If today had been a telegram, it would have read
like this for us:
'Slept late (stop) Pancakes for breakfast yay
(stop) Natural jacuzzi at champagne reef (stop) met Dominica's top reggae band
while they filmed the video for their latest single (stop) Buffet supper over
poetry (comma) comedy and music (stop) As a consequence having smashing time and
wish you were here (stop) Hurry for your own sake (repeat) hurry
Perhaps there's no need to amplify that, but
because the day has been so much fun, I really want to.
Celia and Andy will be relieved to know that the
'HappyTime Syrup for Pancakes' in a twee bear-shaped bottle was actually
excellent. HappyTime's pancake mixture was apalling, however. We only bought a
replacement yesterday, which is why we haven;t had a proper pancake session
since we said goodbye to them in St Vincent.
On the advice of some Canadian grockles we met
yesterday, we jumped in a bus to explore an unremarkablw looking part of
Dominica's west coast called Champagne Reef. Despite the hefty tally of sunburnt
lobsters on the beach there, it was well worth the trip. Bubbling out of the
ancient lava a few metres below sea level are bubbles of steam. With an effect
very like a jacuzzi, the gas bubbles out of cracks all over the reef and fizzes
up to the surface. The water is the clearest since Tobago Cays and there is more
fish life than you could shake a stick at. Sensing, no doubt, that they are
protected inside a marine reserve, the beasts shoal everywhere. Confident to an
unimagineable degree, we saw hundreds of small fish shoaling happily around a
vicious, saw toothed barracuda who was basking in the bubbles. They had left the
narrowest of cordons sanitaires around this predatory monster in the undoubtedly
false assumption that they were safe from its gnashing overbite.
Heading on south in another communal minibus,
wedged in precariously between a very pregnant woman and a five-year old, we
careered up and down a gravity defying road that wound through the steep, green
carpeted hills. A last downhill schuss brought us to Scott's Head, also within
the marine reserve and renowned for its snorkeling. Before we could get to the
beach, however, we found the way ahead blocked by a photoshoot. Framed against a
rusty tin shed overhung with coconut trees, a chap with dreadlocks and an
extraordinarily colourful matching ensemble of shorts and baggy shirt extolling
the virtues of rastaferei was capering up and down before the cameras. When the
song finished, he was replaced by the band's equally dreaded bassist, then an
ancient-looking, lean but lively looking fellow with white dreads who professed
to be the singer of Midnight Groovers. He turns out to be called Philip 'Chubby'
Marks. Alex was invited to join a scene in the music video but wisely
We went on our snorkelling way, but not before
Philip had invoked 'one love' and wished us 'niceness', sealed with the
characteristic 'bonks' that Caribbeans specialise in. This involves tapping your
fist to the other fellow's, then expansively touching your fist to the left of
your chest in a gesture of heartfelt respect. After that, staring through
pristine waters at coral gardens teeming with many-coloured fish seemed
something of a let-down. Glorious, mind you, but not up to the standard set by
the Midnight Groovers, whose album we've since acquired.
A little later on tonight, the Anchorage Hotel
where we're moored up is putting on a night of varied entertainment around a
buffet supper. There will be comedy, poetry and live music, accompanied by as
much fish, chicken, pork and rice as a man (or a Biffle) can eat.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is rumoured to be the day of
the big hike with Pancho. This is a six-hour epic that has us quaking in our
boots. It was supposed to have taken place today, but for reasons of financial
efficiency, it was put off until more joiners could be found. Time will tell
whether we ever see the Boiling Lake.