More Dominica

Literally marching on… we went hiking several days with our hosts and got great views of the island and surrounding ocean from many vantage points.

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We hiked up to the clouds to reach Boeri Lake, one of 2 huge freshwater lakes near the top of the island, filled only by rainwater!

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Repeating what I said before about hiking conditions on Dominica, we went through a lot of mud and water at times:

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On other hikes, the sun came out and we were surrounded by beautiful flowers…

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…and treated to great views of the coast.

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That’s Guadeloupe on the horizon (about 50 miles away), where we’re headed next for a few days before returning to Nashville.

As Steve and I would drive around the island, I was particularly taken by the plantings of what we would consider in the States to be “ornamentals” on both sides of the road, even in very isolated areas. Apparently the volcanic soil is so rich here, and growing conditions so perfect, that you can just “put a stick in the ground and it’ll grow”.

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Another interesting point about the island is that several scenes from the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies were shot here. The road map we used to navigate even had filming sites noted, and what scenes were staged there. One of them was called “Chase scene” where Johnny Depp was chased up a river. Rivers all over the island empty into the sea after passing through lots of rainforest.

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Dominica is said to have 365 rivers, while Antigua and Barbuda (a Caribbean island country we haven’t visited yet) has 365 beaches.

I haven’t ever posted someone else’s video (and especially not a commercial), but this group that took us canyoning was just awesome. Everything you see on the video we did, but it was nice because we were just a group of 4.

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If you ever really want to test your limits (and stretch them), canyoning is the way to go!

Another neat sight right near us on the NE corner of the island was the Red Rocks area. We hiked on white sand and black sand beaches to get good views of it…

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…and then walked up over it and found a nice spot to have cocktails…

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…while watching the colors shift with sunset and night fall.

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Adieu for now. Next up - Galapagos!

Dominica

First thing we learned is how to correctly pronounce the name of the island: Dom - i - NEEK - a (not Doe- MIN - i - ca). It’s known as the Nature Island. We quickly came to appreciate this, as our “adventure travel hotel” hosts put us through our paces, while we gamely tried to explore a LOT of the island in our first 6 days with them.

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Our first day of hiking was deep along a hillside. Can you spot the cow that was tethered there? Most trails on the island are narrow, muddy and steep. In fact, I posted a review on Trip Advisor entitled “Steps, mud and wow!”

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We also snorkeled at several places, and this was one black sand beach that we enjoyed -

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On a hike that same day, I made a new friend:

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The next day we headed to Scott’s Head, which is the southernmost point of the island, and was cool because the Caribbean Sea (on the left) and Atlantic ocean (on the right) were only separated by a narrow spit of land.

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Dominica is characterized by sharp peaks and lush vegetation (even though Hurricane Maria literally stripped it bare of every single leaf in Sept. 2017, with 220 mph winds).

You can almost visualize the sunken caldera that formed this bay:

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So….the next day, we hiked to Middleham Falls, and here’s where the mud and steps and wow! came in.

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I had been warned by our guide that the trip was relatively strenuous, and most likely muddy. He encouraged me to walk through the stream at the beginning of the hike, to get my socks and shoes wet, and then I wasn’t so put off by all the “squishy” mud we slogged through (up over our shoe tops) on all the steps leading to the waterfall - yes, those logs were the “steps”.

Part of the trail became one of the creeks that fed into our goal.

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I got so far out of my comfort range on this hike, but then was so rewarded:

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The wind blowing off that pool from the force of the water falling 200 ft. was amazing.

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We had never swum in a waterfall pool before. What a blast!

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OK - next day… we were taken in a small motorboat to see several sights that you can only get to by water, as well as to snorkel.

the light green patch in the water was a snorkel and dive spot called Split Rock

the light green patch in the water was a snorkel and dive spot called Split Rock

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Secret Beach was a cool little spot all to ourselves -

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On our way back to the dock, at the end of another long day, these fine feathered friends were just hanging out in the harbor amongst all the boats anchored there. They, and I, bid you farewell until our next posting.

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Martinique

We spent our first 4 days on the island at an apartment right on the beach at Les Anses-d’Arlet (in case anybody was interested in the name of the town). Sunset from our porch:

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A different “coffee buddy” -

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He was the size of my hand, and lived in a hole under our porch.

We spent our time on this southern part of the island driving around the coast and checking out beaches - rough life, I know. Very pretty and expansive beach that was abysmal for snorkeling - [No one else was doing so; we should have heeded that observation.]

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We found the best snorkeling on this island to be right outside our gate on the beach in front of us!

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Tired of pictures of palm trees and beaches? No?

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That’s Diamond Rock. Here’s another view:

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We then moved to the northern part of the island to stay in a rainforest B&B. And did it rain… every day, at least a fine drizzle. Then about every other day, constant rain or even downpours that lasted the entire day. This is the view from our balcony, on a pretty clear day -

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On the way here, we stopped at a botanical garden, as something to kill time before check-in, and we were super happy to have stopped. It was actually pretty large, and gorgeously maintained. As you walk in, there are hummingbird feeders that had me shooting way too many pictures that I edited down to:

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There was an elevated walkway that was a series of swinging bridges suspended between multiple trees, that allowed this view:

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As we drove around, I would tell Steve that the road ahead was “squiggly”:

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…this meant that there were a lot of twists and turns, as well as hairpin turns and switchbacks, with a lot being on an unbelievable grade and having sheer drop offs with little or no shoulder. Luckily most of the roads were wide enough for 2 cars to barely pass. Once both Steve and the other driver had to fold in the side mirrors.

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The vegetation was indescribably lush.

We hiked to a black sand beach, of which there are many along the west coast due to the volcanic origin of the island.

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The sand was so fine and dark it looked like mud:

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One morning, we drove across the island to Presqu’ile de la Caravelle - a long isthmus extending out into the Atlantic on the east coast, and hiked up to a lighthouse for awesome views:

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Hiking around the point gave us gorgeous views of the rugged Atlantic coast.

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The contrasts between water, land and sky kept me saying “wow”.

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This was the halfway point of the 6 mile hike, when I was still smiling:

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When we were wandering around the ruins of a sugar and rum plantation from the 1700’s, I suddenly started feeling very bad - nauseated, crampy, dizzy and lightheaded. I nearly fainted, but bent over in the shade until all that passed, and then felt much better after getting back to the car. As we enjoyed a great lunch at a beach restaurant, I looked up the symptoms of heat exhaustion, and found that I fit that to a “T”. During the hike I had felt strong and fine, but looking back, I probably didn’t drink near enough water along the way. I rehydrated that afternoon, and have had no issues since.

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These Heliconia grow wild all over the island. There are many different varieties and color combinations.

One of the activities I had planned for us was hiking up Mt. Pelee, a still active volcano. However, the one day we drove up there, everything was shrouded in grey cloud and mist. Apparently this is the way it is all the time. I just couldn’t see killing myself ascending 3000 ft, clambering over rocks and through mud, and getting soaked in the constant rain for 4 hours, just to see the inside of more clouds. As you may remember, we had the fantastic hike and views up Mt. Soufriere on Guadeloupe, so I hunkered down and asked Steve to drive to the beach instead. The sweetie swallowed his hiking desire and turned the car back down the mountain.

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This is the town of St. Pierre, with Mt. Pelee looming over it, with its constant cap of clouds. St. Pierre was the initial capital of Martinique, but lost that position after Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902, destroying the town and killing 29,000 people.

Here is another view of the volcano, from the town of Morne Rouge at its base:

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We plan to spend the day at the beach tomorrow, before heading on to Dominica and more adventures. I’ve always wanted to lay on a beach lounger under an umbrella, and have a nice young man bring me drinks in between swimming in the surf and watching these guys run in and out of their holes -

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Leaving you with one last jungle picture -

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St. Lucia

Now we’re back on “English” soil, and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. So ordering at restaurants and buying at the grocery store is easier, but the driving is more challenging. Steve did quite well, as you can imagine.

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This was our view from the balcony at our apartment - this is Marigot Bay, a natural deep water inlet to escape hurricanes or invading French ships (apparently this bay hid an entire English fleet at one time). On our drive down the west coast, we frequently saw:

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…until we reached the Pitons and the town of Soufriere.

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These are the famous landmarks of St. Lucia, and are volcanic spires jutting out from the surrounding sea that is 2,000 ft. deep around them. We had decided not to go diving on this trip, so you’ll be spared yet more fish pictures. ;)

“We” decided not to climb Gros Piton, since we had just climbed La Soufriere on Guadeloupe, and my back was acting up. Instead, we went to a nature trail that was on a ridge between the Pitons, and had fabulous views with little effort.

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We also went snorkeling another day, at Anse Chastanet, which is a public beach to the high water mark, but otherwise is for the use of 2 exclusive resorts that are way out of our price range (think $600 - 1500 per night). We enjoyed being the poor cousins enjoying the really good snorkeling, while the “other half” lay on their lounges and drank tiki drinks.

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Another day trip had us heading to the north end of the island and hiking up little hills to a lookout point with great views of St. Lucia, as well as Martinique, just 24 miles to the north.

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This was Pigeon Island, and besides being turned into a local park, it also had remains of an English fort.

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Steve had a surprisingly good time on a birding hike, where we got up before 0600, and spent 3 hours in a rainforest trying to see different bird species. St. Lucia has 5 endemic species (meaning they are found no where else in the world) - St. Lucian parrot, oriole, black finch, warbler and peewee. We saw 2 parrots flying over a ravine, and I captured a blurry image of an oriole:

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We saw 4 out of the 5, missing the peewee, and saw a cool fresh water crab in the creek running through the property -

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Also while out driving, we passed many plots of banana trees, with blue plastic over most of the bunches:

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This was to keep them unblemished from weather and insects, for export. It was interesting to learn that after a banana tree fruits, it dies, and then another plant comes up next to it from runners under the dirt. The flower is the large red “pod” underneath the bunch, that initially grows straight up, until the weight of the developing fruit causes it to bend over. The fruits then grow up towards the sun.

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You know the roads are challenging when you see signs like this (pardon the blur, Steve was driving fast):

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One other stop we made was at a botanical garden that was very beautifully laid out and peaceful (except when loud speaking guides passed with tour groups). Diamond Waterfall is colored because of the minerals dissolved in the water from the surrounding hot springs.

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My morning coffee buddy on the balcony is here to bid you goodbye, until I next post from Martinique.

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Guadeloupe (deuxieme partie)

…that’s “part two” for you non-Francophiles. Out of all the countries we’ve visited so far, this has been the one to have the largest language barrier. After having such an easy time in Italy (and not knowing a shred of Italian when we went) because essentially everyone spoke fairly good English, we’ve been pulled up short by our minimal French vocabulary. I found out that 85% of tourists here are from mainland France, so why should they bother knowing English? We have found only rare menus in English, so we’ve relied on Google Translate quite a bit, until we internalized some of the more common terms. It sure has lead to some giggles by both us and waitstaff. It’s been very heartening at how much they have tried to understand us, rather than just disdaining us. Dinners have been very entertaining affairs (even before alcohol is served)!

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Our next big excursion was to tackle La Soufriere. This is the still active volcano on the south end of Basse Terre island, that you can “easily” hike to the top. We could actually see this from our apartment, and all week had watched it wreathed in clouds. This is apparently true but for 30 days a year. So, imagine my joy, when I awoke one morning and saw:

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We quickly set out and got to the parking area by 0800, which was such a blessing, as we got a spot right near the trailhead, rather than having to walk a half mile or more uphill, even before beginning the formal trail. It was “only” 2 miles of hiking up, but we gained 2200 ft over that distance, topping out at 1467 m (4,813 ft). We started in the rainforest:

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but fairly quickly came up out of it to see our goal -

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(This shot was actually taken later, but if you expand the picture, you can see the people on the trail across the lower half):

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We took about 1 1/2 hours to go up, and there were some narrow spots along the way -

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as well as gorgeous views across the interior of the island.

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There was a large rift near the top that has been filled in over the years with mature palm trees (giving you the scale of the cleft) -

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After clambering with both hands and feet over the last 20 minutes, nearly straight up, we reached the top, and boy, was it worth it!

The ocean you see here is actually where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet.

The ocean you see here is actually where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet.

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There are several small vents, as well as the big ‘un:

(there’s a person on the trail at the mouth of the crater to give scale)

(there’s a person on the trail at the mouth of the crater to give scale)

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This was a “little” point that we didn’t feel we needed to climb up, after we saw the young people having a tough time with it. Again, enjoy the view:

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We decided to treat ourselves to a little rest and relaxation the next day by joining an all day boat tour exploring the mangrove lagoon off the north end of the island (Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin).

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There are numerous islets, both tiny and large, of mangroves in the 330,000 acres of marine reserve. This is one island that is slowly being reclaimed by the sea:

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where we stopped to have a drink -

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We also did some snorkeling at several spots, but again, there wasn’t anything that was really novel for us. It was pretty cool to see the kids on our boat get excited by stingrays and starfish, so we enjoyed their discoveries vicariously.

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The water was such a brilliant blue because it was only about 1-3 feet deep over much of the lagoon.

Now we’re off to St. Lucia!

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Guadeloupe (part one)

This year “we” decided to take it easier on our exploration of Caribbean islands (meaning visiting only 4 islands, rather than 7, over about the same period of time). Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France, that is actually a number of islands. For the first 10 days of our trip, we stayed on the largest island, Basse-Terre, and just outside of the capital city of the same name. From there, we explored the mountainous, rainforested part of the nation, while at the end of our journey, we’ll return to Guadeloupe to stay on the more beachy island of Grand-Terre.

We first hiked along the southern coast,

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and came upon the remains of a windmill:

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On another day, we headed up into the rainforest in the center of the island and in the center of the National Park that encompasses almost half of the island. This was the path:

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that led to the “cascade” (basically, French for little waterfall):

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Here’s a common scene as we drove around the coast:

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One morning, we rented kayaks to snorkel at these offshore islands in the Cousteau Reserve. It was about a 20 minute trip out, and 30 minutes coming back against the wind. Given our past diving, we didn’t consider the underwater life that great, but it was a fun diversion.

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Next up was visiting the Carbet Falls. We were SO glad we got there early, as we were by ourselves at the overlook for several minutes; and then came upon numerous people on our way back out.

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As you can see, this island is very lush.

(I actually included people on the path to give some scale - can you see them?)

(I actually included people on the path to give some scale - can you see them?)

From the overlook:

110 metres high

110 metres high

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Tomorrow we plan to hike up the (still active) volcano, Mt. Soufriere, and explore mangrove islands by boat and snorkel the next day. Au revoir!

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