Roseau Valley ‘Limes’: Time Well Spent in Dominica’s Countryside!

The Trafalgar Falls in Dominica's Roseau Valley epitomizes the essence of the Nature Island.

The Trafalgar Falls in Dominica’s Roseau Valley epitomize the essence of the Nature Island.

Some  serene Sunday afternoons in Dominica call for a ‘lime’, a West Indian expression for hanging out, and of course, having fun! An easy 15-20  minute drive up the Roseau Valley from the capital city is a small price to pay for a few hours of pristine air, spectacular views, easy mountain strolls, a good meal and a rejuvenating soak in natural mineral waters.

Jenny enjoyed a Sunday afternoon 'lime' at the base of Trafalgar Falls!

Jenny enjoyed a Sunday afternoon ‘lime’ at the base of Trafalgar Falls!

One beautiful sojourn took place near  the twin Trafalgar Falls (Father (left) and Mother (right)).  It was in fact Easter Sunday, and although there were no cruise shippers at this popular eco-site that day, some groups and families took the pleasant stroll to the viewing platform, while others ventured a little further along a trail towards the Mother Fall on the right.  A hot pool along the river below the cascade attracted one group; some French tourists carefully crawled over slippery stones as they ventured towards the cold pool beneath the torrent; other young people wandered further down river over huge boulders to see what they could find.  Jenny and I contented ourselves with a little scramble over those gigantic rocks to get a good look at the gorgeous scene all around us.  Then we plopped down in a sunny spot where we could gorge on the spectacular view of both waterfalls from our seated positions.  Blue skies and brilliant sunshine added to the enjoyment of this easy jaunt on an idyllic day.  A feeling of relaxation and calm quickly overcame me as I meditated on an abundance of greens and blues and listened to rushing waters from the powerful torrents behind me.

The father waterfall at Trafalgar is distant and inaccessible but easily admired from a number of vantage points.

The father waterfall at Trafalgar is distant and inaccessible but easily admired from a number of vantage points.

The mother waterfall at Trafalgar can be approached and experienced if one is careful on slippery rocks and mindful of her power!

The Mother waterfall at Trafalgar can be approached and experienced if one is careful on slippery rocks and mindful of her power!

At the same time, hunger pangs set in so we leisurely walked back down the well-maintained trail, and after about 15 minutes arrived at our next destination: Papillote Wilderness Retreat (448-2287) one of my favourite places on the Nature Island. There, we planned to dine, walk through the garden, have tea with the hotel’s proprietor, Anne Jno Baptiste,  and possibly soak in a hot water mineral pool before the sun set!

The flying fish platter at Papillote Wilderness Retreat is an all-time favourite dinner choice of mine on the Nature Isle.

The flying fish platter at Papillote Wilderness Retreat is an all-time favourite dinner choice of mine on the Nature Isle. It includes dasheen puffs, a hearty salad and  a tasty Creole sauce over the delicately prepared seafood. Rice is also an option, not pictured here.

As usual, I ordered the delectable flying fish platter and Jenny chose it as well.  She was curious to see and savour this meal that I  have chosen on most visits to this tranquil setting.  When the appealing plates arrived a short while later, we wasted no time in’ inhaling’ the sumptuous repast.  Since our stomachs were soon filled, we delayed dessert in anticipation of our tea time with Anne.  A leisurely stroll around the spectacular 4 acre tropical garden and a casual browse of beautiful hand-crafted items and local books in the gift nook segued into our prearranged rendez-vous.  When we wandered in to the dining room, the lively and lovely octogenarian was already there waiting for us! I introduced Jenny  to Anne and then we ordered sweets with our herbal tea.  The delicious mango cobbler with coconut ice cream somehow found a space inside of me.  I am just not sure where!

Anturiums are my favourite flower on Dominica.  Fascinating varieties grow in the garden at Papillote.

Anthurium lilies are my favourite flower on Dominica. Fascinating varieties grow in the garden at Papillote.

It's easy to enter the garden at Papillote directly from the dining room.

It’s easy to enter the garden at Papillote directly from the dining room.

This enchanting hot pool is only a few steps from the dining room at Papillote and is completely surrounded by nature.

This enchanting hot pool is only a few steps from the dining room at Papillote and is surrounded by nature.

Anne Jno Baptiste is the founder and proprietor of Papillote Wilderness Retreat, a multiple award-winning hotel.

Anne Jno Baptiste is the founder and proprietor of Papillote Wilderness Retreat, a multiple award-winning intimate eco-hotel.

On this gorgeous late afternoon, Anne regaled us with some stories of ‘days-gone-by’ in Dominica.  She’s been living on the Nature Island since 1961 (!) and undoubtedly  has seen a lot of change – including the birth of this independent nation in 1978! I am in awe of her exceptional knowledge about plants, people and places from all the days she has lived in this paradise.    This multiple-award-winning eco-hotel is a testament to her visionary talents, ecological beliefs and love of life!  It is an honour to know her.

As shadows shifted and lengthened while we gazed down the Roseau Valley, we left Anne to her early dinner and donned our bathing suits for a quick soak in a nearby hot pool. Dusk softened the brilliant shades of green all around us, and as we luxuriated in the warm mineral waters, hummingbirds flitted to and fro, searching for one last sip of nectar before dark.  After about 20 minutes, with most of the tensions of the past week melted away, we left the pool and bade good-by to our hostess Anne and her gracious staff.  It was the first time I had ever stayed that late in the mountains, and as we drove down to Roseau as darkness fell, I decided that I must experience that magical time of day at Papillote again  – very soon!

Of course, every day is different  – no matter where we live.  The following Sunday, the weather was more unsettled.  But after a challenging week, I felt that another little ‘lime’ might be just what the doctor ordered.  I picked up Jenny along the way and we returned to the Roseau Valley – but this time to the village of Wotten Waven, in close proximity to Trafalgar and Papillote – in fact, only a short walk away!

At the junction of the Link Road with the Trafalgar Road, one can see the Father of the  twin Trafalgar Falls in the distance.  See if you can spot it just beneath the low cloud!

At the junction of the Link Road with the Trafalgar Road, the Father of the twin Trafalgar Falls is apparent in the distance. See if you can spot it just beneath the low cloud!

When we arrived at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and Sulphur Pools (448-1998;225-4823) around 2 p.m, we discovered that the establishment would not be open until 3 p.m., being Sunday.  Despite some

The Wotten Waven Trafalgar Link Road is a lovely walk (with its hills and valleys) in any weather!

The Wotten Waven – Trafalgar Link Road is a lovely walk (with its hills and valleys) in any weather!

moderate rain showers, we armed ourselves with umbrellas and I took Jenny down the Wotten Waven – Trafalgar link road.  This maintained through-way was

Jenny gazes in the direction of the Mother of the twin Trafalgar Falls in the area where the river can flood or damage this bridge in a major storm!

Jenny gazes in the direction of the Mother of the twin Trafalgar Falls from the bridge where the river can overflow or  cause damage in a major storm!

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This puff of steam emanates from a fumerole in a rivulet, as seen along the Wotten Waven – Trafalgar Link Road.

historically a quick connector between the two villages, and continues nowadays with easy access for vehicles.  It proves very useful when there is a severe storm and one of the feeder roads to Roseau is blocked with a landslide.  Admittedly, this road can also be cut-off when heavy rains cause the Roseau River to rise from nearby Trafalgar Falls and one cannot pass over the bridge!

DSCF5237Despite the dampness, we moved along in comfortable temperatures, soaking our shoes and shirts without any sweat from exertion.  The air was fresh and sweet and I breathed deeply and slowly between conversations.  I could feel DSCF4733stress pouring out of my pores, instantly washing away in the rain.  The entire trek took us just under an hour, and by the time we returned to the car, Tia, the owner of the self-named hot spa was ready to let us in. I was starting to feel chilled from the cool, wet walk and I welcomed the respite in the soothing pool, situated beneath a beautifully tended tropical garden.

Amazingly, just as we entered this sulphur bath, the sun came out!  I warmed up quickly, but we were not ready to leave in a hurry.  After a leisurely hour in this pleasing locale, we changed into dry clothes and stopped in to the restaurant for tea and fruit cake.  While people continued to arrive to enjoy the late afternoon in this healing setting, Jenny and I contented ourselves with the little treat and the lovely view of Tia’s property that leads to the lower sulphur pools.

Jenny experiences the warm sulphur pool at Tia's for the first time.

Jenny experiences the warm sulphur pool at Tia’s for the first time. A natural hot water shower is in the background.

The quaint dining room at Tia's Sulphur Spa perfectly complements the pretty surroundings.

The quaint dining room at Tia’s Sulphur Spa perfectly complements the verdant surroundings.

As darkness made its presence known in the Roseau Valley, I easily drove back to Roseau on the Wotten Waven Road and dropped Jenny at her place about 15 minutes later.

When I arrived at my home, it was all I could do to stay awake until 8 p.m.  I felt sleepy, relaxed and so thankful to live on the beautiful Nature Island, with its abundance of restorative offerings and sweet ‘limes’.

 

 

 

A Return to Middleham Falls: Hiking to One of Dominica`s Superb Natural Sensations

There she is!  Even through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a gift to the soul.

There she is! Even  through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a sight to behold.

Middleham Falls captured my imagination (and my heart) the first time I ever visited Dominica. That very first hike,  I walked all the way from Springfield on the Imperial Road, then traversed a steep secondary road above  Cochrane village before even reaching the trail head. It took me five hours return in those days.  It was exhausting but

Getting closer to Middleham Falls.  Still a little distance to go!

Getting closer to Middleham Falls. Still a little distance to go!

exhilarating.  You can read about my initial fascination and  impressions right here. I have returned to gaze at this marvel of nature several times since March 1997, but I `ve only taken the trail from the Laudat side in the Roseau Valley twice.  So when I proposed  revisiting this waterfall to my longstanding hiking pod friends, they enthusiastically grabbed their gear and off we went! Liz and I were putting ourselves to a test of strength and endurance about our bouts of Chikungunya.  We were curious (and I was a little anxious) to see how we would make out.

The morning skies were dark and drizzly when Nancy, Liz and I set off from Roseau.  By the time we arrived at the trail head and got out of Nancy`s SUV, buckets full of rain were falling on our heads.  Although Nancy suggested that we head north to the Cabrits in search of drier land,  we stayed put and waited it out. We also held back because the Walsh family (Simon and Wendy and their son Andrew) pulled in to the parking lot at about that time, so there was no turning back!

We chatted and snacked for a few minutes at the sheltered interpretive facility, and after a few minutes, the sun came out!  Andrew and his dad took off ahead of us (both are avid athletes and naturalists) while the ladies purposely lagged behind. We set off at a leisurely pace, and were  slowed down at the start when Nancy and I decided to take off our footwear to cross the one and only shallow river on this route.  I didn`t regret it though.  I was happy to have relatively dry boots and socks for the duration of the journey.  Liz sensibly wore all-terrain sandals and Wendy got a little `help“ from her family so that her feet remained dry!

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and I to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and me to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

We ascended some steep steps and then picked our way carefully around exposed tree roots extending  from massive chatanier trees and their impressive buttresses.  The moist rainforest environment did dampen the path considerably, and we watched out for slippery rocks and deep

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

mud  puddles.  Sometimes we engaged in conversation and other times we contented ourselves with listening to the sounds of the rainforest. We admired abundant epiphytes and bromeliads on  the tall ancient gommier trees when we often stopped to refresh from our water bottles. The tuneful call of  mountain whistlers hiding in the treetops accompanied our pleasant foray.

Nancy manoeuvers around  tteh buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

Nancy maneuvers around the buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

After about an hour, we reached a sign which clearly pointed the way to Middleham Falls.  Without delay, we carefully quickened our pace on  the steep and rocky descent, and after about 15 minutes, the distinct roar of the gigantic cascade could be heard in the distance.  We did pass by a couple of pretty mini-falls en route, but they were only teasers leading up to the real thing!

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at the sign pointing the way!

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at a sign pointing the way!

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights - the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights – the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

And then we saw Simon and Andrew,

comfortably propped on a huge rock facing the falls.  They were  soaked by the significant spray showering the area from the powerful force of water flowing down the precipice.  At 270 feet, (82 meters), Middleham Falls is one of Dominica`s tallest chutes, and it deserves special respect during the rainy season. If we had been there in the dry season, we might have been able to descend the rocky slope and have a cool `bath`in the cavernous pool below.  However, we all agreed that the excessive strength of the waterfall was only to be admired from a distance on this day.  Besides, we were already soaking wet! I was glad that I had experienced the chill of this “cold“ water setting before.  You can read about it here.

Nancy and Liz contemplate the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Nancy and Liz contemplated the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Wendy`s joyful gaze taken in the natural spendour of the setting.

Wendy`s joyful gaze took in the natural splendour of the setting.

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it is impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it was impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls.  take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls. Take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

Snacks were hauled out and“ inhaled“, as we all had worked up appetites from our mountain-rainforest adventure.  We settled ourselves on various rocks or leaned against substantial trees as we took in this natural beauty and her forceful voice. After about half an hour, Simon and Andrew set off, with Wendy close behind as they were going to finish their day with some fun at Mero Beach. Liz, Nancy and I paced ourselves carefully and kept to quiet conversation or solitary meditation on the return.

By the time we reached the shallow river, Nancy and I unhesitatingly walked right through it!  It was the perfect method for removing mud and dirt that had accumulated on the footwear over the two plus hour trek.

At the Interpretation Centre, we changed into dry clothes in the convenient washrooms, nibbled on some chocolate, and then set off in Nancy`s vehicle  for a light lunch  and a soak in a hot pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat a few minutes`drive  away.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat  relax after a hoot pool soak.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat relax after a hot pool soak.

When we arrived, we were fortunate to catch up with proprietor and friend Anne Jno Baptiste.  After our quick meal (I had delicious vegetarian callaloo soup!), Anne took us on a little tour of the upper garden and then we settled into a lovely secluded and sheltered hot mineral pool.  We allowed the healing waters to soothe our sore muscles and we further unwound with  light-hearted chatter.

This secluded, shletered pool at Papillote Widerness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

This secluded, sheltered pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

At the end of this sensational afternoon, Liz and I agreed that despite some soreness possibly due to the lingering effects of Chikungunya, we were ready to take on another moderate hike soon.  Our long-range goal is still set to tackle more of the Waitukubuli National Trail.  Without a doubt, we`ll get there, and Nancy and Wendy will come along for the fun too!

Daytripping Along Dominica`s Eastern Shore: The Village of Castle Bruce and Environs

Gwendominica enjoys a little rest stop at the Emerald Pool in Dominica`s interior. It`s a popular site, with good reason, due to its natural beauty.

Gwendominica enjoys a little rest stop at the Emerald Pool in Dominica`s interior. It`s a popular site, with good reason, due to its natural beauty.

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The Emerald Pool features a variety of pretty green hues.

Whenever I spend a little time at Beau Rive in the Castle Bruce area on Dominica`s east coast, I always make a stop at the Emerald Pool   on my way there. It`s an easy 20 minute loop trail and the waterfall is found about halfway along the path.  Although only 20 minutes from my destination, I enjoy stretching my legs and breathing in the pure air in this rainforest setting.

The view from a look-off on the east side of the Emerald Pool trail includes the mighty Atlantic in the distance.

The view from a look-off on the east side of the Emerald Pool trail includes the mighty Atlantic in the distance.

Segment 5 of the Waitukubuli National Trail passes near the Emerald Pool.  It begins at Pond Casse in the middle of the island and ends at Castle Bruce.

Segment 5 of the Waitukubuli National Trail passes near the Emerald Pool. It begins at Pond Casse in the middle of the island and ends at Castle Bruce (about 13 kms).

I had a little refreshment  at the on-site snack bar and  then I was on the road again. But not for long.  It was early afternoon by the time I arrived on the east coast and I`d worked up an appetite from my little outing in the forest. I headed straight to Islet View Restaurant, run by a Canadian-Dominican named Rudy.  He can really cook up a storm and this time was no different, confirmed by the fact that every seat in the dining room was filled with visitors, mainly from the neighbouring

Gwendominica is glistening and glowing from her Emerald Pool work-out.  She refreshes herself with a big glass of golden apple juice - the local variety of course!

Gwendominica  glistened and glowed from her Emerald Pool work-out. She refreshed herself at Islet View Restaurant with golden apple juice – the local variety of course!

French islands. They were in Dominica to enjoy the 18th annual World Creole Music Festival.  I found a little space at a back table where I enjoyed my overflowing plate of Mahi-mahi fish, ground provisions, stewed beans, rice and  green salad. I ate as much of it as I could.

I always enjoy the view of the islets of Castle Bruce from the restaurant of the same name!

I always enjoy the view of the islets of Castle Bruce from the restaurant of the same name!

The Castle Bruce beach beckoned me for a beach walk.  I did so the next day!

The Castle Bruce beach beckoned me for a beach walk. I did so the next day!

I felt it was enough for two people, and I was also holding back. I was well aware that I would receive another large meal at Beau Rive a few hours later.

The next morning, I set off from my quaint east coast home base to explore the village of Castle Bruce and its expansive beach.  The pretty little hamlet is situated near to the ocean.  Although there was no storm that day, the persistent surf made its presence known, whether one was at sea level or higher up the steep slope of this compact residential area. I admired the church and its serene setting and then drove along the road that skirted the ocean.

Villagers take pride in their beautiful beach and they respectfully request that you do the same!

Villagers take pride in their beautiful beach and they respectfully request that you do the same!

The Sea Breeze Inn as seen from Castle Bruce Beach.

The Sea Breeze Inn as seen from Castle Bruce Beach.

The pretty Catholic church is situated a short distance from the ocean in Castle Bruce.

The pretty Catholic church is situated a short distance from the ocean in Castle Bruce.

I stopped when I came upon a bright blue building set against the beach.  It was in fact a little hotel, called the Sea Breeze Inn and I was on time for a late morning snack!  But first, I took a leisurely stroll along the long stretch of sand.  Storm clouds were moving in, and I walked as quickly as I could to its far end, where I came upon the mouth of the Castle Bruce River.  There, I saw a man with a fishing net. I assumed he knew where he would make a catch. I waved at him and hastened back to the inn for my treat. Before I reached

The mouth of the Castle Bruce River offers shallow pools for wading and fishing.

The mouth of the Castle Bruce River offers shallow pools for wading and fishing.

the entrance way, a squall caught me off-guard.My umbrella was no help in the stiff breeze and driving rain.  Although a little damp, I dried off in no time, as it was actually a very warm day. Ms. Lockhart, the proprietor served me the freshest guava juice, along with a tuna bake and a special surprise: her homemade pumpkin fritters.

Fresh guava fruit juice, a tuna-stuffed bake (deep fried bread) and sweet spicy pumpkin fritters (bottom) sustained me for several hours.

Fresh guava fruit juice, a tuna-stuffed bake (deep-fried bread) and sweet spicy pumpkin fritters (bottom) sustained me for several hours.

This delicious local snack quelled my hunger pangs so that I was ready for the next part of the day`s adventure: a southerly drive along the coast to the well-known historic fishing village of San Sauveur.

As I drove along the steep and winding road, it was difficult to admire the gorgeous views of Grand Marigot Bay

and the surrounding quaint villages high above the ocean.  Therefore,

Grand Marigot Bay below with the village of Good Hope perched on the steep slope!

Grand Marigot Bay below with the village of Good Hope perched on the steep slope!

when I reached the hamlet of Good Hope, a friendly lady named Rachelle directed me to a safe parking spot so I could walk and admire the sights  instead.  I switched from sandals to walking shoes and headed `down`to the coastline. After 20 minutes, I stood in front of the historic Catholic church in San Sauveur.

The San Sauveur Catholic Church

The  sturdily built San Sauveur Catholic Church at sea level  has stood the test of time against the elements.

Despite hurricanes and occasional strong storms, it  offers regular worship services to faithful followers in this somewhat remote area.

I continued along behind the church for a few minutes until I came upon a number of fishing boats at their moorings.

Fishing boats rest quietly on the moorings at San Sauveur on a Saturday afternoon.

Fishing boats rested quietly on their moorings at San Sauveur on a Saturday afternoon.

A few had been out and had come in a short time earlier.  The fishermen rushed over to me to enquire about my interest in a purchase of fish.  I of course declined as I was being served meals at Beau Rive, which included such fare.  They were disappointed as it was a quiet afternoon.  As I turned to go, they asked where I had parked my vehicle.  When I replied that I had walked down from the neighbouring village of Good Hope, they were collectively shocked!

Outside of the breakwater fro the boats, the surf at San Sauveur was very strong that Saturday afternoon.

Outside of the breakwater for the boats, the surf at San Sauveur was very strong that Saturday afternoon.

As I commenced the steep ascent, I was glad that I had carried my umbrella, not for protection against rain though.  It was early afternoon and strong sunshine prevailed high above me. I didn`t mind the sweat and distracted myself with all the breathtaking vistas below me. After a short while, I was back in Good Hope.  The villagers who had watched me leave were surprised that I had been able to do the trek so quickly!  I proudly proclaimed that I had hiked over large parts of Dominica and was now getting back in shape after my bout of Chikungunya.  I purchased a cold bottle of spring water from  a tiny snackette and returned to the car.  After this lovely outing, I headed back to Beau Rive on the quiet road.  About half an hour later, I was sitting on my porch chair, looking forward to dinner and contemplating the routes for my excursions over the next couple of days.

You`ll read about  my visits to Pagua Bay, Richmond Bay and Rosalie Bay in the next post!

Admiring the Remarkable Restoration of Fort Shirley: Dominica’s Premier Historic Site

The Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley (two dots on left hill) are an easy gaze across Prince Rupert Bay from Picard Beach.

The Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley (two dots on left hill) are an easy gaze across Prince Rupert Bay from Picard Beach.

Over my birthday weekend 2014, I decided that it was high time I had a good look around the restored site of Dominica’s Fort Shirley in

One of  the cannons at Fort Shirley that faces Prince Rupert Bay.  Portsmouth is in the middle distance and mighty Morne Diablotin, Dominica's tallest mountain hovers in the background.

One of the cannons at Fort Shirley that faces Prince Rupert Bay. Portsmouth is in the middle distance and mighty Morne Diablotin, Dominica’s tallest mountain hovers in the background.

the Cabrits National Park at Portsmouth. It would have been impossible to ignore it;  the brightly coloured authentic red roofs of the Officers’ Quarters and the Troops’ Barracks stood out as important reminders when I glanced at The Cabrits  across Prince Rupert Bay from either Picard Beach or The Champs Hotel.

Interestingly, this important historic site served as the base for one of my first forays with ‘Birdy’ (Bertrand Jno Baptiste), forestry officer, local bird authority and tour guide par excellence back in 1997!   While a few structures of the old fort were standing, much of the place was in ruins back then, although some work had been ongoing since the 1980’s. Birdy showed me around, but his main focus was on the natural history, botany and biology of the flora and fauna in the area. I can still remember looking for snakes (there a five types on Dominica) and observing puffed up gecko lizards in action!

In fact, the natural history museum, which is found below the entrance to the fort provides a wonderful overview of this eco-site and its environs.  I am proud to report that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) partnered with the Government of Dominica to open this Welcome Centre in 1996!  Once again, I made a point of briefly studying the  geological exhibits and admiring some of the  archeological relics that had been found in the area.

I had returned to this lovely park off and on over the past 17 plus years, but  it was only this time that I fully appreciated the significance of this important historic site, thanks to a careful and concise restoration of the property, commandeered by renowned local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, PhD.DSCF3118

This area, which was formed from an ancient volcanic crater has had residents since 3,000 BC and has continually attracted passersby, such as some of Christopher Columbus’s entourage on his second voyage in 1493!  More dates and details that chronicle the history and development of Fort Shirley at The Cabrits on Prince Rupert Bay can be reviewed on Dr. Honychurch’s web site, by clicking here.

I've been there ,I've done it!  This sign marks the spot where the Waitukubuli National Trail ends in the Cabrits National Park.

I’ve been there , I’ve done it! This sign marks the spot where the Waitukubuli National Trail ends in the Cabrits National Park.

The East Cabrits Trail leads to Douglas Bay and the ruins of  battery there.  It's also the last leg of the last segment (140 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

The East Cabrits Trail leads to Douglas Bay and   a former battery that is situated there. It’s also the last leg of the last segment (14) of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

It's hard to get lost on The Cabrits - unless you wander off of the well marked trails!

It’s hard to get lost on The Cabrits – unless you wander off of the well-marked trails!

As I strode up the pathway, passing through the  entrance in the  high stone wall, I stopped to look at the interpretive signs en route to the fortification.  I appreciated the directional signage as well as the descriptions of flora and fauna that are found in the area.  While it might be unusual to sight a goat on these two large ‘mounds’ nowadays, there was a time when sailors would leave such animals in this locale to graze so that they would have some fresh sustenance upon their return to this spot.  Hence the name “cabrits,” which means ‘goat’ in French, Spanish and Portuguese!

It's a bit of a climb from the entrance way to the restored buildings at Fort Shirley, but I can assure you that it is entirely worth it!

It’s a bit of a climb from the entrance way to the restored buildings at Fort Shirley, but I can assure you that it is entirely worth it!

I was not alone on this Sunday morning.   A church group lugged their picnic baskets and chairs up the taxing incline, and conducted a service in the covered lee side porch of the Officers’ Quarters while overlooking Prince Rupert Bay and mighty Morne Diablotin in the distance.  To me, their peaceful  and grateful celebration  of life  in such wondrous surroundings added to the serenity and solemnity of this intriguing site.

The day was heating up quickly so I did not take the hikes on the East or West Cabrits Trails.  That would wait for the next time.  However, I did stop to stare with awe at the carefully constructed stone walls and the tidy masonry, apparent on all the buildings.  I could see that there was still some work to be done, but knowing Dr. Honychurch, this labour of love will continue as much as possible.  There actually have been international supporters in this ambitious venture, such as the European Union (2006-07).  The Government of Dominica also recognizes the tremendous importance of this place, as it is a proud symbol of the country’s heritage.

Interestingly, no battles ever took place at the Fort, which was named after Governor Thomas Shirley in the mid 18th century, when the major construction began.  However, the famous” Battle of the Saints,” between the British and the French could be observed from this site on 12th April 1782.  Later, in 1802 there was in fact a revolt at this location by the 8th West India Regiment, comprised of former slaves. It is explained by Dr. Honychurch in this notation right here.

This ancient water pump is located in front of the Officers' Quarters. In the background, people trudge up the hill for a well-deserved picnic!

This ancient water pump is located in front of the Officers’ Quarters. In the background, people trudge up the hill for a well-deserved picnic!

The view of Morne Diablotin from the Lower Battery at Fort Shirley is a remarkable site to behold.

The view of Morne Diablotin from the wall of the Lower Battery at Fort Shirley is a remarkable site/sight to behold.

The Officers' Quarters is a majestic building that often hosts weddings and other special events.

The Officers’ Quarters is a majestic building that often hosts weddings and other special events.

The Troops' Barracks are set up to provide hostel-like accommodation with pre-arranged groups.

The Troops’ Barracks are set up to provide hostel-like accommodation for pre-arranged groups.

These cannons face the entrance to Prince Rupert Bay, as part of its defence system.

These cannons face the entrance to Prince Rupert Bay, as part of its defence system.

I appreciated the fine work that has been and continues to be done at Fort Shirley.  I could easily see that this restoration is of a very high standard (no surprise!). It reminded me of similar restored historic sites in eastern Canada that are known to me , such as the Halifax Citadel and Fortress Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia; Quebec City’s Citadelle;  and Fort Henry in Kingston Ontario.  They were all originally built and occupied for the same reason (territorial military defence!) during the 18th and 19th centuries.

While I followed and read the information on the abundant signage and referred to a helpful brochure, my only  wish would  have been a guided tour, with access to  the interior of the buildings.  However, it was a quiet Sunday morning in the off-season,  and neither Dr. Honychurch nor other restoration team members were on the property at that time.  No matter – I will  return again and continue my explorations of fascinating Fort Shirley in The Cabrits National Park.  Sincere thanks to Dr. Lennox Honychurch, for his exceptional efforts to preserve the essence of this exceptional  landmark and historic site, for the benefit of all!

 

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!

 

 

 

En Route to a Healing Weekend on the East Coast of Dominica

As I recovered from chikungunya and reflected on the loss of my little  cat, Tia, I felt that a weekend away from my home might be a boost to body, mind and soul.  It had been a long time (six years!) since I ventured over to the central east coast of Dominica and I could not wait a moment longer.  When Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive, a lovely boutique hotel near Castle Bruce replied to my query about  room availability with an affirmative,  I unhesitatingly booked it right away. I had stayed there a few times in previous years, so I already knew that I would highly enjoy my short stay there.

I headed out on a showery Saturday morning with some trepidation.  I knew that I would meet more rain as I passed through the  mountainous interior of the island and I was

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

anxious about road and weather conditions.  But the little voice in my head urged me on. While it was little scary and almost as dark as night  at midday when I passed in the shadow of majestic  Morne Trois Pitons, I took my time and carefully maneuvered around occasional potholes.

There was hardly any traffic on the road and  45 minutes after my departure , I arrived at the Emerald Pool Eco-Site.  By then, it was pouring, but I felt in need of a little outdoor ‘refreshment’.  Besides, it was  an easy walk  on a well-maintained track to this famous waterfall and I  carried my umbrella.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica's interior.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica’s interior.

Although my joints reminded me that  I was not ready for any big hike, I strode carefully and sometimes gingerly through the dripping rainforest to check out this popular cascade. I kept my head down as I sheltered under my umbrella.  After a few minutes, I heard the distinctive roar of a powerful torrent of water.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool.  Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool. Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

Within 10 minutes, I glimpsed the beauty of the small but enchanting Emerald Pool.  Although the rain persisted, I felt invigorated in the fresh, pure mountain air.  And there was not a soul in sight!  It was the perfect day to take in this little gem of the Nature Island.  During the cruise ship season, this eco-site is a frequented attraction.  Over the years. I have only been here once with a crowd – and numerous other times on my own, with my brother, a few friends or a handful of visitors.  In those days-gone-by, I would even take a dip in the refreshing waters – but not today!  I’ve long acclimatised to the tropical climate and as a result, Dominica’s mountainous interior is too cold for me, unless I am on the move!

As I approached a view-point close to the waterfall, I was thankful for a handrail and constructed steps.  Normally, I would not have given rough terrain a second thought, but living with the arthritic after-effects of chikungunya has given me greater respect for accessibility issues. I did have my hiking pole with me as usual, which gave me extra support with occasional balance challenges (vertigo) since the mosquito-borne virus became part of my life.

By just gazing at the lovely work of nature, all alone in the rainforest and listening to its persistent, but gentle roar, I felt just “that much” better than I had the day before.  As I hobbled towards the exit from the site, I took the time to  look in an easterly direction towards the

The  easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking - no matter what the weather!

The easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking – no matter what the weather!

Atlantic where I was heading.  It seemed to me, that despite the pouring rain in my location, it was clearing on the coast.

I arrived in the parking lot a few minutes later and could feel hunger pangs returning that had been absent during my illness.   I was ahead of check-in time at Beau Rive so I decided to revisit an old favorite haunt for lunch, which overlooks the Castle Bruce Bay.  In only 15 minutes, I was there –  at Islet View Restaurant where proprietor and chef  ‘Rudy’, a Dominican-Canadian was in the house.

I’ve always enjoyed his home-cooked meals in the past, and this time was no different.

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the meals inside are unforgettable!

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the`home-cooked meals inside are unforgettable!

After reacquainting and reminding him of our Canadian connection, Rudy went in to the kitchen to prepare a fish lunch that would sustain me until dinner later at Beau Rive. I enjoyed sipping on sweetsop juice – not commonly served in restaurants and I really appreciated this treat.

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container - a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container – a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

 

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The lovely view of the islets, the quaint village of Castle Bruce and its bay and beach distracted me from what ailed me. I was

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

quite amazed at how easily my spirits soared with such inspiring natural beauty before me.  Before much time had passed,

My lunch at islet View Restaurant: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin - but not the Flipper variety!), provsions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, rice, lentils, salad.  It would be hard to go hungry on the Nature Island!

My lunch at Islet View Restaurant near Castle Bruce: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin – but not the Flipper variety!), provisions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, dasheen) rice, lentils,cooked cabbage, salad fixings. It would be hard to go hungry if Rudy`s cooking!

Rudy appeared with a gigantic plate of food that caused me to worry and wonder (for a moment): `How will I eat dinner later!`

I did pretty well by all accounts – but I had to leave some on my plate.  It was impossible to eat it all as I had not been able to consume any large meals during my illness.  I was encouraged by the return of my appetite!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica.  It contains an herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica. It contains a herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

Dessert was declined this

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

time, but I did have a chance to ask Rudy about his extensive `bush rum`collection. This simply means that various local herbs, purported to have medicinal properties for various ailments are `steeped`in a potent cask rum so that the ingredients are infused in the alcohol.  I was quite amazed by his knowledge of the various remedies“ that could be imbibed for longevity, virility and vitality, just to name a few common health concerns.  I was his first `case`of chikungunya.  Alcohol was out of the question, but he did take me to the roadside where he pulled out some lemon grass and advised me to steep it in hot water and then drink it as a `tea`.

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

As typical Canadians, we discussed a range of topics, including the weather but NOT Rob Ford, Toronto`s infamous mayor (sorry! 😉 ).  When I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was already almost 3 p.m.. Time to check in at Beau Rive and take a nap before dinner!

I wished Rudy a safe visit up north and promised to return for another wholesome meal when we both were back on-island!

My healing weekend was off to a great start, and I`d only been on the east coast for a few hours.  There was much more goodness to come!