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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.