Tuesday, February 20, 2007

January 23, 2007 - Portsmouth, Dominica

Iles des Saintes would be our last French island for a while, so we took advantage of the excellent markets and bakeries and loaded up with bread, yogurt, smoked fish, pates and dried sausages before heading down to Dominica yesterday afternoon. Two boat boys came out to meet us before we could even see the harbor, but they quickly headed off after we told them that we planned to work with Lawrence, who had been recommended by Brewse and Tricia, cruisers we met back in the boat yard in Rhode Island.

We anchored behind Dagny, whom we knew from Bermuda and St. Maarten. Rea’s mother and son live in Dominica, so they had been on the island since December. We had a very fun evening aboard Dagny catching up with them.

Today, we went on two tours with Lawrence. First was a tour up the nearby Indian River, with a 7am pickup. It was pretty special, with large overhanging trees and lots of bird life. Portions of Pirates of Caribbean 2 we filmed on the river, so we’re interested in seeing that movie at some point. You could hear parrots calling in the distance but we did not see one. We were the only boat on the river until we got back to the entrance. The boats are rowed so it is very peaceful and no pollution.

After that we headed up into the mountains to do a nature trail and then a waterfall. The walk was through an old growth tropical rain forest with huge trees (the canopy looked to be 200' feet high) including giant mahogany trees. Pretty neat. Even better was the drive up to the trailhead which passed plantations of all different crops including banana, pineapple, orange, nectarine, yams, breadfruit, avocado, mango, lime, sugarcane, papaya, grapefruit and coffee. Lawrence would stop the car every few miles and get out and pick some fruit. He said that there is so much fruit on the trees that the owners do not mind if you take a few. In addition there were many wild trees including the cocoa tree which was bearing fruit. Basically you pick the fruit, break it in half to reveal a seed mass and then suck on the seeds which are coated with a jelly with a complex, slightly sweet, almost passion fruit flavor. Inside the seeds is the raw somewhat bitter cocoa from which chocolate is made. Very cool. It would be very hard to go hungry on this island.

The waterfall was spectacular, buried in the jungle and we were again the only ones there. The water plunges 150 feet into a small rock pool. It was like something you see in a picture book or a Disney movie with all kinds of vines hanging down and huge trees clinging to the cliff around the falls. The falls generates its own wind and it was actually quite violent. Sten went swimming and found that he could not be closer than a few yards from the main flow of water. In other areas he could get between the falls and the rock wall behind the falls which was also something. Unfortunatly, our camera is on the fritz so we have no pictures of this amazing day.

We came back to the boat and enjoyed a round of BBC's for our sundowner. This is the first place we've been where we've seen everyone put their dinghy on deck at night. Did this trend start because the island is so impoverished, or because there were all these "boat boys" paddling around on windsurf boards trying to sell yachties fruit, ice, pot, and trash removal services, or because there really are more thefts here than in other anchorages?

The thing is, with our boats we have so much more in terms of material possessions than 99.9% of the people on a lot of the smaller, less developed islands. We look rich to them. To us, we don't seem wealthy, not compared to many of the people we know back home or guests on any of the super yachts that are anchored near us, but to the people on these islands, we are rich. What's more, our dinghy motors could be either a quick sale for cash for them or even a lease on a new line of work (fishing or hauling tourists around). So we understand the attraction and the temptation. And so we haul our dinghy up on deck each night too.

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