Sunday, August 23, 2015

Killer Trees in Cabrits

This past week, I got a one-day reprieve from my daily trip to the capital of Roseau for training (our pre-service training ends this coming week, and I get sworn in as a full-fledge Peace Corps Volunteer on Friday). Instead of spending three hours (round trip) on a minivan, I only had to ride a bus for about half an hour (one-way) to the city of Portsmouth on the north of the island. I then walked through the city, past Purple Turtle Beach, and out on the peninsula to the Cabrits National Park, a very interesting place.

Spending the day at Cabrits was a great way to get some training about the history of Dominica, while sitting in the beautifully restored building that had served as the officer's quarters at Fort Shirley over two centuries ago. However, it somehow seemed a bit ironic to watch modern Powerpoint presentations inside this historic building.

This fort was typical of those built in the Caribbean during the wars between the French and the English centuries ago. It protected the town of Portsmouth (the second largest city in Dominica) and overlooks lovely Prince Rupert Bay. After our morning training session, we hiked to the top of the mountain (a remnant of a former volcano), where a rust-covered lone cannon remains as a silent sentinel keeping watch for enemy ships.

On my way back down the mountain trail, I stopped for a moment and leaned my hand against a large but innocent looking tree. OUCH! Much to my surprise, the large trunk of this tree was covered with sharp thorns that stick straight out. Looking straight onto the tree (as shown above), these “nails” just look like spots—it is only when you look close (and from a side view) that you appreciate the danger. Fortunately, I only received a couple of minor punctures. However, it was a good reminder that these woods are much different than those I grew up with in West Virginia! [Thankfully, there are no copperheads or any venomous snakes in Dominica—maybe a few boa constrictors, but they don't get very big here.]

After being attacked by that one tree near the end of our hike, I finally got to see another tree that really is dangerous. We had initially heard stories about this “killer tree” during our first weekend of training at the Abbey on St. Lucia. I didn't know whether to believe what I was hearing or to assume that it was just a trumped up legend. However, the Cabrits National Park has one of these Manchineel trees—they are indeed deadly. I didn't spend very long reading this sign that was posted underneath it.

The Caribbean never ceases to amaze me!

1 comment:

  1. I've been enjoying "catching up" by scanning a few blogposts. David, you are very quick to capture the essence of a situation, and I am confident your term of Peace Corps service will be extremely meaningful, both to you and those Dominicans whose paths you cross. I am delighted to say I taught music for a few months in your village, while collecting traditional folk songs.
    Having been based in northern Dominica from late 1982 - 1984, one of my favorite places on the planet was (and still is) the Cabrits. I used to spend a few hours every month there on a "retreat of silence" to reflect, sing, pray, write. Such a magical place. I hope by now you've had a chance to meet Dr. Lennox Honychurch -- Dominica's gifted historian and champion of so many west indian forts.
    Also, I vividly remember taking a taste of manchineel in Antigua and becoming VERY sick. Never realized it was in Dominica too -- glad for the posted sign.