The first sentence in our guide book describes
Dominica by saying “ If Christopher Columbus came back today, is the only island he would recognize”, and he is 100% right. Even as you are sailing by Dominica , you can tell this island is different…wild, lush, magical. Dominica
|Maria in the rain forest|
We had a good sail from Guadeloupe and anchored in
. As we were entering the harbor, one of the many boat boys came tearing up to us in his skiff. Some people find boat boys to be a hassle, but we enjoy them. They are part of the island and its culture, are helpful, and if you take the time to talk to them and not just shoo them away, have a ton of local knowledge and are usually quite funny. These guys do everything from organizing tours to getting fruits, veggies, ice and take garbage. In Dominica, these guys are also part of a group called PAYS that also provide security in the harbor and maintain the dingy docks and the Indian River, which they use to do boat tours. Prince Rupert Bay
|Local bakery on the side of the road|
We always go with the first boat boy that comes up to us – we believe that initiative should pay off. In the islands, most boat boys don’t go by their real names, but rather call signs. So, Lawrence of Arabia, aka Monty, was our guy for the time we were there.
The following day, we joined 4 friends (Nola and Jerry on s/v Moonsong and Chris and Alex on s/v Blue Wind) for a full day island tour.
|Swimming in the waterfall|
Not five minutes after we started driving, we were surrounded by lush forest. As we were driving, we constantly stopped to look at lemon grass growing by the side of the road, papaya, mango, avocado and calabash trees dangling their fruit tantalizing close to the roof of the van. We learned that the locals use the forest goods for medicinal purposes. One very useful one, especially for everyone back home, is if you have high blood pressure, get a green papaya, put it in boiling water for a little while, and then drink the water. The islanders swear by it and we have heard this remedy for high blood pressure more than once.
Our first stop was the Carib territory. The Caribs are the “Indians” of the island pre-dating the Europeans. As history is told, they were fierce warriors and managed to keep the Europeans at by for a couple hundred years. The Caribs are shorter, bronze in color and have Asian features.
|View from the restaurant|
After buying handicrafts from the Caribs, we continued to one of the many waterfalls on the island. We hiked about 15 minutes into the forest and was rewarded with about a 150 foot waterfall with a deep pool. Before you could blink and eye, we were all jumping into the refreshingly COLD water! Ahh, so nice to swim in fresh water! We swam over to where the water was pounding down and tried to stay above water as the waterfall tried to push us under. We had a great time frockling like little kids in the water for about an hour before it was time to head out and get some lunch.
|Rum of the day... Obama Special!!|
Our guide picked out a local restaurant that had benches on a balcony which overlooked the mountainous forest. We first sat at the bar and had a local rum tasting. The back wall of the bar was lined with glass bottles filled with rum and whatever local herb / flower / fruit was in it to make the designed flavor. The label on the bottles was made with a piece of masking tape and a sharpie pen. There were the typical rums like vanilla and coconut, and then other rums like olive, guava, thyme, peanut, and one that caused a lot of debate…the Obama Special!!!
After a sampling of the very strong and yummy rum, we sat outside and had a fantastic meal comprised of all the local meat and veggies. I had a sampling of chicken, pork and fish with side dishes comprised of a salad topped with shredded green papaya, breadfruit and deshan (another starch).
|Trying to lift a mini out of the ditch|
We continued on our tour, stopping at numerous lookouts and beaches. We covered 80% of the island, I would say, and as we were working our way back to the harbor, we came across an older gentlemen who had run his car into a muddy / grassy ditch. It was quite evident from his slurring and weaving, that he had done his own rum tasting at some point earlier in the day. His car was a mini, and we thought that between the 7 of us in the van, we could probably help him out. The first thing we tried was to tied a strap that he had to our van and try to tow the car out. Well, the strap broke pretty quickly, so we went on to plan B. That was for all of us to push as one person took over the wheel and gas pedal. All that got us was a little deeper into the muck and mud spewed all over us. Okay, Plan C. It is a mini, right? They are light and we are strong, so let’s just pick the darn thing up. So, all of us surround the car, bend at the knees so as not to hurt our backs, grunt and curse, and attempt to lift the car up. The bumper came up, but the car stayed where it was. By this point, a few cars have passed, rubbernecking at the white tourists trying to lift a car. No one stops, however. Finally, a truck carrying a few strapping lads stop and take over the situation. They too tried to lift the car, but could not do it either, which helped our egos a bit. They also had a strap, one that was a little more substantial than the first, and managed to drag the car out, almost tipping it over on its side, I might add. I’m not sure how the well the car drove after that fiasco, but the driver didn’t find out until the morning, as one of the locals put him in the back of his truck to ensure he didn’t wind up in another ditch.
|Maria on the Indian River|
Since the land tour was so good, Maria and I decided to do the boat tour up the
Indian River with Monty. Monty picked us up on our boat and motored over the the mouth of the river. Unfortunately for Monty, they don’t allow motors on the river, so he had to row us, including Niko, and his heavy skiff up the river! The river quickly narrowed and was overhung by huge trees on both sides. The trees have massive roots that stick out of the soil and wind their way to the water. As we guided along the river, we had to duck to get out of the way of tree trunks that had fallen and vines that dangled down. Overhead, the sun was hidden by the trees’ canopy, so it was dark and cool. We could hear the calls of many different birds, the chirping of insects and even spotted an iguana in one of the trees. We got out at one spot and took a little hike in the forest. We were happily walking along the trail, minding our own business, when a baby boa constrictor slithered right in front of us. We watched it for a minute and then boogied out of there, just in case the mama was close by!
|Maria and Monty|
One night we were sitting in a bar ( I know, shocker) and it was basically just us, our friends Chris and Alex, and the bartender. One of the guys that owns the bar and lives right behind it, told the bartender he was going to go take a shower. About five minutes later, the lights in the bar dimmed considerably and then we hear POP and see sparks flying like a bunch of sparklers on Fourth of July. “ Oh sh*%$”! is all I hear and see Maria running barefoot around the bar to the back. I chase after, just in time to see an electrical cord on fire, dangling from a tree, threatening to light the leaves on fire. Then I see Maria reach for her non-existent shoe, shrug, and then hit the burning cord with her hand to the ground. The shower-taker finally appeared, luckily with a towel wrapped around his waist, and took over from there. Maria didn’t get too badly hurt, although she did have some rubber melted to her hand. Back at the bar, she did get a bag of ice, but not a free beer. Humph…will think twice next time about burning one’s hand for no beer!
After a few days of R&R, we sailed a few miles down the coast with s/v Blue Wind to anchor off their friend’s bar. On the way, we chased a whale for about a half hour. We were able to get pretty close to it, but still allowing it to feel like it was not cornered. I was just about to jump in the water with my underwater camera when it took one more breath and dove deep. We continued with our sail and anchored in front of the Ship Wreck Bar, owned by Patrick James. It is basically a huge bar with Patrick’s house above it…in the trees. Yes, that is right, he lives in a tree house! How cool!! The bar has been closed for years, but we had a beer and chatted with him for a few hours. The next day we up-anchored and headed off toward