Portsmouth and the Indian River
Mon 1 Apr 2013 14:24
We had a splendid sail down to Dominica, a beat again, all sails up, on port tack (which we haven't been on for ages so everything on board got jiggled around!). No dolphins or whales en route but we had a long visit from a booby. He had seen that we were flushing out the flying fish so he kept pace with us, hovering just in front of the main mast watching for them, then swooping down and plucking them out of the air. We did well at fishing too: a lovely yellowfin tuna.
We arrived in the evening to find the wonderful layer upon layer of mountains and valleys that we'd seen on the way up to Guadeloupe had resolved into a tropical paradise, with rain forest climbing steeply up ravines to spectacular ridges.
We were met by the 'boat boys', greeting us with smiles and flowers of paradise and offering us a mooring, fruit, anything at all... The chaps here are generally very friendly and polite, they don't push if you don't want something, and have organised themselves into a co-operative to make things more secure and easier for the visiting boats. One, 'Nature Boy' seemed a little vague about what he was actually selling, he had just four grapefruit in his boat with him yet still kept asking if we wanted to buy 'something'. In fact, come to think of he seemed a little vague himself!
The town is small with a few shops and some restaurants and cafes. We tasted johnny cake for the first time - it was good, a sort of not sweet doughnut. Dogs, goats and chickens wonder around, I guess they know who they belong to. This one looked as if he was about to go paddling. All around fruit is growing in the trees, tempting me to pick it, see the mangoes on the right?
There is also a well known medical school at the southern end of the bay, with over 2000 American students attending, and there's clearly a thriving fishing community here, they were unloading ballyhoo, half beaks, when we tied up to the dock to go ashore.
At one end of the bay is part of the National Park. We went for a walk there with our friends from Tulu, who we met in the Canaries and caught up with again in Bequia. It is quite dry forest, inhabited by lizards, some puffing out their orange chin pouches to warn us away, purple crabs and a multitude of birdlife. We also spotted fire ants - flame bright orange huge chaps, I thought they were berries at first but quickly abandoned the idea of picking them up when I saw them move. I was thrilled to stand under mahogany trees, seeing their helicopter seeds spiralling around me. Below the forest is a cruise ship dock, empty whilst we we've been here. We tied our dinghy to a ladder off the dock and snorkelled - wonderful! Amazingly coloured sponges and coral on the posts of the dock, plenty of trumpet fish and angel fish. I saw small jelly fish too, and big schools of ballyhoos which were great fun to chase as when they change direction they bend themselves around into a 'u' shape. I spotted two bright orange fish, like very big goldfish, and we saw a new type of fish, a little black one with orange fins who sits on the bottom in clear patches, looking a bit like salamanders. They get chased off by the angel fish. Amongst the eel grass we found big bare patches covered in a mound of dead coral. Each one had two large silver and yellow fish patrolling. I think they probably build them as 'nests' for some reason.
At the other end of the bay a river enters. The Indian River. Ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean II? Remember when they travel up a river to visit the witch? It's that river, only there's no piranhas, no alligators and no venomous snakes. You are not allowed to take outboards, you have to row, to preserve the peace and reduce erosion. Sam, one of the guides, took us at day break with our friends from Tulu and another couple. It was magical. Incredibly beautiful root sculptures border the green brown still water of the river as you enter the dappled light of the tree tunnels. The only sounds are the birds, calling as they fly overhead or perch in the branches. Crabs scuttling along the muddy banks and lizards try their hardest to pretend to be branches.
We saw the red throated humming bird, sipping at blossom, zipping in and out of sight. Green herons, tricoloured herons and the yellow crowned night heron, pretending not to be there until you get too close and they flap gracefully away. The blue backed belted kingfisher flew over our heads and dodged from tree to tree. Bull finches swooped from branch to branch and bananaquits in their yellow waistcoats filled the air with their wheezy zee-e-e-e-swees-te.
We went a mile or so up the river before getting out to wonder along the bank a little. Then Sam turned the boat and rowed us back down to the sea, blinking as we came out from under the trees, our eyes and ears still full of the sights and sounds of another one of the world's magical places.