A Boat Ride up Dominica’s Indian River: Mystical, Magical, Completely Natural!

The unusal scenery along Dominica's Indian River near Portsmouth is completely captivating to me.

The unusual scenery along Dominica’s Indian River near Portsmouth is completely captivating to me.

One of the first items on my tourist agenda while staying near Portsmouth, Dominica at The Champs Hotel, was a long overdue refresher

Even Hollywood producers were captivated by the Indian River.  They filmed parts of Pirates of the Caribbean II right here in 2005.  This is the witches hut - perfect right here, I think!

Even Hollywood producers were spellbound by the Indian River. They filmed parts of Pirates of the Caribbean II right here in 2005. This is the witch’s hut –  completely believable, I think!

boat ride up the Indian River.  Admittedly, I had experienced the magic and mystery of this natural setting several times over the years.  But it is the kind of place that one can never tire of seeing again: the scenery, the history and the method of transport does hold tremendous appeal for a lover of Dominica’s culture and nature like me!

The driver from the hotel called ahead to confirm that ‘Sparrow’ was available to take me in his wooden fishing boat for the mile long journey up the river.  He met me by the side of the road, and  we walked down to the dock where he helped me settle on a front seat.  I did not need an eco-site pass, as I am a resident of Dominica.  Of course, I had to confirm this with the forestry officer on site, because I was definitely dressed like a tourist with a fair complexion!

‘Sparrow’ sat at the back of the boat, picked up the oars and we commenced to traverse the broad mouth of the river.  He immediately instructed me about the history of the area.

The journey up the Indian River begins here, at its mouth, as  seen from the Indian River Bridge above it.

The journey up the Indian River begins here at its mouth, as seen from the Indian River Bridge.  It flows into the Caribbean Sea.

'Sparrow' a.k.a. 'Spaghetti' (his admission) is a Rastafarian from Portsmouth who has been guiding visitors on the Indian River for 35 years.  He told me that he loves his job, even after all this time - a very good sign!

‘Sparrow’ a.k.a. ‘Spaghetti’ (his admission) is a Rastafarian from Portsmouth who has guided visitors on the Indian River for 35 years. He told me that he loves his job, even after all this time – a very good sign!

First, he explained that there had once been a Kalinago (Carib) settlement a little higher up the river.  While it no longer exists, and these indigenous people generally live in the Kalinago Territory on the northeast coast of Dominica now, the name stuck over the centuries.  He immediately pointed out various types of flora along the water’s edge.  I always wish I carried a notebook to recall them all.

This unlikely building remnant was part of a railway bridge that carried timber from the Brandy Estate to the river, so that it cuold then be offloaded onto boats, taken to the sea coast and shipped overseas.  The island's only railraod only lasted a few years in the early 20th century!

This unlikely building remnant was part of a railway bridge that carried timber from the Brandy Estate to the river, so that it could then be offloaded onto boats, taken to the sea-coast where there was a sawmill. The island’s only railroad only ever lasted  just  a few years in the early 20th century!

Pretty yellow flowers flourished near the mouth of the Indian River.  Their name escapes me!

Pretty yellow flowers flourished near the mouth of the Indian River. Their name escapes me, but I think each blossom only lasts for a day!

But I do remember the fauna ‘Sparrow pointed out to me: plentiful mullets swimming near the surface of the deep, brackish waters; Ramyé pigeons cooing high in the tree-tops; ubiquitous land crabs scattered among the twisted Mang  tree roots near the river’s edge;

The land crabs moved quickly, but I was able to capture this shot before this one bolted!

The land crabs moved quickly, but I was able to capture this shot before this one bolted!

green herons squawking overhead;  a large male iguana sunning himself on a tree branch high above the river; gargantuan termite nests attached to dead trees.

I was content to admire the termite nests from a distance!

I was content to admire the termite nests from a distance!

I was completely taken by the scene that surrounded me.  In this pristine swamp-like environment,  the creatures thrived in its bio-diverse eco-system.

A sense of complete calmness came over me as I marvelled at this unique setting.  At one point, ‘Sparrow’ pulled the boat ashore and cut a few long strands of a reed called roseau (the capital city is named after this plant, which also grows along the Roseau River!), which was found at numerous points along the river.  “I will make something for you to take with you,’ he said.  I looked at him curiously, but did not reply.  Grasses and reeds are found in abundance on the Nature Island.  To this day, the Kalinago people fashion handcrafts from various plants, as I observed on my recent visit there, which is found here.

It does say Croc, not Clock!  After a drink of 'Dynamite', you might not see the difference.  And no, there are not any crocodiles in the river!

It does say Croc, not Clock! After a drink of ‘Dynamite’, you might not see the difference. And no, there are not any crocodiles in the river!

After about half an hour, we arrived at a dock upriver where a little bar is tucked into the natural setting.  There, I wandered along the well-marked trails and admired the dramatic setting of the Indian River from this inland vantage point.

Plentiful plants are found along the trails by the river near the inland 'Bush Bar'.

Plentiful plants are found along the trails by the river near the inland ‘Bush Bar

 Look at these fascinating buttress roots!This mangrove is called a bloodwood tree because of its reddish sap.

Look at those fascinating buttress roots! This type of mangrove is called a bloodwood tree because of its reddish sap.

When I returned from my stroll, it was time for a little refreshment.  Sparrow chose passion-fruit juice, while I asked the friendly bartender if she had any tea.  She offered me freshly made ginger-basilic (herbal), which she offered to warm up.  I declined the extra heat and sipped on the natural healthy beverage at ‘room temperature’. I was aware that they do offer guests alcoholic drinks as well. Sparrow told me that the ‘Dynamite’ concoction is still a popular brew.  Under its influence, visitors have been known to spontaneously cool off.  Good thing the waters are fairly deep and the  helpful guides are nearby!

These handcrafts were presented to me by Sparrow.  They were made from the roseau reed that he cut at the river's edge.

These handcrafts were presented to me by Sparrow. They were made from the roseau reed that he cut at the river’s edge.

Other visitors excitedly point at a natural feature that has captured their attention.

Other visitors excitedly point at a natural feature that has captured their attention.

After this additional commune with nature, we returned to Sparrow’s boat and spent the next half hour or so in contented silence.  This serene setting provoked a meditative mood in me and I was content just to take in the sights at this intriguing site.

I did smile when I observed other visitors caught up in the excitement of their boat ride on the Indian River.  I could completely understand why!

Whether you are a resident,  a prospective traveller or a current visitor, the Indian River Boat Ride is a compelling way to passively experience the essence of the Nature Isle!

 

 

 

A Visit to the Spa – Dominican Style

Screw’s Spa is designed to blend into the natural environment

The waters look murky but they’re naturally filled with healthful minerals!

As part of my ongoing treatment for lower back pain and arthritis, my physiotherapist Martine Varlet (see A Morning on Mero Beach) prescribed a soak in a hot mineral bath.

On a quiet Friday morning with no cruise ship in port, I decided to drive to the village of Wotten Waven in the Roseau Valley for a little ‘spa-time’.

There are a number of establishments that offer therapeutic’ hot spring’ baths in the Wotten Waven area and they are all  different in design but equally enjoyable for a little relaxation and restoration.  Some isolated hot springs are found in several places in the area and should be strictly admired from a distance as they do reach the boiling point! I’ll write about Dominica’s famous Boiling Lake another time.

Steam rises from a boiling hot fumerole along a river in Wotten Waven. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Dominica is blessed with numerous natural attributes, one of them being underground volcanic (geothermal) activity, which heats some spring waters and provides the mild sulphur smell.  In fact, there are NINE (9) potentially active (!) but presently dormant (!) volcanoes on the island, which is more than any other country in the world!But rest assured that there are no active volcanoes at this time.

Screw‘  was my choice du jour because this spa offers a number of pools of varying temperatures – from hot to very warm to warm to cool to cold! They are also quite large and there is plenty of room to swim or walk on little paths between them.

It was 10:00 a.m. when I arrived at Screw’s Spa and I was the first guest of the day! I relished the tranquility and requested that there be no amplified music while I was alone.  The friendly attendant kindly complied.

I luxuriated in the warm water for some time and perched my back beneath a little waterfall within the pool.  Then I moved between the hot and cold, and after an hour,  I was hardly feeling any pain!

The smell of sulphur is not too strong and it’s one of many minerals in the waters – including magnesium and calcium and a whole host of others. A laboratory analysis report is available at ‘Screw’s‘ so it’s easy to know  exactly what you’re getting yourself into!

Plentiful plants surround the spa’s natural setting.

It was also restorative to gaze around at the verdant rainforest foliage and admire the skillfully constructed pools of stone and wood which complement the environs perfectly. And to think I had to whole place to myself!

Then some other guests appeared and as I was ‘well-pruned’, I slowly hauled myself out. Before I departed, I enjoyed some complimentary coconut chunks, orange sections and a whole banana on the premises before heading back to reality.  And my back felt SO MUCH better!

Take a soak in the mineral pool of your choice.

Now before I sign off,  I should explain something about ‘Screw‘ to you.  He is a popular Rastafarian with a very holistic outlook and a willingness to share his spa at a reasonable price for the better health of all.  His friendly personality and dedication to his product have earned him national awards and outstanding online reviews.  And as for the origins of his name, I’ll leave it for you to ask him when you’re here!

I can’t wait for my next rendezvous at Screw’s Sulphur Spa.  They also offer mud wraps, so I think I’ll put that on my never-ending list of things to do on the Nature Isle!