Dominica
  
  
  
  "As we made our way back from the harbour, the town became more ‘real’ in it’s shops and pedestrians."  

 

 

Nov 21

We arrived in Dominica via catamaran from Guadeloupe and were ushered, along with the other ferry passengers into a large, dockside warehouse. Customs officers stood behind little makeshift pedestals checking passports. All the luggage was piled in a roped off area. After having our passports stamped we located our backpacks in the mound of boxes and bags and took them over to a bench for inspection. We emerged from the terminal into a crowd of accommodation touts and taxi drivers.

"No," we explained, "our accommodations are just over here," pointing down the road. Breaking free from all but one, we had an opportunity to look around ... the scene was not the one we expected. There weren’t any shops or hotels in sight.

Where were we?

That’s what the taxi driver was talking about ... we were not at the normal port ... we were somewhere out of town ... he was trying to explain something about a cruise ship damaging the dock and so this temporary facility had been set up until repairs could be made.

A local van-bus pulled up. We apologized to the taxi driver and told him we preferred travelling by local bus. "But I will take you directly to your hotel," he explained.

"Yes, but we prefer the bus."

"But, I give you a very good price."

"Yes, that is very good of you, but we prefer the bus."

"My taxi is not crowded."

"But in your taxi we cannot be with the local people and we prefer to ride with the local people."

He was but one local person. He shrugged his shoulders and we crowded into the little bus, putting our backpacks upon our laps ... beginning conversations with some locals as we did. Much more fun than a taxi.

The bus dropped us off right in front of the Sutton Place Hotel (photo right) on Old Street in Roseau. The receptionist, Natalia, flashed a warm welcoming smile as we entered and was pleased, almost excited, to tell us that our room had been upgraded to a suite on the third floor.

The suite’s door opened up to a full kitchen. Past the bathroom the hallway entered a large, bright, pleasantly appointed corner room with two double beds dressed in crisp blues and whites, antique dressers and tables, two large lounge chairs and an antique desk. There was still some work needing to be done in the recently updated room and a few pieces of moulding lay upon an ironing table. Magdalene, who brought us to the room, hastened to remove them. "No that’s fine. Just leave them. They are not in our way at all." She showed us the air-conditioner and then left us to delight in our unexpected, but most appreciated, accommodations.

 
 

We opened the french doors to the balcony and looked down the narrow street to the harbour. On the front side large sash windows opened to overlook activity on the street below.

Out we went and before we even reached the harbour we could see a cruise ship towering above town; its rows of glass windows looking like a modern high-rise against the mostly three storey buildings of town ... and this was a relatively small cruise ship compared to some.

Narrow streets near dockside were lined about a block deep with souvenir booths. As we made our way back from the harbour, the town became more ‘real’ in it’s shops and pedestrians. We stopped into the Garage Bar & Grill and took a table on the narrow porch to do some people watching and partake in the local lager beer, ‘Kubuli’, and a light lunch.

 
 
 

Continuing our walk, we admired buildings dating back to colonial times, roadside tables showing leather sandals by local artisans and art work reflecting the vibrancy of the local people. Many people on Dominica are decedents of the original Carib people.

 
 
 
 
 
 

We made our way up the hill to the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fair Haven.

There has been a church on this spot since 1730. Back then it was a little, wooden, 12 x 5 metres building which by the end of the century became too unfit and too small for the parishioners.  In 1799 a new church began and through the decades additions were made and beautification was undertaken, old wood supports were replaced by stone ... it was completed around 1925, however, the work continues.

Today the Cathedral is trying to raise nearly a million US dollars for a new roof. Termites are chomping faster than minor repairs can be made. A woman showed us their trails up the walls and through the ceiling; this kind of termite eat from the roof down.

Near dusk we walked back down the hill and noticed yet again how pickup trucks loaded with fruit and vegetables are allowed to setup outside grocery stores; impromptu markets also setup in parking lots near more permanent produce markets ... everyone seems to take it in stride.

 

People lined up around a pickup truck to buy coconuts.  On the tailgate a man stood with a machete carving the husks down and slicing the tops off exposing the refreshing nectar.

 

Nov 22

The neighbourhood began to stir just before 07:00 as a man walked by with a bunch of green bananas.

A woman emerged from her shop/house, which appears to be the oldest on the block, set out her tables and piled them with products she would try to sell today ... baskets of potatoes and onions, some bottles of oil and vinegar and small bags of pasta, rice and beans alongside her small weigh scale. She looked tired and moved as though she would very much like to keep her shop doors closed today but had no choice. She turned on talk radio for some company.

People were returning from the fish and vegetable market down by the water. It must be hard for the woman to compete with the fresh market and the supermarket just one block away.

As the morning advanced more women came to the street and set up tables of miscellaneous items.

 
 
   

We walked a few blocks from the hotel and caught a van-bus up island to the Indian River at Portsmouth. Riding along with us was an English couple from the cruise ship. "We could take organized tours through the ship’s itinerary, but we prefer to venture out on our own ... it’s less money too," they added. "What are you doing today?" When we told them we were planning on hiring a boat and guide to go up the Indian River they asked, "Can we join you?"

   

Overhearing our conversation, the bus driver called ahead to a friend who does Indian River tours and when we arrived at the bus stop in Portsmouth, Fustian Alexis was there to greet us. A price and tour length was negotiated with Fustian and we boarded his yellow motorboat with his name "Alexis" hand painted near the bow.

 

We sailed down the coast cluttered with shipwrecks from hurricanes past including Omar.

He slowed his approach at the mouth of the river which was nearly blocked by a grounded, rusting deep sea fishing boat. Fustian watched the current and the size of waves as they swirled around in the narrow space between the fish boat propeller and the shore rocks. When the time was right he deftly manoeuvred his boat into the quieter waters of the Indian River.

"No motorboats beyond the bridge," he pointed up river. Up came the motor and out came the oars.

 

The boat was heavy and the oars slim and we admired Fustian’s skill at propelling the boat. As he rowed, he told us about the area ... his home.

The Indian River was one of the film locations for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. For the second episode’s eerie final sequences, tree houses edged the river and actors waded waist deep in the mucky water holding candles.

 
 
 
 

Today light and shadow played on the surface of the river while fingers of water enticed discovery if not by boat certainly by eye and imagination. The buttress roots of bloodwood (bwa mang) trees twisted and snaked from the bank into the water.

Hard to see at first glance, Fustian pointed out large crabs which blended into the dirt banks and mangrove roots and lizards who watched us from their high branch lookouts (see photos below).

 
There are twenty species of freshwater and land crabs known to exist in Dominica (two of which are visible in photo at left). Dominica also boosts 170 species of birds including two species of endangered parrots; bats, frogs, freshwater shrimp and boa constrictors, but no poisonous snakes.
 
'Jungle Bar' a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne 
 

As the river narrowed a small wooden dock appeared and up on the bank the ‘Jungle Bar’ with its exuberant owner and host, ‘Cobra’.
 
 'Cobra' a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne
'ginger torch' a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne

We ordered a rum punch and strolled around the garden admiring his tropical plants ... including the tall stately ‘ginger torch’; the odd looking ‘shampoo plant’ whose sap was used by the natives to shampoo their hair; the stunning hanging ‘heliconia’ (aka bird-of-paradise) with its almost transparent pedals; the small and edible ‘wild yam’ plus an assortment of medicinal plants.

'shampoo plant' a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne 'wild yam' a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne  Heliconia aka bird-of-paradise a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne 
Heliconia aka bird-of-paradise a Travel Tales photo by Sherrie Thorne 
 

The river’s current help Fustian on the way back to the landing by the bridge. We walked over the bridge and caught a van-bus back into Roseau; returning to the Garage Bar for dinner.

Nov 23

A taxi ride took us to the temporary ferry terminal where we boarded a catamaran to Martinique.  This time we kept our backpacks as carry-on. 

 

To Top of page          To Martinique         To Caribbean Home Page          To Travel Tales Home Page
©2008  www.traveltales.ca  and  www.bryan-thorne.com  All rights reserved.
The information on these pages ... writings and images ... may not be reproduced without the written permission from Terry and/or Sherrie Tho
rne.
If you have any questions or want reproductions of any photography on these pages please contact this site's Webmaster.