I’m going to start this blog by saying this. It’s been 27 hours since our last meal. In that span of time, the following has occurred:
-A flight from Antigua to Dominica
-A car wreck
-My tailbone injured
-Getting a new rental car
-Completely changing our plans so we can find wifi and food
-Being denied food, but getting wifi so we can call insurance about the wreck
-Going to a grocery store that was all “store” and no “grocery”- not even a loaf of bread
-Searching and not finding any food
-Driving through INSANELY gorgeous country with INSANE drivers
-Going on 3 hikes, totaling about about 2.5 miles
-Snorkeling off the beach
-My camera is still cursed from the man on the donkey in Antigua and only taking blurry pics. Any clear ones on this blog were taken by a phone.
-Finally finding food
So yeah, it’s been a busy 27 hours, and the day didn’t even end when we finally found food! Let’s discuss, shall we? But before we get started, pronunciation lesson. It’s Dah-mah-NEE-kuh. Not Doh-men-EE-kuh. Think dominos, not Dominican Republic. Having a hard time getting right? Don’t worry, I say it right maybe every 3rd time! 😂
So we woke up at 4:30am to leave Kerry and Charmaine’s house and headed for the airport. The street lights along the road were all red- so they wouldn’t disturb any nesting turtles or hatchlings! That’s so awesome! Dropped off the car in the parking lot, got our boarding passes, and left at 6am.
We flew on Liat Airlines. Locals say it stands for Leave Island Any Time and Luggage In Another Terminal! Fortunately, we had no problems (yet!)
Landed in Dominica at 6:40am, ready for adventure!! Easy getting through immigration, headed for our rental car. They weren’t there yet, so we waited until about 7:20 (pick up time was 7am). Did all of the paperwork for the Suzuki 4 wheel drive, put our stuff in, and got ready to hit the road! First order of business, turn off the ac and roll down the windows. Except Brian’s window wouldn’t roll down….unacceptable. Went back in and the lady just took us to another car, without redoing the contract, and gave us a Rav 4. Not a 4 wheel drive, but the windows worked so we were good to go. Hit the road, take 2!! They drive on the left here, just like Antigua. This is not an issue for Brian, who has driven on the left in Malaysia, South Africa, Malta, and in Antigua all day yesterday. He’s driven on the left immediately after 20+ hour air travel. He’s driven on the left with a manual after 30+ hour air travel! In other words, he’s got this. We follow google maps out of the airport. The roads are narrow, pretty much exactly like in Antigua. The difference being that everyone here drives like their ass is on fire. Fast and erratic!! We came around a blind curve (there are lots of those in Dominica- way more than any other type of road), and a van was barreling toward us at mach speed in the middle of the road. Because that’s where they all drive- the middle. Not interested in the Dominican version of chicken, Brian eased over slightly more to the left to give the van more room. BAM!!!! The car jumped up in the air and somehow Brian managed to avoid us flipping over as he maneuvered to a stop on the grass. I poked my head out the open window. The tire and rim were mangled. What the hell had just happened?! We had no idea!! We looked back, and there was a god damned cement curb about 3 feet long on the side of the road behind some tall grass. We had hit it. We were in shock at what had just happened! What the hell do we do? Well, I guess we send the car rental lady a WhatsApp message, because literally we weren’t much more than a mile from the airport. But of course, I had zero signal. Let me stop here to give an announcement to all T-Mobile customers. You will rarely have a signal ANYWHERE in Dominica. It’s the worst of any country I’ve ever been to- including the depths of Borneo. So we’re standing there, dumb founded, with vans and trucks whizzing by us. The only thing to do was lock it all up and walk back.
About that time, here comes the rental car lady on her way home. She pulls over and asks if everything’s ok. Uh, wanna see? She was stunned. And this is where things just start to go sideways. She says the collision damage waiver we signed is only for colliding with another vehicle. This wouldn’t be covered. So I asked if it would have been better if we had just hit the van. Her answer? Yes. Jesus. So now we’re kind of freaking out as to what’s going to happen to us. She takes a bunch of pictures, tells us the tow truck will be on the way and we’ll be responsible for the towing fees, plus all of the damages. There’s fluid leaking from the thing as well as the fucked up tire and rim, and god only knows what else. Then she puts us and our stuff in her car to take us back. And as soon as I climb in, this is when I feel a very ouchy pain in my tailbone. The day before we had joked about me making up a new word- shituation. I said I really needed to figure out a way to work that into the blog. Thank you, Universe, for your prompt attention to that matter…
Back to the rental car lot, where she hands us the Suzuki we had refused earlier. We were in no mood or position to argue. From accident time to back on the road time, about 30 minutes. Original plan was to go to Cabrit’s National Park and hike around. What we needed though were two things: wifi to contact American Express and Geico for how to handle the insurance situation and FOOD. We decided to detour to Portsmouth instead. Drove through some AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS country. Rainforest and ocean- just magnificent. But the scenery couldn’t fix the sinking feeling in our guts, or the worsening pain in my tailbone. The hit was on my side of the car. I must have flown up in the seat as much as the seat belt would allow, and came back down hard on some piece of the metal frame in the seat. Got to Portsmouth and even though I was in a city, still barely had a signal. Tried to google “restaurant with wifi” and only came up with one- The Champs- which was also inside of a hotel. Perfect. We headed up narrow, crowded roads until we found the place. With a huge sign outside “Restaurant open to the public at 4pm”. THE FUCK?! We sat in their parking lot trying to eek out enough signal to find somewhere else to go when the owner came out and said our exhaust was filling up her bathroom. We explained the situation and she invited us into the cafe to use the wifi. No food, but Brian got a coffee and I got a juice, and we reported the accident to American Express. Geico only had 800 numbers which wouldn’t work. Of course, the lady never changed the rental contract from the Suzuki to the Rav 4 (which was the one that was wrecked) so trying to give information was interesting…. At least the view was good.
Blurry, but beautiful, country! #cursedcamera
View from The Champs Hotel and Restaurant- taken with my phone.
Time to go find FOOD!! It was about 11am, we’re in a city, shouldn’t be a problem. That’s lunchish time, right? WRONG. Not here. Nothing was open. NOTH-ING. Ok, we’ll go to the grocery store. Found an IGA Supermarket. Perfect!! Except there was nothing super about it. There was nothing even slightly super about it. They didn’t even have BREAD!! Which meant our peanut butter went back on the shelf. Seriously, about 40% of the shelves were empty space on every aisle. I grabbed a can of cheese Pringles, declared that I didn’t give a damn how much those imported crunchy saddle shaped pieces of love and stress relief cost, and those- along with a big jug of water and some bananas- concluded our shopping trip.
Dejected and starving, we decided to just skip Cabrits, find a beach restaurant along the way (google showed lots of them!!), and take the Northern Link Highway toward some kind of scenic overlook thing I found on Maps.me and some bat cave thing that popped up as well- as these were things in the general direction of our Airbnb. Came to the first restaurant- obviously closed. 2Nd, 3rd, 4th…closed, closed, closed. One had promise!! It showed as open on google!! It wasn’t right on the road, so we couldn’t see without driving back. Awesome looking little beachfront place! Yay food! Got out, walked around, and…..closed. Saw a sign- closed Thursdays and Sundays. Today was…Thursday. Fuck our luck. Found another restaurant a bit down the road, there was a guy outside!! We pulled in, got out- no food for about 45 minutes we were told. It was already noon. Screw it. Onward and outward toward the Northern Link Highway- munching on some beef jerky, pistachios (that Brian could not throw out his window because it didn’t roll down), and of course our Pringles.
We drove through more stunning scenery. The mountains, the jungle, the ocean- it was absolutely breathtaking. The other thing that was breathtaking was the pain in my tailbone every time we hit a bump, which was about every 3.8 inches of pavement on average. We stopped at a place called Cold Souffiere. There was smoke pouring out of the side of the hill a little ways out, which didn’t look like it was cold (#volcanicactivity), but we were here so let’s give it a whirl! Walking was MUCH BETTER on the old hiney than sitting, that’s for sure. A short hike (maybe ¼ of a mile) revealed a dead end into a platform thing and a serious odor of sulfur. The water here was grayish, and it was bubbling ferociously! Boiling, I’d say, from my experience with geothermal activity. But why did it say this was called COLD Soufriere?? Because Brian’s job description for traveling with me includes “touching and picking up anything I don’t want to touch or pick up myself, but am curious about”, I told him to touch it. He’s the “show” to my “tell”. 😁I was fairly positive he’d pull back a boiled finger, which would allow him to suffer along on this trip with me and my butt. But no! It was…COLD WATER!! Just bubbling from air seepage, not heat. Super interesting!
Blurry, but beautiful, trail!
Back to the car and off to the next stop- Thibauld Bat Cave. We literally had no idea what this was other than a named icon on a map that sounded cool. Pulled into town, praying for food. What do atheists get when they pray? Probably the same thing as religious folk. And in this case, a solid helping of DENIED. Fine. Bats. Where the hell are they? Are they edible? We asked an official looking guy who was walking around the sleepy little town, and he told us to park over there, go up the hill, and find the path by the green house. Followed his instructions which lead to a very rocky, but gorgeous coastline. Followed the arrows around to an amazing cave that was full of bats!! HUNDREDS of them flying around! Then I saw this weird looking huge black mound thing toward the back of the cave. Zoomed in and holy crap, it was a mass of THOUSANDS of bats!! Super cool. We both agreed this was one of our most favorite stops of the day!
The entrance to the cave! Across a sketch bridge…there’s always a sketch bridge in every vacation I take…
In every little village we passed through, we looked for a restaurant. None. We were STARVING!! But between us and the next largeish town was a place called Batibou Beach. One of our Airbnb hosts had messaged me and said not to miss it! There was a sign saying $5 US each, but we decided what the heck- you only live once. Parked the car on the highway and decided to walk a little over a half mile to the beach. Because that’s what people who haven’t had a real meal in over 24 hours do… Got down there and WOW!! This is literally a quintessential Caribbean beach!! Beautiful sand, gorgeous cove, palm trees leaning toward the water…just WOW!! Paid the guy $10 and it was worth it. There was a security guard there so you could leave your stuff on the beach while you snorkeled (because the whole 3 other people on the beach might be thieves!!). He said that during busy season, 300-400 people were here each day! So we felt rather fortunate to basically have it to ourselves. I say this is a Caribbean beach, but really, it’s on the Atlantic side, which means pretty rough water. There was a reef just a little ways offshore that we could snorkel too, so decided to do that. As we were walking out, we saw 2 juvenile sharks!! The guy said we might see them, as it’s baby shark season. I was happy that my marine biology knowledge tells me mama sharks could care less about their babies so weren’t hanging around being protective! The snorkeling was pretty eh. Tons of algae, just a couple of corals- although I did see a Ricordea mushroom that got me all excited! Plus, with the waves, the visibility was pretty poor, maybe 8 feet if that, and it was really difficult to swim over the reef. We turned back, took a stroll down the beach, then decided to go find FOOD!!
What do starving people do? Hike, of course!
View from the top of the hill. It was so much more beautiful than this! Damn my cursed camera!!!
We had to pass back by this morning’s crime scene- the scene where my tailbone was traumatized! Car was gone. I seriously suggested maybe we just go to the airport and eat, because there HAD to be food there!! As we rounded the corner, we saw a little local restaurant. We didn’t care what they were serving. We didn’t care how much it cost. We stopped and went in. This was a VERY local place, right next to the airport. There were 3 choices- fish broth, lentil soup, or something I’d never heard of, peleau. She showed us each. The peleau looked the most like “stick to your ribs because who knows when you’ll ever eat again” food- rice and chicken. We took 2, plus one coconut water and one tamarind (maybe that’s how you spell it??) juice. There was so much food we could have easily shared one plate, even as hungry as we were!! Like $5.50 each- not bad! With full bellies, we headed off toward Kalinago territory for our airbnb!
That is the smile of a man who has finally found FOOD after 27 hours!!
So when I’m looking for an airbnb, I tend to look for three things- something unique, super cheap, and wifi. Usually the “unique” is the first causality of my searches. In this case, I was willing to go without wifi for 2 nights to stay in this crazy cool airbnb for an experience like no other- and for only $15 a night! It was called Floating Bed in the Trees…and it was owned by a Kalinago man named Denus. It was also across a river- with no bridge…just a zip line!! Normally zip lines are not my ideal mode of transportation, but from the pictures it looked pretty low to the ground (water), so I figured I could handle it. The directions were confusing (just for us- most likely because we were already so addled from the days events!!). We drove back and forth in the wrong place for a long time, because the GPS showed it in one place and we could not find the landmarks Denus described (literally a roots sign, a yellow container, a blue bin, and a parking sign- this is how addresses are done!). Finally, after driving back and forth in front of the same locals half a dozen times, we decided to stop and ask. Got directions, we hadn’t gone far enough and google maps had the wrong place pinned (shocking, but true story #eyeroll #lovehategooglemaps).
Of course, I had no signal to let them know I was there, so we kind of stood on the opposite side of the bank, hoping someone might see us. We then decided to walk down the little path. And that’s when I saw it. The zip line. Oh my god, it looked like something put together by 10 year old boys with no sense of mortality, using stuff they found in the trash. There was this blue piece of plastic that you were supposed to sit in- kind of like a piece of plastic tarp. And it looked like one false move and you would flip right out of it, plummeting to your death on the rocks about Let’s stop here a minute. There is plastic tarp all over this country. It was devastated by category 5 Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Tarp covers so many roofs still. Tarps that say “USAID” or “SAMARITAN’S PURSE”- organizations donating these tarps so people literally have some kind of roof over their head. Almost 2 years out, and that tarp is still their roof. It’s heartbreaking.
Zipline of death….
A woman appears on the other side and shouts, “Mary!”. And starts sending over the zip line. I’m telling Brian I just want to cross through the river. If you read this blog, you know I DON’T do heights (even though I always end up doing heights on every freaking vacation somehow…). I was trying to figure a way out of this situation (shituation? There’s 2), when the plastic tarp chair o’ death stopped in the middle of the river. The lady then disappears and reappears on our side. Something is wrong with the zip line (someTHING? Just from looking at it I could have named multiple someTHINGS!). Anyway, bullet dodged, we were crossed on foot. Her name was Nefertari, and she was beautiful and had this really cool peaceful vibe. We all held hands and crossed the swiftly flowing river without incident. She showed us to our hut- literally a wooden platform built into the side of a hill, surrounded by rainforest, covered with aforementioned relief tarps, with a mattress inside on the floor covered with mosquito net. She brought us some sugar cane to sample, and it was such a treat- especially since I had just visited the plantation yesterday and learned all about it! The sticks were SO juicy and refreshing! I did a little video for my students about it.
We were wiped from the day’s traumas and activities. We laid down at 6:30 and went to sleep for like an hour. Woke up, and promptly went back to sleep. The thin mattress was not very comfortable for my tail bone, and I woke up about every hour to adjust, then immediately starting worrying about Brian’s back, then would go back to sleep. It rained hard off and on during the night. What a day!!
Woke up with the sun around 5:30am. Laid there for a bit and discussed the fact that this mattress was not a good match for our current ages and various maladies. Airbnb should seriously have a filter for that….And that we really needed some wifi so we could continue working on the insurance situation and I really needed to do some work for my school. Got up and did a little walk around the lovely garden. Then decided to take a much needed bath in the river. Stripped to our skivvies, then ditched those as well. The water was really nice!! Scrubbed up, and I washed out my undies so they could dry in the car. We weren’t going to have a washing machine until we got to Martinque in 3 days, and I’d already had 4 days of no washing machine. Other than bathing our stinky selves and stinky clothes, washing in the river had another benefit- it cleansed the curse of the camera!! How or why, I can not tell you. But if a man on a donkey in Antigua ever curses you, go to Dominica and bath in the Pagua River. #truth
Brian is all Mr. Modesty until I get in and show him how it’s done!
Got back to our little hut to gather our things and cross the river. No sooner did Denus appear. I seriously wonder if he saw us nekkid in the river!! He said he was about to go across and we could go with him. We followed, and did not go down to the path to cross the river. We headed directly for the zip line o’ death. I told Brian, “We have to do this, right?”. The proper response of a loving fiance who knew I was scared to death of that thing would have been, “No, darling. I will carry you across the river on foot!”. But Brian says, “Yes.” Seriously rethinking this ring….
We reach the zip line, and not only is it a plastic tarp- IT HAS A TEAR IN THE BOTTOM, I SHIT YOU NOT!! At this point I’m ready to just move in to the hut and live out my days there… Denus shows us how it works. And you don’t sit on the tarp!! There’s a piece of hammock that your butt rests in! Ok, that’s better. We still haven’t approached a point where I’m happy with this contraption, but it is minimally better. I then look at the pulley. It was a completely rusted out assemblance of what used to be a working pulley maybe 50 years ago… Seriously, the inner ring wasn’t even complete it was so rusted. Kill me now. (Zipline: As you wish.). So Brian goes first. That way he can watch me plummet to my death from the opposite side of the river help me out of this suicide contraption if I manage to make it to the other side. And guess what?! He made it! In one piece! With all of our stuff! Ok. I have to do this. It’s one of those tests I seem to get on every vacation… As I’m trying to fit my butt into the hammock piece so I feel semi-secure, I realize that I am in a dress. And my freshly washed panties are on the other side of the river with Brian. Well, someone may be getting a show… Once I’m in, Denus starts pulling the rope and I smoothly glide over the rushing water and deadly rocks 15-20 feet below me! And guess what? I wasn’t even scared!!! And guess what? I actually enjoyed it!! And guess what? I managed to get across without flashing my lady bits!! I know this, because Brian caught it all on video!!
Walked to the car with Denus, who we were going to give a ride to. Brian reaches for the keys in his pocket. No keys. We go through the backpack, feeling for keys. Nothing. We go through our little cloth bag. No keys. Panic is setting in!! We dump everything we have out on to the hood. NO KEYS!!! We start peering into the tinted windows. NO KEYS!!! I asked Brian twice, “Did you check your pockets?”. Yes. We’re standing there, freaking out, while I’m trying to figure out how we explain THIS to the rental car agency. Then, Brian reaches around and feels something in his pocket, but not where his pocket is supposed to be. IT’S THE KEY!!! When he was in the river earlier, the pocket swooshed to the front!! Crisis averted, but god damn I am constantly on edge in this country, waiting for the next disaster.
We dropped off Denus and headed toward the Kalinago Cultural Center to learn all about the indigenous Kalinago people. It didn’t open until 9, and we had about 45 minutes to kill. I pulled up Maps.me and saw on there that there was a church really close in Salybia, and it had a short hiking trail next to it that went to a beach. Sold! Pulled up to the yellow and blue church, parked and started walking down. And then…there was a CHURCH! I’m talking an OLD church. Ruins of an old church. And it was freaking GORGEOUS!! All I wanted to know was every bit of its history!! I wanted to marry Brian in that church! EEEEEEEEEEEEEK! There’s not a lot about this place on the interwebs, but here’s what I managed to learn. Construction began in 1913 (it looks sooooooo much older than that!). In 1916 it was almost finished when a hurricane destroyed much of it. Construction began again, and ended in 1925. Hurricanes hit again in 1926 and 1928, with the church sustaining only minor damage. Then, in 1930 another hurricane hit and basically left the ruins we see today. Sure seems like God was maybe telling them to leave the Kalinago people to their own religion! Across from the church there was a cemetery, with a stunning ocean view.
We continued walking down the path, which followed a small stream that ran into the ocean. There was a Kalinago man bathing in a small pool toward the end. And here is a good place to mention this. As we drove down the road, I saw several extremely nice looking Kalinago guys. As in, if Brian ever pisses me off, you will either find me in Paris or Kalinago Territory, Dominica! Seriously, their skin tone is gorgeous. We hiked around to another little ruin we saw. And there was grass there, growing along the path, unlike any I had ever seen before. It was almost like moss- so soft and low growing. Here and there it would grow in little mounds. At the end was a little tiny spring, running just under the grass with a little waterfall through the palms and bushes. It was literally like a magical fairy land, I’m not kidding. And we found it by sheer accident. Sometimes not planning is the way to go!
Path from the old church to the beach. Seriously, it couldn’t have been more gorgeous!
The pool the Kalinago man was bathing in
Beautiful fairy grass covered trail to a little ruin of some sort.
Magical hidden fairy waterfall
Brian photobombing my shot from inside the little ruin.
Brian’s panorama shot of the little cove
Headed back to the Kalinago Cultural Site. There, for $10 each, we had a guide (to ourselves!) who went through the entire interpretive center exhibit with us, explaining all about the Kalinago people, how they migrated here across the Bering Strait land bridge, the different islands they lived on and traded with (all the way up to the Florida Keys and down to South America!), their culture, and interactions with the other indigenous people in the area- namely Arawak and Taino. It was really interesting! After the mini-lecture, he then took us out to walk the grounds and see the different types of native buildings and plants that were used. When we were done, we went to the craft shop and met a woman named Elizabeth who was weaving baskets in the ancient tradition. They were so beautiful and intricate!! Her son carved masks out of some kind of fig bark, and I thought those would fit in the suitcase better than a basket, so I got one for $10.
This shows the changes since Hurricane Maria came through
My favorite sign in the museum. It’s a subtle, yet strong acknowledgement to the evils of Christopher Columbus.
Dominican Ground Lizard (Pholidoscelis fuscatus)- endemic to Dominica!
These red seeds are used as beads and rattles. They are GORGEOUS!
Watchmen overlooking the sea
Elizabeth, demonstrating traditional basketweaving.
Headed out down the road again toward our next stop. Emerald Pools. We drove through some more AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS country- towering mountains and lush rainforest, interspersed by the ever present completely bare trees sticking out everywhere…a reminder of Category 5 Hurricane Maria that practically destroyed the island in September 2017. And, of course, the ever present crazy drivers who think the middle of the road is their lane, even though every 100m there’s a blind curve. Between that and my tailbone, I’m never comfortable when we’re driving, and we drive a lot. We reached Emerald Pools and parked. There was an official center here with a guy in a uniform, even though the little museum was closed (so many things are closed because it’s off season). We didn’t have to pay, but he said we could swim in the falls! So we went back and got our swim stuff. As we did, it began to pour. And I mean POUR!! As in, if you walked outside and looked up for more than a few seconds, you’d probably drown! After all, we were in the rainforest. The guy said they get over 230 inches of rain a year! It didn’t last but about 15 minutes, then we headed out for the short hike down. The pools were so beautiful, with a magical waterfall pouring into them. But they were cold! Like freezing cold!! I told Brian to get in so I could get a picture of him (again, he’s the “show” to my “tell”!). He was like, “NO WAY!”. I’m very convincing. As we hiked out, it started to rain again. The rain was way warmer than the pool!
Brian, the best sport ever, taking one for the team in the freezing water!
I found an umbrella on the hike back up!
This would have been a better umbrella, but it wasn’t shaped right. Still, HUGE leave!!
Next stop, Roseau. We hadn’t had a meal in over 24 hours, and since that’s the capital city, we figured we could easily find something. Plus, I had a decent cell signal there and we needed to find an airbnb for the night that had wifi and preferably a washing machine! But first item of business, food. I looked on the map and saw that there were a lot of restaurants clustered in this one area. We turned left off the main road, toward the ocean, and regretted it immediately. The traffic was awful. As in, it took us about 40 minutes to go 8 blocks. The already narrow streets were lined with parked cars on one side, which meant two things- no parking anywhere, and very tense driving trying to make sure we didn’t hit one. The other side was lined with drainage ditches that were basically 2 foot deep cement death traps with no barriers that were just waiting for our wheels to fall off into them. The exhaust fumes were horrible. And there was literally no way out of it. Every single street, no matter which direction, was completely jam packed with a line of cars trying to get somewhere and a line of parked cars (which to the casual observer looked just about the same in terms of speed). It made my commute in Los Angeles look like a day at the park. Plus, the restaurants we did see were closed, so even if we could find parking it would have been a moot point. We were starving, tired from not such a great night’s sleep, and super bitchy at this point. When I’m so stressed and bitchy that I don’t even think to snap a picture, well…yeah. There’s a new chant we have. HELL NO, ROSEAU. We seriously hate this town, and it now will live on in our list of towns we never want to see again, including Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba. Yeah, as much as we loved Cuba, we hated two of the towns there. And Dublin, Ireland is not on my top 10,000 list either.
The street finally dumped us out at a waterfront. I saw a cruise ship in dock!! Compared to the cruise ship we saw in Antigua, this thing was a dingy, but here’s what I know- where there are cruise ships, there are tourists. Where there are tourists coming off of cruise ships, there is money. Where there is money, there are locals trying to sell them things- including FOOD! There had to be a restaurant down here!! Quick! Follow the tourists! (That is seriously the only time you will ever read that in this blog, as normally I avoid them like the plague. But desperate times call for desperate measures). We parked, went down to the waterfront, and looked around. Nothing. We asked a security guard lady who was standing at the gangway to the ship. She said there were basically three places- two hotels and if we wanted something more local, the 2nd floor of some building she pointed to up the road. Dominica, you really need to learn how to take better advantage of tourists. #justsaying We decided to go to the closest place- a hotel with a restaurant upstairs overlooking the water. There was a lunch buffet for about $20 each, which was kinda spendy, but whatever at this point. There were two soups, salad, rice, potatoes, steamed vegetables, tuna, and chicken to choose from. It was ok, but nothing to write home about. We have yet to have an amazing meal here. The only thing amazing about the food is that we manage to find any.
We seriously considered sneaking on board just to find food…
Mermaid statue at the hotel. Why is she sad? She lives in Hell No, Roseau.
After lunch, we decided to walk back to a fancy-schmancy grocery store called Fresh Market that we had seen. It looked like it might actually have groceries in it! Yep. It was a fully stocked store! One of those kind of fancy-schmancy expat kind of stores with lots of imports, presumably for the cruise ship passengers. We got some peanut butter, bread, honey, argued over what snack to get (chocolate, cheesecake, or ice cream- I vetoed ice cream because it would melt before we got back, so we decided to do both chocolate AND cheesecake #adulting). As we walked to the check out, the soda aisle was right there, facing it. Brian went to get some cokes and what to my wondering eyes did appear?? My maroon can!! Dr. Pepper!! If you read this blog, you know that I always take a picture of it on the shelf wherever I find it. So, I snapped a pic of the single cans, and the 12 pack (which was $66 ecd, $25 US- OUCH!). Immediately a woman was on me. “We do not allow pictures in the store.”, she said none too politely. Um, excuse me? I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize Dominica kept their top state secrets on the soda aisle at Fresh Market in Roseau. Like seriously? Well, I had already snapped my pics- what was she going to do? Make me delete them? But I was pissed. Just another frustrating Dominican incident to add to the pile of things making me not like this place so much. Dear World, Never get between Mary and her Dr. Pepper. Love, Mary. It was several hours days before I quit bitching about that little encounter. #poorbrian As we got back to the car to leave, a man in a wheelchair rolled up and started yelling something at Brian. Whatever it was, he was furious. We ignored him and drove off. Fuck this place.
Feast your eyes on these contraband pictures, and really take them in….because I’m sure I’ll be receiving a cease and desist order from Fresh Market any day now. 🙄
We found an airbnb on the phone app that had wifi and a washer and a host that had a fast response time. It was spendy at $60 for a private room, not an entire place, but with the crappy phone signal we really didn’t have the ability to go through a lot of options. Sent a request, she immediately replied, and we headed up the hill above Roseau to her place. Of course, as we were contemplating a turn because the GPS is a little slow, some local guy on a scooter screamed, “Fucking white people!” at us as he passed. This did not add to the pros column on our Dominica spreadsheet…. Found our way to the house, and I’ll say this- it was SPOTLESS, and the woman was very nice. But there were a few rooms with guests, plus a bed IN THE LIVING ROOM…someone’s getting greedy. Our room was this tiny, windowless thing that barely fit the pulled out futon and dresser. Way too overpriced for what it was. All I cared about though was getting my clothes washed and having wifi to get some much needed work done! We arrived about 3:30pm. No sooner had we gotten there, than the car rental place sent me a WhatsApp stating that they had the damage report and charges and wanted us to come to their office today or tomorrow to view them and settle up. I told them no, I wasn’t driving all the way over there (they had known we were supposed to be in Kalinago territory for our stay). She insisted we come to the office in Roseau. Um, wrong. I am already coming to your office on Sunday to drop off the car. We can do it then, as I’m not taking any time out of my very short vacation to come to your office twice for no good reason. And this is when I got really creeped out. She said, “We saw you in town.” Seriously? It pissed me off to no end, and made us really contemplate just ditching the car at their place, ditching the repair bill, and cancelling the card. Fortunately for them, we aren’t those kind of people. I insisted several times that she email us the damages and charges. She ignored me the first few times I asked, still insisting I come to the office. I finally told her that I wasn’t coming over there until I had the charges emailed to me, and I needed a contract for that car since we didn’t have one. Shortly, I had the invoices. We opened them with trepidation. About $5800. Fucking OUCH. Hopefully we can recover the charges from Geico and/or American Express.
The whole interaction and having to insist on getting a bill had us both frustrated. That, combined with the stress of the roads, my tailbone, hardly any sleep, eating one meal a day because there are no restaurants in this country or decent groceries, the cluster fuck that is Roseau…well, we were over it. Even though this is the top 1 or 2 most beautiful countries we’ve ever been to, it hates us. We’re cursed here. Seriously, worst travel experience ever, and it’s not all Dominica’s fault. It just is. We discussed maybe just catching a flight out the next day and leaving this place. Until we looked at the cost of flights to our next destination, Martinique, that is literally the next island over (all with 12 hour layovers somewhere!!). Then, we needed to book our ferry out for Sunday. When I had looked at the schedule back in February, it left Dominica at 10:30 and arrived Martinique at 12:30. Well, it has changed since then. Now it’s 4:30-6:30pm!! FUUUUUUCK! Our Airbnb in Martinique was on the other side of the island, it gets dark at about 7:30pm, and once we got off the ferry and went through immigration, we still had to find a taxi to the airport and pick up our car! We’d never make it! This required us to a) cancel the first night of our airbnb b) find a new airbnb close to the airport c) change our car pickup time. Points b and c were easy. But the people who we had originally booked 2 nights with refused to allow us to cancel the first night- even though they had a flexible cancellation policy with airbnb which meant I had up to 24 hours before check in to make changes or cancellations for a full refund. Because they refused to work with me, even after I explained the situation, I just cancelled the whole damn thing. I wasn’t paying for 2 airbnbs for Sunday night! They didn’t like that one damn bit, and it led to a back and forth messaging relay where I kindly explained how Airbnb works and why I was in the right and that if they had just honored my request they would have only lost out on 1 night instead of 2. So now, we have to find an airbnb for night 2 in Martinique. Fuck it, we’ll just fly by the seat of our pants, figure out where we end up at the end of the day (since our schedule is now completely off due to the ferry being a half day later than we thought). Just one more aggravation to the growing list….
So now I’m ready to work. My 2nd summer session for school starts in less than a week, and I needed to get class access instructions out to everyone and set up the rosters. Enter another aggravation. The main reason we booked this place was wifi. And it was not cooperating. I realized I only had 1 bar of signal. I messaged the lady to find out where the router was. It was in the bar next door. Fucking seriously?? No wonder it kept cutting in and out. I literally fought it for almost 5 hours and got nothing- not one single thing- done. I paid $60 a night for a crappy room, crappy bed, and non-existent wifi in a town I hate. Pissed is an understatement. At least laundry got done. So with no signal, I decided to download the days pictures and get them ready for the blog. Pulled Day 2 from the SD card on the camera, popped them into their folder on my laptop, deleted them off the SD card, went back to the folder and….THEY WERE GONE!!! I searched and searched and nothing. I was SICK about it! Will someone please take the pins out of my vacation voodoo doll? Then, get me off this island, stat.
I woke up this morning, sick about my missing pictures and videos from yesterday. The wifi signal was actually decent (maybe 4:30am is prime wifi signal time in Hell No, Roseau?), so I googled how to recover deleted files from an SD card- with low expectations of it actually being a possibility. Came across a program that said it would recover up to 2GB of files for free!! After that, it would be $69. I didn’t think I had that much data. Hmmmm. You had to download it on to your computer, which always makes me nervous, so I researched the program and found that it was highly recommended! With nothing to lose, I downloaded it, followed the steps, and damn if all of my pics and videos magically appeared!! I saved them all to the folder on the PC again, double checked they were there, and wa-la! Crisis averted! I hereby declared to Brian that today was going to be recovery day- not just for my files, but for this trip in general!
After recovering the files, I finished almost all of the work I needed to do- at least enough of it that I wasn’t freaking out. The signal died right when I was doing the very last set of tasks, but I can live without those for now. We drove out of town at 9am, hoping to keep the gestapo car rental place from seeing that we were here and making another demand that we waste our time by coming into the office. We drove up a road called Valley road toward Middleham and Trafalgar falls. Oh man, was the scenery FANTASTIC! Just a few miles out of Hell No, Roseau and it was like being in a different world! It’s this amazing valley, with towering green mountain walls on either side. So lush and primitive looking that I told Brian I expected a dinosaur to be standing around the next blind curve (which would have been more welcome than a car in the middle of the road barreling toward us!).
After about 45 minutes we reached a fork in the road. Left was Middleham Falls, right was Trafalgar falls. We decided to go left. Found the parking lot, and headed down the trail. Let me preface this with we had done zero research on this. Well, enough to put it on our “to do” map, but there were no notes or anything about it. We figured it couldn’t be too far down. So with just the camera, we headed down the trail. Just the camera. No water, no snacks. The trail turned into rainforest stairs. Around every curve was another huge set of steps, carved into the side of the mountain and held into place with a piece of a log. Up and up and up we went. It was pretty damn hard core, especially for couch potato me who never works out. The only saving grace was that it was overcast. Had the sun been out, we wouldn’t have made it. It would flatten out a bit, we’d get excited, and then more stairs. We checked the gps to see if we were even getting close to the damn thing. Who knows since we were doing more “up” than “over”. We had no clue how far away it was. It could be 10 miles one way for all we knew. I was getting a lot tired and a little bitchy- about ready to turn around. We then came to an intersection where there was a sign that said Middleham Falls! About that time, something on the opposite trail jumped out of the bush, on to the trail, and back into the bush on the other side! I excitedly declared it to be an agouti rabbit! It had the size and body shape of an agouti, but a back end like a rabbit. Brian said it was an agoutibit. Research after the fact says it was in fact just an agouti, no rabbit hybrid. (Side note: I’ve eaten agouti in Belize. We should have caught the damn thing and saved it for later. #thefoodstruggleisreal) Other than that, the only wildlife we saw were 2 black snakes that crossed our path, which I thought was a rare treat!
This is the face of someone who is not interested in climbing yet another huge, endless line of rainforest stairs….
We had to go down to this bridge. And then right back up…. Had it not been for Brian, I would have turned back.
Finally! A sign indicating we are on the right path! Little did I know there was a long, long climb down (which meant a return trip UP!)
Black snake. Research says most likely Alsophis antillensis- harmless.
We followed the sign toward the falls. And the trail went down. Down, down, down a zillion stairs. I knew that meant we’d have to come back up them. The stairs turned to slippery boulders. I was sure we were going to break an ankle and I’d be testing my trip insurance’s medical evacuation rider… I considered turning around several times, because again- we had no idea how much further the falls were. Brian is the only thing that kept me going. Finally we saw a glimpse of it through the trees! I said, “There it is! Now let’s turn around!”. No such luck. We forged ahead over damp roots and logs and boulders and finally made it to the end. It was MASSIVE- pouring off a huge cliff. We reached it at 11am. So a little over an hour in. Probably about 2.5 miles or so, which felt like 20. It was another climb down another trail to get to the pools. No thanks. This was beautiful and it was enough! We headed back, and my knees were dreading the back up to the intersection, then all of that down, down, down. Honestly, it went a lot faster than the going up seemed. We made it- about 5 miles total I’d say! Hot, sweaty, a bit dehydrated because we didn’t bring water like idiots, but satisfied with our accomplishment!
Brian’s gorgeous vertical panorama shot of the 200 foot waterfall
Drove back down the road to the fork, and went the other way to Trafalgar, eating a little jerky and some pistachios along the way. I declared that if it was more than 2.5 miles round trip, it was not happening! And that we had to get more water!! Along the way, a man put his hand out. We stopped to give him a ride. His name was Anthony. He asked how we liked driving here. I asked if he wanted us to be polite or tell him the truth. He laughed. He said the tourists here don’t know how to drive on the left. They mess up and drive on the right sometimes. And that the left side is the right side and the right side is the suicide! Ha!! There were lots of big, gorgeous houses up here. I asked him if this is where all the rich people live. He said no. That every house is owned by the bank, and if you don’t pay them back within 25 years, you lose the house. That’s not rich. He’s right. We told him we needed water. The market on the main road was closed, but he said he knew another that was in town down some narrow streets. Sure enough, there it was! Brian got out and got water- we never would have found it without Anthony! A bit further up the road and he said this was his stop. We bid him farewell and headed toward the falls. $5 US each to get in. I asked how long was the walk. 10 minutes there. PERFECT! Paid our money and headed….up. Ugh, more stairs! I told Brian these people need to put their waterfalls on flat land. He said they do, they’re called rivers. Smart ass.
Who is richer? He who has a big, fancy house owned by the bank, or he who owns his small, simple house outright?
A short hike up led us to a MAGNIFICENT set of twin waterfalls! Oh my god, it was gorgeous!! Huge canyon walls around us. Wow. Just WOW! We scrambled up some boulders and found a secluded little pool about 12 feet wide with a mini waterfall pouring into it. Normally, river water is COLD. This water was literally perfect! Brian went in first. There were spots where he couldn’t even touch the bottom! I really wanted in, but had left my swimming shorts at the car. I’ve swam in my bra (which looks like a swimsuit top anyway) and panties before. What the hell. Went to pull off my dress and realized I hadn’t worn a bra! I sat there, sulking, lamenting a society that lets Brian run around with his tits out but frowns upon me doing so. Fuck it. I’m going in. I had Brian do a quick check for incoming people, peeled off my dress, and slipped into the water. It was so nice. Like to die for so nice!! Especially after that long, sweaty hike! So far, this is my most favorite place in Dominica! I want it in my backyard! Dominica Waterfall Tips:
If you want to do one waterfall, pick Trafalgar. If you want to do both, do Middleham first, then Trafalgar where it’s easy to swim and cool off after the massive hike to Middleham!
Puerto Rico Crested Anole (Anolis cristatellus). Introduced species.
WOW!! Stunning falls!! We went up the one on the left.
Our gorgeous pool with perfect water temperature (and that’s saying a lot coming from perpetually cold me!) that we want to buy and never leave!!
I’m sure I’m breaking multiple Dominican laws. After what I’ve been through though, it’s worth it!
Our view looking out from the pool…
After we swam, we walked back to the car and headed back toward Hell No, Roseau- this time on a different back road than we came in on. It’s lovely back here. Lovely and peaceful with a great vibe! Got to town, and headed south toward our next stop of the day- Champagne Beach. This was a big tourist spot, so there were bound to be some restaurants! Um, nope. Not a one. We parked on the side of the road, grabbed our snorkel gear, and headed to the beach. A man was down there renting snorkel gear and such, and told us it was $5ecd per person to snorkel here (I was a little suspect about that….). We hadn’t brought money down, so he said we could pay after. He told us where to go- between the rocks for squid, and out to the white log for the bubbles. We walked down toward the big rocks, put our stuff on the beach, got our gear, and headed into the water. Oh my gosh!! There were so many little fish!! Tangs and damsels and butterflies and wrasses and huge schools of snapper and puffers and filefish!! And squid! We saw 8 baby squid!! A few corals, not many. Some beautiful sea fans. The water got deep fast, probably 15-20 feet, but the visibility was AMAZING, the water was warm and calm, and I wasn’t scared one bit! We got to the white log area, and bubbles were flowing up through the rocks. It was literally magical! Brian was using the GoPro for the first time, and got some decent shots for being a newbie! We learned how to better position the camera for next time, as it wasn’t seeing what Brian was seeing most of the time, so we missed capturing so many things. Snorkeled for over an hour and hated to get out. I highly recommend this beach for a wonderful snorkling adventure, perfect even for scardey cats like me! #yesiamamarinebiologist
It was a short drive up the road to our final destination of the day- Soufriere. We turned a corner, and there it was- wonderfully bright colored houses tucked into the side of the mountain! So charming! What wasn’t so charming was google maps, leading us down not one, not two, but THREE dead end windy narrow roads with no place to turn around, all while insisting it was not a dead end and was the way to our airbnb… Love-hate relationship with google maps, always.
Gorgeous Soufriere- Our favorite area of Dominica!
Finally got the right road (thanks to the property manager, not google maps), and pulled into our Airbnb. We have been SO looking forward to this one!! I found it back in February and it was so gorgeous, so perfect, and so US, that I had to have it! But it was a 2 night minimum and we could only stay one. I asked the kind owner, Kathleen, to please accommodate us and she did! Never hurts to ask! And from the second we set foot inside, I didn’t want to ever leave. The gardens, the surrounding mountain walls, and the HOUSE! My god, this house! And only $68 a night! No wifi, but who cares!! I’ll let the pictures do the talking, because I’m at a loss for words…
View from the main room to the garden. There is one main room with a kitchen on one side and bedroom on the other. Bathroom is a separate little building a few steps away.
View from the main room to the bathroom
The lovely outdoor garden shower
As is par for the course in Dominica, we hadn’t had a meal in over 24 hours. We asked Ralf, the property manager, where a good place to eat was. He suggested Pinky’s Street Food, within walking distance of the house. We headed down there and met Pinky (I assume!), who had a little building with a counter, some shelves, and a bbq pit. It was literally a part of her house- no sign. We had passed it on the way and not even noticed it. We got two chicken, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, and salad dinners for $20ecd!! That’s $7.50US!! Walked back to our heaven house and O.M.G. Best meal we’ve had in Dominica, best meal I’ve had in the Caribbean period!! We both said we could have eaten another!
Best meal in the best house in the best part of Dominica after the best day!!
It was dark, out and a flash of light from outside caught my eye. Then another. FIREFLIES!! Magnificent, HUGE, neon green ones! Not the puny ones I’m used to seeing! These were so big they were like laser pointers, and the light even shined (shone? I dunno, I’m a science teacher, not English!) through the glass bottles! Again….just magical! It was the perfect ending to an absolutely perfect day. So yesterday, we were done with Dominica. We were ready to cut our trip short and just get the hell out of here before something else went wrong. Apparently, Dominica heard our despair…and her reply? “Sit down, bitch, and hold my beer.” Well played, Dominica. Well played indeed.
We are in love with this little house! Brian is not in love with the mattress, but he rarely is with his craptastic back. It was cool all night from the breeze and the fan, and the best part? NO MOSQUITOES!! We got up and did a little hike from the house. Came back and promptly took a short nap. It’s that peaceful and relaxing here! After we woke up, we decided to drive down to a little area called Scott’s Head, which is basically the bottom of the island and just a mile or so down the road. Along the way, we picked up Manuel. Manuel speaks English. We do not speak the same English as Manuel, and caught about 10-15% of what he was saying! Dropped him off, turned around, and headed to Hell No, Roseau to drop off the car.
The little town of Soufriere with its church and colorful boats!
Beautiful, colorful Soufriere from the hill above town. If we had to move to Dominica, we’d move here (and bring our own FOOD!)
On the way, I read a message from my neighbor who was going to take Annie. Her daughter was baby sitting someone’s dog, and their dogs literally freaked out having another dog in the house- cowering and crying non stop. Her dogs were traumatized as puppies, and apparently still have some PPTSD (puppy post traumatic stress disorder). I can’t risk taking Annie back and Tina’s dogs not accepting her. I can’t keep Annie. So I had to make the decision to let her go to Canada. I’ll never see her again. I’m heartbroken.
This was the day we had to pay for the damages done to the car on day 1. They took us around to see the vehicle, and I got Brian’s picture with it.
Ok, not really. But the running joke for every vehicle like this we saw along the road (and there were LOTS of them), was, “Seriously, Brian?”! He finally started getting out ahead of me by saying, “I didn’t do it!!” every time we passed one! I have to say, the car rental people couldn’t have been lovelier while processing Brian’s card for $5800!! They were kind enough to waive the relocation charge (we picked up and dropped off in different towns), and another fee as well. They said over and over it was ok and they were just happy we were alright- I didn’t mention my still super painful tailbone. After we settled up, they drove us to the ferry landing. I lamented the fact that there is NO food in this country and we were starving (as per usual, it had been about 20 hours since our last meal.). The driver said there is food, you just have to know where to find it! Um, I’m not a hunter and gatherer- more of a drive thru-er and gatherer… Dear Dominica, Tourists like to eat a couple of times a day at least. We have money. Please take it in exchange for food. And make it easy. Love, Mary. Anyway, he showed us where a street food vendor was setting up, introduced us, and told us it would be ready in about 20 minutes. We thanked him and walked to the Dominican Central Intelligence Agency Fresh Market- home of the previous day’s Dr. Pepper photo infraction. Got a few Dr. Peppers for the road and managed to escape without setting off any high level alert sirens.
Went back to the street food vendor. There was a big crowd of about a dozen people! Great sign! Must be good. Brian got in line, and I sat at a folding table with all of our stuff. I watched for almost 20 minutes while he was completely ignored by the guy running the stand. Over and over. He wouldn’t even make eye contact with Brian. Finally, people in the line actually started speaking up and saying that Brian had been there a long time and to wait on him. Fucking ridiculous. And definitely not adding to my “favorite things about Dominica” list. We got our food, sat down and ate. It was good, but not Pinky’s good. And the treatment we received definitely left a taste in our mouth as well.
Time to board the ferry! They said to be there 2 hours early, and they weren’t kidding. I have never seen such a painfully slow process. First, you check in and get your ticket. Then, you go through immigration- first, paying a $33 exit tax each for the pleasure of leaving Dominica. I would have paid triple at this point… The woman handed Brian back his passport and said he needed to fill out the departure slip. I asked did I need to do one as well. Actual quote out of her mouth, “No.” So I figured it was like a “family form”. Brian finished, handed her his passport. She stamped him, then handed me mine and with an attitude of utter disgust informed me that I needed to fill one out, too! I asked Brian, “Didn’t she just say I didn’t have to do that?”, he nodded. Our final interactions with Dominicans are not going very well… Then customs- one or two people were let into the room at a time, and it was so slow. But the guy was nice. Then, sit and wait. Ferry got there at 4:30 for the 2 hour ride to Martinique. Really, it was an entire day wasted since the ferry changed schedule (some people in line had actually showed up at 9am based on the earlier ferry schedule and then had to wait around until 4:30! Thank god we waited to book, or I would have swam to Martinique #nolie). The ride over was fairly smooth, but my tailbone was not pleased. The seat was extremely uncomfortable, it was impossible to walk around because of the rocking of the boat, so I ended up in some weird contorted position for 2 hours.
Those green shirts? The entire Dominican women’s soccer team was traveling on our ferry!
From the upstairs waiting area for the ferry.
Our carriage awaits!
Looking north along the gorgeous coastline.
Looking south- that little rock off the end is Scott’s Head where we had driven to earlier this morning
As we approached Martinique, we could easily see that it was only 60 miles, but a world away from Dominica. From the water you could see modern buildings, the likes of which are no where in Dominica or Antigua that I saw. Got off the ferry, quickly whisked through friendly immigration and customs just waved us through. Exited the ferry terminal and needed to find a taxi. There was a whole line of taxis, and a woman approached us. As soon as she did, a guy came up and motioned us to go with him, and started arguing with her quite loudly in French. Brian and I literally stood there for 2 minutes listening to them fight and having no idea what was going on. I’d had enough and walked right past them to a man sitting in a taxi and asked if he could take us to the airport. No problem, and he spoke English! He explained that the woman was from another town and wasn’t supposed to be hawking for passengers in Fort de France. He dropped us off, we walked over to Jumbo Rent a Car where the friendliest ladies had fun speaking English with us and explaining everything. Took a shuttle to the offsite place for the car which literally arrived like a minute after we were done with our contract. Got the car. All of that in less than 45 minutes from when we exited the ferry. Efficiency. I like it. Vive la France!
Something else I like here are the roads!! Viva la (le? damn genders) Infrastructure! No potholes, everything clearly marked, people driving like they understood they weren’t the only ones on the road. Oh, my tailbone was so much happier! And then……we saw……..FOOD!!! We went through the drive through at McDonalds (because sometimes you need something familiar!). Ordering was um, interesting with the language barrier. But we figured it out and only ended up with one extra cheeseburger. We literally could not find the Airbnb because google maps wasn’t bringing up any of the landmarks the host said to look for. She eventually had to come and get us. Such a friendly woman! And the airbnb was perfect– large room with a private bathroom and a hot shower. And….WI FI!!! For $30!! Martinique- I think I like you!