Sunday, June 9, 2013

Still in Dominica

We've been in Dominica now for almost a month and still feel like we've barely scratched the surface of this complex island. We hike or bus somewhere practically every day, taking a day off here and there to rest our tired legs. I'll pick up where I left off in the last post - with the tour we did around the island with some people we met in the anchorage.

Martin (aka Providence) picked us all up from our boats and we piled into his van and headed south toward Spanny Falls for a short walk and a swim in two of the waterfalls here. Martin stopped along the way to point out different things growing by the road and on the trails we tasted everything we came across.

Spanny Falls

Martin waits patiently for everyone to come back up the trail
Details and overviews from the drive
Martin cuts up a coconut for the group
The guides encourage groups to get together to do tours, and it makes sense to spread the cost of a tour among more people, but it's not Skip's or my favorite way to travel. We like to poke around on our own and chat with people we come  across to find out where we might explore. That said... some places are easier to visit with a guide and there's a lot to be said for local knowledge in Dominica. Good maps and public information can be hard to come by here, but the locals we've met have been happy to share information and give us directions to their favorite places.

Some fishermen take their catch up into the mountains to sell. That's a BIG mahi mahi.
This woman bought a big chunk of the mahi
Clockwise from top L: fishermen seining near the boat, passion fruit on the vine, Portsmouth street, cashew
Kids at home pick dandelions and buttercups... kids here pick porcelain roses and ginger lilies
Dominica's Waitukubuli Trail is a national trail system that's broken into fourteen segments and runs the length of the island through the rainforest, around fresh water lakes, along the coastline and through the towns. It's marked in places with blue and yellow blazes as well as segment numbers and some vague other markings. Parts of the trail aren't so well marked and we also found out that some of the segments have secondary segments that aren't really marked.... so at times we were a little hazy about where we actually were when we were hiking. Not a big deal usually - but here it could mean we end up in the middle of the rainforest at dusk when we intended to be coming off the far end of the trail by late afternoon. (Note to self: start hikes earlier, take along more water and tell someone where we're going.)

Waitukubuli Trail blazes
Bloodwood trees are everywhere
This tree does not want to be touched. Martin told me the name of it and I promptly forgot it....
Clockwise from top L: no ID on the spiky blossom, Dominica ground lizard, wild lemongrass grows everywhere, field of palms on ridgeline
We did finally make our way back to Chaudiere Pool, this time with new friends Dean, Kris and their son Derek from s/v "What If". We bused back up to Bense and came across the same people in the little village that we chatted with the last time we were there. "You're back?!" they said. Yep, we're back. We talked for a while and Jackson, a young man who turned out to be a local guide walked along with us. "The river is high, but I can take you there." he said. He was a quiet guy and we liked him... his charge of $5 US per person was more than reasonable and he was good company. 

Clouds hang in the mountains on the way to Chaudiere
Jackson picks a cocoa pod for us along the way
Kris and her son Derek check things out before jumping.... then Derek jumps.
Everyone jumped... Skip went first. Then Derek and Kris, who promised herself if Derek jumped she would too. It took me a while to work up the nerve to jump. I can go up the mast with no trouble, but for some reason I had a hard time talking myself into jumping into the churning murky water. Maybe it's not a fear of heights so much as a fear of flinging myself from heights? Regardless, I jumped.

Jackson, me and Skip, post jump.
Jackson helps Kris across the river
We've gotten to know Albert a bit, since he helped secure Saralane after her runaway incident during our first week here and he stops by once in a while for a chat. He had a scare a few years back when he was fishing by himself ten miles out (in the open boat in the photo) and his outboard conked out on him. With no other fishermen around and no means of communication he ended up having to row the entire way back. He said he cried like a baby when he finally got back to land. It put the fear of something worse in him and he saved up for a new outboard that he treats really, really well.

Albert and Skip talk outboards
We're not the only boat that wandered here.... and when a South African boat dragged her anchor everyone jumped in their dinghies to help bring her back. 

There's always a celebration when things end well and that night there was a barbeque on the beach with plenty of food and music.

Sailors from vessels; Cape, Out of Africa and Persephone
The musical family from s/v Cape
There's so much more to say about our time in Dominica and I have one more post in me that I'll do as soon as I can get a ^%*&^* movie to load from one of our hikes. 

There's immeasurable natural beauty here yet it's with the people that we feel we've most connected. We've had more strangers on the street call out to us "Welcome to Dominica!" and stop us to ask "How do you like our country?" When we tell them how much we love it and how welcome we feel they smile, pleased, but some say quietly that they know not all Dominicans are friendly... a nod to the problem they have with crack in the communities. 

To be honest, the crack addicts the hustlers and the beggars can wear you down. Each time you walk down the street you know to expect a hassle from someone. Someone following you looking for something "give me 5 EC" or "give me your sunglasses" or pushing us to hire them even though we've said "No thanks, really, we're just out for a walk today." "You can't walk there, only I can take you there in my taxi." 

All things being relative, we are the rich tourists and white visitors are definitely targets for anyone looking for a handout or to earn a quick buck "Buy my mangoes" (though mangoes are plentiful and rotting in the streets). Though it's annoying, it's mostly benign. There's the occasional more aggressive drug addict who accosts us out of the blue, follows us up the street until for whatever imagined reason, he's done hassling us and walks away. It leaves us wondering what's up ahead, should we not walk this direction? Walk back? 

Still, I should say, we feel safe here. On the water and on the land. We don't lock our dinghy at the docks or lift it out of the water at night. The boat boys are a well run group of guys that are always around and always keeping an eye on things. It comes down to the fact that every community has it's issues and troubled citizens and Portsmouth is no exception. 

But for now, I think we're ready for a change of pace.... a French island for a few days and then back up to Antigua to make arrangements for our haul out at the end of the summer. 

Stay tuned for one last Dominica blog.... video or not. 


Cindy Barnard said...

Wonderful photos, Maddie.
The first pictures of your day trip with Martin, swimming below the waterfalls.....gorgeous.

Janice said...

So glad you have been enjoying Dominicia so much. We really loved it there as well, but definitely haven't explored it as much as you have. It will be on our list for when we are back in the Caribbean again. Your photos are wonderful as usual. You also are braver than I as I am pretty sure I would not have been able to do the jump!