Dominica Part 2 15:34.666N 61:27.669W

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Tue 6 Sep 2022 00:32

19th May 2022

On our second day exploring the island by car we drove out to the Morne Diablotin national park where we walked the "Syndicate Trail". This is a beautiful one hour circuit through forest with the most incredible trees towering up through the canopy of green overhead and all manor of plants and foliage as well as various wildlife rustling in the undergrowth. Whilst walking this trail we saw a pair of parrots fly overhead - it was impossible to tell if they were the Sisserou Parrots which are the National emblem of Dominica or Jacko Parrots which are also found in this area. Both types belong to the Amazon species of parrot and they are endangered species' found nowhere else in the world. We only glimpsed them as they soared overhead but we could also hear them chattering away as we walked through the forest.

It was a very peaceful trail and again we had the whole site to ourselves. This was also a flat trail so it wasn't anything like as energetic as some of the hikes we had done in the last few days so we were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest and stop to admire the plants, birds and lizards; occasionally coming across one of the several viewpoints which opened out to afford us an incredible view over the forest below.

Surprisingly we didn't see any snakes on this trail which I wasn't too disappointed about. The large sign describing the wildlife indigenous to the area boasted that there were "NO POISONOUS SNAKES" in Dominica. This was, however, underneath a photograph of a boa constrictor, which; fair enough is not venomous but I'd rather not have a cuddle off one!

After we left the Syndicate Trail and began heading south across the island to find the "Emerald pool" we spotted another of Dominica's inhabitants - an "Agouti" - ambling across the road ahead of us. These are medium-sized Mammals approximately the size of a cat, that resemble a cross between a rabbit and a rat... perhaps a beaver or large squirrel but without the bushy tail... Jamie had spotted one when we were leaving Trafalgar Falls the day before but this was my first sighting of one of these strange little creatures! Later that night our new friend Ettienne would tell us that Agouti are good eating - like beef but better according to Ettienne!!

After a couple of detours due to road closures and stopping to get directions from some very helpful locals we finally found the site of the "Emerald Pool" - this is another waterfall with a beautiful clear pool of water below it which is a fabulous spot to bathe and cool down. There wasn't much of a hike to get to this spot so we parked up and wandered along the shady little pathway until we found ourselves looking down into the stunning Emerald Pool with the waterfall gushing down into it. There was a small family down in the pool as we arrived and a lady was throwing her hands up in the water splashing around and for all the world it looked like someone could be making an advert for Bounty or Herbal Essences or some such brand.. it was literally like a film set ideal for shooting the perfect "island paradise" setting!

We wandered down to the pool and arrived just as the family were leaving so again we had the whole pool to ourselves. We jumped into the clear cool water and swam under the waterfall where we stayed as long as we could bear the sensation of the cool water pummeling our shoulders. It was utter bliss. We stayed and swam and cooled down for a while before gathering up our clothes and taking a walk around the short trail which surrounds the pool offering views out across the forest and right out to sea far off in the distance. The trail back to where we had left the car was again thick with amazing plants and flowers including these stunning pink and yellow flowers which resembled the tropical "bird of paradise" plants that we have seen on the island but these are more claw- shaped and the flowers hang down rather than sprout up like a BOP. I later found out these are called Heliconia or Lobster Claws, they are very beautiful and barely look real!

After our trip to Emerald Pool we set off eastwards to take the road which runs along the beautiful rugged windward coast of the island and through several villages. The first of these was Castle Bruce where we stopped at a small store with a grill smoking outside and bought delicious barbequed chicken with rice and spaghetti for our lunch. We sat on the table set up outside the store and watched as village life went on around us while we ate our food. Most people stopped to say hello and everyone was friendly and welcoming.

We left Castle Bruce and drove north along the coast passing through "Kalinago Territory" which is an area inhabited by the Kalinago - indigenous indian people - the original inhabitants of Dominica. This is another very picturesque area and there are several places to stop and buy the beautiful traditional baskets that the Kalinago villagers weave - although we didn't because they looked like exactly the sort of baskets a certain cat who need not be named would probably quite like to destroy and eat!!

We carried on North through an area called Calibishie which was very pretty and had spectacular cliffs of bright red rock; then travelled back across the northern part of the island and returned to Portsmouth.

We parked up and walked to Osman's bar which already had a small handful of drinkers in enjoying Osman's speciality rums. These rums were what Osman primarily traded in; although he sold beers and soft drinks everyone came for the "Bush rum" as we heard one guy call it. As we got talking to the other patrons one joked that Osman was "the pharmacist" dispensing his medicine... each blend having a certain quality; good for the prostrate, good for the libido, even good for covid!! It seems there is nothing that the pharmacist Osman can't treat!! On a shelf across the back of the bar sits rows of re-purposed Rum bottles filled with a locally distilled gunpowder-proof rum (70%+ but we didn't know this at the time) and each bottle contains something to infuse the rum - nettles, watercress, cinnamon, ginger... a dozen or so different flavours. On the bar is a jug of water. Osman pours the rum of choice into a tiny paper cup which is generally thrown back in a single gulp; the cup is then filled with water, swilled around and downed in the same manor - usually twice. The patrons of Osman's bar will partake this ritual a few times over the course of their visit - had I been paying close attention I'd have realised that few could manage more than 3 or 4 before being thoroughly "sourced".... and infact most probably only had two before calling it a day. The important thing to point out at this stage is that I WASN'T paying close attention... We were so wrapped up in the wonderful warm atmosphere and chatting to all these lovely new friends that Osman introduced us to that really we didn't pay anything like enough attention to the way the locals were treating Osman's "potions"!!!!! BIG BIG MISTAKE!!!!! So whilst our new friends were taking their occasional hits of local rum a shot at a time we had a couple of beers and then started drinking the island rum (BB Rum) with coke as a mixer - squeezed into our tiny cups. After several hours and everyone - including us - was very merry Osman broke the news that we'd finished the BB Rum.. so we had his "Watercress" Rum instead.... very VERY bad idea. The only thing I remember after this point in the night is attempting to walk back to the dinghy and my legs totally failing me on the beach. I woke up the next morning aboard Hamble Warrior with sand in my hair and ears and a rather annoyed husband. I think that's enough said about that.

Friday was pretty much a write off as we recovered from our night at Osman's. We had a very lazy day on-board and the usual "Friday Night Drinks" were cancelled in lieu of Friday Night "Tea and Biscuits"!

Saturday we spent the day provisioning from the fresh market and the fresh food stalls in town. On Saturday night we returned to Osman's and it became obvious why there is a big black hole in my memory of Thursday night! We discovered the real strength of the local rums and understood why the locals drank it in such small measures with plenty of water. We didn't make the same mistake twice! This time we stuck to beers and only towards the end of the night cautiously tried a cinnamon rum which was delicious but we were very careful not to drink too much of it!

Several of our friends from Thursday night were in the bar again and we enjoyed catching up with them. It was obvious that Osman had been about to start playing dominoes with his friends when we arrived and I was worried we had interrupted them though everyone seemed happy to chat with us instead of play. When I mentioned this to Osman he insisted we play with them and soon we were embroiled in a rapid dominoes tournament which involved 4 players for each round with those players changing regularly as various people came and went from the bar. Several of Osman's friends and a couple of the PAYS guys would join the tournament for a few hands of dominoes and a swift rum and then leave again as Jamie and I rotated in and out of the game. It was great fun and such a nice way to meet people. We have a set of dominoes on-board Hamble Warrior and I think we will play now and remember our friends from Dominica when we do!

We met so many people in those couple of nights at Osman's little bar and they all made us feel so welcome - in such a short time Dominica had come to feel like home and we were going to miss it terribly. We had quite an emotional goodbye with Osman whom we promised we would visit if - or when - we were back in this area. That night he gifted us the most beautiful pineapple that he had grown on his farm and brought to the bar especially for us; and a huge slice of pumpkin with instructions on how to make the special Dominica Pumpkin Soup. He is a truly lovely person and a special soul and he and his friends along with everyone else we met during our stay made us feel so welcome on this paradise island.

On Sunday we invited our friends Jeanette & Les from neighbouring boat "Ocean Strider" to join us on-board for a BBQ where we had a lovely night sharing our experiences of the island and what we had each discovered. We all came to the conclusion that there was far too much of paradise to explore in just a couple of weeks.

Monday dawned and we took our water cans ashore on a couple of runs to top up our water tanks from the tap at the PAYS office. We said our goodbyes to the PAYS guys that were around; Maverick who had greeted us when we first arrived, Providence and Daniel; all of whom we'd got to know through PAYS and through Osman.

At 3 o'clock we lifted our anchor and set out of Prince Rupert Bay and away from Portsmouth to sail along the coast of the island and down to Martinique.