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Journeying Off The Beaten Track into the Wild Dominican Jungle

This is a continuation (part 4) to the most ridiculous travel day in my history of travelling. You may wish to read the previous entries:

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

I can’t believe how insane this day was. It just keeps getting wilder! I hope you enjoy part 4.

Today had been a disaster.

After finally landing in Dominica, a day later than planned as a result of a tropical storm, I expected our luck to change and for the island-hopping trip to be plain sailing from then on.

However, my hopes couldn’t have been further away from the reality.

What I was experiencing was a domino-effect. Due to the cancelled flight, our car rental company had lost faith in us as they had waited at the airport for us, not knowing our flight was in fact cancelled.

Without communicating, they had arranged a taxi to pick me up the next day which I had stepped into believing it was in fact the car rental company.

The taxi had then dropped us at the offices of the car rental company on the opposite side of the island (over an hour’s drive away) and asked me for £60. I hadn’t expected this so I had no money.

For the next few hours we went on a wild goose chase around town trying different ATMs and banks but being unable to withdraw any cash until finally we found one that would accept my card.

We now had paid for the taxi and picked up our rental car. Surely this would be the end of the terrible saga?

For now, at least, I was feeling hopeful. Sure, I was incredibly drained and a little shaken up after spending my entire first day in Dominica trying to withdraw cash for a taxi I never even wanted. But I was trying to put that behind me.

We reached a roundabout in the heart of the island – likely the only roundabout on the entire island. Taking the route straight on would take us back to the airport we landed at, Douglas-Charles airport. We took the right turn which had signage for the ‘Emerald Pool’, one of Dominica’s key attractions.

It was a relief to be on unchartered territory and for the first time since picking up our rental car, not retracing our steps.

I gazed at the landscape which enveloped us. It was spectacular. The freshly-tarred road (fresh as it was all rebuilt after Hurricane Maria in 2017) was surrounded by thick foliage which was a spectrum of different shades of green.

Every so often, a great drop appeared to our right and we were able to peer into a valley and see the canopies of thousands of trees. On the other side of the valleys stood huge mountains, often made to look small by even bigger mountains which loomed behind them.

We were in the middle of the jungle. It was rare to pass any sign of habitation and when we did it was normally just a solitary wooden bungalow.

The hairpin bends here were almost comforting. Perhaps it was because we weren’t lurching around them like the minibus was that morning. I felt queasy just thinking about that.

I started to prepare for the right turn that was to appear at any moment. My eyes keenly scanned the forest on the right side for any gap. I paid attention to the dark grey clouds above. They certainly looked thick with rain. It had been a little sunnier by the capital of Roseau. I’d heard that different parts of Dominica have their own weather systems due to the huge mountains.

Just then I spotted the right turn. It was accompanied by a sign for ‘3 Rivers Eco Lodge’ which I knew was just beside our eco-lodge. I felt hopeful we were on the right tracks. And just down this drive will be our home for the next two nights! I buzzed with excitement.

We took the turn. I nearly gasped in a mixture startled horror and bubbling excitement as I laid eyes on the terrain we were about to tackle.

Before us lay a narrow jungle trail. In parts it was crumbling away leaving gaping holes and in others it was strewn with sharp rocks. On either side of the track were trees and thickets, their leaves dangling down a metre or so from the ground in front of us and their protruding branches reached out to the trail.

I was both giddy and nervous at the same time. I love anything that feels like an adventure but at the same time I was utterly exhausted and quietly longing for some comfort after the crazy few days we had just had.

“How far is it down here?” Lewis asked. I could hear the weariness in his voice.

“It can’t be far.” I genuinely thought this was true.

And so we began bumping ungraciously down the track at a slow, juddering speed. I could tell Lewis was trying his best to keep the ride as smooth as possible but the frequent dips in the road and protruding rocks we had to climb made for a challenging drive.

The road sloped downwards, sometimes at a reasonably sharp gradient. I listened as the vibrant green bushes scraped against the side of our car, letting out painful high-pitched scratching sounds.

Bump. Crash.

It felt like the pieces of rock we were tackling were getting even larger and sharper. I just hoped our car would hold out. At this point I felt immensely grateful that we’d opted for a 4×4. I wasn’t sure a regular saloon could tackle a journey like this.

I winced as the road on the left side completely vanished into a gaping pothole. We had to drive as far to the right as possible, practically through the undergrowth. The car quivered as a fat tyre slipped on the edge of the hollow. A shower of rocks fell down into it and with a jolt the car made it past – just.

But then we were faced with an even greater obstacle.

I heard a roaring sound above the sound of the murmuring A/C and looked into the distance to see a flow of rushing water cascading over the road. My eyes bulged in my skull. I watched the white tips of waves as a strong current sent the freshwater racing onto the path.

We drew to a halt beside the river. I took in the huge boulders on either side of the road. At least, worst case, we’d just be carried into the boulders. I hoped, anyway. We were still reasonably high above the valley we were descending into so the river would only be travelling in one direction. Down. I really didn’t want to be washed over waterfalls.

“Do you think it’s safe to go across?” Lewis asked.

“Yeah, it’ll be fine.” I wasn’t worried. I’d watched videos of Jeeps tackling far worse.

But as Lewis started driving forwards I began to question myself. Was it really safe? It had been raining rather heavily all day which would undoubtedly make the river larger.

I advised him to put on a burst of speed and before we knew it, we were charging into the path of the raging river. Splaaashhhh.

Water was forced in all directions, spraying the boulders to the side of the track and briefly obscuring my view out of the window.

It was a relief to appear safely on the other side of the trail, crashing into a tangle of thickets which were reaching over the road. I hadn’t even felt a slight tug from the waves.

The narrow track continued through the jungle for some time. Every time the road twisted, I thought we would reach the other end but every time we just laid eyes on yet more trees and another stretch of weathered gravel.

Finally, there was a gap in the trees. We were out of the forest at last! The terrain beneath our car also changed, this time to soft earth flanked by grass on either side.

We had found ourselves within a beautiful valley. Majestic mountains encased us on all sides, each one covered with dense forest. Around us was a small expanse of field dotted with swaying palms. I watched as a chicken wandered through the grass.

We must have been close by now.

We reached a house. It was large compared to many houses I had seen in Dominica – two storeys. However, the roof appeared to be missing in places and several of its concrete walls were absent of a lick of paint.

Sitting upon grey concrete steps were two people: a man and a woman. They looked like they were in hiking gear and waved as we passed.

I waved back, wondering why the two hikers were being so friendly. But then, why should I wonder this? Maybe this was just a friendly place!

“Let’s continue.” I instructed Lewis.

We drove to the left of the house and I felt puzzled when the bare earth beneath us turned to grass. How odd. I looked up. The road ended abruptly by a large tree.

“Is this it?” Lewis asked, an edge to his voice.

“N…no.” I murmured. It certainly didn’t look like the luxury eco-lodge I had seen on the pictures.

I noticed the couple were now approaching the car.

Where was the road? Was there any more road? Where were we?

Lewis wound down the window. “Hello.” He greeted.

“Hi.” The woman responded. “Are you Ella?” She peered in through the car.

My eyes lit up at the sound of my name. So this was the right place.

We parked the car on the grass beside an old satellite and greeted our hosts for the next two days. Their names were Melissa and Andy.

I wondered where the eco-villas were. They had to be nearby. Perhaps they were just a short walk away.

We followed Melissa and Andy as they led us up to the house. We found ourselves wandering through a partially-built section. On the floor was a layer of concrete and here and there tall concrete pillars poked up from the ground but there was no roof or walls.

I wondered where we were going and for the first time noticed that my hearing was obstructed by a persistent rumbling sound.

Melissa slowed to look at us. “Are you okay with ziplines?” She asked.

I was perplexed by the question at first. Perhaps there are ziplining options here, I thought. Come to think of it, she had mentioned something about a zipline trail in her email – that she would meet us at the start of a zipline trail.

“Yes.” I nodded.

“No.” Lewis responded immediately after. His eyes looked wild in panic.

“Ah,” Melissa turned to him calmly. “I wasn’t sure about them either. But now I love them. I’ll show you how easy it is.”

It sounded like they were most definitely taking us on a zipline. But why?

Lewis stopped dead in his tracks. For the first time I was able to lay eyes on what was in front of us. There was a steep embankment which led down to a huge, raging river – about 10 times the size of the one we had just crossed in our car, maybe even bigger.

I suddenly paid attention to the relentless booming sound which had been all around us since leaving the car. It was the sound of a wild river.

I laid eyes on a great tree in front of us. Beside it was a small wooden platform with a sign beside it that said ‘Zipline at your own risk.’ Attached to one of the lower branches of the tree was a line that journeyed all the way to a tree on the other side of the river which was just about visible on the far horizon.

Lewis gaped in horror for a moment before snapping his head around. “There’s no way I’m taking that.”

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