety we decided Dominica would be the end to our search for a balanced vacation of adventure and relaxation.

This tiny island nation measures roughly 37 miles long by 20 wide, and lays only 15 degrees north of the equator in the South Caribbean cluster of islands known as the Western Antilles. But don’t let its size mislead you. Endowed with a prodigious topography, Dominica packs a serious punch. When Columbus reported to the King and Queen of Spain after his first voyage to the Americas and was asked to describe Dominica, he just crumpled a piece of paper and laid it on the table. Columbus probably didn’t use green paper to depict the island, but that would provide a more realistic image of it as basically most of its land mass is covered in a dense, multilayered carpet of rain forest a la Jurassic Park.

A key piece to our travels was the ability to journey point to point. Because of this we didn’t rent a car, and instead jumped into the thrilling roller coaster world of Dominican public transportation. We also needed to travel light, and thanks to our awesome, lighter than ectoplasm, BA Q-Core SLX pads and new Fly Creek HV2 Platinum tent were able to keep our packs compact and under 20 pounds. After a couple days visiting a few beautiful, remote beaches on the north coast and getting acquainted with the flow of the island we felt ready to tackle our first segment of the Waitukubuli Trail. It quickly became apparent that switchbacks are not the norm there. The terrain dictated a lot of vertical, and we quickly found ourselves using the all-important ‘root assist’ to make it up and down the trail.

It didn’t take long before we were loving our routine. We would pick a segment or two of the trail, which usually are in the 6-8 hour range, get very sweaty and tired, and then we would bail out and catch a ride to a nearby town or beach in which to indulge. And then repeat. We had thought of doing the hike-through of the whole trail but because we only had two weeks time we felt like if we did so we wouldn’t be able to savor the island’s many other offerings. To our surprise we found the Waitukubuli Trail to be well marked, and although always rugged and barely discernible in spots, we never got lost. That allowed us to focus on the exuberant beauty of the rain forest, one the best preserved original forests of all the Caribbean islands and the endless succession of rivers and waterfalls in which to revitalize body and soul.

One of the most memorable experiences of our trip took place after a full day of hiking in the heart of the island, on “Segment 8”, considered the most arduous and remote of all segments. We were exhausted, it was getting late in the day, and we knew ahead of us was a very long steep climb up Mosquito Mountain. So when we came up to this idyllic river we decided to set camp on a flat bench above one of its shores. At dusk the jungle became alive with the deafening cacophony of birds and tree frogs, and while laying down inside our Fly Creek, minus the fly, we contemplated the magical, glowing lights of the fireflies and firebeetles that swarmed all around us. Protected inside our cozy cocoon of tight netting we felt like we were a part of this beautiful primordial forest scene. Dominica we’ll stay with us for a long time.

Xavier Fane is a photographer and outdoor enthusiast based out of Crested Butte, CO. We can always count on Xavi to produce authentic, grit-worthy content in both image and written form. www.xavierfane.com

 

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