logo Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Date: 22 Feb 2015 02:29:47
Title: Mr Paul’s Viagra Tree and Other Delights

So having brought you up to date with Pet Officer Snoopy’s position, let’s get back to the delivery cruise from Grenada to Antigua. Our stay in Martinique was an overnighter before heading off the following morning to Prince Rupert Bay in lovely Dominica. Another longish 55 mile passage and again, terrific sailing apart from a few hours round the lee side of the island when the wind died and swirled around which meant we had to motor for a couple of hours.

After the long passage we rewarded ourselves with a lay-day the following day on what is one of my favourite islands. With nothing to repair, rather than letting Lawrence and Neil lounge around all-day, I organised an action-packed exploration of the island. We were collected from the boat at 0700 by Martin Providence our boat “boy”, who took us up the Indian River in his boat. Indian River is one of the 360 rivers in the lush jungle covered island and is a nature reserve. On entering the river, no engines are allowed and Martin rowed us up the twisting, turning, tranquil river overhung by jungle vegetation,  pointing out the myriad plants, trees, birds and animals that we saw. Martin is rightly proud of his beautiful country and a highlight was as we were drifting back downriver, he sang us the several verses of the Dominican national anthem, all about the beauty of the island and the gentleness of its people.

Martin had then arranged for us to go on a tour of the island by minivan, our guide being Mr Paul, who was incredibly knowledgeable about everything but, in particular, about the plants and their medicinal benefits. He said that Dominicans rarely go to a chemist, preferring to use natural remedies. The exceptional longevity of Dominicans they put down to this and their healthy diet from the sea and the land. There was one tree that had us particularly interested. When the bark was stripped and dried and infused in rum “it makes men strong. It is a Hard Wood tree if you understand me” said Mr Paul coyly, to spare the blushes of the female members of the Portuguese yachting family with whom we were sharing the tour. Eventually when he wasn’t sure the message was getting through he said “We call it the Viagra tree. It is very popular with the men and therefore also with the ladies”.

Mr Paul also took us to an extraordinary geological site. It was a small area of volcanic fumaroles – pools of foul-smelling sulphurous mud bubbling away. The difference between this one and all the others I had seen was that the liquid in most fumaroles is near or at boiling point. With this one, you could put your hand in it – and it was cold. No one was quite sure how this phenomenon was possible and geologists came from all over the world to study them.

Coming up to lunch time, Mr Paul took us to a hilltop house with spectacular views over the cliffs, beaches and sea where we were to be served lunch by the owner. Something had gone wrong in the planning and the owner wasn’t around. If we weren’t to get any lunch there, Neil solved the problem about alcoholic refreshment. When we had been in Bequia, we chanced upon a bar that served the best rum punches we had tasted. “What’s the recipe?” we asked the barman. He laughed. “If I told you that, I would have to kill you” he said. A good sales pitch. We left with two 2 ½ litre flagons of the stuff. Neil had secretly brought along one of the flagons with him on our tour. The Portuguese fortuitously had a stack of plastic cups so we all had a pre-prandial tot sitting on the hostless verandah. Mr Paul, our driver and guide, grabbed one of the cups and held it out. Oh well, one wouldn’t harm. Continuing the tour, Mr Paul made a couple more stops to point out a particularly interesting botanical specimen, but not before reaching for the flagon and helping himself to another tot of the heavily laced punch. Eventually he dispensed with the formality of stopping each time for a refill and continued the journey with a full cup of punch in the hand that was holding the steering wheel, whilst deftly changing gears with the other hand, taking a swig between each gear shift. Its amazing that he still managed to avoid the numerous large potholes in the road.

Eventually we arrived at the alternative lunch time destination at a simple restaurant on the beach. Everyone chose the prawns except for me. I chose the chicken option. Neil noticed that the Portuguese lady looked distinctly alarmed. He discreetly asked her why and she confided that she had looked the restaurant up in the tourist guide and apparently when they offered chicken it was in fact giant bullfrog that they caught in the jungle behind the restaurant. Neil was delighted at the prospect of his skipper unwittingly being fed giant bullfrog and went to the owner to ensure that this would be the case. His hopes were dashed when he was told that sadly the bullfrog had been declared a protected species and they were now no longer able to serve it.

In the afternoon we were taken to a smallholding which was the only place on the island that produced hand-made chocolate from locally harvested and processed cocoa. We were met by Alan Napier in a pair of very scruffy shorts and nothing else. He was Dominican but, unusually, white and spoke not with a Caribbean accent but in perfect Queen’s English. His family came here 130 years ago from Inverness and had stayed, but through all those generations had not shaken off the Imperial accent. The buildings were a bit of a shambles and one couldn’t help but notice the empty vodka bottles just lying around in the dirt. The process of turning cocoa beans into bars of chocolate was essentially the same as we had seen in Grenada, but here on a much smaller scale. Even at maximum capacity (which wasn’t often, Alan said) he was only able to produce about 120 bars of chocolate a week. The spare time he had left over was spent on tending his garden which was a riot of colour and humming birds. The chocolate came in a variety of flavours. We bought a few bars and returned back to Prince Rupert Bay after a fascinating day.

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