Monday, June 29, 2015

Rivers, Fields and Lush Green Hills

Cloudy, squally, high winds whipping through the anchorage, tropical waves, but thankfully no hurricane activity so we are happily sitting in the Portsmouth anchorage awaiting the weather to settle a bit.  Perfect timing, since Dominica is an island of many enticing exploration possibilities.

This morning, right on the dot of 7 a.m., Albert arrived at the back of Mowzer to pick us up for a tour of the Indian River.  This is one of 365 Dominican rivers that flow to the sea from the reaches of the hills above, but unlike the others, this one finishes its bouldery descent about a mile inland creating a unique environment of brackish water, lush swamp ferns and magnificent bloodroot mangroves.  The river is protected as a national park and no gas engines are permitted so once at the entrance to the river, Albert pulled up the motor and employed two sturdy oars to propel us along in absolute tranquility.

As we crept deeper into the watershed all manner of bird and plant life revealed itself.  In the river, large tarpon hunted, smaller fish schooled and crabs dug a multitude of holes into the muddy riverbanks.


Golden Crested Heron

Green Backed Heron

Golden Crested Heron (standing on one leg)

The amazing artistry of the roots of the Bloodroot Mangrove tree.

Prostrate Rose

Bird of Paradise

last one ... this one has me stumped but quite beautiful nonetheless.
(Update - according to my good friend Alex, this is Heliconia - thanks Alex!)
The river was used for the witchdoctor scenes in Pirates of The Caribbean 2 and we certainly recognized a few spots along the way.  One of the buildings remains and there were a few atmospheric skeletons still hanging around but most movie artifacts have been removed.

And then there we were as far as the boat could take us, so we hopped out for a little walk along the banks which only sweetened our resolve to go for a hike for the afternoon.

Back at the boat we loaded up the backpacks for walking - it's amazing how much water you can go through in just a few hours clambering up and down those hills!

After a quick lunch in town while watching a cricket match - we're beginning to understand some of the basics of the game, we turned our way along the road for about a mile before turning off onto the Waitukubuli national trail, segment 11.

We're heading south down the gold trail.

More amazing trees, the stuff of scary movies!

We started off on an old rail line, making for some easy walking.

But soon abandoned the flat lowlands to start our ascent with views of the Cabrits and Portsmouth below.

Still on the right trail!

The canopy overhead lush with prehistoric fern-type trees.

And underfoot a variety of tiny lifeforms.
We huffed and puffed our way along the trail and up over two ridges.  The north-west facing hills were mostly plantations of banana, mango and papaya while the lush, wet, south-west facing hills were buried deep in dripping, muddy rainforest.  We crossed a number of rivers and creeks before finally reaching the Picard River that empties itself into the southern end of Prince Rupert Bay.  Our final landmark, this swaying but firmly clamped suspension bridge.

And this is where we ended with a road to the village in sight.

All told we covered about 7 miles and clambered up over 1000', sometimes climbing the slopes like ladders from root to root.  Hot and happily satisfied with our route we found our way back into town where we meandered through residential neighbourhoods and were surprised  by the local signage!

No tuba playing???

What can I add, by the time you've read this, you know where you stand!

Friday, June 26, 2015

First Day in Dominica ... Doggie Style!

Hi!  I'm Wanda the Wander-Dog and I will be your guide for the day with an introductory tour around Fort Shirley.  I got a babysitter for the pups today so when I spotted Catherine and Henry walking past The Purple Turtle (my restaurant) I figured they might need some of my help along the way.

We headed up to The Cabrits, those two hills just outside of town where some old dudes with English accents built a fort a ways back.  They seemed kind of interested in the Canadian connections.  I can tell you I've seen lots of Canadians around here and there's even a bar (competition to my restaurant) that flies their flag - I'm told it's red and white but you know us dogs and colour...

Anyways, the hill was a nice easy climb and the trees make for a great place to hunt land crabs...

I told them to take their time looking around the fort, I'd just wait for them here by the gates.

Henry checked out the cannon to make sure they were in place to defend the bay - he was interested in those little boats down there for some reason.

I thought they should have a look at the Officer's Quarters where I'm told they had some great parties back in the day, but I'm not supposed to go inside so I'll hang out here for a bit.

Under the big mango tree where they keep all their water in a big cistern.

Did you get a view of these walls - they're thick enough for me to turn circles on - I could have a snooze here in the sun!

These days they use the barracks for school kids who are here on trips.  I'm still hanging out in the shade here on the cistern while Catherine & Henry wander around.

Ok, now for some more fun, lets run up that hill and check out the big canon.  Ok Catherine, you can walk it and I'll play red light, green light with you.

Notice how crafty I am in leading this pack from behind - that way if anyone takes a wrong turn I can round them up.  I can also check out some of the local wildlife along the way like this little Anole.

We got to the top and there was the canon just like I told them.  Time for a chin scratch for all my hard work.

Catherine seemed to think it was pretty funny that someone actually had to put an arrow on a canon, but did she check out the 2GR insignia, and did she get what it actually means?  Kinda cool huh - King George II.

 Time to head back down the trail and I guess I better go check on the kiddos.  I think C&H can find their way from here, but I'll check back in on them later and get the rest of the story.

I did warn them about the grove snakes - harmless but very stinky if you touch them!

And I pointed the way up to the old Commandant's Quarters which are just about falling over now.

I've heard that there are bats hanging out there, but all that was found were some old iron shot, and a whole load of them in one of the cellars.  I'm amazed that other tourists haven't taken them all away as souvenirs.

I guess it was a pretty good hike up the second Cabrit Hill cause they said they felt pretty lucky to see a huge rainbow below them, bridging the two bays.

And in a sunny patch they had a great view up the north shore of my island before walking back down into town.

It's been raining on and off here for quite a while so they were pretty amazed at how green this island is.  It get's my coat damp but I don't mind too much when all that rain shakes down off the leaves.  At least the sunlight in-between the showers pretty much gets me dry.

They were almost back to my spot when they saw this sign on the side of the road.  We're pretty proud of our island here in Dominica and we've got lots of signs up reminding people not to litter.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but this sign is in a pretty funny spot...

Right across the road from this container with toilets and bidets!

Ok, time for a little sundowner at Chez Felix - he's just down the beach from the Purple Turtle and makes a real mean rum punch. They didn't move from these chairs for a while and enjoyed the view, including the little dock where they tied up their dinghy.

Remember - all those who wander are not lost... and these two seemed pretty happy with our wanderings today.

signed - Wanda ... woof!