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.

Advertisements

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: