Dominica remains one of the few COVID-free islands: they’ve caught cases coming in, but there has never been detected community spread. Part of this is likely luck: they’re small in terms of population, and they don’t have an airport that can manage really long-haul flights, so the absolute numbers of both tourist and native travelers are quite low. This means both that they can enforce quarantines in ways that don’t scale to other countries, and they have fewer chances to get unlucky. And as I write this, they have enough vaccine doses on hand to give nearly the whole population their first dose, with promises of more on the way. So, perhaps they’ll manage to come out of this relatively unscathed! We shall see. Certainly we shall hope.
After getting cleared and moving our boat out of the quarantine anchorage, we took a couple of days to relax. We walked around the town a bit, met some of the other cruisers, and discovered that being near the beach around sunset requires not only strong bug spray, but thorough coverage. Jazz had her legs crossed and rubbed the bug spray off the inside of her right knee. The third photo shows the bugs joyous reactions.
And then we started doing things! And our trip started to feel a little bit like what we’d envisioned when we started. We’re not just stuck in the Caribbean in waiting mode, we’re here to see the sites! Like this glorious monument at the edge of downtown Portsmouth.
Our first stop was the Ti Tou gorge, roughly two-thirds of the way south in the middle of the island. Our Peace had organized a canyoning trip, and we got ourselves and Due into a rental car and tagged along. It’s an absolutely stunning place, a river meandering through a deep and narrow rock channel with a lush jungle canopy. The trip is lightly athletic, short rappels and jumps beside or through the middle of waterfalls, and the water was cold but well countered by a 3mm wetsuit. Of anything here, this is the gallery most worth clicking through.
Not the most beautiful parts, but worthy of special mention, are the city water supply pipe, made of wood slats held together with iron bands. And slightly down-river, at roughly the staging area, a flat road crossing that evidently sees service as a car wash.
Up the hill from the cruise ship terminal-turned-testing-facility is the Cabrits National Park. We stopped by briefly, and only made it as far as Fort Shirley, near the base of the hills, before we had to head back to the boat to turn off the watermaker. A lot of it has been restored beautifully; the officers’ lounge clearly sees use as an event space, e.g. for weddings, in less troubled times. We’ll definitely be returning to get further up the hill.
Next up, a two-tour day around Portsmouth. First, we rode horses across a beach, and through the jungle to the entrance to the Cabrits park. Well, I say rode – we sat on the horses, and they went on the walk they knew by heart. We also passed by a nice-looking, empty resort, which probably counts as advertising on both sides. We were advised to keep the horses from eating their plants; we were only mostly successful at this.
Back at the farm, they showed us their baby rabbits and goats, which were adorable. Apparently rabbit poop is also valuable as a fertilizer. TMYK.
After a lunch of roti and Kubuli, we met up with a guide who promised a culture tour of downtown Portsmouth. I’m not sure the walk and the talk had much to do with each other, aside from calling out some local plants. But we enjoyed having a somewhat sanctioned walk through some back gardens, and hearing stories about living through hurricane Maria, and about the political history of the region. Did you know that some KKK members, and the future founder of Stormfront, tried to join with an ousted government to stage a coup? This “Bayou of Pigs“, in 1981, makes for a delightful story.
Day turned to evening, one bush rum led to another Kubuli, and our guide started to open up about his personal life. His son had figured prominently in his stories, e.g. hurricane Maria, but we later found that he actually had seven children. When his wife called to video chat with the tour group, we discovered that they were newlyweds as of November. He didn’t appear to find anything ironic about then heaping scorn on single mothers, despite apparently having created some. This somehow segued into a discussion of how same-sex relationships are illegal here, and his personal disdain for the idea that they could raise children together. Needless to say, he clammed up fast when he found out how many gay friends and relations we all had. This helped bring a close to an evening that probably should have concluded several drinks earlier.
So we found ourselves eating shawarma and playing word games on Due with the crew of Cap Maj. I never seem to get over how much more complicated the little things are in the islands. Apparently an eight minute drive is out of range for this restaurant, and the standard procedure is for the customer to coordinate between the cook and a cab company, which will advance payment to the restaurant in hopes that the customer shows up at the other side with cash. So much more trust than the credit-card-driven delivery apps from back home, and yet it all still works out in the end.
Because this post clearly isn’t long enough yet, I’m going to sneak in one more adventure. Another park in town is the Indian River, which is protected from all hunting, fishing, and outboard motors. It’s famous as a popular feeding spot for birds, especially the national parrot, who eluded us. It’s also the site of a scene from the second Pirates movie, where they visit a witch’s house up a river. The original was destroyed in Maria, but after repeated questions from tourists, the cabin was reconstructed, and you can stop briefly to go inside.
At the top of the river, the tour pauses to visit a really gorgeous bush bar. Which is, of course, closed due to COVID, but we waited out one of the frequent rain showers there. (Rain seems to just be a constant fact of life here. The forecasts aren’t really reliable, but it never lasts long, and afterwards it’s sunny again.) Then the guide walked us through a farm, pointing out the various kinds of fruit trees and edible plants, to visit the much more local-looking “Coco Hole”.
Then, back on the boat and back down the river. Closer to sunset, more of the birds and crabs came out to play.