Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, Wednesday night
We're onboard Saxon Blue in the Dockyard again, listening to the band playing in the cafe. They're pretty terrible, actually but it still feels like home.
We were up early today and got our stuff packed ready to check out - not that we brought much with us so it didn't take very long. We had Jepson's coconut and Pomp's grapefruit with our breakfast. At that rate, we'd be self-sufficient in a few weeks. We said goodbye to the staff and other guests and went up to Reception to meet Jepson. He drove past us heading down to the kitchen to prepare some sugarcane for us while we checked out then we loaded up into his van and we were off.
We got started on the sugarcane straight away and it was hard work. It tastes like very sweet grass and it's just about possible to chew through the inch-diameter stems. This releases the sweet juice and gives your jaw a thorough work-out at the same time. I'm not sure that you'd get very fat on it, given the amount of energy necessary to eat it. Cind thinks that the fibres clean your teeth as you eat so, perhaps, it's both calorie and caries neutral. Either way, it was a bit too much like hard work for a foodstuff.
It took us about an hour to get up to Screw Spa which had just opened so we were the first ones in. As we got into the first pool, it started to bucket down with rain so we were sitting in the hot water, looking out at the jungle all around with the sun shining and getting wet from huge drops of rain. That's not a combination that I've experienced before. It wasn't long before the water started to work its magic on me and I was quite happy listening to the sound of the waterfalls with my mind drifting away. The girls got bored while I was still dreaming they dragged me up to the reception shack and ordered some lunch which was very good.
By now, it was time to get going up north to the airport. We picked up a women called Jacinta who works at Jungle Bay in Roseau as we drove through as she wanted to come for a scenic tour of the island with us. Almost immediately, we started to drive up a well-made but precipitous road through a series of hairpin bends. Jepson came to a halt next to a building site where some guys were erecting a steel-frame building and Harold came out to say "hello". He was full of smiles, as ever, and we thanked him for his gifts of jelly coconuts and the sugarcane. It's a shame that we hadn't seen him before but I think he's busy with this new construction project and work's not that plentiful that he can afford time off. We wished him a fond farewell and then all back in the van again and around more bends and past more jungle-covered mountains.
We had enough time to take a detour on our way North through the Carib Territory. Dominica is unique among the islands as it still has a remnant of the pre-Columbian population living there. The Caribs were famous warriors who built seagoing canoes and conquered the islands from the peaceful Arawaks. After Columbus, some of the islands were quickly captured by the Europeans. Antigua had a tiny Carib population as they considered it too dry so no problems with uppity natives there. Dominica was another story. The Caribs not only held out in the dense forests but launched raids in support of their relatives on Guadeloupe and Martinique. Despite horrific battles, they were never fully defeated so ended up negotiating a separate territory for themselves which is where their descendants still live.
It's a proper integrated part of Dominica so not like the Native American Reservations in the USA but it's still distinctive. All the land is owned communally although they still farm the same plants. The buildings are smaller than in the rest of Dominica but it all looks tidy. There are shacks along the road selling handicrafts like baskets which are intricate and well-made. One stall where we stopped was clad in old printing plates so that the walls were covered in news stories, many of them pretty lurid and out of keeping with the carved wooden masks on display. We passed some traditional wooden boats in people's gardens which looked much like the war canoes must have done. The people were distinctive as well although I don't think many of them are pure Carib any more. There were a lot of asian-looking faces and long dark hair.
We stopped by a roadside bakery and bought some Cassava bread. It was surprisingly delicious, chewy and slightly coconutty. The Cassava is native to Dominica so it was being eaten by the Caribs before all the other delicious plants were brought there by the Europeans. I was worried that the Carib Territory would be a depressing place but it was far from that. People were poor alright but there seemed to be a good community feel going on and I'd like to go back for a longer look but we didn't have time for that today.
We finally got to the airport just in time to check in for our flight and then have a drink with Jepson and Jacinta. As we sat there, Carlos came by, having dropped another guest called Gaby to the terminal so he joined us to make quite a party. When it was time for us to go into the airport, we were sad to leave and I think Jepson was sad to see us go. It feels as though we've known him for ages and I'll miss seeing his huge smile and hearing him say "Yeah, mon" while taking huge trouble to make sure we have a good time.
Once we'd negotiated the chaotic terminal, Cind was ecstatic to find that they had Manchester United vs Chelsea on the TV so she and Christine texted each other in excitement as the Reds beat the Blues. The plane arrived and about ten of us got on before it took off back over the familiar islands up to Antigua. The immigration and customs guys were incredibly friendly and one of them was asking Andrea for advice about how he could get his wife interested in going out sailing with him. Moody turned up and he ended up chatting to Cind about football the whole way back to the Dockyard so I think they're now firm friends.
Then we were back home. Saxon Blue was sitting where we'd left her and Alden was getting off, sporting a new very smart haircut. We had a chat to Nick from Taiconderoa who told us that Kali had helped them out in St Barths after she'd left us so that's a typical Kali holiday - dashing around and helping everybody. Alden cooked us a delicious pasta and the "music" from the cafe has got even worse. They seem to be having some kind of open mic night although, thankfully, without the mic. Without any discernible talent, either.
It's good to be back onboard again although it's a far cry from the peace and natural beauty of Dominica. They've got something very special down there and I'm really glad we went back for another dose of it.
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