Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Two-Week Tourist

I had a friend from America visit over Christmas. Here is a quick review of the activities we were able to enjoy, all within easy reach of my village in the northern end of the island.
Sunday, December 18 – After arriving in the afternoon, the big event was the Village Council's Christmas Party that evening, where I played Santa Claus (see above). This year, we even had a spirited marching band to kick off the celebration (see below). I also led our school's choir with the song they performed, when the teacher who had rehearsed with them had to unexpectedly leave. [I trust that will be my first and last time conducting a musical performance.]
Monday, December 19 – The day was spent at the school, getting everything ready for the big Christmas dinner that began late that afternoon. The students all arrived dressed quite nicely (see below), and we enjoyed an incredible formal dinner (I was asked to offer the official toast for our sparkling juice drinks—first I gave a typical toast, but I couldn't resist also sharing with them the one I learned as a kid, “Over the teeth and past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!”).
Tuesday, December 20 – This was a low-key day, highlighted by a trip to Portsmouth, where we shopped at the local produce market and made a stop at the IGA grocery store.
Wednesday, December 21 – We started with a hike to the Bwa Nef waterfall, then walking back to Au Too. Despite the diagonal orientation, the picture above doesn't fully capture this waterfall, hidden back in a slot canyon, with two huge boulders straddling the crack far above. This trip was very similar to the previous blog story I wrote about taking my students on this day trip.
Thursday, December 22 – On this day, we caught a ride to the Calabishie area, a beautiful part of this island. We explored Red Rocks, which I had described in a previous blog story. This time, the nearby chocolate factory was open, so we got to take a tour and see the process (plus eat some decadent chocolate). We also enjoyed a meal at a nice restaurant. We both got lionfish, doing our small part to eliminate this menace. The picture above shows Red Rocks at the distant point on the upper left corner, while the restaurant where we ate is right along the edge of the water beyond the beach in the foreground.
Friday, December 23 – We got a ride to the upper end of Penville, to the trailhead for Segment 13 of the Waitukubuli Trail. Dominica has a hiking trail that transverses the entire island, from Scotts Head in the south to Cabrits in the north. Segment 13 runs from Penville to Capuchin, through the lush forest, with many beautiful views looking north towards the French island of Guadeloupe (see above). We continued onto Segment 14, which drops down precariously to the rocky beach and follows the shoreline most of the way. We stopped briefly at the restaurant at Toucarie Bay where I had recently celebrated Thanksgiving with the other Peace Corps Volunteers.
Saturday, December 24 – We stayed in our village and hiked up the creek that passes my home (with a couple of my students, as shown in the picture above). We had hiked it on two previous occasions, going higher each time, but we never made it to the source. Although we went further this time, far up this narrow valley, we still didn't find the end before we needed to turn around to make sure we weren't hiking back in the dark. Someday we will find the end.

Sunday, December 25 – Attended church in the morning, and then was invited to share a traditional Christmas dinner with a local family. It was delicious food and good conversation.

Monday, December 26 – With limited transportation options (December 26 is a holiday called Boxing Day), we just explored around the village and played on L'islet. We also enjoyed flying kites on the playing field with some of my students, pictured above.
Tuesday, December 27 – Along with three of my students acting as our guides (shown above), we hiked to the Chaudiere Pool (I think the pronunciation is “should-wah”). This pool along a river deep in the jungle is supposedly 30 feet deep, and very beautiful. The surrounding rock formations are interesting as well. The boys took us on the longer but easier path to get down to the pool, but decided to take the more direct route that went straight uphill on the way out. It was challenging but fun. We had a good time on the hike back, through the villages of Bense, Anse de Mai, and Anse Sol Dat.
Wednesday, December 28 – There is a horse riding stable that offers a ride where you end up at Purple Turtle Beach and ride the horses in the Caribbean Sea. It began with a trail ride along Segment 14 of the Waitukubuli Trail. Once we arrived at the beach, the saddles were removed from the horses prior to entering the water. This was the first time I had ever been on a horse in water as well as the first time I had ever rode bareback. I have a new appreciation for both aspects.
Thursday, December 29 – This was another long day of hiking through the forest on Segment 12 of the Waitukubuli Trail, with two of my students along with us. We rode a bus to the village of Borne, and made a brief visit to the Indigo Art Gallery (pictured above). This “treehouse” gallery had been a popular hangout for some of the stars when “Pirates of the Caribbean” was being filmed on Dominica. We then trekked up to the island's version of the Continental Divide—we could see the Caribbean on one side of the ridge, and the Atlantic on the opposite side of the ridge. However, we had a lot of hiking to do before getting back to our village.
Early in the hike, a large agouti crossed our path. Agoutis, along with the opossum-like manicou, are sometimes caught and eaten here, but I have yet to taste either. We also enjoyed a few sightings of wild parrots, with their beautiful green and red colorings flashing as they flew away. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture any of the animals on camera.
Eventually we made it down to a nice bridge that crosses a creek (shown above the preceding paragraph). From that point on, it was, for the most part, a steep uphill climb. It was such a relief when we finally crested the high ridge above the village of Vieille Case, and could see the Atlantic stretching out into the distance (as shown above). We finally arrived back in our village by the end of the day. We were tired, but felt a great sense of accomplishment.
By the way, the village of Vieille Case was initially a large Kalinago Indian village known by the name Itassi. It was the site of the first Catholic mass held on this island, back in 1646, as shown on the mural above. It is also the hometown of the current Prime Minister of Dominica, and the trail goes right by his residence.
Friday, December 30 – After the big hike the day before, we decided to rest our legs and give our upper bodies a workout by renting a double kayak from Coconut Beach (below Portsmouth) and heading down to Secret Bay. There are some interesting views, such as the “flying buttress” rock shown above. I assume Secret Bay is secretive because it is just a narrow strip of sand surrounded by a gigantic cliff, as shown below. It was a nice afternoon to be paddling on the Caribbean.
Saturday, December 31 – For the last full day of the year and the visit, we stayed close to my village. We did some kite flying with the kids, and then orchestrated a large water balloon battle. A good time was had by all! That evening, the good folks at the Pentecostal Church invited us to attend their New Year's Eve dinner. Just like church dinners back home in West Virginia, there was plenty to eat, including good local foods, such as fig pie, yam pie, macaroni pie, chicken, fish, ham, potato salad, etc. Many of my students were also in attendance. It was a great dinner and a good way to end the year.
Hopefully 2017 will be a good year for us all!

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