Uncommon Attraction: Mystical L’Escalier Tête Chien, Dominica
On the surface, it looks like just another well-placed lookout perch offering dramatic views of another wind-swept Caribbean coastline. But there’s a lot more to L’Escalier Tête Chien than pretty scenery. In fact, for those who believe local Kalinago legend, there could scarcely be a more sacred spot in all of Dominica.
This legend concerns a snake – a very large and mystical snake – who left the Minoco River in South America millions of years ago in search of a new home. The Kalinago say he found it in Dominica, coming ashore just below the lookout.
In fact, you can still see evidence of the phenomenon today…
See that dark, thin trail running from the shore straight out into the ocean? The waves do it little justice as it actually extends a good 200 feet from the ocean floor to the shore. Close up, the ancient lava flow bears the appearance of a stairway, thus the L’Escalier name.
It was created, according to legend, by the snake, precisely marking the hallowed spot where he came ashore in Dominica. Follow the trail inland in a straight line and you’ll end up at a large cave high up Majini Mountain, where it’s said that the massive serpent still lives today.
When the earliest Kalinago people arrived in Dominica, chieftains trekked up to the cave to smoke tobacco and commune with the giant serpent, a practice, a local Kalinago guide told me during my visit here this past February, that still persists to this day!
The colorful tale speaks to the creation of Kalinago society in Dominica, equating the tribe’s migration from South America with that of a mystical, god-like creature that still provides for them… It also speaks to my need to re-visit Dominica soon.
You see, I only got to experience the “tail end” of the legend at L’Escalier Tête Chien. Next time, I hope to make the full trek from the stairs to the cave to do a little communing of my own.
To get to L’Escalier Tête Chien, head to the Kalinago Territory (centrally located on Dominica’s east coast), and in particular, the village of Sineku. From the main road, it’s just a brief hike to the lookout point.
You can check it out on your own, but I highly recommend hiring a local guide for the full experience. You’ll not only get a more detailed rundown on the legend, but you’ll also learn about modern-day Kalinago life, local arts and crafts, as well as medicinal plants and herbs still used by the Kalinago just as they were hundreds of years ago.
For details on the guided L’Escalier Tête Chien experience, click here.