Dominica is one of the lesser known islands of the Caribbean as it has no international airport, has none of the resorts that are plentiful on most of the other islands, and is generally less developed. However, the “Nature Island” does have a reputation for eco-tourism, and we were anxious to take advantage of the river tours offered in Portsmouth. This was not hard to arrange, as our “boat boy”, Eric Spaghetti, happened to be a river tour guide. We made arrangements with him for a tour on Saturday morning before heading ashore for a bite to eat at one of the bayside’s open-air restaurants with sand floors and wood tables. On the menu were Jamaican dishes along with the usual snacks and seafood offerings, but the prices were obviously set at the tourist rate. No wonder we didn’t see any locals in there.

When we awoke on Saturday, we heard the sounds of reggae being blasted through the bay. Apparently some of the local partiers were still at it from the night before. Fortunately Eric wasn’t one of them, and he showed up to pick us up for our tour looking quite chill as he apparently always does. He motored over to the Indian River, which was surrounded by lush swamplands full of palm and banyon trees and other foliage that looked awesome set against the blue sky. He casually rowed us through the river, pointing out various flora (lilies and crotons) and fauna (herons and crabs) and answering our questions about the history of the island. Dominica was granted independence from Britain relatively recently (1979, I think?) and without struggle, according to Eric. He said after the Brits had taken what was valuable, they were done with the island. (He didn’t specify what was taken besides lots of tropical produce.) When asked what he thought about the current government, he simply said “half and half.”

river River Reflections

After about an hour of rowing, Eric stopped at an open-air cafe of sorts along the river. There we met another Dominican who was carving coconut shells with a saw and gluing them together to make bowls. We took a walk around admiring the natural beauty and sipping on a coconut punch. We then returned to the cafe to find that Eric had artistic talents as well, as he presented us with two amazing origami-type creations that he made using palm leaves. He then rowed us back out the way we came, well at least part of the way. Dallas decided to have a go at rowing the wooden skiff and kept at it for quite a while despite that it was a little harder than expected.

grasshopper Origami island-style

dallas Eric’s chilling while Dallas gets a work out

After a trip to the Saturday market and a mid-day rest, we decided to see if we could get over to the east side of the island to check out the Carib Indian reservation. The Caribs were once plentiful in the Caribbean but are now a much smaller group of a few thousand who have agreed to live in this particular area of the island. Eric acted like getting there would be “no problem” (just like everything else in his world, I think), and suggested that we could take a bus or hitch-hike. We found a bus going to the east side of the island, though not all the way to the Carib territory, and hopped on. It was PACKED full of people and groceries, flowers, etc. that they had purchased at the Saturday market, so it was a slow but very pleasant trip. Unlike the bus in Barbados, the Dominicans were very friendly to each other, and some sang along to the music played by the bus driver.

We took the bus as far as it went (Marigot) and received instructions as to how to walk the rest of the way. We were told that we could get to Carib territory in an hour or so from there, but it was a hot day and well into the afternoon, so we decided to try to hitch a ride. It wasn’t long before we were picked up by two very nice Dominican young ladies. They were obviously from the city (Roseau) and thought it was pretty odd that we were hiking to Carib territory. They informed us that we had a long way to go yet, and we expressed our gratitude for the lift. When they stopped to change a flat tire, we met their friend George and later learned that the women were helping him to deliver a rental car to a guest house in Carib territory. Anyway, George decided that as it was getting to be late afternoon, it was better for Dallas and I to ride along with them than to take our chances walking around and try to find a way back to Portsmouth in the evening. Locals know best, so we gratefully accepted his offer. Somehow we manage to meet helpful people everywhere we go!

George took us to a village that was created as a replica of a traditional Carib village with thatched-roof huts and old tools such as one used to mash sugar cane. Some Carib women were there making and selling baskets out of a plant fiber (that we can’t recall the name of) that was dyed various colors. The craftsmanship was impressive, so it was no sacrifice to buy a couple to donate to their tribe. Other than this “village”, however, one would hardly know that the Carib territory was any different from the rest of the outer island, and we could kind of understand why the ladies were so surprised that we had put so much effort into getting there. I explained to them that we had sailed thousands of miles on a small boat and were used to doing strange things. It all made sense to them after that!

carib Caribs are known for fishing and basket weaving

I really enjoyed the beauty and culture of Dominica and would be happy to return someday. We are now at anchor in the largest bay of The Saints, which is part of Guadeloupe, another French island. The village here is lovely with brightly painted houses, each with carefully maintained landscapes of flowers and other foliage. We have enjoyed two relaxing (though rainy) days here (hooray for high-speed internet!) and will continue to make our way north tomorrow in order to meet my parents in Antigua!

the saints After a nice hike through the village, I had a nice view of PV (the far right) and the crowded anchorage at The Bay of the Saints