The mid-morning weather was a little dreary and drizzly when I convinced myself that I must go ahead with my long overdue plan to revisit Soufriere and Scotts Head, two lovely Dominican villages about a half hour south of Roseau. But I had no idea of current road conditions beyond my frequented hang-out, Champagne Beach since the infamous Christmas Eve Storm. Therefore, I decided to wait for a bus in the village of Loubiere, which is very close to my home. I really had it in my mind that I would ‘play tourist’ on this mini holiday, so I dressed for the part and hoped that no one would recognize me.
After about 20 minutes, a bus came along and I hopped on, while anticipating a rough ride. Surprisingly, the road was not too bad, all things considered, and the only other passenger, a villager from Soufriere and I engaged in friendly conversation. While we carefully avoided local politics, I did mention Toronto’s mayor and his recent antics when I declared myself a Canadian! From there, we talked about the recent storm, where we were and what we doing at that time (Christmas Eve morning) and our personal feelings about pets. While our views were quite divergent about domestic animals, I did tell them about Tia-pet, my 16-year-old cat who has been my long-time companion on the Nature Isle.
The driver dropped me and his other passenger near the Catholic Church in Soufriere and wished me a pleasant day in his neck-of-
the-woods. This 19th century House of Worship, which was recently renovated, is certainly an attraction to behold, and a pride and joy of the parish of St. Mark. Its sea-facing entrance and colourful external decor definitely complement the remarkable interior: beautiful murals of local life are found on either side of the altar. They were painted by renowned local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who is currently coordinating the restoration of Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National park near Portsmouth. I gazed in awe and reverence at these splendid scenes of Dominican life and culture.
When I stepped outside of the church, I noticed that the skies had cleared and the temperature was rising. Although I had brought along my bathing suit, I was not quite warmed up enough for a dip in the sea. However, I did take a few moments to wander along ‘Bubbles Beach’, which is located directly in front of the church. This is where villagers have cordoned off an area with rocks so that hot waters rising from volcanic vents on the sea floor are contained for those who would like to have a warm and relaxing soak. I did stick my hand in and it was quite hot! However, I thought I would wait to do that on my next visit, as I was determined to walk to Scotts Head before the sun climbed any higher.
As I walked along the seaside on a well constructed sidewalk, I admired to views of the promontory of Scotts Head before me and the village of Soufriere behind me. About mid-way, I observed the entrance to the trail that goes up to the lovely little village of Gallion.
While I didn’t have time to take the half hour switch-back track on this day, I have enjoyed it on other occasions. The view from the look-off at the top is spectacular, so it’s definitely worth the sweat!
I enjoyed the fresh breezes off Soufriere Bay as I continued along and before half an hour passed, the village of Scotts Head came into view.
It was a pleasant saunter through the village, as I made my way to its southern end. It was my intention to climb Scotts Head, where a few ruins of an old British battery from the 18th century, Fort Cachacrou were still in place.
Although I was starting to get hungry, I knew that I should do the work-out first, because after a big meal at Chez Wen, I wouldn’t be able to move much.
I stopped in to the cheery café on the way through and informed the friendly waitress that I would be back for a fresh-caught marlin fish lunch after my foray.
I chatted briefly with some villagers along the way – but at least two people weren’t fooled by my tourist outfit. “Hi Gwen! How are you?” called out Casey, a former fellow teacher from Orion Academy. “Look over there! They’re hauling in nets,” he shouted as he and his friend drove away. Another man who works in my neighbourhood also greeted me, to my surprise. I guess after all this time, I can’t fool everyone…
As I crossed the narrow isthmus en route to the promontory, I admired the contrast between the wild Atlantic surf and the calm
Caribbean Sea. To be so close to both bodies of
water at one time is another special thrill for me when I visit this part of Dominica. Then I took a little time to walk along the promenade in the sheltered Caribbean-side cove which is a popular snorkelling spot due to its close coral reef. A little farther along this outcrop, divers can drop very deep in a chasm called ‘L’Abym’ where they can see plentiful sea life. I would be remiss if I did not mention that this area forms part of the Scotts Head Soufriere Marine Reserve (SSMR), which is a protected underwater site.
I walked a little further along, and just before turning back to walk up the Scotts Head promontory, I met a man and a woman heading back to the isthmus (I thought): “Are you staying in the area? the lady asked. “No, but I live in Dominica,” I replied. “Oh, well, do you know this restaurant?” the man queried as he showed me two words that were written on a piece of paper. I laughed as I responded. “Oh yes, that’s Chez Wen and I am going there when I finish my walk. It’s very good. My brother in Canada likes it too.” In my usual chatty style, I probably said too much. They didn’t seem to mind. I gave them a general description of its seaside location in the village and mentioned that I would probably see them there later.
When I turned and walked out of the sheltered cove, I ascended the steep hill towards the ruins of Fort Cachacrou. It was very windy
with the stiff breeze blowing in from the Atlantic. I kept my head down and placed my feet carefully, as the stones on the path were loose and it was easy to slip. When I finally reached a decrepid stone wall after several minutes, I glanced ahead of me, and there was the couple I had met down below in the cove! I took a few pictures and then continued towards their viewpoint, situated by a small cannon.They stood there admiring the spectacular view of Scotts Head, Soufriere Bay and points north. ‘Hi again. Would you mind taking our picture?’ the lady asked. “Sure, no problem and I hope you won’t mind taking mine,” I answered. It is not often that I get a chance to ask a stranger to do the honours, so I was thrilled. Even though the seemingly gale force wind was making it difficult to hold steady, we got a few pics with free-flowing hair-dos, thanks to the conditions.
Then they wandered ahead of me, and by the cell tower, they took a somewhat overgrown path that climbed up to the very top of Scotts Head. I never would have attempted it on my own, but as they were a little ahead of me, I took the chance . It was very steep, uneven and unstable due to loose stones. I grabbed on to scrubby bushes when I felt a little off-balance. After only five minutes, I arrived at the blustery summit. The view was stunning, despite a haze over the water. “Look over there – that’s Martinique,” I informed the couple as we gazed southward. I watched a huge ship that makes monthly deliveries of vehicles in Dominica churn steadily across the Martinique Channel.
The wind was so strong that we didn’t stay long. As we returned towards the village, we engaged in conversation – about island life and then about pets. We quickly discovered that we shared a love of cats so we told stories about their long and fascinating lives!
When we arrived at Chez Wen, we finally introduced ourselves and ordered fish lunches, of course. Cathy and I selected Marlin in Creole sauce. Rick chose the Red Fish plate. I warned him that they were small and bony, but he was not deterred and I later discovered that he had eaten this type of seafood before. While we waited for our orders, we exchanged stories about Dominica – and the challenges involved in getting here.They also asked me a few questions about Roseau. As it turned out, we were amazed to discover that they had referred to Dominica 100+ Things to Do!, a little guide-book that I had written annually from 2003-11. I doubted that they had a copy that I had compiled a few years ago, but as it turns out, they did – the 2011 issue – a friend had given it to them. We kept declaring that it was a small world! I had even been to their home state, North Carolina once before and have a friend who has family ties there. I guess one should never be surprised about connections in the global village of the 21st century!
After our congenial meal, Rick and Cathy dropped me off in Soufriere, where I caught a bus back home within a few minutes. They were going to visit the Catholic Church, check out the Bubbles Beach and then head to Champagne , where they planned to do some snorkelling before driving back to the eastern side of the island. There, they would continue their stay on Dominica for a few more days. I truly hope that they had a fabulous time on the Nature Isle!
I was so uplifted by my mini-holiday as a tourist in Soufriere and Scotts Head that I must plan a foray to another Dominican destination very soon!