Dominica 13/3/12

Brian & Loretto Linehan
Wed 14 Mar 2012 01:30
Close your eyes and imagine you are six again and you are standing in the
hothouse in the Botanic Gardens. You take a breath and smell the hot
stuffy air – really hot as your only experience of heat is the Irish
summer. There is also that overwhelming “green” smell.
Well now I open my eyes and take breath. The air is somewhat cooler as
there is a breeze blowing but that familiar “green” smell is there but the
difference now is that I am in the land where the rainforest grows
naturally – Dominica (pronounced Domineeka) and it is surely the Garden of
Around me there are banana trees, coconut trees. Put your hand out and
you can touch growing ginger, paypaya, mangoes, guavas, even cinnamon
trees. I take a leaf, crush it and inhale the familiar Christmas smell.
On and on as far as the eyes can see the green, lush growth covers the
mountainous vista. And around every corner is either a waterfall or a
stream or a river, some meandering and most of them crashing on towards
the sea - it is said there are 365 waterfalls, one for every day of the
year. Today we visited one of these famous waterfalls – Spannys
waterfall. After a long drive from Portsmouth through the rainforest and
then a short walk through the forest we were greeted with the beautiful,
calming yet exciting sound of water crashing over the top of the precipice
and falling into the deep pool below. Freezing according to Ciara and
Jack who braved the water for a quick paddle.
We drove from the east coast to the west though the centre of the island,
constantly marvelling at the views. The west greets the Atlantic – waves
crashing ashore reminding me of Howth or Portmarnock on a winters day but
here the sea is altnately azure blue and then winter grey as the blue
skies fight with the encroaching grey clouds. Here it is less rainforest
but more deserted island like with the bananas replaced by what seems like
hundreds and hundreds of coconut trees covering the mountainsides. Here
is the Carib Indian reservation – the Caribs are the indigenous people of
Dominica. They once lived on the east coast up by Portsmouth where the
boat is anchored but in about 1979 after their homes were wiped out by a
hurricane they were given a large piece of land on the west coast to keep
as theirs and theirs alone. Our driver told us that if he (black
descendent from the slaves) were to fall in love with a Carib girl they
would not be allowed to live in the Carib reservation . They are trying
to ensure that the Carib nation remains just Carib – no “foreign” genes
We lunched at a fantastic restaurant – Pagua Bay near Marigot on the east
coast . I can easily say we had the best lunch ever – mouth watering
Mahi Mahi, burgers (I know I know local food!) and chicken all cooked to
absolute perfection. And the vista – stunning.
We completed our driving tour around the north of the island, seeing
Hampstead Beach where they filmed part of Pirates of the Caribbean 2.
Earlier that morning we had left the boat at 7.30 collected by Monti who
works with one of the PAYS members, Laurence of Arabia, (Portsmouth
Association of Yacht Security – set up to provide a co-ordinated service
to boats anchoring in the Portsmouth Bay – they provide security patrols
at night and also organise tours, garbage collection, helping with
clearance, water taxies etc.) The most favoured tour organised by PAYS
is the Indian River Tour. The Indian River joins the Caribbean sea at
Portsmouth and is famous for its water life, flora, birds and also for
being the location for the river scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 where
they go to visit the witch. There are no outboards allowed on the river
and Monti had to use the oars. We slowly glided up watching the water for
freshwater mullet, crabs and then on the banks the large bloodwood tress
with massive roots reaching down into the water, time having created the
most marvellous shapes and root contortions. Then the overhangs of the
trees sometimes touching our heads. Absolutely awe inspiring – the
silence interspersed by the swish of the oars and the calls of the birds
and insects. I only wish it was possible to take a memory of sounds so
that not only would it be possible to remember the picture but the
wonderful music of nature as well.
The wonders of nature were interrupted by the wonders of main – in 1910
the British built a railway from Portsmouth to Roseau (the capital) and
with it a bridge to span the Indian river. It is now in complete
disrepair wiped out by a hurricane in 1979 and nature has reclaimed it as
her own. It is hard to imagine the natives (as I am sure the British did
not do the work themselves – I stand to be corrected on that point) doing
the back breaking work of hacking through the rainforest and hauling all
the equipment and provisions needed to build this railway and bridge. But
it was of benefit to the Carib Indians who lived on the banks of the river
at the time as they used it to transport their goods up and down the
At the head of the river there is a bar where you could enjoy a drink but
where we enjoyed coconut fresh from the tree. My first taste and I can
tell you that the coconuts in the supermarkets at home are the inside
shell of the whole nut – something I never knew before. Monti opened the
nut with a machete and we all tried the milk (like creamy water) and the
white flesh. Unfortunately too many Bounty bars have tainted my tastebuds
and so I can say that I would not be particularly fond of the original
fruit but I will try again.
All too soon we were back in civilisation but I will cherish the memories
of an absolutely wonderful, calming few hours.
So if you ever get the chance visit Dominica as I know you will enjoy it.
And I should have said at the beginning that the people are so friendly,
kind and helpful. Always welcoming and willing to chat. It is they that
enhance the beauty of their country and they are very proud of it.