Thursday, April 7, 2016

“I'll take 'Odds and Ends' for $200, Alex”

I was able to do a lot of activities over the Easter break, and already shared stories about my climb up Mont Rouge, Cabrits National Park, and the large mountain behind the village. For this blog post, I'm going to consolidate several other activities (hence the “odds and ends” title, similar to an earlier consolidated article) from recent weeks into this one story.
I was delighted to recently meet up with a couple of friends from my hometown who happened to visit Dominica on a cruise. We arranged prior to their departure to get together at the Peace Corps office when their cruise ship docked in the capital city. It really meant a lot to me to see these familiar faces with whom I worked for many years (although all three of us are now Treasury Department retirees)! I enjoyed mixing my old hometown with my new home.

Not all that far from my village, there is a crater from an ancient volcano. The roadway which circles the northern part of the island normally runs near the coast, but as it gets close to the volcano, it starts climbing the heights and then crosses over the lip of the crater before running through the interior and exiting on the other side. As soon as you cross the top and begin descending into the crater, you begin to smell the sulfuric gases. Below is a panorama of half of the large crater.
There is a spot in the middle where you can stop and hike a few minutes into the bottom, where the gases bubble up from deep within the earth. Fortunately, this volcano is old, and the magma is so deep that the gases have time to cool off by the time they reach the surface. Unlike other parts of this island, these are NOT hot springs, thus it is called the Cold Soufriere (which I think means sulfur, or sulfur mine, in French). This candid shot was sneakily taken as I was watching one of the smaller springs (sometimes called mudpots or fumaroles) and contemplating the journey these bubbles had just completed.

I went on a long hike up the “creek” nearest my little cottage (the locals don't call them creeks, brooks, or streams here—all moving water seems to be called a river). I have a student who lives near this creek, and he had taken me up there a few months ago. At a fork, we took the easier path and went up the right side. Soon, the creek ended against the high ridge, and we walked back down to the village on that trip.
On this recent day (pictured above), we took the left fork, figuring that it would also run out fairly soon, and we could say that we had been to the source of the creek that comes down from the highlands through our village. However, we kept walking and walking and walking—and since we were running out of time, we decided to turn around before we made it all the way to the source. I will look forward to someday hiking all the way to the top of this water source. In West Virginia, I always had a lot of fun “creek walking” (hiking along a creek, jumping from rock to rock and trying to not get your feet wet). It is even more fun here, since one doesn't need to worry about venomous snakes.
While in the upper reaches of this hike, we started seeing “fern trees,” as shown above I loved how the sky filtered through them, and took a picture even though I doubted that it would accurately reflect their beauty. However, I think this picture gives you a sense of how special these trees are. They seem like something the plant-eating dinosaurs probably enjoyed.
Finally, while school was out for Easter, I did a hike with the ten youngsters shown below. We followed a path many years ago had been a road leading up one of the hills behind our village. A hurricane in 1928 had severely damaged this old road, and most of the way was little more than a narrow, rarely used footpath along the edge of a steep hillside. Near the top, the path ends where a landslide in recent years had buried the trail with rocks and dirt. Thick vines and vegetation have grown over these loose rocks, making your footing treacherous as you cross the landslide. However, once across this obstacle, the old road is in decent shape at the top of the hill, and still connects to the main road. So here is my “crew” after we made it up past the landslide and onto the old road. The Atlantic Ocean can be seen in the upper left.