WyRow Released, Camp Sara begins

We wrote a little about WyRow’s stay in The Facility in our post about quarantine. Lara and Rowan had finished their 21 days, and as we waited for them to be released back into society, we did a little bit of planning. Look how hard we’re working.

For reference, here’s The Facility, a converted army barracks.

When the moment finally came, we met up for a celebratory dinner at the grand (re-)opening of Chat & Dine. (Originally named C&D after the previous owners, Chat and Dine is a backronym.) In what we would soon come to recognize as typical Dominican fashion, our party of eight was served dinner at such a slow pace that each couple would finish their food before the next was served. At the time, we still considered this noteworthy.

The photo above is taken right at sunset. We tried to take photos from the other side, but the waiter seemed to be focused on the guy smoking a giant doobie on the beach behind us, and that seems in poor taste to feature.

So, the obvious correct way to celebrate freedom is to go exploring, and we all set off together. We started with the northeast of the island, where there are a couple of closely grouped attractions. The first was Red Rocks (not the amphitheater), where the cafe of the same name served us lunch at the standard ponderous pace. (Seriously, visit Dominica, it’s beautiful, but plan at least two hours any time you eat out.) We didn’t mind the delay, because there was a kitten.

The walk down to the red rocks is about five minutes. The trail starts in light jungle, which quickly opens up to a big sweeping view down towards the sea. The kids saw a cave down in one of the crevices, so naturally we had to climb down into it.

Right around the corner is the Point Baptist chocolate factory. It’s a small operation, so the tour is quick, but it’s neat to see the whole bean-to-bar process. The owner is a character, and gave an entertaining explanation of the process and the need for specialized equipment: grinder, shaker, tempering machine. (We would later encounter chocolate that had not been tempered and melted instantly at the touch, underscoring the importance of this step!) And the chocolate was worth taking home, though we skipped the lemongrass flavor in favor of some more traditional additions.

Our last stop, Chaudier Pool, really should have been our first, because it’s a glorious swimming hole but we arrived too late for a dip to feel comfortable. The road up gradually deteriorates as it follows a glorious ridge line, and we decided to park by the first “15 minutes walk” sign (and a discarded Red Bull fridge).

The first, you ask? Why yes: after about fifteen minutes walk, one encounters an identical sign. One might also encounter baby goats and beautiful valley views.

The second sign turned out to be mostly accurate. After passing the abandoned entrance gatehouse, reinforced with USAID tarp, you walk down into a river with a few small falls. Rounding a corner brings you to the pool, which is deep and cold, and would have made a wonderfully refreshing ten-foot jump in the heat of the day. Ah well. This also begins the series of pictures of mushrooms, which were plentiful and wonderfully varied. (At least in appearance; we did not eat the wild mushrooms.)

In hindsight, the next day would turn out to be the beginning of Camp Sara. Remember how I talked about planning at the beginning? Well, it turns out that Sara (from Due) is both great at planning and enjoys doing it, and we rapidly found ourselves blindly following orders, and loving every minute of it. The first stop was Victoria Falls, a good hour-and-a-half drive to the southeast corner of the island. This was probably the most interesting hike we did, in terms of movement: the trail meanders back and forth across the river, working its way upstream. It’s easy enough to wade across, or a minor bouldering exercise to try to keep your feet dry.

After two crossings, we couldn’t find the trail, and trooped back to the beginning. Moses, who runs the (closed) cafe at the base of the trail (and is locally famous for herbal medicine, not an euphemism in this case), informed us that we had been almost there, and just needed to ford up the river a bit further. We did this, and after finding one more leg of jungle hike, we were rewarded with a view of a big waterfall. (And with more mushrooms). So we’d turned a 45 minute hike into most of a day by doing it twice, but that’s just as well as we’d had nothing else planned for the day.

We took one more day to explore the north of the island. We stopped at the Cold Soufriere, where a short walk takes you down into a crater to see sulfur bubbling up through a pool of cold water. Kind of neat, 0% photogenic.

But the drive is amazing. A winding road, a bit reminiscent of Highway 1 in California, takes you along the side of the mountains. The views are spectacular, from tiny hillside cabbage and banana farms to occasional glimpses of Guadeloupe in the distance.

We also stopped in at Bwa Nef falls. Another short walk, maybe fifteen minutes, takes you into a small gorge. The water descends into a shallow pool, spraying mist everywhere as it bounces off the walls. The jungle along the way is lovely and lush. I particularly liked a seed pod that looks like a spider (apparently only to me.)

We ended the afternoon with a dinner at Keepin’ it Real. This is a nice example of Dominican food done well: lots of different kinds of things, typically with a grilled piece of meat or fish. (Pictured here, vegetarian).