Cheshire Cat in Dominica

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Destination Dominica.

We trailed behind in the countercurrnet behind Sue and John on Saltscar. Just outside Portsmouth Bay we saw whales spouting in the distance; they entertained Sue and John but moved away before we could get very close.

This island was very different from all the others we had visited to date. It seemed to be a very backward and extremely poor island, with little or no commerce but it was very green and luxuriant, with fertile valleys, pinnacled mountains, waterfalls, suplur springs and crater lakes.

Much of the fruit and vegetables for the surrounding islands is grown here, and export bananas to Europe. We had heard many stories of how the local boat boys come out to greet the yachts, to sell fruit, vegetables and whatever else they can.

We had also heard that dinghies and engines are frequently stolen, and that boats get burgled from time to time. We, however, avoided all those troubles and had a grand visit.

Banana plantation the fruit covered with bags for protection

We hooked up with Edison, one of the boat boys belonging to the Indian River Guides Association and he proved to be very polite, helpful and not at all pushy. He arranged for us to take a tour with Shadow Warrior – a full blood Carib Indian (very few left as they were massacred as were all the Caribs on all these islands by the French and English).

Shadow took us to yet another waterfall and on the way we stooped at a banana plantation We picked the fruit from the trees and sampled it then and there – delicious!

We passed fields of grapefruit and orange trees, cocoa trees, mango trees, lime, nutmeg and cinnamon trees. At one point Shadow ran off into a field and brought us back the biggest juiciest grapefruit we had ever sampled.

Ripening bananas. The ends on the individual fruit are picked off by hand

Next day we were rowed up the Indian River with Edison. He started being a boat boy before he was 10 – paddling a surfboard as many as 5 miles out to sea when he could spot an approaching yacht. Since then he has taken courses to learn about his island and to know more about local flora and fauna. He even knew the Latin names of all the trees we passed. (He declared the Latin with great pride – of course he could have been pulling our legs as our knowledge of Latin is non existent).

This still and tranquil river followed a path through the mangroves, getting progressively narrower until it was completely overhung by huge blood wood trees on either side, a little sunlight filtering through the canopy of leaves overhead.

Gliding silently through the forest on Indian River.

The massive tree roots spread out above the soil and into the water, twisting into complicated patterns and designs, providing secure hiding places for creatures and fish we couldn’t see. There were fish in the water , land rabs scuttled across the banks, birds occasionally darted off between the trees. Everything was muted and we even talked very quietly.

Sooner than I might have wiswhed we found ourselves at a small landing stage and were doubly surprised to find ourselves at a bar in the middle of the forest!

Here we were encouraged to sample the local hooch – called Dynamite. A batch was being concocted when we were there – a great pot filled with some water and local berries was boiling over an open fire behind the bar in a grassy area. A young man was adding vast quantities of sugar and possibly some unknown ingredients to the pot all the time stirring with a large stick. We bought a couple of bottles and discovered that the drink was very sweet, and apparently very strong.

All too soon it was time for us to haul up the anchor and we left along with Saltscar bound for Martinique. We arrived at St Pierre after a sail that began at 4 am, ending at 6 pm. We hadn’t expected to take so long, but yet again there was a strong current which set us back.

The harbour in St Pierre is very deep right up to the land's edge and all the yachts scramble to find a place to drop anchor on a narrow 20 ft deep shelf near the shore. Once again Saltscar was in the lead and they were lucky enough to be entertained by a pod of dolphins that were playing in the flat calm sea just off the island. St Pierre – being French was again, very attractive with narrow streets, picturesque houses and excellent services.

The best thing I found was the local market. Women in local dress – large straw hats and colourful dresses selling every kind of locally grown fruit and vegetable, spices (why did I bring so many spices with me?) and fresh meat and fish. I had to go and get Sue from Saltscar to come with me because her French is much better than mine. We had a great time, and did some stocking up for the kitchen. My camera decided not to work here, which made me an less than happy camper.

Pineapple fruit

Next day we had a call from Itza Purla – they had waited in a nearby bay for us to catch up with them, so we soon scooted down the coast to visit with Charles and Caroline.