Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Four Falls Field Trip

In Dominica, the Monday following Easter is a holiday. Without any normal buses running that day, and on the heels (as well as the envy) of the successful trip for sixth graders (see my previous blog story), the sixth grade teacher and I quickly concocted a plan for an outing on Easter Monday for our fifth and sixth grade classes. As it turns out, not everyone could join us due to sickness or family plans that day, but we still had a great time. This day trip hit some of the tourist spots that my students who live in Dominica generally have not seen.

We started off this day trip by heading south, which took us past the airport. The first stop was not a typical tourist spot, but was educational nonetheless. I had the driver make a diversion to check out a bar on the other side of the river from the end of the runway. I had noticed that it had an old Cessna 172 parked beside it—it was very similar to the Cessna 150 that my dad used to fly, and that I had actually flown (except for takeoff and landing). I realized that this would be the best way for my students to get “up close and personal” with an airplane. Having talked a lot about aviation topics in their science classes (and having visited the control tower last year), it was good to let them actually touch a plane for the first time.

This particular plane had belonged to a German who was visiting the island when Tropical Storm Erika hit in August 2015 (see my report on this huge event). The nearby river had flooded the airport, and had carried this plane down the length of the runway, where it ultimately got snagged in the chain link fence near the sea. The insurance company considered the plane totaled (although it seemed fixable to me), so the owner let the bar owner have it for display purposes.
We then drove to beautiful Emerald Pool, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had visited Emerald Pool about a dozen years ago when we were on a cruise ship that stopped on Dominica—I never realized during that single previous visit that someday I would be living on this island and would return to Emerald Pool with the students I was teaching. After a beautiful walk through the forest, the trail descends into a depression where a waterfall fills a pristine pool (as shown above). It is a magical place! The photo below shows some of our crew nearly behind the waterfall.
We then hopped back in the van and drove to Jaco Falls (which is also sometimes referred to as Hibiscus Falls). It was very easily accessible from the roadway, with a concrete sidewalk and steps leading down to the pool. In the picture below, one of my students stands near the bottom of the waterfall.
The next falls we visited was actually a two-for-one deal. It wasn't very far from Jaco Falls, but on the other side of the road in a different watershed. We hiked along a dirt road and then through the forest to visit Spanny's Falls. It was beautifully situated in a natural alcove with bits of sunlight filtering through the forest canopy to highlight the multiple shades of green surrounding the falls. There was a nice wooden viewing platform, but I had to tilt my camera diagonally to get the full length of the waterfall.
We had been told that there was a second waterfall if you wanted to hike further. If you climb through the wooden railing that surrounds the viewing platform, there is a long rope that assists those willing to venture up the steep hillside. While their teacher stayed behind, I followed my students up the hill (as shown below) and through the forest to explore the next waterfall. While most of them left their shoes on that wooden viewing platform with their teacher so that they could climb barefoot, I chose to retain my shoes.
After an invigorating hike that included another steep, rocky hillside where two ropes were provided to help hikers go up or down, we arrived at a nice waterfall (apparently known as Penrice Falls) on a nearby creek (by the way, “creek” is an American term—in Dominica, every such body of moving water is a river). I had assumed that the trail shown above was going to lead to another falls on the same creek, but higher up. Instead, we had crossed a ridge to a different valley. Upon arrival, we were rewarded with this lovely view. On this one, the upper end of the waterfall was bathed in sunlight.
We then hiked our way out and back to the van. Our next stop was the capital city of Roseau to grab some food at one of the most popular restaurants on the island—KFC. My students love Kentucky Fried Chicken, so I bought a bucket for them to share (we had told them to bring a sack lunch and a drink, so the bucket of chicken was just icing on the cake to them). It is the only American restaurant on this island, which may add to its popularity (and I know it is also popular on St. Lucia, where I did my initial Peace Corps training). By the way, my students were amazed when I told them about the “all-you-can-eat” buffets at KFC restaurants back where I am from—they can't imagine being able to eat as much as you want to eat, especially if it is KFC chicken!

We then headed up the West Coast Highway, and stopped at a place known as Coconut Beach just south of Portsmouth. This is where a lot of the villagers headed to celebrate Easter Monday, so the students who went on my van trip still got to play in the Caribbean with their friends from the village. Four waterfalls, an airplane, KFC chicken, and a Caribbean beach—they had a great time!

It was also a memorable day for me, because I was invited to taste a specialty that I had never had before—iguana tail! Recently, a villager had invited me to see the initial preparations for cooking iguana. The first step is to roast the carcass over a fire (as shown above), so that the reptile's scales are easily removed by scraping with a knife.
I missed the actually cooking process, but when presented with a full styrofoam plate, back among the sea grape trees lining this remote Caribbean beach, I accepted the opportunity to taste iguana. After all, it was already dead and cooked, and if I didn't eat it, someone else would—so why not give it a try? It was pretty good! I remembered to take a picture before I finished it, as you can see above. Note that it is cooked with the “de-scaled” green skin still on it. It was accompanied by the long rolled dumplings (which are very dense as compared to the puffy West Virginia dumplings I am accustomed to eating) which are commonly served here, along with a brown gravy. It was a great way to end a great day in Dominica!

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