Daytripping Along Dominica`s Eastern Shore: Pagua Bay, Richmond Bay and Rosalie Bay

Sunrise Farm Cottages are nestled on a slope above the Atlantic close to an organic  farm on the property.

Sunrise Farm Cottages are nestled on a slope above the Atlantic close to fields of organic produce.

After my nutritious and  filling breakfast at Beau Rive on Sunday morning, I decided to take a little walk uphill from the hotel along the main road.  My intention was to

Sunrise Farm Cottages are located a short distance from an entrance to Segment 6 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and the Kalinago Territory.

Sunrise Farm Cottages are located a short distance from an entrance to  Segment 6 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and the Kalinago Territory.

explore the setting of  a different type of accommodation. I tackled  another steep climb of about 10 minutes and came upon Sunrise Farm Cottages, which is situated on an organic farm.  It is aptly named, and one can easily watch the sunrise from any vantage point!  The wood constructed self-catering cottages scattered discreetly around the acreage certainly appealed to me.  I may give them a try for a longer stay in the Castle Bruce area sometime!

Also nearby was the trail head to the  interior part of Waitukubuli National Trail, Segment 6. I had taken this track some years earlier, but had picked it up in Salibia in the Kalinago Territory, a few kilometers further north.

This trail marker takes hikers into the rugged. coastal part of WNT 6.  Until this point, the track is on the road leading from Castle Bruce.  The whole trek takes 6 - 7 hours - and it`s worth it!

This trail marker takes hikers into the rugged. coastal interior  of WNT 6. Until this point, the track is on the road leading from Castle Bruce. The whole trek takes 6 – 7 hours and passes through several Kalinago villages.

I`ll have to complete it from this point on my next trip to the east coast!  However, this was not a day for any big `walks`.

Shortly after I returned to Beau Rive, I freshened up and then drove away for the day`s planned adventure: Pagua Bay House and its renowned lunch menu.  Before I departed, Mark, the proprietor suggested that I take a slightly different route to reach my destination.  As I drove through the Kalinago Territory,  I followed his instructions and turned left onto Horseback Ridge Road when I saw the  sign for it.  I drove up the concrete roadway for a distance and then looked for a point where the road forked.  There, I turned left again instead of right, which continued as the Horseback Ridge trail and is part of WNT Segment 6.   I continued along on the roughened concrete, making several steep descents while glancing briefly at valley vistas in the direction of the Concord Valley. (I did not stop to take pictures as the incline was a little scary for me).  After about 10 minutes, I arrived at the Touna Kalinago Heritage Village on the south side of the Pagua River . (This Kalinago Village is well worth a stop to observe the traditional ways of these indigenous people.  I had visited there many years ago.)  I  crossed the river and made a right hand turn back towards the ocean, while passing through the village of Concord, then Hatton Garden and finally Pagua Bay! I quickly turned left (away from the ocean) and I was there!

Pagua Bay Bar and Grill and Guest House is conveniently located near the airport and is across the road from Pagua Beach.

Pagua Bay House is conveniently located near the airport and is across the road from Pagua Beach.

Pagua Bay  House ,Bar and Grill  is conveniently located directly across the road from the beach, and is only about 10 minutes away

Pagua Bay is the perfect place for a beach walk.  However, I would be cautious about a swim as undertow can be strong here.

Pagua Bay is the perfect place for a beach walk. However, I would be cautious about a swim as undertow can be strong here.

from Douglas-Charles  (formerly Melville Hall) Airport. Of course, I took my walk along the beach first so that my appetite would be adequate for a large lunch. The day was fair and a blustery breeze blew in off of the ocean.  I could taste the salt – or perhaps it was sweat!  In any case, it did the trick and after half an hour I felt as if I were ready to try out their tempting menu!

Golden apple juice appealed to me again (it is in season) and I started off with a large glass.  Jenny, the welcoming waitress reviewed the selections with me and I chose a vegetarian bean burger with the toppings.  I was careful to only eat half of the bun because it was necessary to satisfy my sweet tooth.  It was completely satiated with a moist melt-in-my-mouth generous slice of New York style cheesecake, complemented with a cup of coffee made to my specifications (mild, not strong!).

Afterwards, I succumbed to a little lie-down in a comfy lounge chair set in the cool blue pool overlooking the ocean.

The bar at Pagua serves refreshing and uncommon alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

The bar at Pagua Bay  House serves refreshing and uncommon alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Lovely Sarafina was a pleasant lunch companion. She rested quietly near my table and was as good as gold.  No, she did not beg, and no, I did not tempt her. Those eyes are something else!

Lovely Seraphina was a pleasant lunch companion. She rested quietly near my table and was as good as gold. No, she did not beg, and no, I did not tempt her. Those eyes are something else, though!

Eyes open or closed, the pool at Pagua Bay invites one to have a dip before or a rest after a delicious lunch!

Eyes open or closed, the pool at Pagua Bay House invites one to have a dip before or a rest after a delicious lunch!

Jenny, the gracious server and Sheldon the charming GM made me feel right at home at Pagua Bay Restaurant and Bar.

Jenny, the gracious server and Sheldon the charming GM made me feel right at home at the Pagua Bay House Restaurant and Bar.

I gazed around me at the lovely scene for a few moments, but I did feel drowsy and I gave in to that sensation for about half an hour.  Before I departed, I chatted amiably with Sheldon Bruno, the engaging General Manager.   We discussed his review of the first two nights of the  World Creole Music Festival, as he had attended both and would go for the final night after work.  I shouldn`t have been surprised when he told me that he lived in Roseau and drove across the island to work – in about 45 minutes.  The newly refurbished road through the Central Forest Reserve (named after former President Nicholas Liverpool) certainly makes it easier and quicker to go from one side of the island to the other. I expect this daily trek  doesn`t phase Sheldon – he is a very high energy guy with a ready smile and a positive attitude firmly in place. He definitely is an invaluable member of the team at Pagua Bay!

This view of Pagua Bay from its south side near the village of Atkinson also includes the two large rocks  (far right) that are situated near the bigger village of Marigot.

This view of Pagua Bay from its south side near the village of Atkinson also includes the two large rocks (far right) that are situated near the bigger village of Marigot.

A few raindrops chased me away from this enchanting site.  It was now mid-afternoon so I thanked my hosts and leisurely drove  for half an hour through the Kalinago Territory back to Beau Rive.  It was time to rest for dinner and make plans for my next and last day on the east coast.

Next morning, I tripped along the main road from Beau Rive in the opposite direction of the previous day.  I was curious to walk down to Richmond Bay, with its rocky shoreline and river mouth.  It had been about 10 years since I had spent part of day lounging in cool river pools with some Dominican friends who have since moved overseas.

I  slowly walked through the coastal forest on the public access road. When I reached the end of this right-of-way, a hand-made sign pointed the way to the beach so that no one would accidentally trespass on private property where a hotel is under construction. It was a bit tricky from here-on and I slid through slick mud and  stumbled over slippery rocks, but after a few minutes, I was ocean-side.

This river that flows into Richmond  Bay has some inviting pools in which one can cool off and revitalize!

This river that flows into Richmond Bay has some inviting shallow pools in which one can cool off and revitalize!

Richmond Bay`s remoteness gives it a wild, completely natural feel.

Richmond Bay`s remoteness gives it a wild, completely isolated feel.

I admired the views, but did not linger as I would be checking out of Beau Rive shortly and had to head back up the steep slope straight-away. I was in awe of this rugged shoreline and its secluded setting.  A great place to meditate!

My time at Beau Rive had passed too quickly as usual.  With the knowledge that I would be back sometime soon, I drove away with an idea that I should go down the coast to briefly revisit Rosalie Bay on this lovely day before returning to Roseau and home.

Rosalie Bay Resort is nestled just above the beach and the ocean.

Rosalie Bay Resort is nestled just above the beach and the ocean.

When I reached the T- junction of roads to the west of the Emerald Pool, I turned left and headed south to Rosalie. Road repairs were

Rosalie Bay Resort also abuts the mouth of the Rosalie River.

Rosalie Bay Resort also abuts the mouth of the Rosalie River.

underway and I travelled cautiously around broken pavement and potholes.  I arrived at Rosalie Bay Resort about 20 minutes later and noticed dark blue-black clouds approaching from the east.  I got out of the car and could feel the wind gaining strength. I really just wanted to walk along Rosalie Beach, which is renowned for sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs at certain times of the year. I was just at the end of this season, but I wanted to revisit this area and recall a time when I had watched sea turtle hatchlings run to the ocean to begin their lives underwater. I admire the ongoing dedication of volunteers and staff of the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative for their education and conservation efforts about three types of endangered sea turtles who come to this beach to lay their eggs.

The inviting patio at the Rosalie Bay Resort Restaurant is very inviting - except during a rain squall! (This photo was taken 5 minutes before it hit!).

The patio at the Rosalie Bay Resort Restaurant is very inviting – except during a rain squall! (This photo was taken 5 minutes before it hit!)

Rosalie Beach is a protected turtle nesting site.  It`s a great place for a brisk beach walk too.

Rosalie Beach is a protected turtle nesting site. It`s a great place for a brisk beach walk too.

That early afternoon, the dark clouds moved in quickly, carrying an intense rain squall which would be unleashed on Rosalie moments later!

That early afternoon, the dark clouds moved in quickly, carrying an intense rain squall which would be unleashed on Rosalie moments later!

I watched those menacing clouds draw near, and I ran back to the restaurant to order a simple take-out meal for the road: hummus, plantain chips and veggies.  While I waited, I became increasingly nervous as the wind blasted the building and table settings on the porch flew off in every direction.  I picked a few pieces up and then rushed inside as the rain pounded down.  I sipped on sorrel juice and when my lunch package arrived, I hurried out to the parking lot in a torrential downpour.

Suffice to say that the squall diminished as I headed north. The sun shone as I climbed the mountainous road and entered the Pond Cassé round-about in the middle of the island en route to Roseau.  Half an hour later, I was back in the capital and the rain was about to begin!  I wasted no time in driving the additional ten minutes to my home where I unloaded my light luggage and snacked on my take-out from Rosalie Bay Resort. I would have to meet friends Victoria and Neil, who live near Rosalie on another day when the weather promised to be fine. You can read about our previous get together and gastronomic experience at this eco-resort here.

As I reflected on my east coast sojourn, I felt grateful for the pleasant conversations, dramatic scenery, delicious meals and serene settings that I had experienced over the past few days.

Without a doubt, I look forward to my next adventure on the Nature Island with great anticipation!

 

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A Birthday “Dine and Lime*” by the Beach at Calibishie, on Dominica’s Northeast Coast

Hell's Gates welcome travellers to the northern edge of the quaint village of Calibishie on Dominica's northeast coast.

Hell’s Gate welcomes travellers to the northern edge of the quaint village of Calibishie on Dominica’s northeast coast.

After I left Fort Shirley and the Cabrits National Park , I drove along one of Dominica’s well-travelled  winding roads in an easterly direction.  Despite the brightness of the day, giant palm trees shadowed the route, which skirts the south side of Morne Aux Diables and other smaller peaks.

The pretty village of Calibishie sits at the water's edge and a stretch of sandy beach

The pretty village of Calibishie sits at the water’s edge along a sheltered stretch of sandy beach

After about half an hour, I reached the northernmost entrance to the quaint ocean-side village called Calibishie (Cal-i-BI-she).   This is a Kalinago word which means “a net of reefs.”

This unassuming little hamlet is unique on the Nature Island in that it is sheltered by a mile long barrier reef that protects the shoreline from the persistent Atlantic surf.  Historically, this area is known to have had the earliest settlement on Dominica – back to the pre-Columbian era!  Renowned local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, PhD, has written a fascinating article about this pretty place.  You can read it here.

I had a couple of restaurants in mind for lunch: they had been recommended to me by various people over the past several months.  Lo and behold, despite being off-season, I happily  and immediately discovered that the Rainbow Restaurant (767-245-9995) was open on this perfect birthday afternoon!

The Rainbow Restaurant (767) 245-9995 is located on the north end of the village of Calibishie - right beside the ocean!

The Rainbow Restaurant (767) 245-9995 is located on the north end of the village of Calibishie – right beside the ocean!

The waiter greeted me warmly. When I enquired about the delectable ”French” cooking that people were raving about, he modestly professed, “Oh yes, that is my wife.  We prepare French-Caribbean-style recipes.”  I scanned the menu, and while I was not ravenously hungry due to my big brunch at The Champs Restaurant a few hours earlier, I took the recommendation of a couple who were visiting from Catalonia: they were enthused about the octopus salad!  In terms of seafood, it was an unusual choice for me.  However, it could not have been any fresher.  The octopi are harvested in the sheltered cove right in front of the restaurant!

The octopus salad at the Rainbow Restaurant in Calibishie was appealing in its colorful presentation and well-blended complementary ingredients!

The octopus salad at the Rainbow Restaurant in Calibishie was appealing in its colorful presentation and well-blended healthful ingredients!

This hand-made ocean-side rocker at the Rainbow Restaurant offered an opportunity to digest a good meal and savour the gorgeous views.

This hand-made ocean-side bamboo rocker at the Rainbow Restaurant offered an opportunity to digest a good meal and savour the gorgeous views. The waves are breaking on the reef, as short distance away.

The dish was well seasoned with local herbs, and the potatoes offset the stronger flavour of the octopus.  The generous serving filled me up quickly.  After I had finished the whole bowl, I felt in need of a little rest on this scorching Caribbean summer afternoon. The bamboo’ rocking chair’ set ocean-side in the sand was there waiting for me! I lounged for a seemingly long time – distracted by a  clear view of Marie-galante, a nearby French West Indian island.  Closer to shore, Frigate birds steeply dove into the shallow waters to pick up their fresh fish lunches.  I watched a boy in flippers  and mask bob up and down in his search for octopus, perhaps, not far from the nearby reef.  I also caught

The northerly view from the Rainbow Restaurant includes Hell's Gate, just offshore.

The northerly view from the Rainbow Restaurant includes Hell’s Gate, just offshore.

occasional glimpses of the couple from Catalonia, who frolicked in the gentle surf for  a brief time before their scheduled departure from Dominica at Melville Hall Airport, a short drive away.

The southerly view from the Rainbow Restaurant provides a glimpse of the famous Red Rocks - a great place for a walk above the ocean shoreline.

The southerly view from the Rainbow Restaurant provides a glimpse of the famous Red Rocks outcrop – a great place for a walk, high above the ocean shoreline.

A view of Morne Diablotin, Dominica's highest peak from the Calbishie area, near Poz Restaurant and Bar.

A view of Morne Diablotin, Dominica’s highest peak from the Calibishie area on the east coast, near Poz Restaurant and Bar.

After another half hour, I did feel more refreshed.  I paid my reasonably priced bill, and headed further south, en route to another popular place called Poz Restaurant and Bar. Unfortunately the friendly owner, a Canadian from Toronto, was not there, as he would be opening later that day due to it being the quiet time of year for tourists.  We spoke by phone for a few minutes and I assured ‘Poz’ that I would be back to spend time at his well-received establishment on my next trip to Calibishie!

At this juncture, I had not eaten any cake for my ‘big day’.  As many places were closed for the summer low season, I decided to check out a newly opened hotel along the main road near the fishing village of Anse de Mé (Mai).  This new development, called Atlantique View Resort and Spa is roughly half-way between Calibishie and Portsmouth, right at the sharp bend where the road dramatically turns inland, away from the ocean.

When I drove up the steep lane, I was not sure if it was open at first.  But almost right away, a man appeared on a distant balcony and motioned me in.  I parked at a lower level (my choice), walked up the paved drive and followed the signs until I reached the restaurant area.  I walked in and gasped – the spacious dining room was tastefully decorated  with  a dark solid wood interior, plentiful natural light and white linen tablecloths.  It was lovely!  However, it was mid-afternoon and I was not dressed for sitting in such an elegant setting.  I asked the servers on this quiet day if I might have some cake and ice cream, with coffee.  A young lady ushered me  onto a spacious covered veranda, with a gorgeous view of a giant coconut grove and the mighty Atlantic just beyond it.

The northerly view of the Atlantic coastline over the coconut grove in front of Atlantique View resort and Spa is delightful!

The northerly view of the Atlantic coastline over the coconut grove below Atlantique View Resort and Spa is delightful!

While the coconut cake was more like a pastry, the coconut ice cream

My coconut pastry also came with coconut ice cream, which came in a separate bowl.  It was yummy!

My coconut pastry also came with coconut ice cream, which arrived in a separate bowl. It was yummy!

complemented it well.  I relaxed there for a while and enjoyed the lovely surroundings of this 35 room hotel. By now, it was late afternoon and I was feeling slightly sleepy and very full, so I took my leave and wished the staff of this new venture well.  They have not been open for a year at this writing and the spa is still under construction.  However, I think it would be a wonderful place for any kind of retreat (personal or professional).  They  do have a huge conference room too!

I headed back to The Champs Hotel in Picard, Portsmouth for the last night of my birthday weekend before heading back to Roseau the next morning.

The birthday cake prepared by Nancy and Brendan was lovely to look at and delicious to eat!

‘ The birthday cake prepared by Nancy and Brendan was lovely to look at and delicious to eat!

Post script: Little did I know that I would be in for a big birthday surprise (or two!) the following weekend.  When three late-August born friends met at the former Springfield Plantation for a little get-together and a river ‘bath’, I had no idea that Nancy, the manager of this  international education and research-based centre  would offer presents and a big cake to Liz and me, as part of our celebration.

Liz (l), Nancy and Gwendominica pose for a moment before breaking the cake!  Photo taken by Brendan.

Liz (l), Nancy and Gwendominica pose for a moment before breaking into their birthday cake! Photo taken by Brendan.

I did not take too many photos, as I was very much enjoying the ‘moment’, but I assure you it was a most fitting finale for my birthday festivities on the Nature Isle in 2014!

* ‘Lime’ is a West Indian expression for hanging out and having fun.

Hanging Out at the funky Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier, near Roseau Dominica

Even when skies are gray, Zam Zam Cafe`s beachfront invites guests to relax and gaze  on the seemingly endless Caribbean Sea.

UPDATE: (MARCH 2014) Zam Zam Cafe  has reopened with the same great food and service, including the addition of culinary talent, Chef Floyd.  They had experienced extensive damage in a severe rain storm that occurred on December 24, 2013.  It had been closed for a few months. Tom and his wife Irieri worked very hard to repair, restore and improve upon the seaside setting that is Zam Zam. They received no assistance of any kind (as did others were were adversely affected by the storm) but were able to perservere with their creative vision of the setting.  The end result is absolutely stunning!   The reopening of Zam Zam is wonderful news and a Mexican-inspired dining experience at this lovely establishment is more than worth it! (GW)

 

I admit that  there are many wonderful places to watch the sunset on the west coast of Dominica.   But there is something about the simply sweet ambience and fabulous Mexican food at the Zam Zam Cafe that pulls in a crowd most afternoons.  It is earthy and rustic,  set in wood and stone construction, accented with plenty of potted plants and adorned with exotic wall art.

Tom and Irieri have created a popular south side (of Roseau) Mexican inspired eatery.

When I went there a few Fridays ago to meet friends for a little `lime`(it means hanging out, West Indian style, if you recall…), owners Tom, a British expat and his wife Irieri, who hails from Mexico, welcomed me warmly.

The Anchorage Hotel is located just south of Zam Zam. Their catamaran called Passion was heading out for a late afternoon party sail. This is the boat that I sailed on to Marie-Galante, French West Indies.

It was an overcast day, so there was no spectacular sunset.  No one seemed to mind.  A few people relaxed on chairs by the seaside.  Others ventured into the warm waters for a refreshing dip before dinner.  Before I settled down at my seat, I ambled around  the rocky beach and admired a number of boats that were moored close by at the Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch and Dive Centre.

The rocky shoreline to the north of Zam Zam Cafe is ideal for shell seekers and sea gazers.

Despite the close proximity of other homes and businesses, the café and its beachfront were very private and quiet.  The surf gently touched the shoreline.  Soft music played  in the background as I joined my group for a pre-dinner drink at our table.  Of the numerous choices, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, I was craving a Margarita, but felt that full strength would be too strong for me.  I asked the friendly waitress for only a few drops of tequila  and she graciously complied.  Of course, there is a Mexican-Latin American emphasis  on all offerings at Zam Zam. Tasty Sunrises, Mohitos and Coronas are on the expansive beverage menu.

Tables are adorned with flowers, tucked cozily amidst plants and situated so that there is always a seaside view. (Photo taken facing inland, of course!)

We laughed and chatted for some time as we nursed our drinks and admired the darkening sky and twinkling lights of Roseau to the north.  Suddenly, we collectively agreed that we were ravenously hungry.  Most of us were repeat customers and already knew what we wanted to enjoy that evening.  Some of the gathering had already nibbled on hearty nachos and chips, but clearly desired more of the delicious offerings. While most people selected a burrito with different fillings, I chose a chicken quesadilla.  Once the substantial meals arrived, everyone devoured their dinners and remarked on their wonderful flavours.  Mine was too big for me to eat at one time.  I got to take half of it home, with  zesty salsa on the side.  Some people even had room for dessert – it was ice cream that evening – a perfect complement to the mildly spicy main course.

When my tummy was filled and my eyelids started to droop, I bid farewell to the assembled gang and paid up my reasonably priced bill.  I promised Tom that I would be back to Zam Zam very soon for more good eats in such a pleasant atmosphere.  Hasta pronto!

Zam Zam Cafe (440-7969; 612-7471) is open from noon to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. It is located about one mile south of Roseau, next to the Anchorage Hotel.

Taking Time for Champagne with a ‘Lime’

On  a tranquil Sunday morning  in late June, I luxuriated in a dip in Champagne.  It had been a long time since I’d taken time for such a ‘lime’ (meaning “hanging out” in West Indian slang). Somehow, a whole year had passed since I spent a pleasant hour or so  at this  lovely stoney Caribbean beach,  which forms part of Dominica’s Soufriere Scott’s Head Marine Reserve (SSMR) This location is a protected underwater eco-site and regulations are strictly enforced to preserve it.   From Roseau, it’s a short drive south of the city to just beyond Pointe Michel. To walk there along the road from this coastal village takes  about 20 minutes. Buses pass frequently most days.

Looking down at the beach from the entrance.

Champagne Beach  rightly deserves its name, but not for reasons you might think.  It’s not a seaside party place, although there is such a nightspot a short distance away (Melvina’s Champagne Bar and Restaurant, 440-5480, 448-3979).  This lovely natural setting is well-known to snorkelers  and swimmers who like to revel in the shallow waters just slightly south of the beach proper.  They gaze down and swim along a pristine coral reef and then pass above an awesome variety of colourful sea life found amidst tiny bubbles.  The ‘bubbly’ is actually indicative of geo-thermal activity, caused by volcanic gasses rising from tiny cracks in the floor of the sea.  In Dominica, that’s a common occurrence, as seen in the Soufriere area, a little further south of this area and in the Roseau Valley in the interior of the country.  After all, the Nature Island has nine potentially active volcanoes (presently dormant!):  that’s more than any other country in the world!

Most snorkelers enter the water at the southern end of the beach, seen here, and swim to the area between the two rocky outcrops at the right. Scott’s Head is in the distance.

My mission  this day did not involve any underwater exploration, as you may have ascertained by now (recall the ‘lime’).   I stationed myself at the most southerly end of the beach, by a protective cliff that leads to the actual Champagne area.  I swam out only a short distance until I was over my head and not likely to bump into any slightly submerged rocks. With my head above water, I glanced down from the clear, shallow surface  at the stones beneath my feet when in a vertical position. From there, I could gaze up into the green hued hills and watch the massive clouds overhead  push away the shy sunshine.  It was a little drizzly for a time, but then I was already wet!  I also enjoyed daydreaming in a westerly direction and wondered how long it would take to swim to Central America!

They’re not fish! Snorkelers check out the underwater scenery.

The Dive Dominica boat heads to Soufriere Bay after having moored a short while at Champagne.

A number of snorkelers passed beyond me on their way to the bubbles, located  between two rocky outcrops a short distance away.  One British man stayed back near my safe spot.  He was a   little fearful of venturing further for health reasons, he said. He queried me on life in Dominica instead. A Dive Dominica boat motored close-by and anchored at one of the official moorings, allowing its passengers to explore the area for a little while before heading south to Soufriere Bay.  The surf was gentle and I allowed myself to submit to the warm waters as my muscles relaxed.  I floated like a cork and felt as if I could stay like that forever (or at least until the mild surf conditions changed to something stronger)!

Liz snorkels in Champagne bubbles. Photo taken by Images Dominica.

Friends greeted me on their way to the reef. An official mooring is behind them.

The rocky shoreline can make a beach stroll challenging. There is a sturdy and smooth boardwalk in the distance.

The surf was gentle that Sunday.

In the distance, I observed friends who were preparing for their snorkeling excursion further up the beach.  They didn’t make out my bobbing head until I was standing on the shore after my hour-long submersion!  I was waterlogged and a little chilled.  I carefully picked my way around the pebbles, searching out additional photo opportunities.  The  persistent snap, crackle and pop of  small pebbles against the shoreline added to my drowsy contentment.

Iguanas feed on the leaves of the noni trees. The fruit, pictured here is supposed to have many beneficial effects when ingested by humans! Be advised – it is VERY sour.

After a short while, I made my way back along the boardwalk to the site entrance and chatted for a few moments with Dianne, the attendant at the Champagne Reef Dive and Snorkel Shop (440-5085).  I enquired after the ubiquitous iguanas, but they were reclusive at the time because of the drizzle and overcast skies.  She urged me to return on a hot sunny day to catch them in action, which generally means feeding on noni tree leaves.  Iguana-watching and photo-shooting are definitely on my agenda for another day as there is much to be said about these spectacular lizards.

What a cool critter! Don’t you agree???

And then the day arrived – midday Sunday July 29 – hot and sunny.  The iguanas were about.  I did catch glimpses of plentiful leaf-green babies with Dianne’s help.  They blend in perfectly with the noni leaves, so it took patience on Dianne’s part to point them out to me.  The larger ones were on the ground so I was able to capture a few (by camera).  They may look cumbersome, but they move like lightening.  These Lesser Antillean Iguanas are endemic to the region.  They are a protected species on the Nature Island as they are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List.  I love to look at them.  Their unusual, seemingly prehistoric features really make them a wondrous sight to behold!

The body language says it all!

As I headed to my  car, I   reminded myself  that  the naturally beautiful and beneficial effects of the Champagne dip with a’ lime’ must also be repeated very soon!

Hike Fest 2012 Concludes: A Beach Hop along Dominica’s Dramatic North-East Coast

On Saturday May 26th, two coaster buses transported 37 enthusiastic Hike Fest participants up the west coast from Roseau, then turned in an easterly direction at Portsmouth,following the winding road that passed by quaint  northerly villages.  After about two hours, we arrived at the start of the third and final  adventure on this year’s program.  We were all a little queasy when we disembarked, but thankfully, we quickly revived in the fresh stiff breeze that blew in off of the Atlantic Ocean.

Our 3 1/2 hour trek would take us along the north-east coast below Eden Estate (south of Calibishie) and we would head in a southerly direction, ending up in an area on Londonderry Bay called Cabana Beach (north of Melville Hall airport).  We were particularly motivated because we knew that some delectable local food awaited us at the finish: crayfish stew; fish broth; chicken and pumpkin soup; and lots more, prepared from scratch by a willing community group from the nearby village of Marigot.

Hike Fest Coordinator Simon Walsh gives final instructions at the trail-head and motivates us with details about the delectable dinner menu awaiting us at the end.

We were accompanied by several experienced guides, including Jerry Brisbane and Clement Rabess.  These two men hold the record for being the first to successfully hike the entire 115 mile (180 km)  Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) and they did it in record time – 6 days!!! We were definitely in good company – even off of the WNT.

Also joining us on the trail were a team of French journalists from our nearest  northerly  island neighbour, Guadeloupe.  They were filming a documentary about Dominica.  Their ‘joie de vivre‘ certainly contributed to the convivial atmosphere on our “beach walk.”  And it hardly rained at all!

At the start, the going was easy, but it wasn’t long before we faced our first big challenge – we carefully picked our way along a rocky ledge, with only the sea below to catch us if we fell.  We did slip and slide, of course.  There was never any real fear as there was also a helping hand close-by to assist anyone in need.

A well-worn path gently introduced us to the day’s hike.

It wasn’t long before the going got a little trickier. There wasn’t always a beach!

The scenery was simply stunning!  As we wended our way along rocky outcrops, through coastal forest,around sheltered bays and windswept coves, we collectively stopped to admire each breathtaking view.  As a smaller group, we stuck closely together, making new friends along the way and sharing our snacks too.

Debra took time for a sea bath in a secluded cove.

I was so grateful for the opportunity to explore this relatively hidden coastline.  We all agreed that it was like a dream come true.  Cameras flashed at every opportunity.  Our relaxed pace even provided a little time for Debra, owner of Ohlala Villas to take a sea bath.

“Beach Hop!” is the best phrase to describe this walk.  There were plenty of ‘up’s and down’s’ in the forested areas between each beach, most of them steep and some of them treacherous. A fair number of trekkers occasionally applied the “bottoms-up” technique (intentionally or unintentionally) in order to slide down a slippery (muddy) slope. A kind young man (I think it was Chris) coached me down a particularly challenging incline.  With careful, confident and calm instruction, he shadowed me, calling out my hand and feet placements so that I did not go “bottoms-up” at all.  Thanks Chris!

We carefully placed our feet when traversing rocky outcrops.

We were grateful for a relatively dry day and dry rocks for solid footing.

Looking down the coast, with the village of Marigot in the distance. We did admire the views, but for safety’s sake, we walked through the forest in this area. Those cliffs were steep!

After a couple of hours, we could finally see beyond our intended destination.  Melville Hall Airport and the large village of Marigot loomed in the distance.  And we were getting very  hungry from  the sea air and the diverse work-out! Only an hour to go!

The rocky outcrop that proved to be “off the beaten path.”

The surf was stronger on Londonderry Bay, but the smooth beach sand permitted an easy walk towards the hike’s end.

We did take a little time to climb up a rocky (and somewhat slippery) outcrop between beaches.  Most of us didn’t realize that this was a mere diversion and we had to back-track a bit to get on the correct path.  On my way down, one of the French videographers  caught me in motion as I flapped my arms and  jumped a few feet from the rock to the sand.  No one  overseas would know it was me, but I truly did feel free as a bird in this pristine locale.

Samantha (left) was always willing to lend a helping hand during the hike. The river was rising and the current was fairly strong.

It seemed like no time at all when we descended the last section of forest and easily walked the beach along Londonderry Bay.  We were basically dry up to that point.  But Hike Fest, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is not without its “diversions.”  Once again, it did not disappoint me, because at the trail’s end point, a rising river on the Londonderry Estate challenged us to cross it in a hurry.  I beckoned to a fellow hiker who had already forded it to show me  the most shallow section.  I forged on, boots and all.  By mid-river, the water was up to my thighs and the  strong current pushed me around.  I gritted my teeth and followed my friend in front of me.  We made it!  At least the camera in my pocket was in a sealed plastic bag.  And a pair of plastic slippers in my pack would do for the ride home.  After urging everyone else to cross quickly and safely, we all converged on a sheltered spot, where we found a couple of vehicles with protruding tents, tables and huge pots of food at the rear for hungry and weary, but happy hikers.

Whether it’s the trails, the unexpected “diversions,” the weather, the friends – both old and new, or the food, there is no doubt in my mind: Dominica’s Hike Fest – it’s definitely “the best!”

SOME STUNNING SHOTS OF DOMINICA’S DRAMATIC NORTH-EAST COAST:

A Morning on Mero Beach

Mero Beach – northerly direction

On a mid-week morning in March, I ventured up the west coast of Dominica from Roseau to the seaside village of Mero.  My visit was two-fold:  I had an appointment with my French physiotherapist/osteopath Martine Varlet (767-316-2270) so I  looked forward to relief from some of my health challenges; and of course, I  had to allow a little time for a beach ‘lime’ (West Indian for hanging out).

Because it was a beautiful day and there were two cruise ships in port, I decided to visit the beach well before my 11 a.m. appointment. After a half hour on the public bus,  I hopped off it by the Mero Village entrance and within a couple of minutes , I was strolling along the seaside.  To my delight, there was not a soul in sight!   Mero is a popular spot for cruise shippers,  but they would not arrive until about midday on their tour buses.  For now, the pristine beach was all mine!

Mero Beach – southerly direction

I didn’t wander too far  along the expansive stretch of beach this time. I actually had a third goal: French pressed coffee and a slice of  the sensational passionfruit chocolate cake baked by Chef Dominique at Romance Cafe (767-449-7922)  right  on the beach.

Romance Cafe is set right on Mero Beach.

Carla and Tarrie will welcome you at Romance Cafe

Staff Carla and Tarrie greeted me in their usual warm and friendly way and then prepared my order.  Meanwhile, I walked around the tables and admired the very diverse artists’ works that are found on several table-tops.  A number of painters, both local and foreign have created  works of art, upon which one may dine and can even buy, if so desired.

After my perusal of this unusual gallery,  I selected a seat with my favourite table-top painting and gazed out to sea.  It was an idyllic Caribbean setting – the kind that most people dream about, I think.  The calm, inviting surf beckoned me and idle boats drifted lazily around their moorings.  There was no time for a ‘sea bath’  and an inviting lounge chair  that day, but those plans are definitely on the agenda for next time!

A Table-Top Painted by my friend Susan Weeks.

The Beach Chairs Beckon

One View from my table

I savored my treats, while relishing this tranquil and spectacular morning in paradise.

When I had finished the dregs of my coffee and picked up every last crumb on my plate, I glanced at my watch and realized it was almost 11 a.m..  I paid up and parted this lovely locale with promises that I would back very soon.                                                                                                                                                         for  a French/Dominican inspired meal, if I am lucky.

You might call me selfish, but I really don’t mind sharing a slice of the Nature Isle.  I just feel particularly blessed when I have a few moments of this precious place all to myself!