In the Kalinago Territory

Our plane is flying over the Caribbean sea, we distinguish Saint Lucia then Martinique and finally, Dominica shows its green, mountainous shape. As we get closer, we are struck by the aspect of the island. Most trees are bare, coconut trees lost their heads, houses have tarps or the roof… Hurricane Maria, Category 5, the strongest in the scale, hit the Island about a year ago, and we will hear about it throughout our trip, it has impacted Dominicans in many ways and hearing their stories is a lesson of humility and survival.

For the first four days, we will stay with Nanichi’s Family in the Kalinago Territory. From their house, only one wall remains standing, the rest of the house (a large 4 bedrooms house) was just blown away by Maria. “If it was not for this wall, we would all have lost our lives in this storm.” One year later, the wall is holding a roof for a small room that serves as kitchen, living room and bathroom, the family sleeps in tents donated by the USAid organization and is still waiting to be reconnected to the Electricity grid. Working hard and saving up for the reconstruction of the house is a long process, but the positivity and enthusiasm of these people are heartwarming. “We rejoice and celebrate to be alive, there is no time for self-pity, we have to move forward and build something new!” Which they did. A brand new cabin, next to the stream, was built for visitors. A way to raise money as well as to share and exchange about the Kalinago Culture. The Kalinago are indigenous to Dominica, they were called the Caribs by the Colons but have revived their original name. Only a small community of about 3000 people remains, they live in the Kalinago reserve and try to preserve their traditions and remain close to Nature.

On Christmas day, we are invited to hike to the “Secret Kalinago Sacred pool”. The Dominicans that live literally on the other side of the river don’t really know about it and advise us to be cautious, no need to say that Ju and I trust our Kalinago hosts and don’t listen to the warnings! Following Nanichi’s precise instructions (walk up the road for 5 minutes, then on the right there is a white house with no roof, continue for 5 minutes then you will see a lone wall on the side of the road, keep going, then you will see a bridge with numbers including a lot of 7s, that’s where you turn and take the path…), we found our first challenge of the day… The zip-line to cross the river! My first reaction is to try to find another way, but Juliana is more adventurous and wants to give it a try. Dino comes out of nowhere, we don’t hear him until he is right behind us. He barely says hello and crosses the river on the zip-line as if it was easy… we look at each other and decide to try. Juliana struggles to sit on the platform as I hold it and there she goes, pulling herself to the other side. As she struggles and is almost turning back, Dino appears and helps her out! He felt bad for leaving us and came back to help us cross! Thanks! The adventure might have turned a bit dangerous without his help! We start chatting and he invites us to visit his organic farm in the mountain, on our way to the Secret Pool! As it’s Christmas day, we even get a glass of Saurel Juice and chat for a bit. The small wooden cabin had to be completely rebuilt after Maria crashed his little house down. And all the crops were lost. There was barely any crops on the island for about 6 months after Maria. “The first thing I did, was to remove all debris from the land and replant staple food, I didn’t want to depend on foreign aid for too long.” The farm is now producing a lot of vegetables for the local market and the fruit trees are being replanted or slowly recovering. “Can you imagine that all the leaves and small branches of all trees were wiped out? Bare trunks, as far as the eye can see. This was an apocalypse image, but some trees are recovering now. And the forest will grow back healthy with all the mulch it got! We, humans, are in a hurry, but nature knows and takes its time to recover, stronger than ever.” This is Kalinago philosophy and a good life lesson.

The next part of the trail involves climbing up a very muddy path (which looks more like a landslide in certain parts), but we keep going, Juliana’s adventurous soul keeps us both motivated! It’s not a little rain (“well we are in a rainforest, what do you expect…” a nice lady told me once!) that will stop us! The reward at the end of the path is magic. We understand why this pool is sacred, the colors, the smells, the sounds… Nature in its most pristine form.

This one hour hike, according to Nanichi, ends up taking the whole day. Talking with locals, sheltering from the rain, drinking Saurel, zip-lining, sliding in the mud, this adventurous day will stay with us for a long time! We learned a lot, from each other, from the people and for ourselves. Thank you for the Adventure!

more info about the Kalinago Territory: