Monday, July 20, 2009

Dominica Road Trip

While in Portsmouth we made the acquaintance of Pam and Chris aboard "Wild Cat" a Lagoon 38. We decided to split a car and tour the island together. I got to drive which was an experience in itself with very narrow roads and left hand traffic. I feared most the L/H roundabout which I successfully did manage to navigate in the end. We started off in Portsmouth and headed up into the hills to the town of Calibishe. The drive up was fairly winding and steep. We had a gorgeous view from the top, headed down the back side of the mountain and found the cold Souffrie trail. It was just a short trail leading through a farmers Dasheen farm. The souffrie is just a volcanic spring which bubbles and smells like sulfur. Think of a West Yellowstone mudpot but cold. We then descended half way down the mountain in the car again to be stopped by a utility crew who informed us the road was closed. Oops! We headed back over the top of the pass and down the winding road and as we approached the bottom the brakes completely went out. Lucky break for us the emergency brake still functioned so we limped back to the rental office and made a switch. We got a groovy little 4wd Suzuki with tinted windows and very spongy tires. We set off again with Chris as navigator and took the main road to Calibishe where we hoped to get some fuel as the car we had only had a few gallons in it. Portsmouth was out of fuel but we were assured there was fuel in Calibishe. We've heard that one before.

As we drove over the mountains I think all of us were mesmerized by the beauty of the island with it's thick foliage and giant coconut trees. Mangoes were dropping on the road and the smell of decaying passion fruit and sea air was overwhelming. We did actually manage some fuel at an unmarked location along the way and headed south along the East coast of the island through sleepy seaside towns and unspoiled and unpopulated beaches. We stopped at one marked number one beach which was a true black sand beach. In the heat of the day you had to keep your feet in the water to keep from getting burned.

On we drove until we came to the Caribe Territory. Caribes were the earliest inhabitants here and like reservations in the States they were relegated to an inhospitable stretch of land . I'm sure they would have preferred the leeward side for fishing and sunsets. We met a man along the way who claimed to be a healer and went into great detail about how he treated all manner of problems with his garden from cancer to toothaches. He introduced me to the cocoa fruit which is where we get cocoa beans. The fruit itself is just a fleshy bit around the seed you suck on. It is a bit tart and sweet. I like it it but would not care for for more than a few seeds worth. He also got Sunny some star fruits.

We then proceeded on till we came to the most surreal sight of basket vendors on a turn in the road which looked out high over the ocean below. Pam was able to make some significant purchases there.

On and on we drove through the day occasionally stopping to admire the scenes to finally come to the highlight of the trip. The Emerald Pool is a small river pool under a waterfall set in the hillside and shade of the trees and foliage all around. The water is cool and the falls can really work out those knots in your neck and back. We were fortunate to have the pool to ourselves for a while. A large group came in later and it was our cue to leave.

We then made our way to Roseau, the capital city, where Sunny decided she had a taste for fried chicken with hot sauce. She bought out one local vendor and we searched for more. We found a lady who made a wonderful fruitcake. Not that nasty Christmas stuff, but a very moist and flavorful concoction made with fresh nutmeg, raisins wine and chocolate.

As we drove north before the sun went down and I was forced to rely on my headlights and the sobriety of my fellow road warriors we watched the sun slowly creep lower and lower. As the sun was about to set we found ourselves on the outskirts of Portsmouth and the local Medical School Campus. It was fun to see a college campus here with kids from the US and Europe walking down the streets. It was kind of a twilight zone moment. One thing that is almost always good around colleges and college kids though is the food so we stopped and found the local food court. We all had a great dinner and called it a day. Thanks to Pam and Chris's navigation expertise we had a great time.

Dominica and the Indian River

I believe the Isle of Dominica will go down as one of my all time favorite islands. I may find prettier islands someday but it will be the standard I hold the rest to. We pulled into Portsmouth and were immediately welcomed by the locals. They have been called everything from boat boys to the Banana Mafia, but our experience was very positive. Alexis was there to meet us and he made his pitch to take us on tours, buy our groceries, clean our boat etc. He never bugged us after that except to come by once a day and see if all was well.

We started off by taking a hike and the book told us to go to the gas station. Sunny and I argued about which gas station we should go to and in the end we went with her choice as mine appeared to be out of business. We promptly got lost and we met a man named Pedro from Montserrat who told us we were indeed on the right path. He volunteered to show us the way and so he did. Originally we were looking for the spring which is the head of the Indian River but apparently he did not get that part. So we hiked through the jungle for some time and through many groves of fruit which according to Pedro were unowned and remnants of the old plantation. We finally came to the river and Pedro bid us a farewell. We were not at the spring just the river but obviously you can't get lost if you hike on a river right? Unsure if we could find our way back the way we had come through the network of trails we decided to push up the river to find a spring. Once we were all alone I figured Sunny would go a bit crazy about being lost but she was a real trooper and kept it together nicely. We crossed the river twice and found a road which led up in the hills through more fruit orchards. Finally never finding the spring we turned and followed the road back. We then discovered that the road was our intended trail all along. Sometimes it's good to get lost.

The Saints

We sailed from Nevis directly to Deshaies, Guadalupe and then down to Basse Terre to pick up some fuel and french Baguettes. We hadn't shopped in quite a while so we were getting a bit low on veggies. Basse Terre is the perfect place to fill up though as they have a great market area downtown and good street food. Later we left for Iles Des Saints which is a small archipelago of islands just south of the main island of Guadalupe. It too is French and has a special character unseen in the rest of the area. The town of Bourg Des Saints is very orderly with streets a mere 8-10 feet wide. Most people walk or buzz around on scooters. We chose to walk and so it was that we ascended Le Chemeau which is the highest point we could find. The trail was paved most of the way up but it is steep and the weather being in the high 90's creates a strenuous hike. The view from up top is great though.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Going for a new look and feel here by switching over to Blogspot vs. Sailblog. While I like Sailblog for some of it's ease it does not allow more than one picture per post and I think pictures are nice to have when describing things we see and do along the way to give a better understanding of what it is we do all day. Please follow along if you like and we always appreciate feedback from those who stumble by.