After weeks of putting it off, we finally decided to do the energy-consuming hike to the Boiling Lake. It was something we had to do… A 6-hour round-trip trek through the Valley of Desolation, a place that stands up for its name, to our planet’s second largest “hot lake.”
We did our research, asked around for suggestions, and the vast majority of people made it clear to us to get a guide. The first review on TripAdvisor even labeled it a “Death March.” Everyone seemed to think that the foreigners were either going to get lost or pass out on the trail.
So, we did what anyone would do in this situation and went without a guide. It was the best decision of the day. You need to be in shape, but you don’t need to get a guide and as long as you use common sense it’s not that bad. It’s nowhere close to a “death march.”
Disclaimer: We made a pact in the morning that if we couldn’t find a guide in the town that would accept around $70 USD total, we would do it ourselves. Since there weren’t any guides there (allegedly there usually are tons), and we knew we had it under control, we went ahead.
Typically it costs $40-$70 USD per person.
7:45 AM on a moist and foggy morning, we were off – without a guide but prepared to figure it out on our own.
Water made up most of the weight in our bags, and during the first section they got much lighter. This portion was similar to the other hikes we’ve done here, filled with steps and in the woods, but the difference was the consistency. The steps kept on “stepping” and it tested our legs more than any hike I’ve ever done. Needless to say, we took breaks.
We reached the first river crossing 45 long minutes in. This marked our first “checkpoint.” So far, our jungle surroundings had not changed and wouldn’t for a while. But as we ascended, the bird noises we’re used to disappeared in secret until I realized they were silent. I guess nothing can live near desolation.
Up-and-up brought us to the mountain’s “peak.” We took our break and then continued on until we got a surprise visual of steam from, we hoped, something boiling.
Checkpoint #2 – so much for guides.
Our solitude was spoiled an hour and a half in when we saw other people. Granted, they were just dots in the valley, but it was strange to know we weren’t alone out there after so long.
This was when it got a little more challenging. The steps started to disappear until it was just a rough-cut “path,” and we were forced into an imagination game of where to go. Then we descended down boulders.
Mind you, we knew there was boiling streams here, but weren’t sure exactly what water was boiling until we got close enough to it to feel it. We found some paths around it until we reached the bottom and the entry to the Valley of Desolation.
Barring the green above us, we could have been inside a volcano. There was nothing that would tell an outsider that people lived on this island. We had small geysers spitting boiling water out next to us and the soil was turning a sickly green as we kept going. The spoils of “desolation.”
Our instincts led us in the direction the water was going, and our tired legs followed. We were back in the jungle, only this time we had to search out paths that were not at all clear (you’d think a sign or two would help). If that wasn’t enough, we had to hop from stone-to-stone over a river that was, we learned, lukewarm and not boiling. I could see why a guide might be helpful here – but again, common sense took care of any issues.
About thirty confusing minutes later we reached a wide expanse of rock, flowing water, and dead shrubs. We could see steam rising in the distance, and were finally close. The past two hours and forty-five minutes had paid off. All we had to do was keep going.
We reached the boiling lake in three hours, exactly the time we were told it would take.
As usual on our hikes, there was fog covering it. So, we sat down and had lunch. In time, the fog cleared and we saw the whole lake – a water-filled crater below us that was somehow at a rolling boil. I kept my distance from the edge.
Unfortunately, a tour guide a while back wasn’t so cautious and fell in – burning his whole body up to his neck. Make good choices when you come here.
We turned around and did it all over again to get back to the car. The whole day was a rewarding experience and I’d love to do it again.
When we arrived at the start for the second time that day, we had officially accomplished the most challenging hike in Dominica on our own.