6th - 20th December 1998
Important note: Dominica is NOT the Dominican Republic.
What we did
Travelled a lot: Left Gatwick 9:30, arrived Melville Hall 17:30.
Funny taxi touting stuff going on but our real driver Grantley
turned up eventually. 1 hour on steep twisty narrow roads through rainforest to
Hummingbird. Lots of rain. Yummy local food for dinner.
Eggs, crispy bacon and ginger tea for breakfast. Went into Roseau (in the rain), and hitched a free lift while waiting for the bus. Went
to the market (fish and fruit stalls; nothing special).
Changed some money (big queues at bank). Went to tourist info. and chatted to a Canadian (Bill) here for
5 months. Booked a whale watch (with Dive Dominica, next door to Evergreen
Hotel south of Roseau). Had a chicken roti (reminding us of a previous trip to
Barbados where we lived on them) from The Mousehole and ate it in Pebbles park
(bit of a building site next to Fort Young hotel). Went to "Tropicraft"
to see the usual sort of tourist/souvenir stuff (although the women weaving the mats were worth
seeing) and on to the botanic gardens, where we got followed around by an
annoying stray dog. We saw parrots and an amazing hairy fig tree, and the
rained off cricket match vs. Grenada and lots of green stuff. Went shopping for
snack food, Sorted out a hire car. Fish and yam pie back at Hummingbird.
Bus to Scotts Head (via traffic dept to get a driving license).
Huge cruise boat in today.
Hassled to buy a coconut on the way to the beach; seller gets told off
for selling green ones.
Excellent snorkeling in very clear water out to a huge BLUE drop-off.
Lots of small fish, some big ones and a couple of large squid.
Good sunny weather in morning, rain later. Yummy snack in Seabird Cafe. Dip in hot sulphur spring pool at Soufriere. Mad bus
driver back to Fort Young Hotel for cocktails. Met some guys going to work on
cruise ship as entertainers (one an ex-Grumbleweed). Went for a meal at La Robe
Creole (OK - yummy calaloo soup and accras)
Thursday 9th (Julie's birthday)
Major confusion over bill at Hummingbird (watch
out for breakfast extras; they try to charge you for every cup of coffee, "shrimps
are expensive". A shame when you've been made to feel like you're in
someone's home; this place needs to get its act together). Bus to Roseau (2
cruise ships in today). Got fruit from market, provisions from supermarket.
Haggle over taxi to Papillote. Very nice and quiet (only 6 people staying).
The hydro plant thing looks bad, but it's not very noisy and not as big an intrusion as we had
been led to believe. Dasheen puffs and fish in a banana leaf for lunch.
Birthday faxes for Julie. Hang out in rainforest, explore gardens and dip in
hot pools. BBQ dinner.
Wandered up to Trafalgar with about 200 cruise ship passengers.
Lost them all by getting a guide (Eddie) to take us right up to the pool at the
bottom of falls. Tim had a swim. Then back down and on through rain forest to
boiling sulphur spring at Wotten Waven via waist deep river crossing (don't
think Eddie was expecting that). Back for a dip in Papillote hot pools again.
Sat around. Met someone from Bath (Aardman Animation's cook) at dinner.
Got taxi to Roxy's Mountain Lodge. Left again because it was a
building site and went back to Papillote. Hung out. Mountain chicken (giant
frog's legs) for dinner.
Hike to Middleham Falls through rainforest with Alfred the
knowledgable guide from Papillote. ($70 US ouch). Went up to Freshwater Lake
after; misty and spooky but nothing special (views back to Roseau best thing).
Quite dry today (in morning, anyway). Back to pool at Papillote.
Up early for breakfast then off with Alfred to big bubbling Boiling
Lake through rain forest again, and smelly Valley of Desolation. Amazing yiews
to both coasts. Almost no flat bits on route at all, lots of streams and rivers
to cross; quite strenuous. Don't bother with Papillote sandwiches (expensive
and soggy). Weather incredibly good for a change (didn't rain until almost back
to van). Well earned cold beer at Dr. Fix-It's (careful where you sit: it could
cost you!) Dip in Papillote hot pool feels good on return. Julie called "your
wife" for 1st time. Rabbit for dinner.
Julie's legs slightly aching. Taxi to Roseau. Stay at Ma Bass
guest house. Roti for lunch. Snorkeling at Scott's Head. Watch sunset from
Evergreen Hotel. Only rained once in afternoon today. Dinner at Callaloo
Breakfast bagel at Cornerhouse. Drop off washing at Island Wash on
Eliot St. laundromat (EC$20). Bus to Castaways Beach and very lazy day there.
Not much to see snorkeling except millions of shiny fish. Water a bit cloudy
anyway (apparently snorkeling best at Rodneys Rock to south). Hired a canoe.
Collect nice clean washing on way back. Dinner at cheaper Chinese (us only
people there; good service) with unusual dishes (banana fritters with beef ???).
Watch Dominican Prime Minister switch on Christmas tree lights and get hassled
by philophosizing local going on about Dominican dignity and pride... before he
asked us for money.
Cornerhouse for breakfast again. Go on internet (our site's front
page up to 232 hits from 103 when we left) and send some email from hotmail.
Go shopping for groovy fishy stuff in Rainforest Shop, T-shirts for nephews (bet
they won't wear them) and rum. Big hassle at Ma Bass when she doesn't take
credit cards, and has to charge extra for TCs (same amount for each cheque, and
we only have small stuff left - ouch). Then off to Dive Dominica; saw lots
(10?) of sperm whales "socialising" on the surface. Took lots of
photos of, er, sea. Also some Dorado chasing flying fish. Bus to Roseau then
Portsmouth, which looks a bit grim after dark. Mango Bay Hotel is quite basic,
but at least the shower has hot water, there are mosie screens on the windows
and you step straight out onto the beach. Too tired to go out for dinner.
Early morning dip (for Tim) then breakfast at Blue Bay just to south
($15EC each a bit much though). Lots of hassle to go on Indian River trip.
Wander in to town to check car and see about river trip, but cruise ship tours
are all queued up. Decide to come back later and go to explore Cabrits Park &
Fort Shirley instead. See lots of big lizards, ruins & Douglas Bay looks
nice and blue. Back for Indian River trip with Eustace for 25EC (up to the
tourist trap bush bar). Very pretty though; saw a heron & egrets. Rain
starts again. Bought some junk food to cook at apartment (because nowhere in
town is inspiring enough to make us want to eat there). Decide to leave
Heavy continuous rain. Get hire car (and arrange to leave it at
airport when we go for $25US; very convenient). Douglas Bay grey and
murky-looking from river outflows: not very inspiring for a snorkel. Fail to
find most northerly road across island so back to take road east from
Portsmouth. Rain eventually stops by time we get to Calabishie via lots of
banana and coconut plantations and "boxing plants". Breakfast at
ex-Almond Beach, now under new management. Explore along coast (lots of rough
windswept beaches) to Carib territory (Julie looking for baskets, but all much
the same as Roseau). Back for dinner at "Domcan", next door to
Verandah View. Excellent value food & drink, run by Harry and his Dominican
wife. Teddy shows us www.calibishie.dm.
Best breakfast yet. Take car (with Bill) back to Portsmouth where
there is a small but colourful fruit and fish market. Buy some yummy fresh
passionfruit, and see an octopus being turned inside-out. Then on to Toucari
(?) Bay where there is some good snorkeling on a reef protruding from the north
end of the bay, although you have to swim around a load of fishing nets to get
there, or scramble along the rocky shore. Unfortunately it's not very sunny.
Lots of fish, some quite big. Also try Douglas Bay, but only find the odd fish
and isolated bit of coral close in to the shore; suspect main event is further
out in the middle of the bay where there seem to be a lot of fishing boats.
Back to Veranda to idle away the rest of the day. Final dinner at Domcan's
(yummy blue marlin) where we learn that the waitress only makes about $2EC
(=50p) per hour (plus tips... but NB Harry keeps any service added to credit
cards, or left after she's gone home). Only about 5% of the women in the
village have jobs.
Lots of rain in night; no power in morning. Teddy makes us an early
pancake breakfast. Drive to airport and fly home via Antigua.
2.68EC=1$ 4EC = approx £1. The cost to change TCs is the same PER CHEQUE. So
don't bother taking small ones.
Our biggest problem with Dominica was finding nice, good value places to stay.
The glossy pictures and glowing descriptions were often completely misleading.
- Hummingbird: $US105 Dinner B&B. Friendly atmosphere. Room fine (although poorly lit), nicely landscaped; shame
about the oil refinery below. They advertise a beach but due to the industry it
doesn't look very inviting at all. They advertise quiet, but they're next to
what is probably Dominica's busiest road and you hear it continuously. Not
particularly convenient for anywhere, although buses pass frequently enough in
the day. Would probably be a better base with a car. Food OK, but staff need
to get their act together about communicating what is an "extra" (if
anything the confusion is increased by the friendly atmosphere as you feel more
like you're in someone's house than a hotel).
- Papillote: Lovely. Gorgeous. Friendly. Amazing. Expensive (although when you compare it with the grot-holes
you get for half the price, it seems well worth it). Contrary to what we had
heard, has not been ruined by the adjacent hydro plant. The only time we heard
its buzz was in our bathroom, or if we left the bathroom door open. The only
place we went where the advertising understated the reality.
Roxy's Mountain Lodge: The description sounds great. The reality is that it is currently a
rather messy building site.
- Ma Bass: OK guest house. Clean. Doesn't take
credit cards. Reasonable value at $42US for a private bathroom (although hot
water supply was a bit hit & miss during our stay).
- Mango Beach/Mango Bay:
Nice beach location. Pleasant verandahs. Shame about the rooms. (No top bed
sheets ? One towel for two of us ? Ancient musty mattresses ? Old grey
pillows ? Sheets from an Oxfam shop ?) At least the shower delivers hot water.
Describes itself as a hotel but is actually apartments i.e no-one makes your
bed, but you do get a fridge & stove (which we did use, because nowhere in
Portsmouth inspired us to eat there).
- Verandah View, Calabishie:
Very nice location on the beach
(although the sea isn't good for swimming this side of the island: there are very strong currents).
Friendly owner, great breakfasts.
It's a shame we didn't find more places like this.
Guidebooks we found useful
Lonely Planet Eastern Carribean
for web pages in Dominica.