A Sensational Start to 2016 on Dominica, the Nature Island

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The 4 acre garden at Papillote Wilderness Retreat near Trafalgar Dominica is a place to really appreciate the splendour of the Nature Island.

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You know it’s the Christmas season when beautiful Poinsettias are in bloom in Dominica.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papilotte Wilderness Retreat.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

What better way to start the New Year in Dominica than to take day trip up the Roseau Valley to spend some time with friends at Papillote Wilderness Retreat. It seemed incredible that I had not been back to one of my

A therpaeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

A therapeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

favourite places on Dominica since April 2015!  Of course, Tropical Storm Erika had something to do with my delay, as I was  reluctant to venture into areas where her heavy rains had altered infrastructure and terrain.  Thankfully, four months after this significant weather event, the road was passable, with only a couple of tricky spots, and the countryside looked as lovely as ever.

January 1, 2016 was a fine day for this outing, and I started out well ahead of my lunchtime rendez-vous to check out the changes to the twin Trafalgar Falls.  These cascades are only a short distance from this award-winning eco-lodge, and I was more than curious to observe the ‘new’ landscape that was created by the intense and prolonged rainfall of August 27, 2015.

After I announced my presence to the friendly staff at Papillote, I headed up the steep hill to the eco-site, and sauntered along the groomed trail for about 10 minutes before catching my breath – not from being winded from slight exertion, but from the dramatic scene that greeted me at the sheltered viewing platform.

I had been told that one could only fully ‘appreciate’ the extent to which TS Erika ravaged the Nature Island after having seen it first-hand.  Now, I could completely comprehend that sentiment.  Before me, a very changed landscape helped me to understand the power and the force behind such a catastrophic weather event.

Unfortunately, I was not able to walk towards the Mother Fall as before because the walkway and track had been destroyed by the excessive torrents.  However, I did step just beyond the cautionary sign to take a few photos of the unfamiliar surroundings below the cascades.  As the flow of the water was ever strong, the two waterfalls were as always, awesome and awe-inspiring.  I recalled the most basic life lesson on this lovely New Year’s Day in Dominica, that NOTHING stays the same.  Life is always changing, and Mother Nature is definitely in control.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

At the same time, I was reminded of how human beings have negatively affected the planet with pollution and

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

overall thoughtlessness about our precious environment. On Dominica, climate change is increasingly apparent, and the heavy prolonged rainfall produced by

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

Tropical Storm Erika which resulted in extensive flooding and destructive landslides is only one example in one country of the harm we have done to our dear earthly home.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgaris even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgar seems even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

When I faced these natural wonders in mindful meditation for about half an hour, I resolved to be ever-conscious on a daily basis of how I can help to protect our precious environment every day in every way possible as an individual. Will you join with me in enacting this New Year’s resolution?  Please give it some serious thought!

The CHristmas tress in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year's Day.

The Christmas tree in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year’s Day.

Under light rainfall, typical of this rainforest setting, I returned to Papillote about 15 minutes later. There, I joined longtime friends Anne Jno Baptiste, who is the proprietor of this beautiful eco-hotel, and Nancy Osler, who is the managing director of ATREC, an international research and educational learning center based at Springfield for a delicious lunch in the airy dining room. We caught up on year-end news and toasted the New Year, with the collective hope that it would be a good one.

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I ould like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter!

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I would like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter (with dasheen puffs, fried plantains and salad)!

In this relaxing setting, I further unwound later that afternoon with a luxurious soak in a natural hot water pool.  As I gazed in ceaseless wonder at the sensational splendour all around me, I could only wish  for a better year than the one before and dream of playing my part to make it a reality.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenily experience on earth.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenly experience on earth.

Happy New Year to one and all!  Pray for peace and protect our precious planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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’.

 

 

 

Winter Solstice on Dominica: Experiencing the Essence of the Nature Island

Even in Dominica, the hype about December 21st and the hubbub of the approaching yule-tide were having less than desired effects on me. Fortunately, I had already decided that that particular Friday was a day to escape to “the country” (that is, away from Roseau, the capital!) if the world hadn’t ended by then.

I headed off to somewhat familiar territory, my destination being the wonderful Papillote Wilderness Retreat at Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley.  I ‘d already booked my massage with physiotherapist Ariane Magloire and was looking forward to soaking in the hot pools after my session with her. As there was no cruise ship in port, I decided to go early and explore the very popular Trafalgar Falls eco-site, which can be very crowded when hundreds of people are on-island for a few hours.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

It was a beautiful day in paradise and that is no exaggeration! Brilliant sunshine, nary a cloud in sight and slightly cooler temperatures were ideal conditions for my little hike from Papillote up the hill to the twin falls at Trafalgar. As I approached the Visitor Centre, I was completely surprised that there were no visitors or tour buses in sight.  I spoke to the forestry officer and the attendant on duty and informed them of my plan to work my way up to what is called the “mother” fall which is more readily accessible than the “father” fall.  We chatted for a few moments and then I headed off on the well marked  and groomed trail to the viewing platform, about 15 minutes along the route.

So many shades of green on the approach to the "mother" fall at Trafalgar.

So many shades of green on the approach to the “mother” fall at Trafalgar.

A mountain whistler (rufus-throated solitaire) high up in the tree-tops  cheerily accompanied me with its melodious trills. Antillean bull finches and peewees flitted about the lower limbs of the trees, capturing my attention now and then as I paused to look at pretty plants along the path. I marvelled at so many shades of green all about me in the dense forest.  I could sense my breathing becoming deeper and more even as I steadily walked up a gradual incline.  After about 10 minutes, I arrived at the sturdy wooden platform and gasped with delight at the sights before me.

The higher  "father" fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

The higher “father” fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

To my left, the taller and slimmer “father” fall glistened in the shadowy sunlight.  Its seemingly remote location added to the intrigue.  I did recall a time many years ago when I did actually work my way over treacherous boulders and slippery stones (with the assistance of a guide).  But a landslide changed all that and I was content with the memory of soaking a bruised leg under a man-made bamboo shower of natural hot mineral water.  Now that area is off-limits to visitors.

My only choice was to head  further along the track to the majestic and stately “mother” fall. I was happy to snap shots of the twin cascades from different angles as I followed the trail to the right.  It had been many years since I ventured beyond the platform, mainly because there were always too many people on the trail for my tastes.  Admittedly, I did meet three young men just as I left the viewing point.  They were heading out and now I was completely alone!

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The cascade of the “mother” fall at Trafalgar is powerfully hypnotic!

The “mother” falls’ persistent roar drew me towards her base, over big rocks, a coursing stream of hot water and some huge tree roots. As I was on my own, I decided to stop a bit of a distance away from her as the boulders can be extremely slippery when wet.  I realized that with no-one else around, personal safety was a priority.  I sat on a damp boulder and gazed all around me.  By now, after only 10 minutes beyond the view-point, sweat trickled down my back and my face was wet from the mild exertion. A damp mist from the cascade blew over me and I breathed deeply and slowly for some time.  I stared at the tumbling waters as if in a trance, while recalling its pristine source higher in the mountains in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. 

After a short while, I glanced at my watch and realized that it was time to make my way back to Papillote for my appointment.  As I carefully turned myself around on the over-sized boulder, I cast a backward glance at the “mother.”  Although I had only spent a short time near her torrents, I felt completely invigorated, re-energized and refreshed.  Any stress that I had carried into this spectacular wilderness eco-site had quickly vanished. I was now ready to celebrate the holiday season in the best of spirits!

DSCF5145My few moments of solitude reminded me that nature is indeed a tonic for the mind, body and soul.  I highly recommend it, and urge you to spend a little time in the great outdoors, as well as with family and friends this holiday season –  where-ever you live.  Peace and goodwill to all!

Spending a ‘Spa Day’ at Dominica’s Papillote Wilderness Retreat

Some secluded and private  hot and cold  water pools are found within Papillote’s four-acre garden.

The female or ‘mother’ cascade(on the right when facing the falls from the viewing platform) of the twin Trafalgar Falls is a short, uphill hike from Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Every now and then, I look forward to a day away from Roseau by escaping to Papillote Wilderness Retreat, which is located in the mountains around the Roseau Valley in Dominica’s interior.  It’s only a 20 minute drive from the city and is nestled in a four-acre tropical garden not far from the twin Trafalgar Falls, which is a popular tourist attraction and is easily accessible from this hotel by foot.

But for those seeking privacy and seclusion, there are many reasons( including  breathtaking waterfalls right  on  the site!) just to’ stay put’ on this lovely property, which has been in existence as various hospitality businesses since the  1960’s.  It now operates as an intimate hotel, restaurant and spa and is the recipient of numerous  travel and eco-tourism awards!

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was awarded an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014.. Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn and has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel! “She understood the magic of the product and stayed true to it…Papillote Wilderness Retreat is Dominica’s original ‘eco inn’ and remains one of the leading eco lodges in the region,” her citation reads.

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was bestowed an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014. Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn. It has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel!

Physiotherapist Ariane pauses for a moment between clients in the Birdwatchers’ Hut at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

I particularly like to spend the occasional TGIF (Friday) there because I can get a wonderful massage from Ariane Magloire, who is a  German-trained physiotherapist.  She has a very busy  ‘mobile’ practice, so I appreciate that she is available on Friday mornings at Papillote.  My recovery from a  persistent ‘flu  and cough had been very slow up to this time. But after Ariane worked on some tender points on my chest, face and arms and quelled the painful muscle spasms in my back, I felt an inch taller and could breathe  deeply without coughing!  It was impossible NOT to relax on the massage table in the serene setting of the Birdwatchers’ Hut, where hummingbirds flitted to and fro through the extensive garden and cheeky finches perched on my  covered feet in the hope of a taste of pure coconut massage oil.

After that sensational treatment, I felt on top of the world!  And my ‘spa day’ had only just begun!  While I waited for a friend to complete her massage, I wandered on trails through the tropical garden and admired the numerous plants that thrive in this rainforest setting.  There are actually hundreds of them and I realized that most of  those I had once recognized by name, I have since forgotten.  That will be rectified on my next visit by booking a proper ‘Garden Tour’ with one of the knowledgeable  staff members!  It had been a several years since my last one and it is time to refresh my memories of   Papillote’s prolific botanicals!

The calabash gourd thrives in this locale. The fruit can really get big and heavy. Its hard outer skin makes a great  container.

Anthurium lilies grow abundantly in the moist humid rainforest climate.

This plant looks like it might be a member of the ginger family, but I will confirm that after I take my garden tour!

I was surrounded by nature and had only the plentiful birds for company.  No other human was in sight!  I had my pick of a number of natural hot and cold mineral pools so I decided to move from one to another until it was time for lunch.  At the first one, I allowed the cleverly constructed cascade to pummel my back and neck to further loosen up stiff muscles and to take away some of the tenderness from the sore spots that Ariane had attended.  Then I flopped on my belly, propped myself up on the edge of the stone ‘bath’ and stared all around me at the magnificent greenery and colourful flowers.  This was definitely ‘paradise found’!

Reds, pinks and purples adorned my table – the sorrel juice, vase of anthuriums and hot pepper sauce complemented my meal.

The views of the Roseau Valley from the dining room area are simply stunning!

The dining room at Papillote is cozy, inviting and open to the natural surroundings.

I relaxed in another deeper pool for some minutes and then it was time for lunch! The friendly staff, many with whom I am acquainted from previous visits, warmly and cheerily welcomed me again.  We chuckled because invariably I always order the same thing – not because the menu lacks other temptations – but simply because I LOVE the flying fish platter so much that I must have it! I did savor every morsel  – tastefully seasoned in a mild peppery Creole sauce with lightly fried dasheen (a starchy root vegetable) puffs and a generous organic salad on the side.  I washed it down with a slightly sweet and spicy sorrel juice, which is made from the sepals of  hibiscus  flowers.  It was really delicious!

After lunch, there was time  for another soak or two on this perfect afternoon at Papillote.

It’s easy to refresh right under this waterfall or just admire it from the nearby naturally hot and cool pools.

Tim, a videographer who produces promotional material about Dominica ( See: ‘Are You Breathing?’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjrhQ7OdXZo) cools off near the waterfall while waiting for his visiting mother who has just enjoyed a hot pool massage with Ariane.

My friend and I chatted with other acquaintances as we lounged and luxuriated in the hot waters a few steps from the restaurant.  After a while, we descended a trail in the garden which led us to a hot pool and a cold pool in a sunny exposed area next to a lovely accessible waterfall.  I heated myself up a number of times and then squealed with trepidation as I hesitatingly  waded into the cooler pool.  My friend showered herself under the cascade’s cold torrent  but I was not so inclined on this day. In this pristine ecological environment,  I could feel my body and mind completely unwinding, and all my cares seemed to float away.

Unfortunately, I did have to face the reality of driving through Roseau’s Friday afternoon rush hour. I reluctantly pulled myself away from Papillote Wilderness Retreat  while maintaining  complete certainty that I will return again..and again…and again…