Dominica - Roseau

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Wed 24 Apr 2019 17:25
15:17.2N 061:22.6W

We left Portsmouth on Good Friday and sailed down the coast to Roseau, the capital of Dominica - motoring in the island's wind shadow for most of the way.  The anchorage is south of the town but as we passed the small port and ferry terminal we were hailed by a boatman and arranged a mooring with SeaCat.  Continuing on we could see how much the waterfront had changed, with many jetties destroyed by Maria, and abandoned buildings, the most striking of which is the Anchorage Hotel where in 2016 we'd enjoyed sitting on their terrace having sundowners.

The derelict Anchorage Hotel, with only a few piers remaining of its dock (jetty to English speakers)

It turned out that SeaCat - with whom we'd enjoyed a number of hikes in 2016 -  was away for the weekend so we had time to relax.  On Easter Saturday we went into Roseau and found the place buzzing with activity.  Yes there are still plenty of signs of hurricane damage but the overall impression was of a vibrant town - in marked contrast to Portsmouth.  The produce market was in full swing with stalls spilling out onto many side streets.  A big supermarket has opened up on the waterfront and all the shops and cafes seemed busy.

The main seafront at Roseau

The anchorage, from the south.  Note the remains of several dinghy docks

For the last week or so we'd been having very showery weather, with the wind quite squally at times.  On the Tuesday after Easter we went ashore to meet SeaCat and arranged to go across the island and down the east coast to places where we'd not been before.  As we drove through the rainforest and reached the other side the rain was pouring down.  SeaCat's plan was to take us for a hike up the White River as far as the Victoria Falls but we feared it would be wet, slippery and miserable.

As luck would have it the rain cleared by the time we got to the trailhead where Moses, a Rastafarian and herbal medicine expert, has a small bar/restaurant.  SeaCat had already advised us that this would be a very wet walk and at that stage he suggested we strip down to the bare minimum, to keep most of our clothing dry for later.  It soon became clear that much of this hike is actually in the water, crossing the river at various points as we made our way upwards.  After over an hour of clambering over rocks and pushing through rushing water - often with a helping hand from SeaCat - we got to the falls where he had us strip down to our swimwear (undies for Paul) for swimming in the pool - battling against the crashing, swirling water and biting spray.  We were the only ones there and it was an exhilarating experience - a first for Paul who is not a keen swimmer at the best of times.

The quickest way back was to swim or walk down the straight stretches of river.  The good thing about the White River is that it's not cold because it originates at the famous Boiling Lake - a bubbling volcanic anomaly deep in the mountains that we visited in 2016.  The downside is that the water is not clear so underwater rocks are difficult to see.  Our return trip was quite fast - we must have been a sight to see in our bathing gear and walking boots -  and we survived without too many bruises.  Fortunately there is no photographic evidence.  Back at the trailhead we were able to dry off and regain our dignity while Moses fed us a delicious vegetarian soup.

A day out with SeaCat is always an education as well as a work out.  As we drove through the countryside he told us much about the impact of Maria.  Despite efforts to diversify Dominica is still very dependent on agriculture and having two bad storms in quick succession has been a massive blow.  Gradually local food production is recovering but many crops require years of investment.  Roseau was flooded as well as battered by the strong winds and most businesses, including food processing plants, were badly affected.  Right now Dominica's main export is aggregate - from quarries up and down the west coast. 

As we get ready to leave Dominica it would be easy to focus on the negatives, but what is striking is how positive the people are.