In the wake of Maria - Dominica
By great contrast to Martinique, Dominica was much less developed, less touristy and totally ravaged by Hurricane Maria which came through the area last year. We were once again thrust back into the very open arms of the ‘boat boys’, looking to make a few dollars for doing anything from cleaning barnacles off the butt of the boat to taking tour groups, or helping you moor, etc. A definite reflection of the poverty in the area.
We were looked after by the one and only Marcus the ‘Yacht Security Specialist’ - a self proclaimed and unofficial title but the other boat boys all seemed to answer to him so none-the-less a good man to be on the right side of.
Clearing customs and immigration involved waiting around a local bar while periodically returning to a deserted ferry terminal to 'knock and wait' at this door for a few hours until someone turned up. A year on from the hurricane they still had not got their computer back so clearing in consisted of paperwork in triplicate and many stamps.
We took a tour of the island to see all the natural sights that Dominica is well known for. It is indeed a very beautiful island. We hiked, swam through gorges (another feature in Pirates of the Caribbean), bathed in sulfur baths, visited waterfalls and got the run down on the island politics and recovery process since the hurricane from our very informative tour guide Kewin.
We took our tour with a lovely couple from the UK, also an ARC boat, and enjoyed our ritual sunset Pina Coladas in their company while we were there.
The next day we sailed up to Portsmouth, a town which once again highlighted the contrast between Martinique and Dominica, with a lot of ravaged buildings, little sign of recovery, but a sense of good community spirit.
We took another tour, this time up the Indian River with a well humoured guide called Albert who only had one leg but knew everything about the wildlife and history on Dominica. The tour passed another Pirates of the Caribbean filming spot and ended in a Bush Bar were we had a few local cocktails – rum of course – which put us on a dangerous path, ending in a local beach BBQ, all-you-can-drink rum punches, dancing with the locals and… an inevitable hangover.
The next day the smell of bacon, and subsequent wolfing down of a couple of bacon butties, revived Brent and I long enough to get us onto a dive & snorkelling boat before we quite realised what had happened. Mum reckoned this dive ( Toucari), was the best she had ever done and the snorkelling proved to be quite a good hangover cure for us too.
Overall, the people on Dominica were really friendly, always trying to offer advice and we were impressed by how the locals had clearly self-organised to create an environment where yachties felt safe and they were intent on doing their part to help keep tourism going in this hard time for the country.