Dominica, Morne Diablotins - 1447m/4747ft
I had just boarded a ferry from Castries, Saint Lucia heading to Roseau, Dominica via Martinique. This was to be the second of a multi-country high point Caribbean adventure. I chose the ferry as it was half the price of a flight and having already been… let’s say disappointed with many Caribbean airlines I certainly wanted to avoid them if possible, especially as the only airline option had a 1 out of 5 rating! With several reviews saying they had to give a 1 as there was no zero option.
The seats onboard were comfy and I had a window and aisle seat to myself. An announcement before we left informed passengers that the journey would take 4 hours 15 mins stopping at Martinique for a while on the way. There was a stunning sunset over the sea at 18.15 as we docked at Roseau, Dominica. The ferry was carrying on to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe from here, I filled in my arrival card and headed to passport control. The security were being quite strict emptying everyone’s bag but thankfully as I was one of the last in the queue due to filling in the arrivals card they just started waving us through. From the ferry port in Roseau, I had a 15-minute walk to the guesthouse I had prebooked. I picked up a large bottle of water from a local shop and checked into the St James Guesthouse, The owner was in the restaurant, So I dropped my bag off in my room and had a very nice large cheeseburger and fries. A German couple were at the table next to me and they were saying how they had their bag stolen this afternoon off there shoulder losing their camera, phone and passport. It goes without saying I would need to be vigilant and keep my gear nearby at all times.
After a good nights sleep, I headed to the restaurant for a nice breakfast of Bananas, Watermelon, Fruit Juice, tea and toast before checking out and heading back into Roseau to catch a local minibus up to the North West town of Portsmouth. After waiting for the minibus to fill up, as usual, we headed for 50 mins along a motorway, Using my phones OSM map app to know when to jump out nearest to the apartment I had reserved through Airbnb. I left the bus in central Picard on the main road to Portsmouth, There was a shop on the corner where I picked up a drink and I headed to a supermarket about a 10-minute walk away which wasn’t overly stocked but had plenty of pop, water and biscuits. There were many apartments and snack bars/Pizzaria’s in the area so I asked for directions to make sure I was heading the right way. I headed uphill and saw my apartment on the right-hand side, No one was around so I headed upstairs and said hello. A woman came out of a room and I said I had a reservation, She showed me next door to my Apartment. I was surprised how nice it was with a 50-inch TV in the bedroom, Perfect I thought. She asked my plans and seemed surprised when I said I was climbing Morne Diablotins the following day. She asked how I was getting to the trailhead, I just said I’m walking from here haha. She said people normally just go to a boiling lake not up into the mountains as it’s dangerous. I reassured her that I had maps and GPS and had spent time looking into the route and timings so it would be fine. I chilled on the bed for a while before heading out just before sunset to have a meal and supplies for the upcoming ascent.
I walked past the Pizzaria before backtracking and ordering a Pizza and a drink, I sat on a table and it took ages to come out, In the meantime, it had gone dark but I planned on heading to the supermarket again for more supplies. The Pizza was pretty poor to be fair but with a tough climb coming up the copious amounts of energy it certainly would provide would be beneficial. I left the Pizzaria and walked behind a minivan parked outside the property. After two steps there was nothing and I had to throw my arms and legs out to stop me falling further. A man rushed over as I was pulling myself onto the road… I looked to the side of me and there was an uncovered concrete storm drain running along the edge of the road about 3 foot wide 8ft. I stood up and noticed my shorts had been ripped and leg had a slice through it with several gashes and scrapes on my elbow, lower leg and my right hand too. Typical I thought! The cut on my arm and leg were still bleeding quite a bit but I continued heading down the road to the supermarket to save me coming back out later. After 10 minutes I reached the supermarket again but it had just closed, My luck had run out for today it seemed. I noticed a small shop on a side road and was able to buy the water and pop that I needed before heading back uphill to the apartment to clean myself up and get some sleep.
My alarm woke me up at 05:30 and I set off just before sunrise at 06:15. I continued uphill beyond my apartment as I had noticed a trail marked at the end of the road that joined the main walking trail which would lead to the trailhead for the start of my climb. Still, on the road from my apartment, it wound behind several buildings and offered a great view of the sun rising. I came to the end of the track and had no sign of the route whatever so I headed directly uphill where it was marked but the vegetation was getting more and more dense. After 30 minutes of bushwhacking, I decided to head back down to the track and follow it around instead of uphill. I was pleased to see it had been recently used although very muddy and every tree clipped my legs. I was grateful when I emerged from the trail onto a dirt road and after asking a local was soon on the Waitukubuli trail 11. It was muddy and had some steep sections at the start but at least it was a defined route. After a few hours, I finally arrived at the trailhead at 630m.
The sign saying Morne Diablotins path was still there but I could tell the trail certainly hasn’t been used regularly for quite a long time. I had a drink and took a few pictures and videos before plunging straight into the jungle. Every step seemed to be through a spider web which at first is annoying but soon becomes just an unconscious wiping off. There were a few times I would stop to clear the buildup of spiders and webs off me before continuing. I could see remnants of the old wooden steps but these were rotten away badly and severely overgrown with many trees obstructing even this first section of the route. I can only assume that since hurricane Maria and the destruction that caused to the whole Island that restoring a nice stepped path and clearing the route is very low down on their list of priorities. This was going to be a lot tougher than I had assumed. The sign at the start and several trip reports had stated 2hr30 to the top and the same back down. With all of the fallen trees and over a year of the route being left to overgrow it would surely now take many hours more. Progress was very slow having to bushwhack and weave over and under fallen trees and branches, certainly time-consuming which was something I could ill afford.
The old trail was blocked by several fallen trees causing me to head right up a steep muddy slope to circumvent all of the branches and undergrowth. The new trail became steeper and after many cuts and scrapes, I found myself above 1000m. I took my cap off and continued upwards, I stepped up a steep section holding onto trees as I ascended, Suddenly I felt a bang on my head, I had stepped up right onto a thick snapped off branch. I got myself into a safer position just in case I passed out and put my hand on my head. My hand was covered with a mixture of sweat and blood, I sat down for a few minutes knowing time was now against me before carrying on. I continued wiping the blood off the left side of my face for the next 20 mins, but by that time the terrain and overgrown vegetation required both hands and both feet to bypass so, I quickly forgot about the bump. After 1200m the branches became even more dense and my speed became slower. Up, over and around, crawling on my stomach through mud it was becoming crazy. It had taken so much longer than I imagined but I knew the summit was within my grasp. I continued over a false summit and battled on to reach the highest point in Dominica. Typically there was no nice rewarding summit panorama as I had in Saint Lucia, Just thick mist and cloud. It was nearly 15:00 and I knew I would still be in the jungle well after sunset but I had to push on down as fast as possible to avoid clambering over as many of the trees and branches as possible by torchlight.
After a drink and the customary photos and videos, I quickly pushed on retracing my steps, heading down then back up and over the false summit, Losing the track temporarily and having to climb through trees to get back on course. I was starving and only had a few mouthfuls of my drink left. At times when crossing a large log, I would sit on it to cross but my body just wanted to stay seated. It was as much a mental battle than physical but I persisted sliding and stomping through mud past caring about cuts and bruises by this stage. The mud went over the top of my boots several times but I just pulled them out to a loud squelching sucking noise. After a few hours, I was slipping and sliding down through the jungle and every time I saw something I remembered I couldn’t think how far it was to the track that I now desperately wanted to be on. It was 18.40 and I could barely see in front of me, I parted the bushes as usual and saw the sign and the track. I had made it back… I let out a massive sigh of relief and started walking over to a concrete slab to lie down knowing it would be another 3-hour walk from here along the road.
I put my bag down and within a second heard a vehicle heading towards me on the track. I grabbed my bag and jumped into the road. The 4×4 stopped and the driver asked if everything was ok. I said would it be possible to get a lift to the end of the track he said yeah, thankfully not seeing the state of me and my very ripped shorts. His wife was in the passenger seat and looked at me as if thinking where have you crawled from. I told them I had climbed the Diablotin and was heading back towards Portsmouth. You have only just come out of the jungle they asked? I told them about the condition of the track and that I had started from my hotel near Portsmouth. We drove for 25 mins before reaching the main road talking none stop most of the time about my country high points adventures. They then turned right and said they will drop me off in Picard even though it was the opposite direction for them and gave me a few small but tasty local bananas. What a stroke of luck, That they had just happened to be late driving home from sightseeing in the area and if I had been 30 seconds later I would have missed them. Crazy!
They dropped me off by the shop on the corner and I said how grateful I was to them, I walked into the shop, cuts and bruised covered in mud and my shorts heavily torn but just happy I had been successful and nearly back at the apartment. I jumped in the shower and it took ages to get the dried mud off. My boots were filled with thick sludge and my bag filthy too so I tried to rinse them off but ended up just cleaning them under the shower knowing full well they would still be wet the following morning as I had arranged a taxi to take me to the airport at 06:50 for my flight to Sint Maarten. I finally finished cleaning the gear at 22.00 and had a great sleep until my alarm.
My bag was still a bit damp but my boots were still soaked but I headed out and the taxi was outside as planned. We had a good chat while taking the coastal road to the airport check-in desk had a weight limit of 15lbs mine was 19lbs so I had to sacrifice my biscuits. I headed through to departures but no sign of the flight when it was due to take off. An hour passed after saying it was delayed a few times they finally said it was cancelled. Typical, That’s the 6th consecutive time I’ve tried to fly there now. I met a Dutch couple and said to them what the procedure was having my Curacao experience to draw upon. After an hour and a half 8 of us were on our way to our hotel for the night. It was the $230US per night Atlantique View with infinity pool and spa. We had a $20US per meal allowance included, So I along with the rest had food and a few beers before heading to bed. I was now a day behind so really needed the flight to be ok the following morning as they had suggested it would. I used the hair drier to properly dry my bag and boots that evening. The next morning we woke up and met for breakfast at 06:30 with the taxi coming at 07:00, The service was so slow we didn’t leave until 07.40 but made it to the airport without incident. I checked in again but had my small deodorants taken off me as they are flammable? et they are sold after security, annoying woman. No sign of the flight when it’s due but about an hour after scheduled it lands and I’m finally on my way to Sint Maarten on the 7th attempt.