Dominica is the island that we thought of skipping
- a large chunk of verdant rock between the French outposts of Martinique and
What a heinous mistake that would have been. The
island resembles nothing so much as a series of volcanoes which have erupted
into each other. It rises up in the distance, six or seven classic cone-like
peaks betraying the island's obvious volocanic origins. But these peaks are
steeper and greener than any of the other islands we've visited. As a 19th
century cove remarked: 'the greens are too green, the blues too blue, the
purples too purple and the hills too near.'
Even from our mooring south of the capital Roseau,
we get a sense of the overwhelming naturalness of the place. Tall trees drip
with lianas, vines and orchid-like plants, and the short dinghy trip in to the
shore is laced with the scent of exotic blooms. Even the most vertical of cliff
faces are completely carpeted in gravity defying trees and plants - not a bare
surface exists. And the cloud swirls low around the musclebound folds of rock
which descend from the peaks like Vauban bastions.
Today we did nothing more dramatic than wander
round the town, clear in to the island in a very relaxed fashion and catch a bus
to a waterfall at the head of an impossibly steep road, hung with fruit trees.
The falls were well populated with fellow grockles - all spilled off a massive
cruise ship in the bay. But when you climbed up the rocks towards the actual
falls themselves, there were dozens of deep pools without a soul. We swam
happily in the fresh mountain water, having established that morning that
'renting' a shower in a local hotel would have cost the princely sum of $10
each. Instead, we climbed a hill and bathed in spring water for free.
We spent an hour idling in the botanical gardens of
Roseau, which must harbour the world's most scenic cricket pitch. Local schools
were slugging it out for victory on what turned out to be a bowler's wicket. We
saw more wickets fall in half an hour than we saw runs scored - perhaps because
the coarse grass provided a pretty sticky outfield. The wicketkeeper was
evidently providing some excellent sledging to the opponents' batsmen, and he
kept dancing about and wiggling his bottom, to the obvious distress of the man
Roseau itself has a pretty cool atmosphere. Or, as
First Mate Biffle wisely says, it combines the best of the Caribbean so
far. It's back on the Caribbean vibe in a way that Martinique just wasn't.
Chicken and rice is the local dish, with many a jerk pit
(barbecue-by-the-side-of-the-road) in evidence. There are rastas. But people are
friendly without being pushy or curious. Interested, but relaxed. Interesting,
but not touristy. And not scary at all.. unlike Chateaubelair on St Vincent,
where the gangs were straining at the leash as we wandered stupidly through the
middle of town. Critically, it is fabulously beautiful. Even the dusty capital
is prettier than anywhere else we've been - less concrete in evidence and more
brightly coloured wooden houses selling cheap local food.
Tomorrow we're going on a six-hour hike to 'the
Boiling Lake'. This is a literal description occasioned by the volcanic activity
on the island, which is concentrated in two of the six peaks. On the way up, we
should pass boa constrictors, mountain chickens (toads), giant iguanas and
dozens of birds. We'll scramble our way through Desolation Valley, so called
because geological activity and the venting of sullphurous gases has left
it resembling the moon. Alex is concerned the walk may be too difficult,
but I've told her that she'll keep the pace up with a boa constrictor after her.
Apparently they only eat rats, and are considered a friend of the