Dominica

15:17.216N 061:22.627W
30 April 2012
 
Wed, 25 April:  0630 We set off from Les Saintes in great conditions with breeze from the East (as usual) but by 0930 the breeze had died and we had to motor the rest of the way, arriving at Roseau at 1310.  We were met my Sea Cat’s boat who guided us to his mooring buoys in the very open anchorage at Roseau.  It’s a big change from Guadaloupe:  the shore is lined with old buildings and wharves, the jetties are rather tumble down (including Sea Cat’s) and there seem to be few people around.  In fact only about half a dozen visiting yachts moored.  It’s deep and steep-to so difficult to anchor unless you take a line ashore.  The shore and bottom is volcanic boulders and rubble so there’s a good chance to get your anchor fouled.  On our mooring we are in about 20 metres and the bottom of the riser is out of sight.  I hope it’s secure although it was never to be tested during our stay.  There is a commercial port, fishing harbour and a pier for cruise ships.  None came in while we were there.  But that’s where I go to complete the check-in procedure (various forms in triplicate with carbon paper, etc.).
Sea Cat is a guide, driver, story teller and generally a treasure.  It turns out that his assistant, who met us in his boat, is called Desmond.
Thursday: Test Match: West Indies vs Australia.  Desmond takes us from LS to the jetty at the Fort Young Hotel and we walk from there through the town, which is very old, to the stadium, which is brand new.  The town is like a movie set, a movie set in the 19th century. Most of the buildings are original from the colonial era and there has been very little modernisation since.  Tradesmen, artisans, street sellers – it’s all going on in the same way as always.  Everyone is friendly and non-threatening.  When we get to the stadium we have to join the throng to buy tickets from a booth set in a tent – it looks like they forgot about a ticket office when they built the stadium.  But it’s a good natured jostling to get to the front and we emerge with our tickets at US$13 each then enter the stand where the Aussies are just finishing their second innings so we get to see the Windies bat for much of the day.  It’a a gas with music, clapping, shouting among the local crowd.  Not many Australian supporters here!
 
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Friday: Land trip with Sea Cat.  He takes us all over and tells us everything.  For example, the stadium: originally this was started as a gift from the Taiwanese.  Then the government switched its support to the PRC so the chinese built it.  They also built a number of roads (the Road to China).  In exchange for this largesse the Dominicans are supposed to support China’s claim to Formosa at the UN.  Dominica is very mountainous.  The British and French colonialists decided it was no good for plantations so they agreed to leave it alone and it became a refuge for the native Caribs that were being driven from their lands in other islands.  But this didn’t last forever and before long the French started to colonise only to lose control to  the British following some European war.  The mountains remain and because the terrain is so rough, the interior is very largely undeveloped in any way – just raw tropical forest.  There are also Caribs who enjoy the use of a section of the island where they can maintain their culture and way of life.  On our trip we visited the Carib territory, ate many tropical fruits, lunched at a dramatic little restaurant with fabulous views and swam in mountain pools, the second of which (Trafalgar Falls) had both hot and cold water falls.  It was quite an experience to climb up to the falls and swim close to the cascade.
 
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And by the way, that fruit in Sea Cat’s hand is a nutmeg, surrounded by a covering of mace.  I never knew that.
We had a great day, met lots of locals along the way and ended it having a couple of rum punches in a roadside bar.
 
We rested up for a couple of days, then on Monday took a boat trip with Desmond to snorkel in the champagne – a phenomenon caused by small underwater fumeroles releasing streams of bubbles from sea bed mud and rocks – lounge in the hot springs on the beach at Soufriere, and finally to Scotts Head on the South of the island.
 
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Dominica – we love it.  But next time we should go hiking in the forests.