Dominica

We spent a few fantastic days in Dominica with Dave and MC from yacht La Contenta.
Dominica was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 as he discovered it on a Sunday, and it is the Latin for Sunday. The Carib meaning for it is ‘tall and beautiful’ and it certainly is. It still has seven potentially active volcanoes.
Our taxi driver who took us on a tour of the northern half of the island described it as the ‘fruit basket of the Caribbean’, they seem to grow everything including Cloves, Nutmeg , Mango, Papaya, Coconut, Cocoa,  Yams, Avocado and Grapefruit.
There are nine active volcanoes and hot springs emitting sulphurous clouds. There is supposed to be good whale spotting off the island but they were elusive when we were there.
Portsmouth in Prince Rupert Bay is the second largest town on the island.
Quirky buildings addorn the backstreets
The boat boys have set up a co-operative called PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services), the current president is Jeffery call sign Seabird on Ch16, which caters for visiting yachts.  They do security sweeps at night, island and river tours including the Indian River, which was the location for the river scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. They also run various events and their Sunday evening BBQ and music, tickets can be purchased from PAYS, was a fantastic evening with plenty of rum punch!
We took an early morning tour up the Indian River where river crabs, flowering hibiscus,  elaborate tree roots and herons accompany the row up the river to the river bar.
The charming Indian River
We even spotted an iguana basking in the early morning sun in the tree tops.
Spot the iguana
We were back in time for the Saturday morning market. A few stalls line the fish dock most days but come Saturday morning the place is busy, with stalls and trucks selling Coconuts and Plantain, street food stalls, and the music blasting from speakers. A great atmosphere even if purchases had to be conducted with sign language.
Street vendors outside the market selling sugar cane , coconut water and Sorrel, (in the plastic bag).
Our pre-cooked breadfruit being prepared by the vendor

We took all of our purchases from the market and attempted to cook a flavours of the Caribbean meal together. Breadfruit, plantain chips, mashed yams, christophine with coconut breaded chicke, yum.

We went exploring the next day to work off the calories to a beach with potentially good snorkeling.  This ended up as quite a hike up and down steep hills and interesting discoveries on the way. local production of palm oil, rain forest trail, re-mobilisation of a truck with 4 flat tyres that we were assured was only going a short distance and a fantastic rum bar on the beach at our eventual destination. We enjoyed our picnic lunch and swim although the sand was too churned up to see any fish. We later settled into a tasting session of the many home flavoured different rums with dodgy names such as ‘the terminator.’ The locals were also playing  dominos which was played with attitude. Apparently how you slam your domino on the table communicates to your partner your hand.

One day we took a tour around the northern end of the Island, taking in the sulphur springs, the chocolate factory, the Kalinago (Carib Indians) territory and the Emerald Pool and waterfall. MC was keen to obtain a Calabash so that she could carve it and make a cockpit lampshade. The driver was able to oblige with this, stopping at the roadside and taking us into a small residence, where the owners were not only growing, but harvesting and selling decorated Calabashes.  They can be used for many different things such as bowls, lampshades and maracas.  They are hung over a fire to to darken the colour and then polished and a design carved into them. How nice to be able to point to one on the tree and say ‘I’ll have that one please!’

The Pointe Baptiste Chocolate factory was one families passion for chocolate turned into a small business from their home. We were able to follow the production sequence and best of all taste the chocolate! Some unusual flavour combinations with different strengths of coco. My favorite was the ginger.

The chocolate factory
Nutmegs drying in the sunshine
MC’s Calabash just before it was harvested

On returning to the bay one Sunday afternoon, we stopped for a refreshing beer in the bar and were distracted by a gathering of youngsters on the beach. It didn’t take long for Derek and MC’s curiosity to get the better of them and for them to wonder down among the growing party to see what all the fuss was about. There is a medical university on the Island and it transpired that it was one of the student’s birthdays. To celebrate, her boyfriend had come to the beach at 2 am in the morning, dug a hole and made a fire in a the pit. Then using leaves and various other natural wrappings, wrapped and buried a pig amongst the fire, covering it with sand. The pig had been roasting all day and now it was time to celebrate. What we were witnessing was the unearthing of the roasted pig and the start of the birthday party, complete with further barbecued piglets halves cooked in a massive drum, homemade ginger beer and much more. As we stood on and chatted with many of the friends of the birthday girl, we were invited to share her birthday celebration, eating and drinking with them all. What an amazing impromptu experience and one we were extremely grateful for.

The ‘Pit’ where the pig had been roasting since 2am

After the three days La Contenta and Ocean Blue sadly both had commitments that took us in opposite directions. Exploring and experiencing the different islands is made all the more special when you share it with friends.

If you are interested in viewing more of the photographs from our trip to Dominica we have put a selection of them on Flickr, follow this link

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