My sandals slapped against the rough tarmac as I made my way down the little side-road outside our sea-cliff cottage.
I had spent the entirety of my morning rescuing these sandals from the spot which I had sadly forgotten them. And I regretted nothing.
Mission complete, it was time for Lewis and I to explore Dominica.
We had landed on this little-known Caribbean island three sunrises ago and would sadly be leaving the following morning.
Dominica is rich with gorgeous beaches, an untouched jungle interior and several other natural attractions, from waterfalls to rivers, hot springs to volcanos. It felt like we’d hardly seen any of it and already we were leaving.
So far Dominica seemed to have everything I dreamed of in a Caribbean island. The locals were friendly, there were few tourists, the island was largely untouched and the food was delicious.
I’d spent most of my time in an eco-villa nestled by one of Dominica’s 365 rivers. The location had been the perfect taster of what the interior of the island was like. It was thick with jungle and wildlife. I’d even been fortunate to spot an agouti (a large rodent) scuttling outside my villa.
Now I had made it to the coast and was keen to explore one of Dominica’s beaches.
We were fortunate that our cottage was located upon a cliff overlooking one of the most gorgeous beaches I had ever seen. Sure, it was not laden with golden sand or clear of natural debris but that’s just how I like beaches. It was wild. It was untouched.
This afternoon, Lewis and I were going to explore this hidden corner of Dominica.
The sun scorched me under my clothing and I took a sip out of the large bottle of water I was carrying.
The energetic hum of insects was all around us as we walked down the narrow road which was flanked by beautiful villas and their large, tropical gardens.
Then I spotted the sign for ‘Hodges Beach’ nestled between two villas.
If the sign hadn’t been there then I’d never have spotted the narrow walkway which was concealed below the arching branches of trees.
A tumble of weathered steps lead us down the side of what appeared to be someone’s garden. A low mesh fence was all that separated us from their perfect lawn. On the other side of the path was a mass of trees which housed a fallen and badly damaged fence which I presume had been their boundary fence before a hurricane took it out.
I skirted the edges of the splintered wooden planks and followed Lewis down the path.
The trail became narrower as forest engulfed it on all sides. At the same time, the gradient became steeper and the jumbled steps became further apart. The terrain was slippery and crumbling. Branches, roots and sprouting plants also made the walkway their home, creating a challenging obstacle course in the process.
I gritted my teeth as I tackled the eroded stone steps. I took each one a tentative step at a time, barely keeping on my feet when I’d occasionally slip on a patch of mud or a root would trip me up. My balance is appalling at the best of times.
Apart from my cursing and my clumsy crashing about, the walk was incredibly peaceful. My ears were filled with the unbroken chorus of birds and buzzing of insects. There were no people, no cars – nothing but pure nature.
The steps seemed to go on and on, becoming all the more worn as we gradually descended the cliff. The forest was so thick that it was impossible to tell how close we were to the beach or how far down we had travelled.
The trail wound this way and that, hugging a steep wall of trees and crumbling orange rock on one side.
Finally, we came to a break in the trees and were able to marvel at the view which stretched on before us, peeping out of the cover of spindly branches and large green leaves.
I guessed we were about halfway down. I could see a great stretch of trees between our ledge and the thin black beach below. The ocean still seemed quite a way off but the gorgeous view, illuminated by dazzling sunlight, gave me renowned energy to keep tackling the stairway.
Just then, I spotted movement on the forest floor near my feet. A beautiful pale-grey spiralled shell was making its way to the bushes beside the path. As I took a closer look, I made out its red legs and claws. It was a little hermit crab! If he was journeying from the beach then he’d been on quite an adventure to get up here.
The trek continued.
Once we reached the bottom of the steps, we were faced with a winding path through even more forest. The thick canopy of trees cut us off all sunlight except for the occasional ray which sliced through the darkness. The terrain underfoot was flecked with sand, a sign that we were approaching our destination.
We found ourselves skirting tall trees and, at several points, had to duck beneath low-hanging thick branches.
Up ahead, I spied sunlight and bent down to avoid another low tree. The ground beneath my feet was soft with sand and I noticed several large holes in the ground. What could live there? My guess was some huge-ass crabs!
A few steps later and the forest opened up. I felt warm sunlight all over my body and a smile planted itself firmly across my face.
The beach! We had made it.
Before me was a carpet of vibrant green creeper plants, their tangle of beige roots concealing the soft black sand beneath. From my vantage point, the beach itself was just a thin stretch on the horizon.
Just behind the lush green blanket of ankle-high plants was a forest of gorgeous palm trees, their trunks bending slightly and their leaves swaying in the gentle breeze.
In the distance, the mass of palms was broken up by a cyan river which snaked down the beach before finally opening up to the ocean.
There was so much to look at! It was hard to know where to visit first.
I stepped over a fallen log before walking through the field of creepers. The beach was drawing ever closer and the therapeutic crashing of waves became louder.
The beach was narrow but perfect.
It was littered with tree debris and shells. In the shallow surf before us, huge branches protruded out of the water. The quantity of tree wreckage is likely as a result of the devastating category 5 hurricane which hit Dominica in 2017 – hurricane Maria.
But I didn’t mind dodging branches. If anything, it added to the raw, authentic feel which this beach carried.
The large waves lapped at the shore, their chorus echoing across the cove.
We were on the east coast of Dominica which borders the Atlantic ocean. As a result, the large waves were not ideal for swimming, especially when Lewis wasn’t the best swimmer. He’d already had one near-miss in the water this trip!
Even so, I threw off my sandals and danced in the shallow surf, allowing the ocean to wash over my feet. I delighted in the cool sensation the waves brought.
From the beach, I marvelled at the small islets dotted out to sea. Some were bare, naked rock. Others were home to numerous trees. I watched as vicious waves slammed into their rocky faces.
Seabirds skimmed over the ocean in front of me, trying their luck for some fish near the surface. They beat their white and grey wings before swooping down, their claws cutting through the waves with beautiful precision. They called enthusiastically as they flapped their wings and soared to the sky once more.
I walked down the beach, allowing my feet to sink into the soft sand.
I reached the opening to the river and watched as the ocean waves met with the freshwater which had been fed on a long journey from the immense mountains in the heart of the island.
This particular river is known as Hodges River and started its journey in the Northern Forest Reserve, a great national park located in the north of the island. It is over 13,000 acres in size and home to some rare, native bird species as well as the highest mountain in Dominica called Morne Diablotins. Morne Diablotins is volcanic and is in fact the second highest mountain in the Lesser Antilles island chain.
The river flowing from the channel was perfectly clear. I could easily see the tangle of branches resting on sand beneath the crystal surface.
I traced the river back from the beach and to the forest with my eyes, soaking up the glimmering turquoise waters and the perfect reflection of palms on the surface.
Beside the river, smoke was billowing from a pile of sticks – remnants of a midday barbeque, I guessed.
On the opposite bank of the river was a man – the only person who I had seen at the beach so far. I watched as he kicked off his shoes, threw off his T-shirt and dived into the river. He cooled off for just a moment before taking his stuff and vanishing into the forest. Perhaps there was a trail on the other side of the cove which he was about to follow.
Lewis and I followed the river on foot, crashing through the mass of creeper plants until we reached the row of palms.
I approached one of the trees which was hanging slightly, allowing me to clamber onto its trunk and hug the base of it as I tried to climb up.
Nope, I wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t understand how people are able to climb palm trees! There’s nothing to grip onto and the bark is rough.
I had loved our time exploring Hodges beach! The scenery was simply gorgeous and other than the one man who had dived into the river, we had enjoyed this gem all to ourselves.
I only wished that I had had more time to explore.
The sun was lowering in the sky and evening was fast approaching. I didn’t fancy making the challenging climb back up the cliff in the dark and so we made the decision to leave this slice of paradise behind.
The insects of the night were already chirping as we ascended the treacherous steps. I was relieved to find the climb far easier than the descent. Sure, I was puffing for air and madly unfit but at least I wasn’t sliding around ungracefully every few moments.
Our plan for the evening was to return to the delicious and friendly Coral Reef restaurant, where we had spent the previous night. Yep, it really was that good.
This time we indulged in some pork ribs, a highly recommended item on their menu. They did not disappoint. The tender and flavourful meat fell willingly off the bone and the taste was incredible. We had 100% made the right decision to come here again.
What I’d learnt about this trip was that fast-paced travel wasn’t always great.
Trying to cram as much as possible into a short space of time is exhausting and unfulfilling. Travel isn’t about ticking off some list of where you’ve been – especially when you didn’t stop to actually experience the places you were passing through.
Sometimes the best experiences come when you sit back and get to know a place. There’s no shame in slowing down and giving in to a moment of tranquillity. Modern lives are so busy that it’s almost essential that we turn down the pace from time to time.
It was our last night in Dominica, on our Caribbean adventure. We made sure to complete all our packing that night, not looking forward to the early 4am wake-up the following morning.
When we awoke, it was dark outside. The frogs and crickets were still chirping as we ate our breakfast.
We said farewell to our gorgeous cottage on the hill and trundled down to the car, concealed by darkness. Apart from the sound of nature, everything was quiet. Above us, the milky way shimmered defiantly, relishing the lack of light pollution.
We started up the engine and began our drive through the night, the new moon bobbing brilliantly on the horizon.
As streaks of scarlet spread throughout the sky, I nearly gasped at the gorgeous scene which was unfolding. The moon and a vibrant planet shone against the blood red sky, hovering over the gentle ocean in the distance until morning finally came.
Witnessing this gorgeous sunrise, I felt less daunted by the long day of travel ahead of us.
We dropped the car off at the airport, relieved that we didn’t have to drive it many, many miles away before our flight, like we had when we picked it up.
As we waited in the small departure lounge beside the airport’s only gate, I watched the world outside the steamed-up window turn a vibrant green as the morning light hit it with its brilliant rays.
I felt a tug in my heart as I soaked up the beautiful, natural surroundings. I was not ready to go home.
With a drone-like hum, our propeller plane skidded into view, appearing down the runway.
It was time to leave.
This is the last chapter in my Caribbean 2019 adventure. What a fucking rollercoaster!
In case you’ve not read the rest (I’m sure you’ll love all the drama), here are all the chapters in order:
- I was SCAMMED by Barbados’ Drone Laws
- Unwinding in Paradise at Little Arches Boutique Hotel, Barbados
- Delicious Food and Roof-Top Views at Café Luna
- Visiting Barbados Again After 7 Years
- Lunch at The Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados (and Nearly Drowning in the Caribbean Sea)
- Glimpsing Another Side of Barbados: The Calm Before the Storm
- Stranded in a Tropical Storm in Barbados
- The Start of the Most Ridiculous Travel Day I’ve Ever Experienced
- The Road to Nowhere: Driving into the Unknown in Dominica
- Racing around Roseau with No Money: The Curious Case of the Taxi we Never Booked
- Journeying Off The Beaten Track into the Wild Dominican Jungle
- The Time We Had to Zipline Over Raging Rivers to Reach Our Accommodation in Dominica
- Finding Paradise in Banana Lama Eco-Villas, Dominica
- The Time The Biggest Moth in the World Tried to Get into my Bed Whilst I Slept
- The Road from Rosalie to Calibishie
- Pristine Beaches and Fresh Fish in Calibishie
- I Drove For 2 Hours on my Final day in Dominica Just to Rescue my Sandals