This is a seed pod of a chatanier tree (Sloanea detata). The chatanier grows very tall, has huge buttress roots and is common throughout Dominica’s rainforest. They say runaway slaves and indigenous Amerindians would use the buttress roots for temporary shelter and even as a drum for sending warning messages across the forest.
Just back from hiking Morne Anglais. It was a great day for it; blue skies, dry weather and uninterrupted views. This is looking northwards along the west coast of Dominica. You can make out villages such as Morne Prosper, Laudat, and Cochrane and, in the background, you can see Morne Diablotin. Though you can’t see it clearly enough on this photo, we could also see Guadeloupe.
The trail is quite difficult to follow in places so you will need a guide. The main problem is fallen trees and other such debris. Sometimes the track just disappears when this happens and you have to figure out a way around and then get back to it again. If you don’t know the terrain up there, this can be a little disorientating. With steep drops on either side of the ridge, you have to be careful where you wander. I think plenty of guides know the route (Octave Joseph, Khatts, and probably quite a few of the others I’ve suggested in the book).
At the top you’ll see PV panels used by Dominica’s ham radio enthusiasts – please don’t use them as a seat!
The views are fabulous. On a clear day like today you can see northwards as far as Diablotin and even Guadeloupe; westwards you see Roseau and the coastline up to Layou; southwards you have Grand Bay and Pichelin, and to the east you can even see Delices. On the way up there are a couple of great viewpoints with views to Bellevue Chopin and across to Morne Micotrin and the Freshwater Lake.
Try and get up there if you can. It’s a good one.
I hiked part of segment 3 this morning; the stretch from Giraudel to Wotten Waven via the River Clare Valley and Morne Prosper. After all the recent rains from Tropical Storm Raphael, the terrain was certainly on the muddy side but the river was fresh and clear.
To be honest, I’m starting to get a little worried about the Waitukubuli National Trail. The segments I’ve hiked recently have been quite overgrown with some in need of repair. And what’s with all the broken signs ? One of my companions suggested I must be the only person who ever walks these trails – they have such an air of abandonment. It does feel that way sometimes, and it really did this morning. If hiking is Dominica’s main tourism product, where is everyone ?
If you are planning on hiking this segment then take it easy on the descent into the River Clare Valley from Giraudel. When I first walked and marked out this stretch with the National Trail project team back in 2010, there was a long discussion over whether ropes would help hikers get down to the bottom safely. I think they should have installed them. The trail is eroding quite badly in places – and heavy rains certainly don’t help – so it has become a difficult scramble down a steep and muddy slope. This isn’t the kind of place to be stuck with a sprained or twisted ankle, so please be careful.
It’s always nice to get up to the heights of Morne Prosper. I especially enjoy walking through the farmlands beyond the village, just before the descent to Wotten Waven. Farmers always seem genuinely happy to see hikers. It’s a joyful and scenic place.
With Tia’s, Screw’s and Ti Kwen hot sulphur baths and plenty of places to get a bite to eat and a cold drink, Wotten Waven is a nice place to end your hike. We finished our morning with cold Kubulis at Tia’s bar – highly recommended !
Up at Bellevue Chopin visiting my pal Roy Ormond today. His herbal garden is an education, I always enjoy taking a tour with him, and I try to remember at least one new thing if I can. This is lantana camara, known locally as Ma Bizou, and is used for colds, chills and high blood pressure.
Roy had some saplings for me – cinnamon and coffee – which I’ll be planting up at Orange Field tomorrow. Looking forward to that.
If you follow the trail up to Palmiste from Bois Cotlette (page 147 Dominica 2nd edition) you’ll discover it has become quite overgrown and, in places, is quite badly eroding. Take care on the loose scree and look up regularly to ensure you can see the way. I discovered that, towards the top, the undergrowth had covered parts of the trail and, from time to time, it was tricky to follow. Once you see the bamboo, you’re just about there. At the top you’ll probably see people farming. Just ask them the best way to get across their fields to the ridge. Once there, the trail down to Tete Morne and Soufriere Ridge is still clear and easy to follow. Sit down, relax and enjoy this great view.
This is a photo I took of my Japanese friend, Mari Ota, on Palmiste Ridge, looking down to Grand Bay. You may have seen it before – the Discover Dominica people use it for marketing.
My favourite walk is the Freshwater Lake trail. I know, I bang on about it quite a lot. Sorry about that. I like to go there early in the morning, though later is fine. It’s always beautiful, even in the rain. Today it was sunny and clear to begin with but, inevitably, the clouds began to roll in from the Atlantic and it soon became cloaked in its customary veil. All five major volcanoes were clearly in view: Watt, John, Anglais, Micotrin and Trois Pitons. I saw plenty of purple-throated hummingbirds and a pair of tremblers. As usual, mountain whistlers (rufus-throated solitaire) supplied backing vocals. Elsewhere, I have seldom experienced the serenity and natural beauty that prevails here. I love it. I often wonder why the people in suits don’t do more to promote this trail for specialists: botanists, ornithologists, horticulturalists would all be thrilled by it. The richness and diversity of of plant life alone is quite astounding.
Afterwards it was nice to hang out at the visitor center for a while and enjoy a cold Kubuli, a sandwich, a local coffee, and some good company.
Here’s an interesting comparison of Orange Field’s eastern boundary before and after we set to work with machetes (mine’s on the branch in the foreground). Both the southern and eastern boundaries are now clear of jungle though there are still quite a few roots to dig up and I have seven rather large fires to burn. But it’s all good and I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy my reward now – lots of creative planting.
We think work will begin on our house some time in August so the western and northern boundaries, plus the middle, of course, will all have to wait until after construction.
My pal (and mentor), Roy Ormond of Harmony Garden in Bellevue Chopin, is supplying me with a few interesting trees and shrubs to be getting on with: jack fruit, mangosteen, cinnamon, coffee, and a few tree ferns. I have one nutmeg in place already and I’m going to add another (they say you should always plant two, just in case one doesn’t bear fruit). I also have a couple of dwarf coconuts and heliconia cuttings all waiting to go in.