I arrived at my homestay on the Waitukubuli National Trail, tired and dishevelled, to be greeted by the sight of hundreds of eggs all over the kitchen: buckets of dirty eggs on the floor, rows of washed eggs drying on towels on the work surface and trays of clean eggs stacked and waiting to go to market.
Luckily there was still room to cook up a delicious curry of chicken and ground provisions for our evening meal, judiciously stewing the old hen in a pressure cooker. Nothing was wasted; the feet were sucked clean by my host, while her teenage son requested the giblets and speared the heart as his most tasty morsel.
The background music was the sound of hundreds of tweeting day-old chicks, the next generation of laying hens, who had just arrived in Dominica on a flight from Barbados. After the stress of their first day on earth, they stayed the night in the house before being introduced to their new quarters, ready for a visit from a group of local schoolchildren later in the morning. Despite her busy schedule as a smallholder growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as the chickens, my host, Gillies, also finds time to host and guide hikers on the Trail.
The community has spent the last couple of years clearing the old paths, smugglers' routes and slave trails, which join their stretch in the north-west of Dominica around Capuchin to the rest of the National Trail. Now complete, it runs the length of the island from the far south, up and down mountains and through steamy forests.
We scrambled down the steep hillside to the sea and followed the coastline south to the Cabrits peninsula, named by the French after the wild goats that used to roam there. A "moderate" hike, you still need the fitness of a mountain goat to pick your way over the large, unsteady boulders. "Rock jumping" Gillies called it, as we dodged the waves and tried to keep our footing.
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