A Boiling Lake
Sometimes the goal of travel is to remove yourself so far from your day-to-day reality that an alternate shocking existence whirls around you. This can be achieved through divergent cultural experiences but it is more often natural settings that can take us out of us.
Hiking to Dominica’s Boiling Lake is one of those physical, mental, sensory events that changes something in you permanently. Like flipping on some unknown switch.
Within the context of Dominica as a whole, its Boiling Lake is no surprise. The small Caribbean island juts abruptly from its place at the top of the Windward Islands. Its lush on lush landscape is criss-crossed by rivers, rich with waterfalls, and flowing with steaming sulphurous springs. It is already a place out-of-time — a sometimes dark but dazzling natural country.
In the middle of that 6–8 hour hike (let’s be sane and call it 8 hours) you will still find yourself walking, staggering, climbing down into a place that doesn’t seem to match your concept of the present. Standing in the midst of streams flowing with water alternately tea kettle hot or ice cold, marvelling at the variety of mineral-traced colours that flow along with the streams, your feet inches from a rumbling, steaming, spitting volcanic vent, you can’t help but feel transported into a primordial state.
This place, the Valley of Desolation, excites and quiets at the same time. The ground in this caldera, a collapsed remnant of the violent volcanic activity that distantly shaped the whole island, the ground begins to feel like a thin crust just barely capping this cauldron of steam.
Finally, between the floating walls of steam, the Boiling Lake is seen from the edge of a sheer drop into its scalding waters. Cold waterfalls feed the lake and the blazing volcanic fumarole beneath fights against them. It is a wonder to see but it almost feels like a footnote after coming in through the valley.