A rigorous hike through rainforest, high woodland and dramatic coastline.
I walked this recently with my friend, a local called Damien who lives in Tanetane, near Portsmouth Dominica. He walked this trail back in the early 80's with many other locals and so we decided to revisit.
We set off from my cottage accommodation at Manicou River Eco Resort, Tanetane. We then walked up the Manicou River until we reached the main road and caught a bus (we were going to hitch a ride but the bus arrived within five minutes) to the trailhead in Pennville. We then walked through farmland and animals for a mile or so until we were truly alone. We never saw another soul until we finished the hike in Capuchin three hours later.
We walked along jungle tracks though very rough farmland with dramatic drops in impossible valleys. Damien told me how the farmers here have to walk to the main road with their loads on their backs and heads to sell in the markets. Many young people are abandoning these farms as the need for gadgets and Game boys mean they need to work in town to earn the bigger money.
We walked through huge bamboo forest and banana plantation. Damien pointed out the various crops and the names of the trees as we hiked our way above the island. Many places we saw the islands of Guadeloupe, Marie Galante and the Saints quite clearly. We were very high.
We came across ruins of old estate houses and an entire village (Delaford) that were abandoned to the jungle with Tarzan vines and huge plants over our heads. Some were 'Birds of Paradise' as big as a small house.
Most visitors don't know that this part of the island is every bit as rich and verdant as any other. This is green lush rainforest but just a few miles from Portsmouth center. The Caribbean side is known as being dry and featureless, but the coastline between Portsmouth and Capuchin is as stunning and dramatic as the Cote d’Azur.
The trail may be getting known now, but it is still a challenge and many times we had to hack our way through fallen bamboo with cutlass (machete). The lovely cooling winds really help though and sitting looking over a half mile deep valley with a cool bottle of water that you just filled from a mountain stream makes you feel a million miles from your desk back in wherever.
You do not need a guide as you can just follow the blue and yellow paint on the sides of rocks and trees. If you take any banana remember to leave a little change for the farmer to find to say “thanks”. Take a cutlass.
The entire trail was cut by hand as there are no roads to access this area. This was no mean feat and when you see the Reposoir Point a deep cut through volcanic rock you can really understand. The whole trail was originally a local route, which the school children of Delaford walked every day to attend school in Pennville. Imagine.
We sat and cooled our feet in lovely streams and listened to nothing, but the sound of running water and our own breathing. There was no aural trace of humans at all. Lovely.
Capuchin beckoned as we entered Degras Balata estate walking through lovely Balata trees and hearing the exotic birds above.
We looked over Cape Melville in Capuchin, which is a stomach churning drop to certain death and said "wow" a lot.
We then bumped into a couple of teachers from Ross Medical University (Portsmouth) and were then driven back to the resort which was nice.
All in all, this is an excellent hike and we were never more than 10 miles from Portsmouth center, but felt a million miles from it all. Go there now.
Manicou River Eco Resort: www.manicouriverresort.com
Everton Hall Estate
Commonwealth of Dominica
+ 1 767 616 8903.
Walk from Portsmouth (15 minutes) or take a bus.
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