Terry/ Nicola Flinn
Wed 21 Feb 2007 21:36
En route to Dominica, we encountered our first pod of dolphins since our arrival in the Caribbean; using Jenny and Andy's excellent whale and dolphin guide, we were able to identify them as Atlantic spotted dolphins because of their distinctive markings and white beaks.
We had been rather anxious about spending time in Dominica because of reports of theft from visiting yachts and aggressive boat-boys. However, because of government training, we found the boat-boys to be polite, very helpful and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this rather underdeveloped and unsophisticated country. We spent Valentine's Day in the capital Roseau, and in the evening, after the departure of the ubiquitous, large cruise ship, we were able to explore the streets in peace got the chance to meet some of the locals who were extremely friendly and pro-British. Next day we sailed up the coast to the second city Portsmouth. This was another unspoiled small town, with chickens running around the streets. Some of the houses were kept in immaculate order, while others were falling apart and quite a few were no bigger than our garden shed. Andrew, one of the boat-boys, took us on a guided tour up the Indian River, which is narrow and shallow and weaves its way into the tropical forest. We saw egrets, herons, humming birds, lizards and a couple of large iguanas sunning themselves, but we failed to spot a single parrot, the national bird of Dominica. Andrew paddled us up the river for about an hour, describing the trees, plants and wild life; it was a most enjoyable trip and very peaceful because engines are not allowed.
In the afternoon we heard drum-beats, so we went ashore and found lots of young people gathered, in obvious party mood, all swaying to the rhythm as they made their way slowly around the cricket ground. It was the beginning of Carnival Week and that evening, loud music ( with the attendant drums ) began about 10 pm and carried on to 6am; from the boat it sounded like the same song all night!
On the following day, we had a lovely sail to Isles des Saintes, a small group of islands between Dominica and Guadeloupe. There was a children's parade in the afternoon with all the primary school children dressed as Spanish ladies or Zorro with the tots dressed as Red Riding Hood or Robin Hood.
Next day, we took a picnic and hiked up to La Chaumiere, an old Napoleonic Fort at the top of a 1000ft hill. It was a steep climb, but there was shade from the trees and we had the place to ourselves. We had to climb a rather rickety ladder to get to the top of the fort, but the views of the island were spectacular. We got back to town in time for the Carnival procession. The dancers were dressed in traditional Madras costume ( looks like a checked tablecloth design ) with white broiderie angIais petticoats and blouses. There was also a group of ' glamorous grannies ', who were attired in purple sequinned catsuits, which showed off their shimming hips to great effect.
On the Monday, with the wind right on the nose, we continued onwards to a large marina in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe. It was a dull, showery day, more reminiscent of sailing in UK rather than Caribbean waters. As it's coming to the end of Carnival, most shops will stay closed until Wednesday; we plan to take advantage of a few days off to catch up with cleaning and laundry, send a few emails, make some SKYPE phonecalls and perhaps catch another parade.