It was a relief to wake up on Saturday May 9th, 2015 to intermittent rain showers after days of unrelenting heat and high winds in Dominica. This slight change in the weather was good news for everyone. It brought some relief to parched plants and quelled bush fires that had recently erupted on the west coast of the Nature Island.
Although the higher elevations were not as adversely affected by this hot weather, I was glad of slightly cooler
temperatures for a planned walk from the village of Eggleston to its nearby neighbour, Giraudel. There, the Giraudel Youth Group had organized a weekend-long Flower Festival, as the usual Flower Growers’ Show, a very grand and longstanding annual event, would not be taking place this year.
My mountain chicken (crapaud) research friend Jenny, a keen nature enthusiast, was eager and able to explore this mountainous area near Roseau with me. As well, we have Dutch/Dominican friends, Gijs and Georgie, who live in this lovely region. We intended to drop in for tea on our way to the Flower Festival, a short distance away from their home.
This time, Jenny drove, and I had the pleasure of taking my eyes off of the road and gazing at the gorgeous views below us. When we reached the hamlet of Eggleston, we turned in to a long lane that lead to the beautiful and secluded Holy Redeemer Retreat Center, which is run by Redemptorist missionaries. We parked nearby with permission from the priests on the site, as we intended to walk along some of the peaceful trails on the property after our foray to Giraudel.
We trekked back up the lane we had just driven down, but this time, we both could enjoy views overlooking residential areas, the Caribbean Sea and mountains to the south of the island. Then we were back on the main road. This time, we looked over the distant Roseau Valley, to the villages of Morne Prosper on its south side and across to Cochrane on the north side. Jenny and I remarked to each other that we had appreciated this view from the opposite side only last weekend, when we hiked from Springfield to Middleham Falls!
As we continued along, we admired lovely hedges of flowers,fertile gardens and gave thanks for the tall shade trees on either side of the road.
After about an hour and a quarter, we arrived at Gijs and Georgie’s beautiful home. While we were a little late for our appointment, our friends greeted us warmly and bade us enter and rest awhile on their pleasant porch, facing the Caribbean Sea. Georgie served us mixed mint tea, picked moments earlier from her herb garden. Then she offered tempting sweets: tamarind balls, coconut ‘cheese’, and sweetened local gooseberries. While we chatted and covered a broad range of topics, including mountain chickens, boa constrictors and lizards, Jenny and I cooled off from the first ‘leg’ of our walk. After we were refreshed, we toured their lush, fertile grounds, admired distant views across the Roseau Valley and became introduced to two of the most beautiful hens I have ever seen: Rosie and Blanche. These tame free-range ‘layers’ roamed the property at large, cheerily clucking away as they foraged for plentiful bugs and favourite grasses. They certainly stole my heart!
When we heard loud music playing a short distance from our friends’ home, probably signalling the start of the Flower Festival, we said our good-byes and continued along the main road. We passed the bandstand and stopped for a snack of tuna bakes (like a deep-fried biscuit). Then we continued up the road until we noticed a tent, where we spied flower arrangements through its opening. We crossed the street and discovered that we were indeed in the right place for the floral display. We entered the site by paying $5.00 ECD, and took in the lovely arrangements. We also admired a variety of paintings by renowned local artist, Caesar Catin. Then, one of his daughters engaged us in conversation and told us about the Giraudel Youth Group and their concerted efforts to organize this Flower Festival. Jenny and I felt that they had done a good job, on a small-scale, although I was concerned about the strength of the tent’s supports in the high winds! (Everything was still standing when we left about an hour later.)
From there, we walked back through the village and headed for a shortcut that Gijs had recommended that would take us through the forest, where we would exit just above the neighbouring village of Eggleston. It was a lovely
downhill saunter, and we paused several times to admire wildflowers, tended plants and the occasional insect! We exited the trail after about 30 minutes and continued along the main road, returning to our starting point at the Retreat Center. By now, the clouds had lifted and the afternoon was once again, very hot. We looked up at Morne Anglais, towering over the village of Giraudel, and wished for a few moments that we were on its peak! (It’s a two-hour trek to the summit of Morne Anglais. Although it can be a very steep and muddy trip, the reward at the top is a 360 degree view of Dominica and beyond).
My legs were now feeling rather ‘wobbly’. We wandered along a few of the trails, but we both gave in to hunger pangs so did not fully explore the lovely grounds of the Retreat Center that day. We seated ourselves on a wooden bench, and would have appreciated the natural solitude of this meditative place, except that the Flower Festival was now in full swing, and their music makers’ melodies carried long distances (including to my home far below, as I later discovered!).
As we had been several hours ‘on the road’, Jenny and I felt content with our varied exposures to numerous
varieties of beautiful flowers that grow prolifically in the Giraudel-Eggleston area. We also agreed that plentiful pure, clean mountain air, a good, long walk and time well-spent with lovely friends contributed to another wonderful day on the Nature Island!
*This piece is dedicated on Mother’s Day to my late mother, Vesta. She truly loved nature and its beautiful offerings. She really liked hens too!