Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

Hiking the Boiling Lake TrailAfter fifteen minutes of walking past large-buttressed chatannyes and all the ingredients that would make for a creole feast, in raw form, the Bushman made his announcement: “Tarzan in the jungle, ah woo.” Out from the spiky bromeliads and endless fern swung my guide, Peter Green, the Bushman. We were hiking together to Dominica’s Boiling Lake.

 

The Bushman on the Boiling Lake Trail

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

Green, a self-educated naturalist, wore an outfit that resembled safari-wear, though it had been painted by a Rastafarian who had covered the cloth with island highlights from this Caribbean nation and African predators. Green has been taking this same trek to the Boiling Lake for the past quarter century, sometimes five times each week, and apparently had invented a few ways to keep the trail new for him, his clients, and the confused tourists happening upon the Bushman in the jungle, on their way to the fumaroles in the valley below.

 

The Best Short Hikes in Dominica

 

Green was masterful at transition (or finding ways to avoid it completely). One moment he would point to the corrugated fly wing leaves that had once served the native Caribs for their roofing needs and the next he’d be assaulting bemused French hikers.

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

“What time is it?” he’d ask with the urgency of someone looking to outrun a volcano. And when his victims claimed not to have a watch or not understand or just read the hour off their phone, Green would correct them. “It’s hiking time. It’s always hiking time.”

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

He’d offer his giant grin and then hand them a ginger candy from his pocket or offer them a leaf, which he explained could be used for cold remedies, though he preferred to munch on it because it tasted like green apple.

 

Dominica

 

The Bushman was an odd guide and an entertaining companion. Never before had I heard the song “Let’s Get Physical” transition into “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” But as we worked our way across rivers and up Mt. Nicholls, named for one of the two Englishmen who had discovered the Boiling Lake during the Nineteenth Century, the Bushman could move between disparate songs as if he had rehearsed this mashup for the last twenty five years.

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

Green would run through Dominica’s number of bird species (165) and then preach rhyme about the importance of using fern tree roots as steps instead of the other lumber on the trail: “More grippy, less slippy.”

 

He’d hand me fresh lemongrass, cut from the side of the trail, and I’d crush it between my fingers, mixing the citrus scent with the bark from the cinnamon tree and the anise of fresh bay leaf, both of which he had gathered earlier.

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

When we reached the halfway point, at the top of Mt. Nicholls, the views of Roseau and the village Loudat stood like little drops of paint on green canvas. Across one valley was Mt. Watt, honoring Nicholls’ partner in discovery. Past the second valley, steam from the fumaroles climbed through the forest of Morne Trois Piton.

 

Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

 

We ventured down the muddy descent from Mt. Nicholls, which led to iron-tinged rock face and then delivered us into the Valley of Desolation. In the volcanic valley, Green tempered his eccentricity, switching hats to show the skills of the Bushman outside of the bush. He plucked up some earth turned gray from the mixing of sulphur and carbon, and painted our faces with it. “Nice facial,” he said, showing me what I looked like with one of his hiking essentials: a blue hand mirror. Then, he pulled out a pair of eggs, placed them in a plastic bag, tied the bag to the end of his walking stick, and set them to boil in one of the fumaroles. Twelve minutes later, we cracked open the eggs that had cooked to perfection. Green plucked up pieces of sulphur, displaying how the crystals sparkled in the sun and dragged his finger over the gray-coated river rocks to show how one could write temporary phrases in a more elegant style than backcountry vandals carving their names into trees. (The Bushman’s “One Love” scribblings would vanish upon our return journey.)

 

In the Valley of Desolation Dominica

 

We passed over gurgling rocks and crossed rivers that became waterfalls, pouring into natural, turquoise hot springs. Green ran ahead as if he needed to be alone and shouted facts. “This is Dominica. This is Peter Green, the Bushman. It’s hiking time.” He was on repeat for the next eighth of a mile.

 

After four miles, we reached the fog of the Boiling Lake; nothing but the barren rim leading to the giant pool of water was visible. Despite all of his visits here, Green knew to respect the peace that the unseen lake commanded (and the tourists demanded). Then the fog cleared and revealed gray-turquoise waters. The center of the lake percolated. A small waterfall ran into the 200-degree pool. Bromeliads and moss were the only organisms that seemed capable of surviving the heat; the lake wouldn’t permit any other plants endemic to Dominica to grow within a few hundred feet of the pit.

 

The Boiling Lake

 

Everyone on the trail started back. Green made me wait. He wanted to know if he could ask me a question.

 

“How do you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” he asked, giving only enough pause for suspense. “You push.” The joke did not end there. It was layered and entertaining and then exhausting but memorable; it was symbolic of a daylong hike to the Boiling Lake and back with the Bushman.

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Canada & The Caribbean, Somewhere

4 Responses to Hiking the Boiling Lake Trail

  1. Marjie

    The Boiling Lake Trail looks so different from any of the trails I’ve gone through. The texture of the land and plants, at least from the pictures are definitely unique, at least for me.
    Marjie recently posted…21 Delicious Camping RecipesMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Hi Marjie,
      Thanks for the comment. I was hoping that the images would depict some of the incredible features of the trail and of Dominica; but, as they say, a photo still can’t do either one true justice.

  2. Izabela Kopec

    Hello there. Going to Dominica in April. Where can we find famous Peter the Bushman? Please and Thank you.

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