Monday, July 6, 2015

Blown Away in Dominica

The weather over the last ten days at Portsmouth, Dominica has been rather ... blustery - to say the least.  Winds howling through the anchorage at over 30 knots have had us keeping a careful eye on our anchor and tackle but ever true, our Rocna held it's ground beautifully and we stayed put, just like we should.

Knowing we'd be in Dominica for a while (definitely not a bad thing) we have certainly been enjoying much of what it has to offer, also knowing that there is so much more for us to do on a return visit.  I have a long list of places to see next time round.  With our guided tours early on in our stay, we discussed renting a car for a day but decided to keep our expenses a little curtailed and used the local bus instead.

Destination:  Roseau, capital of Dominica, at the southern end of the island.

We picked up a bus in Portsmouth to make the 31km trip down to Roseau.  Boarding the bus in Portsmouth is a bit as I would imagine it is like with the guys on the Tokyo subway system who are responsible for pushing people into the subway cars - maximum bodies inside, no arms or legs outside.  The hustle begins as you make your way to the intersection where the buses hang out with many exhortations to take this bus or that.  The trick is to find one that will be leaving shortly (its super hot to sit and wait too long inside the van), but hopefully one where you can sit on a real seat and not the little fold-down seat at the side.  This also means that you won't have to get up every time the bus makes a stop.  The layout is typically four rows with two main seats and a fold-down seat on each row, plus a passenger in the front seat, making a total count of 13.  Add multiple children sitting on laps and sharing seats and there are often 15-18 people plus the driver in the little Toyota and Nissan van.  Now mix in the heat, the raucious music, and the 'lively' conversations and you've got the full picture.

Waiting for the bus to fill up - this one took about five minutes.

Uh-oh - haven't even made it to the street yet and there's a traffic jam!
Our drive down the west coast of Dominica was full of stunning ocean views, windy hilly climbs and only a few off-the chart, scary, car-passes at full tilt.  These guys make judicious use of their horns on all the corners so we made it in one piece down to Roseau.

We wandered around the waterfront a bit and got our bearings, checked out the anchorage and then went in hunt of lunch.

We have been, most definitely!

Looking south towards the anchorage where we'll pick up a mooring later in the week.

Old and new sit close together on the busy streets.

Time for lunch with a street-view.
 For the afternoon, we explored the Botanical Gardens that have been in place since the late 1800s.

We hiked up "Jack's Trail" above the Botanical Gardens for a bird's eye view of Roseau.  At the top were a number of canon and this cross, that actually made me think of the prow of a ship when I saw it later from sea.

Alas no cricket today, but the stadium takes centre-stage in the town layout.

Roseau, laid out looking west across the Caribbean.

Sorry - Flamboyant Trees are still in flower and when they mix yellow and orange I can't resist.

A restful stop at the top of the hill.

Back down in the gardens where this Banyan tree was blown down on a school bus in a hurricane in 1979.  Thankfully no one was hurt here.

This Banyan is still standing in the middle of the gardens.
If we thought the ride to Roseau was a little hair-raising, we certainly didn't know what was in store for the return trip.  The best way to get through it was to forget that you are on a public road and just imagine a fast-paced roller-coaster... enjoy the thrill!!

Grab a fresh mango for the ride home - careful, they're ultra juicy, better just take it back to the boat.

Open highway ... for the moment.

Must be getting close to dinnertime, the fried and grilled chicken is ready to go!
Roseau was a bustling little town with super-friendly folks we met along the way.  The anchorage however, is pretty open to wind and swell so we stayed put in Portsmouth while the last of the heavy weather (for this week) blew itself through.

Even with the high winds, the boat-boys (definitely grown men) still come out to the boat to peddle their selection of fresh fruit and to pick up your garbage.  Along with the river guides in the bigger boats there are a smattering of guys on banged up kayaks and paddle boards, often with just one short paddle.  I wasn't sure how they didn't get blown out of the anchorage on the weekend.

Picking up the trash from our neighbour.

Back in Portsmouth, we heard of a short hike just out of town that would lead us to a hot spring that you are pretty much guaranteed to have to yourself, not being on any of the advertised trails.

The instructions we had were to walk past the Chinese Restaurant, but not past the Jehovah's Witnesses, turn down the gravel road to the bridge, turn up the path, cross the stream and a few trees along the way and you would arrive at a hot-tub-sized pool of just the perfect temperature.

Sure enough, over the stream.

Across the log.

Past the really crazy, awesome Bloodroots.

And there's our pool!

Ahhhhh - believe it or not, a hot-tub is actually quite refreshing in the heat.  This one was probably about 105 degrees F.
Finally, time to leave Portsmouth.  It's now Monday and the winds have acquiesced to settle down a bit, and it looks like we might have some really good sailing weather to head further south.  Dominica has blown us away in more ways than just the wind.  We've just scratched the surface of what this amazing island has to offer and will definitely be back for more.

Our first step is to head down to Roseau again, but this time with Mowzer, all ready to make the passage to Martinique tomorrow.

Back to a French island we go ... bread and cheese anyone??!