Saturday, April 29, 2017

Brandy Falls

Last May, I wrote a blog story about our school's “Belle Marche,” a quixotic quest to find the fabled Brandy Falls. Unfortunately, we were not successful in locating the trail to see this waterfall, but we still had a good time, as my blog story described. However, not seeing Brandy Falls that day made me want to eventually find it. I finally got that chance over Easter break.

I called the Brandy Manor Horse Stables, which is just off the main road near the mountain where the falls are located. They had someone who could guide us to see the falls (for a reasonable fee). On the appointed day, we went with the guide (as well as another couple) up the mountain.

We followed the same small road up the hill that our school group had taken. At the top, where our teachers and parents had been searching for the trail, it became apparent that there no longer was a real trail. Our guide was using his cutlass (known in America as a machete) to hack his way through the vegetation. He told us that this was his first group to take to the falls since before Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island in August 2015. In the picture below, we are dropping down to cross a small creek.

He slowly hacked his way up the other side. During this period of slow progress, you had to be careful not to be standing on an ant nest, because there was a lot of rotting wood on the ground—probably remnants from Erika. Eventually, we got into some old growth forest and crossed a ridge into another valley. The photo below shows us heading down that hillside.
There was a larger stream running down this valley, and soon we were scrambling across the rocks strewn amidst the rushing waters. We could hear it before we could see it, as we worked our way upstream until I got this view of the waterfall through the trees.
Finally, we made it to the base of Brandy Falls. It is a bit unusual, because the water is never in a free fall for a long distance. There is a slight slope to the hillside, so the water bounces its way down the long drop. It is very interesting to see, as the mid-day sun shone brightly on the entire length of the waterfall.
According to the guide, officials from the Ministry of Tourism came to check out these falls once, but decided that since it didn't have a large pool at the bottom of it where visitors could swim, they weren't willing to develop a trail for easier access and then promote Brandy Falls as a destination. Perhaps the lack of a big pool at the base is because of the slight slope that prevents the water from freefalling to the bottom. However, I think it is still an interesting site to see, and there is a pool big enough to get inside and cool off if you desire. Plus, I love the variety of waterfall types that can be found in Dominica. Another example of an unusual waterfall is the Bwa Nef waterfall not far from my village, with its two large boulders straddling the top of its canyon. It is nice to have different types of waterfalls.
On the way back, our guide shared with us some local fruits, coconut water, and coconut jelly. Once we got back to the horse stables, he also gave us a local rum punch. It was a very enjoyable day, and the woman who owns the stables is very interesting to chat with. After we left the stables to head for the main road, we decided (in part because we were so dirty from the hike) to walk all the way back to the village, giving me the opposite perspective from last year's Belle Marche when we walked the entire way in the other direction.

A couple of days later, we returned to the same general area. This time we rode a bus to the village of Borne, which is located on the island's version of America's continental divide. On one side, water runs downhill into the Indian River which eventually empties into the Caribbean. On the other side of Borne, water runs into the Blenhim River, which empties into the Atlantic not far from my village.

Back on December 29, we had taken a bus to Borne to hike Segment 12 of the Waitukubuli Trail, which winds its way from one end of Dominica to the other (and is the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean). This time we started at the same point in Borne, but went the opposite direction, heading down the hill to explore a portion of Segment 11 of the Waitukubuli Trail.

The trail eventually crosses the main road and then follows the upper part of the Indian River. The photo above shows one of my students standing next to the historical marker regarding the railroad (whose bed the trail follows for a while) that was used between 1910 and 1913 to haul timber out of the Indian River watershed.
After crossing the river (by carefully picking a path among the rocks), you pass by the Brandy Manor Horse Stables before starting up the long hill. This time, we were nowhere near Brandy Falls, but still had an arduous climb up the mountain. As we neared the top, the humidity and shade meant we were in one of the clouds that sometimes hug the mountaintops here. It was an eerie feeling. After reaching the top and just starting down, we were rewarded with a lovely view of the city of Portsmouth, the boats in Prince Rupert Bay, and the twin hills of Cabrits National Park, as shown in the pictures above and below this paragraph.
We ended up exiting the official Segment 11 trail by taking a connector spur which leads into Portsmouth. There we re-fueled with ice cream from the same store that we had walked to during one of our other field trips last year. It was a great way to spend the day in Dominica!

P.S. I just wanted to urge my readers to donate towards building a playing court for my village, as part of the matching funds to the grant I won (described in this previous story).

For anyone leery of donating via a website using your credit card (the instructions for the electronic donation process can be found in the link above), it is also possible to donate the old fashioned way. You can mail a check to Courts for Kids, and just note “Thibaud, Dominica community court” in the memo line. Make the check out to “Courts for Kids” and mail it to:

Courts for Kids
PO Box 873786
Vancouver, WA 98687

Thank you for at least considering a donation, whether electronically or by check! It will make a big difference for my students and others in the village.

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