Christopher Columbus sailed passed the island’s east coast shores on a Sunday, November 3rd 1493. Unable to make landing, he never set foot on the island but he gave the name Dominica after Dominigo for Sunday. As was the case with the rest of the Caribbean, Dominica was already inhabited by the native Kalinago people, who used the name Wait’tukubuli meaning ‘Tall is her body”. The Kalinago (previously known as the Carib Indians) had settled on the island from around 1000AD. Some 3,000 Carib Indians still living on Dominica are the only pre-Columbian population remaining in the eastern Caribbean. Now that’s interesting!
Dominica is largely covered by rainforest and is home to the world’s second-largest boiling lake. Dominica has many waterfalls, springs, and rivers. Some plants and animals thought to be extinct on surrounding islands can still be found in Dominica’s forests. The volcanic nature of the island and the lack of sandy beaches have made Dominica a popular scuba diving spot. They say that Dominica has 365 rivers.
Story told is that when his royal sponsors asked Christopher Columbus to describe this island in the “New World”, he crumpled a piece of parchment roughly and threw it on the table. This, Columbus explained, is what Dominica looks like—completely covered with mountains with hardly any flat spots! Following the European’s arrival, the island remained a neutral territory for many years, serving as a refueling for ships. At this time there was much trading between the Europeans and Kaliango. During the 1700’s the British and the French fought several times over control of the island before the British gained control in the early 1800s. The island gained independence from Britain in 1978.
Check out this site for more about Dominica: http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-dominica/
Our adventures start in Portsmouth, it is on the north coast and it’s the second largest city in Dominica. From where we are anchored in the bay we have a view of the town and have Fort Shirley up above us. Portsmouth is a laid back non-touristy town. Portsmouth Dominica was originally selected to be the capital of the mountainous island in 1760. Unfortunately, there are swamps nearby and an outbreak of malaria caused Roseau to be chosen instead, leaving Portsmouth with the sad distinction of having been the capital for only a year.
Our first adventure was to take a tour up the Indian River. The Indian River is the main attraction for Portsmouth. The river is a protected area of Dominica’s National Parks. Only certified guides can take a boat up the river and there are no engines allowed! When we got to the mouth of the river our guide Andrew pulled his boat to the side and told us that we would have to walk to a nearby gas station to purchase our park access ticket. After a short walk we returned for our adventure. Andrew moved into his rowing position and rowed us through the winding river.
It was beautiful but we couldn’t help to think about what it must have been like before hurricane Maria ravaged the area. Once he rowed as far as we could go (the river was blocked with debris) Andrew pulled us up to a wooden dock at the rivers edge. We hopped out of his boat and onto the dock for a stop at the “Bush Bar”. Seems that someone was thoughtful enough to build a watering hole for us cruisers along the riverfront. Brian and I treated ourselves and our guide Andrew to a couple of local beers called “Kubuli”. The flowers were plentiful and amazing here!
On our way back down Andrew took us up a side branch of the river to show us where they filmed parts of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Dead Man’s Chest.Tia Dalma aka Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean had her shack here, (no longer in existence, the building is covered with brush and debris) It was still cool to see the shooting location, to think that Johnny Depp was once here too!
We really enjoyed the trip. The bloodroot tree’s root system were what most stood out to us, they were amazing! Lots of birds, land crabs and of course fish. We enjoyed our tour and Andrew was a great guide.
We’ve walked around town a bit, not much to see. Seems to be like most Caribbean towns. The most noticeable difference was the damage caused by recent hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southwest coast of Dominica on September 18th as a Category 5 hurricane, with 160 mph wind speed and higher gusts. The hurricane force resulted in intense storm surges, torrential downpour, overflowing raging rivers, and extremely high winds across the island left 31 people dead, 37 missing. 65,000 people, around 80% of the population, were directly affected and more than 90% of roofs were damaged or destroyed. Maria passed mostly over the southern part of the island, (we are on the north side now) so sadly, the damage that we are seeing might just get worse.
Our next adventure lead us up to an 18th century Brittish fort, Fort Shirley. It sits overlooking the bay and is part of Cabrits National Park. The fort has been restored beautifully. We spent the day exploring trails surrounding the fort and even found more ruins and cannons along the way. The views from the top were outstanding!
Whew, I think that we’ve written a book this time! So much to share. As we are writing this it is Easter Sunday. The local PAYS group is having a barbecue fund raiser tonight so that will be Easter dinner for us…yum, my favorite :-). Well, I won’t have to cook anyway so that will be a treat. Meeting some other sailors and unlimited rum punch doesn’t sound bad either!
Hope that you all have/had a wonderful Easter too!
Until next time,
Jennifer and Brian SV/Moon