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Date: 20 May 2007 15:55:53
Title: Eureka! Dominica!

Position 15:17.2N 61:22.6W

 

Now then, Dominica. A short hop south from Les Saintes, and we anchored in Prince Rupert Bay, off the town of Portsmouth in the north of Dominica. We’d stopped here briefly on the way north but hadn’t been ashore and were looking forward to having a look about. Dominica sells itself as being the “Nature Isle” and has become a destination for eco-tourism, and it’s easy to see why – mountains, more mountains, lush green rainforest as far as the eye can see, and mountains. Very nice indeed. Unfortunately the island is also quite obviously dirt poor, and on a day trip by minibus that we took around the north of the island we passed through roadside villages that could easily have been in Africa, the only difference being that the huts were made of wood rather than mud. It also has, as far as I know, the only remaining community of Carib Indians in the Caribbean, who live on a “reservation” on the north east of the island. We drove through their area (which they’re free to leave if they like, but no-one else can live in their bit), which of course looked like everywhere else except for the people that looked like North American Indians. Slightly odd, and we made the mistake of letting our driver take us to the Carib Model Village, which was a reconstruction of an original Carib village and unspeakably dull, precisely the type of thing that I hate, and we couldn’t get away fast enough.

 

All was not lost though, as on the north edge of Prince Rupert Bay is Fort Shirley, named I would imagine after Governor General Shirley who also left his mark on Antigua. You see, not only do we bring you reports that are witty and interesting, but educational too. I envy you, I really do. Anyway, Fort Shirley. Built in 17?? it’s a sprawling site that a local chap has spent many years renovating but thankfully hasn’t yet finished. The whole area has become very overgrown and you can amble for hours through the thick forest (there are trails), stumbling across ruins of buildings complete with old cannons lying around in the undergrowth. Unlike the Disney-esque crap boring Carib model village, old overgrown forts in the jungle are precisely the type of thing that I love exploring. We fully expected to come across Harrison Ford at some point and frankly were a little disappointed when he didn’t show up.

 

 

There are a lot of “boat boys” in Portsmouth, who buzz about in pirogues with outboards touting for business (tours, clothes washing, shopping etc) who can be a pain in the wotsit but here were actually quite useful, and have bizarre names: “Ravioli Lover”, “Eric Spaghetti”, “Lawrence of Arabia” and so on. We chose the particularly outrageously named “Albert” to take us on a boat trip up the Indian River, where apparently some of the second Pirates of the Caribbean film was filmed. And very nice it was too:

 

 

And so to Roseau, Dominica’s capital about 20 miles south of Portsmouth. We picked up a mooring buoy here as it’s a bit too deep to anchor and the locals have installed moorings to attract the likes of us. We used moorings provided by “Seacat” who turned out to be Top Johnny Banana in the tours department and persuaded us to do the hike to the boiling lake, only three hours each way. Sounded all right, we thought, so the Malarkeys and us were collected from our boats at 0630 the following morning for the short drive to the start of the trail. What he’d omitted to tell us was that the three hours each way was primarily vertical, up and down volcanoes and over rivers. Spectacularly beautiful of course, although we couldn’t see too much what with the veil of sweat over our eyes, and the all the puffing and wheezing kept the wildlife away. Probably the hardest thing I’ve done since I was in my early twenties, and of course none of us are in our early twenties anymore. The boiling lake, by the way, is just that – a lake that’s boiling. Dominica has 9 volcanoes (unlike the other Caribbean Islands that generally have one, if any) of which 7 are active. Having just been to Montserrat I find that a little worrying. The boiling lake looks like a giant cooking pot, with a “rolling boil” affair going on in the centre, and is most bizarre. You have to be careful not to fall in of course, although I suppose you could always chuck some onions and carrots in after the hapless victim and make a meal of it. We took some photos of it but they wouldn’t really come out very well here once they’d been compressed so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s a piccy of Seacat instead, smeared with lava mud and showing an egg he’s just hard boiled in a very hot spring:

 

 

He’s not as bonkers as he appears, and he’s certainly fit – he did the 14-mile hike again a day later, then played football in the evening. And all on a diet of fruit and “herbal cigarettes”.

 

Tracy and I did a bit of diving as well, as soon as we’d regained the use of our legs, which was quite impressive (the diving, not our legs). We all thoroughly enjoyed Dominica; hopefully we’ll get back there one day and do some more hiking…perhaps. Roseau is a lovely town, lots of colonial type buildings etc, and a really nice feel to the place - Dominica is another of those places that has a bit of a reputation among yachties for being a bit dodgy, but again we had no trouble and the people were great. They even went to the trouble to make a sign especially for Tracy to make her feel at home:

 

 

Next stop Martinique…


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