Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dominica -- Roseau and Its Environs

In early February, we visited Dominica, a small and under-populated island in the Lesser Antilles. Dominica is about 290 square miles and has a population of 70,000 (2010) and falling. Its primary sectors are tourism and agriculture, and to an outsider, it looks, feels, and sounds like paradise. We stayed at Exotica, an eco-resort and working organic farm, in the foothills of Morne Anglais, in a cottage belonging to a friend. We were under the impression that his cottage had a "glimpse" of the sea. Since we arrived late at night when only the stars were visible, it wasn't until the following morning that we realized what a fabulous place we were in!

This is the cottage, Cashew, where it sits at the top of the Exotica hill. Unfortunately, cameras can't capture smells and sounds, but I assure you it smells like sweet, fresh flowers, and crickets and grasshoppers chirp constantly. We hadn't realized just what we were missing in Port-au-Prince until we heard the silence at Cashew.

Looking roughly west-southwest from the verandah of Cashew.

Looking roughly northwest from the verandah.

This is basically the same west-southwest view but with the tanker for scale. Cashew is at about 1200 feet above sea level, so it's always cool and breezy. It's a wonderful place.

It was cloudy one morning, but you can still get a sense of the grandeur of the setting. The grey-and-green is just as nice as the blue-and-green!

This is Morne Anglais and the view behind and above the cottage.

Watching the sun set from the verandah was rewarding almost every night.

This is a cruise ship leaving Roseau for points north. Cruise ships are huge, even when seen from 1200 feet!

We rented what felt like a little toy truck compared to the 4Runner! It did the job almost the whole time we were there, but the horn broke and got stuck on, i.e., blaring, on the last night. We had the distinctly unpleasant experience of driving into silent and peaceful Exotica at 8.30 with the horn blaring on our second to last night. At least it wasn't 11!

Ian did all the driving because he's a superhero, and he did it all on the other side of the road. In this picture he even managed to look happy!

This is the Roseau cruise ship dock (as seen from the Coco Rico restaurant) without a cruise ship. You can see the Scotts Head peninsula in the distance.

This is the same view with a mega-liner from Malta in the dock. The population of Dominica is 70,000, give or take; the population of Roseau is 17,000, give or take; and most of these mega-liners carry around 5000 passengers. So a ship like this has an enormous impact on the population of the city!

Roseau as seen from above on the Botanical Gardens walk. Jack's Walk, departing from the Botanical Gardens, will take you up Morne Bruce, a posh neighborhood of the city. The view is excellent, and the walk is not that bad.

Roseau as seen from the coast road driving south into town. There's no cruise ship there in this picture. I love how steep it is!

Dominica's cricket stadium seats about 14,000 people. The Chinese built this stadium, partly in thanks for Dominica's recognition of the PRC instead of Taiwan. China and Venezuela are both very active in Dominica and throughout the Caribbean.

Architecture in downtown Roseau. There is a mix of square, flat, concrete buildings and these beautiful, old, wooden ones. Even though it was Carnaval season while we were there, these pictures were taken on a Sunday afternoon. It's a pretty sleepy time of the week for Roseau!

Some trees just won't be denied.

There's nothing wrong with TK321. We did see TK421 - twice! - but I did not manage to get a picture. Oh well.

There is some truly excellent signage in Dominica, and Roseau has some of the best. Dominicans involved in the tourist sector are healthily obsessed about preventing litter. One of our guides, Bobby, is the proprietor of this venue, and he said, "God gave this beautiful island to Dominicans, and all Dominicans have to do is not mess it up. But people these days don't know and don't care, and they run around trashing the place."

This is not exactly in the same spirit as the other signs, but it's still heartfelt and nice!

This bird was hanging out and looking a little guilty at the Botanical Gardens. I'm not sure what it is, but it was pretty cute and let me take its picture!

Roseau's Botanical Garden is quite lovely to walk through. It's got lots of beautiful flowers and sufficiently shady trails.

This unlikely sight is a memorial to the victims of Hurricane David, a category 5 storm that flattened Dominica in 1979. Apparently nobody was on this school bus, but it did get pounded by this baobab tree.

Just outside the Botanical Gardens is this giant white mangrove tree. It's stunning in its complexity and its size! We tried to take some pictures that would do it justice, but it's hard to capture on film.


Even extractive industries in Dominica manage to look sort of clean and nice.

This is Scotts Head off the southwestern tip of Dominica. We drove down in the afternoon but didn't hike up it.

Looking roughly north from Scotts Head towards Soufriere. I love the contrast between the little town and the giant hills!

Fishing boats at Scotts Head.

We didn't climb Scotts Head partly because we were anxious to get back to town! It was Carnaval season, and at weekends Roseau was in the thrall of Carnaval activities. We were lucky enough to see part of the Miss Teen Dominica Pageant! The girls on stage are aged 14-17, and they had to do a series of activities (speech, interview, question, talent, etc). The last activity was a costume modeling of a very fancy Carnaval costume (that's why we went), but it wasn't until the end. We bailed out long before the first speech ended.

To keep the crowd of teenage girls and their mothers happy, the Swingin' Stars of Dominica played between acts. The singer was surprisingly good at engaging a crowd of distracted teenagers and of playing to his audience.