Monday, May 23, 2016

Blasting Down to Dominica

Just to get this off my phlegmy chest - anyone who comes to the Caribbean with a cold and intends to visit our boat needs to go into immediate quarantine.  I'm flying the yellow flag over them until they test completely harmless!  For the second time this winter we (well only me this time) have been laid low by a virus which we now have ZERO immunity to and therefore have spent the last week alternately sweating in the 30C+ heat and wanting to cuddle up with a blanket and nurse my sorrows back to health.

Enough whining - I know there's no sympathy out there.  So what have we been up to since we left Nevis on May 11th?  Well, four days of travel landed us in Dominica on Saturday just in time for the Jazz & Creole Fest on May 15th.  We could have done the distance easily in one big jump but it was more fun to hop through the various islands and once we got to Deshaies on the north end of Guadeloupe we joined back up with Jan and George on Wildcat, who became our travelling companions once again.

Four nicely spaced hops adding up to 135 nautical miles.  The longest was Day 2  at 42 miles and the hardest was Day 4 when we had tons of wind and high seas.

With George & Jan - rum punch in hand, all ready for the music to get going.

The most exciting part of the evening was when George was interviewed by local Dominican TV - the tall white guy really stood out at this event.
The music festival was pretty good, although the fashion parade was probably more interesting than the music in fact.

The real treat happened the next day when we gathered with Wildcat, the crew of Ursa Major (Dan & Denise), and the crew of Sea Quester (Mike & Jenny) with their visitors from back home - I won't hold it against them that one was responsible for our later cold infestations.  Martin (Providence) is one of the PAYS members in Dominica - this group of "boat boys" has banded together to create and secure and amazingly fun atmosphere in the northern anchorage at Portsmouth and have changed the experience completely for cruisers who visit Dominica.  If only St. Lucia and St. Vincent in particular could pull themselves together in a similar fashion.  Martin picked us up early in his boat and we then loaded into his taxi van to begin an incredible land tour of the island and a couple of its spectacular waterfalls.

I think I was giving clearance for takeoff while Martin checked everyone was aboard.

Our first stop was overlooking the pretty little fishing town of St. Joseph's and its long sweep of beach.

Martin produced a large back of mangos which he proceeded to encourage everyone to eat without getting "too messy".  Have you ever tried to eat a mango without getting juice everywhere?!!
The first waterfall highlight of the day was Spanny's Falls.  This is actually a series of two waterfalls and after paying Mr. Spanny 10EC for entry we set off down the track to the falls.  We were high up in the dense rainforest, so of course it was raining on and off.

Spanky's Shop also supplied us with sustaining cold beer.

Henry & George didn't want to get their hair wet!

George helpfully pointed out the first waterfall to us.

Time for a swim - of course this mountain-fed water is clean, clear and COLD.
Now time to hike up over the hill to the second waterfall.

Now down the hill - everyone carefully held onto the ropes to negotiate the slippery, moss and fern covered rocks.

Jan & George approved - first waterfalls of the day were a success!
The one tricky bit we hadn't thought out was that the day we took the tour was WhitMonday Holiday in Dominica.  I think Martin was a little worried he wouldn't find a lunch meal for us but once we assured him we were happy with roti or BBQ from a roadside stand, there was lots of choice available.  Sustained, we headed up to the next stop at the Titou Gorge.

Quick stop for a photo op - Martin and the ladies.
This man was having fun!

But then boys will be boys - the men had to have more fun too.
We made our way up the valley to the same place that we had started our hike to the Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake with SeaCat back in January.  We had even dipped in the pool at the bottom of the gorge to cool down after that marathon, but we didn't have the energy to do the swim at that time.

This time we dropped into the (COLD) pool and peered warily through the crack in the rocks that Martin assured us was the gorge.  The water was surprisingly calm and we all set off wondering what would open before us.

Ready to swim - this looks pretty sedate.

Swimming up against the current - still all together in the confined dark spaces.

Looking back at a last glint of sunlight as the towering rocks closed in all around us.
Its really hard to capture the place on camera but George did an excellent job don't you think?  The gap in the rocks, which started out pretty narrow to begin with, gets tighter and tighter until at the end it suddenly opens up and there is a huge waterfall jetting its way into the stream.  It is only at this point that the water is rushing against you at the surface and swimming becomes a real workout.  Henry and I didn't go across but George and Dan were able to get across the base of the waterfall to look back at us clinging to the rocks just downstream.

This is the rush of water from the waterfall heading through that little triangle of an opening in the rocks.  Look carefully and you can spot some of us hanging onto the sheer sides of the gorge.

Wow - two amazing natural sights in one day and a lot of driving to get to them, but made even better with Martin's interpretation and stories of life on the island.

Over the next couple of days we continued to enjoy the natural beauty that is Dominica and had a great time introducing some new friends to other hikes at the north end of the island. We managed to get in a nice morning hike to Cold Souffriere with Dan & Denise and Philippa and Ian (Zooropa) - fellow Canadians who are also heading south on their beautiful new Antares.

To be honest, we did the Cold Souffriere the smart way this time - we took a $4EC ($2CAD) bus to the top of the mountain and then walked down.  Hard on the knees but a lot easier on the ticker and the legs!

George, Henry, Dan, Denise, Philippa, Ian - stepping out of the clouds that wafted over Morne Diable.

One last treat before we left, we joined Wildcat and SeaQuester to share a rare evening of camaraderie and music with Martin and I feel honoured that he joined us on Wildcat - we have made a lasting friendship on Dominica with this charming and caring man.

Everyone joined in on choruses where we knew the words.
What really gave me goosebumps though was when Martin sang some traditional Creole songs and finally the Dominica National anthem.

A weather window was opening up for us to make a reversal of direction and head back to the The Saintes for a few days so we wrapped up this visit to Dominica, knowing that we'll be back very soon.