Alyssa Writes

Hiking La Fontaine de Didier

Saut de Gendarme – more impressive in pictures
Photo courtesy of bagolina

“That was disappointing,” I told my partner after walking for an hour from Gros-Morne to Fonds-Saint-Denis to see the Le Saut du Gendarme, said to be one of the most impressive waterfalls in Martinique. More of a picnic area or layover during a hike, the five minute walk from the parking lot to the waterfall is commensurate with how underwhelming it was. If it weren’t overrun with tourists it would be a nice place to eat and relax, but we had to sit on a rock as there were no picnic tables available. I was turned off from swimming because of how artificial it felt—it seemed as though someone had dug a hole into a wall and pumped water through it.

After that debacle you can imagine that I didn’t have high hopes for La Fontaine de Didier, which bears the same name as Martinique’s sparkling mineral water. My partner reassured me that it was worth the two hour hike, so we organized ourselves to go the day after.

Tunnel, Didier

A ten minute drive into the countryside of Fort-de-France, you will find a parcours de santé, or fitness course, where families and individuals alike can be found walking, jogging, or using simple fitness equipment. Next to a water purification plant, there is a nearly unnoticeable path that leads down to a bridge over a river and up a hill to a tunnel about 50m long. Walking through at the two ends of the tunnel is easy as there is a railing you can hold on to and pipes to walk on. At some point in the middle, the railing disappears as does one of the pipes. It’s also hopelessly dark and we had forgotten a flashlight; walking on the ground is a little unnerving since you can’t see what’s there.

Didier I, the first waterfall you see

After this, thirty minutes of walking on a path along the river will get you to what I’ll call Didier I, a waterfall about 5m high. We stopped to swim and have a morue (codfish) sandwich (which was delicious—not too salty and not too much piment, yum!) from Jenny’s Patisserie in FDF and a mandarin. We put our shoes back on and made our way around the side of the waterfall with help from ropes and tree roots.

Then came the hard part. No longer an obvious path, we had to decide how to walk along the river using rocks. Since it’s slippery you end up spending more time deciding where to take your next step than actually walking. At first, I refused to get my feet too wet, but eventually gave in and just started walking in the river. Sometimes this would work to my advantage, other times, being unable to see the rock I was putting my foot on, I came close to disaster. My partner, on the other hand, kept his shoes mostly dry. After forty minutes of foot placement and a couple instances of freehand rock climbing we came to La Fontaine de Didier.

The all-powerful Didier waterfall

It was misty and overcast; the water was a deep blue-green, making me feel like I was in a scene of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was immense and the water crashing into the pool below was so loud I had to yell things to my partner a couple of metres away. Wild and powerful, the current was so strong it was difficult to swim close to the stream. We decided against swimming under it since the basin is quite shallow.

We stayed for a little while and then started making our way back. The return trip was just about more difficult than the way up. At Didier I, I decided to jump off so my partner took all of our stuff and off I went. I had seen a few other people, including children do it, so I wasn’t too nervous. That is until I walked up to the edge, looked down and realized I am deathly afraid of heights. I jumped anyways, though timidly, so I actually undershot the deepest part of the pool. I was okay and some other visitors clapped once I had surfaced.

More of a crapahuter (a trek over difficult terrain) than a hike, going to La Fontaine de Didier is not for the faint of heart. Like Le Saut de Gendarme, the rewards are commensurate with the effort and the exertion required for La Fontaine Didier means great returns. In the end, I probably won’t do this hike again mostly because it played on all of my fears (heights, falling, dying in the middle of nowhere), but I was really glad to have done it.

**If you plan on doing this hike, I would recommend the following: