Last Waterfalls of Dominica

We’ve been talking about Dominica for several posts, and still haven’t shared any drone photos. That’s a shame, so here’s the Portsmouth harbor from the air in the early morning.

It’s pretty calm in those pictures. And for the most part, it was a calm anchorage. But at one point, the wave direction shifted, and the previously calm dinghy dock started to get hit with a lot of swell. One family pulled their dinghy up onto the black sand, which got so hot that one of their side walls ruptured. Another boat’s dinghy, lacking a stern anchor, got pretty badly beaten up, losing some pieces and breaking the fuel intake off their engine. When they found a mechanic to fix it, we offered to give them a tow to the dock where he works. We brought Captain along for a quick dinghy ride, partly to remind him what dinghys are like; he’s still not really sold on the idea.

It was about this time that Due left for Statia and Dorothy Rose finished their quarantine, so we effectively swapped one set of travel companions for another. We left the cat behind again, and went for an out-of-quarantine celebratory sunset dinner at Keepin’ it Real.

Though we’d visited Fort Shirley once before, we hadn’t made it to the top of either of the hills. So we convinced the DR family to come back with us. We walked from the dinghy dock, passing a neat mural along the side of the road.

The top of the hill is less climactic than we’d hoped, though possibly you could see some of the other islands on a clearer day. Instead, photo highlights include Andrew spilling his walking beer in the (refurbished) officers’ hall, some cannonballs having freed themselves since our last visit, and the beginning of Jazz’s series of pictures of mushrooms.

The next day, DR rented a car, and we piled in with them and went hunting for Syndicate Falls, which several people had told us was lovely, and had the advantage of being fairly nearby Portsmouth. Instead, we found ourselves at the Syndicate Nature Trail, which we didn’t immediately realize was not at all the same thing. But despite not leading to a waterfall, the walk is lovely. You wind through a forest of huge trees, like a tropical Muir Woods, listening to distant and elusive birds. This is yet another place that claims to be a parrot habitat, and we continued our streak of not seeing any parrots.

On the way back out, we took a few … I’ll say “speculative” turns, and found some unusual water-management techniques in the roadway, but still no waterfalls.

When in doubt, stop and ask directions. And we were directed back a bit along the road to “a sign in a mango tree”. Once we found it, we understood why we’d missed it the first time. While it is a mango tree, I see at least four other kinds of plant contributing to the tangle of growth over the sign.

And indeed, this was the right place. You pass through a working farm, with a lot of barely-working irrigation feeding a lush tangle of flowering jungle plants. (And some tiny mushrooms for Jazz). The waterfall apparently used to mark the site of a municipal water inlet, but that use has stopped and the fence surrounding the pool has been removed. The sign, which might have said things about not swimming, has not been removed, but age has removed all but a memory of its original message.

On the way back through town, we got a kick out of this COVID awareness poster. Avoid MEN, follow WOMEN!

By this point Captain was feeling pretty left out. He sleeps all day, but he prefers to nap where he can wake up and check on us every couple of hours. So he made sure to get our attention for lots of play time in the mornings.

The great thing about having different people to travel with is that we have an excuse to go back to the best restaurants. So we took the DR crew to Zeb Zeppis. We may have slightly overwhelmed the owner with our American-ness, but they still seated us and served an excellent meal. The chef even made an impromptu sauce to work around some food allergies, which was very accommodating.

And once you’ve driven up to the Central Forest Reserve, you might as well see some waterfalls. We’d seen the Emerald Pool already, so this time we stopped at Jacko, which is about a five minute walk into a lovely swimming hole.

Almost across the street, a slightly longer hike brings you in to Spanny Falls, which is also lovely and refreshingly cold. See also, pretty flowers and an impressively complete leaf skeleton. These are fairly common, as the insects eat away the leaf material, and it takes a while for the rest to break down.

Back to the boat for a lovely sunset, and to watch Captain try to chase moths into the light fixtures.

We had one more day-long excursion, which started with a stop to pick up propane. While we waited for our tanks to be filled, Jazz found my giant rock.

And we stopped for a late second-breakfast at Le Petite Paris (which was off its game that day; substitute baker?) But our real destination for the day was Middleham Falls. This was one of the more impressive waterfalls to see, as well as one of the longer hikes in. The stairs and root systems make for interestingly varied terrain, and shade of the heavy jungle is welcome protection from the heat of the day. Once you reach the “slip trip slide falling hazard” viewing platform, you’re discouraged from climbing much closer, so of course Andrew did. But the heavy spray from the falls makes it more pleasant to keep a little more distance.

Once we made it back to the car, we stopped (back, for the Veritas crew) at Trafalgar Falls, to pick up two more waterfalls for a comparatively short ten-minute walk in.

So that’s it! We’ve seen all the waterfalls we’re going to see. But there are a couple more tidbits to share. Most importantly, we’d met four sailors on an Irish boat, Saol Nua, who threw together a lovely St Patrick’s day party. Andrew managed to twist his ankle the night before, so he became designated photographer, while Jazz joined in the silly beach racing games with gusto.

We also got our laundry done by a local lady, which was notable because of the impressive “Christmas Tree” in her back yard.

And finally, here are some assorted scenes from downtown Portsmouth. Impressive bus-front airbrush art, the omnipresent feral street chickens, and a little bit of architecture to give a sense of the general level of disrepair. And the omnipresent partly-cloudy sky. It rained so often in the harbor that we left our outdoor cushions inside all the time, and gathered a reasonable amount of water with our water-catchers. And then there would be bright sun, and then it would rain again.

Since we’re on the way out, I’d like to take a moment to talk about provisioning. There were grocery stores in Roseau that had lots of things. But despite making several visits to several stores, we found zero lemons or limes the entire time that we were there. As in St Vincent, we were occasionally sold “limes”, but here, every one turned out to be a sweet orange. In Portsmouth, vegetables are easy to find, as long as you’re only looking for carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tropical starches like plantains and cassava. And as long as you go on Saturday, when the market is open. Ideally, go early in the morning, while the produce is still fresh and the local firebrand preacher hasn’t yet showed up and turned his scratchy amplifier up to 11. (Don’t worry, you’ll know when he arrives from your boat.) In summary, you can get groceries, but like eating in the local restaurants, it’s going to take you a lot longer than you expect.

All in all, we were in Dominica for about five weeks. Not bad, given our original one-week-per-island plan. But eventually it was time to go, and we sailed off, literally into the sunset, for a roughly 24-hour sail to St. Eustatius.