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krisek Roseau - A travel report by Krys
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Roseau,  Dominica - flag Dominica -  Saint George
5624 readers

krisek's travel reports

The greenest, wildest, friendliest. Dominica.

  13 votes
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Dominica is among the least visited Caribbean islands, and one of the least developed. It doesn't have best beaches and good weather is not guaranteed. It can rain every day, definitely in the mountains, which produce 365 rivers. But the locals are super!


Northern Dominica, full of rainbows.
Northern Dominica, full of rainbows.
The largest of the Windward Islands, Dominica was also the greenest. Already from the airplane I was hit by spectacular views of sheer cliffs and mountains full of countless palm trees sticking out off low hanging clouds. It looked like a dramatic scene from a certain Steven Spielberg‘s motion picture. I knew already that this island was going to be different.

The only difficulty was weather. The low hanging clouds produced frequent showers on the humid sunny days, and it was hard to predict which of the clouds was going to give rain and which one was just passing by. Later, I realised that this phenomenon, which also kept creating multiple rainbows, was more applicable to the northern part of the island.

Well, it rained a lot on Dominica. I guess this was to do with the relatively high mountains, which attracted the clouds. The island claimed to have 365 rivers, one for each day of a year. This actually might be true, since I passed through many of them. Some of them were tiny and were really just streams and not rivers, but who cares?!

It rained briefly several times on my first day with light showers between very hot sunny spells. Then at night I could hear hard rain almost regularly.

Crime, said my driver Bernard, was a serious problem on Dominica. Apparently, there were many thieves, muggers and rapists on the island. I was quite concerned about this information. I was not sure whether I should believe it or not. Well, I could not see a reason why would Bernard lie to me, so I simply accepted the fact.

Roads on Dominica were very bad, which made any short distance escapade a real journey. Plus, the mountains made the tracks winding up and down like a rollercoaster. Many heavy vehicles often got stuck blocking the entire road!

Favourite spots:
Northern Dominica beaches
Northern Dominica beaches
I went for a clockwise tour around the island. I told my driver (hired taxi van) that I wanted to take nice pictures of Dominica home with me. So, I was stopping very frequently to point my camera at more picturesque landscape or coast.

I allowed him take passengers, who paid a small fee for each ride. Usually it was XCD 1.00 (one East Caribbean dollar) to the next village and additional XCD 1.00 for each village passed. Eventually my minivan became a bus collecting every single soul on the road astonishing everyone with my frequent photo stops.

There was a decent beach with black sand and nasty rapid waves and a few leaning coconut palm trees. And there was a clever guy climbing the palm trees and cutting off the coconuts. I spoke to him briefly and I tried to lift one of the coconut bunches. I managed but realised how heavy they were. The guy earned my respect there! Not only do you have to climb the tall coconut palm tree, but you have log it down from the top. Clearly hard work!

What's really great:
Dominica's north-east
Dominica's north-east
I visited also the Carib Territory on the eastern coast. The Caribs were people who originally lived on the islands, after arriving from South America. They were almost completely exterminated by European invaders, who claimed that Caribs were cannibals. In fact there was no hard evidence of this and it might just have been an excuse for the genocide. Sadly, the Caribs don't have the best reputation. Local Dominicans told me that they were alcoholics, messy and trouble makers. Their houses were simple and small. All among lush forest. Streams passing through...

I went to check the UNESCO listed World Natural Heritage site on Dominica. Disappointing a little, I must say. I just couldn't see how it was unique. Comparing with some truly unique, priceless and irreplaceable wonders of this planet I wouldn't say Morne Trois Pitons of Dominica belonged to the same group. It was great, wild and yes, required protecting, but it was just a piece of mountainous jungle. Many of those spots exist.

Sights:
Roseau's typical architecture
Roseau's typical architecture
Roseau, the capital town, was rather small and a complete culinary desert! Well, not entirely, but I faced a major challenge. See below.

I expected from a capital town to have something to offer to travellers in terms of sights, monuments, etc. But Roseau had very little. From the architecture point of view, there were few interesting buildings in town (village?) and even if they were eye catching, they were all disastrously neglected and left to turn to ruins. They had distinctive balconies, which featured almost on every building in the centre. The houses were made of wood and most were painted in vivid colours, typical for the Caribbean!

The authorities managed to spend a little effort to redevelop a very short stretch of the ferry harbour, where cruise ship passengers can get off and browse through a limited number of stores. How sad and artificial!

Oh, but there are also two quite picturesque churches in town as well. They're not always open, so small chance to have a look inside.

Accommodations:
Portsmouth, view from the hotel
Portsmouth, view from the hotel
I stayed at Portsmouth Beach Hotel, right at a black, narrow sandy beach in Portsmouth, in the northern part of the island. It was so close to the ocean that the breaking waves sounded so near as if they were smashing against my balcony.

The hotel was fine. Some of the rooms (USD35-50) were being renovated, yet lacked character and a homey touch. The walls were painted white and windows had no curtains. Satellite TV was great with many movie channels. It was a bargain for this price, actually.

I was surprised to see many foreigners around in the northern part of the island. Nowhere else, apart the obvious Morne Trois Pitons National Park, did I see so many white faces. I later found out that many foreign young people came to Portsmouth to attend the Medical University. Hmm... many American boys and girls chose to migrate from the US and pay for the studies in Dominica. How intriguing, ha? The hotel offered discounted rates for them, and many took upon that.

Nightlife:
Western Dominica
Western Dominica
For people who have never been to Dominica it must sound so cool to get one's Masters in medicine in the Caribbean! Well, Dominica is not the proverbial paradise - it is its unfortunate image. This is bad for the island itself.

Unpredictable and frequently wet weather plus a lack of white, postcard-pretty beaches means that Dominica usually appears on the bottom of Caribbean holidays choices. This translates to a lack of flow of dollars and rather slow development of the country. The island is, as almost all Antilles, small and one can get very bored with it very quickly. My point is that several years of studying in a very small Third World country does not sound like fun. Yes, there is little going on in terms of student life (but medical students hardly ever have student life ;)) or nightlife that would make front pages of gossip magazines. Surely there are bars on the island, but they are inconspicuous and small. And yet this is exactly why this all makes Dominica a true paradise.

Hangouts:
Traveller's Tree in the heart of the island
Traveller's Tree in the heart of the island
The Morne Trois Pitons of Dominica was among the best places to linger and relax. There were certain natural features within the park, which were very special, for instance world's second largest boiling lake, a crater of steaming water, which could boil an egg in three minutes (in normal time, obviously), and a number of small waterfalls.

The Emerald Pool, which attracted all the vast cruise ship passengers, was extremely small. And overcrowded with too many overweight white tourists. I think it was a bit ridiculous, actually. It was supposed to be a very special place to relax and to forget about the world... Oh, well.

The park had a few nice trails, most of which could be done without a guide, but it was a good idea to take someone local so they could tell all those fascinating, incredible and often funny stories about the island and the park, and that also meant that they had employment. Some of the guides waited at the entrance to the park, by the shops.

Restaurants:
One of the great restaurants in the capital
One of the great restaurants in the capital
There were a few restaurants in Roseau. I tried to enter 4 restaurants and to make an impact with my presence. All in vain! I was seriously unimpressed that I could get no service at all! No-one cared whatsoever. I manged to sit in two restaurants and no-one would serve me. They might have been closed between lunch and dinner, but at least someone could have approached me to educate me that the place was not serving. Anyway, the best restaurants were the little ones, posing also as cafes. Particularly there were a few wonderful chicken restaurants. I also ate at the minivan bus station at the entry to town, but I was not impressed with the quality to be honest.

But my greatest mistake was to try food at my hotel restaurant. It was perfectly located by the beach with a few very comfortable tables and all, but the food was terrible. I tried fish and I could hardly eat it! It was not fresh and the sauce or spice they sprinkled on it was horrible. I had 2 bottles of coke to kill the taste!

Other recommendations:
Northern Dominica
Northern Dominica
My driver took me to the northernmost point of the island complete with stunning views of sheer cliffs, the island of Guadeloupe, dramatic islets and a lonely, rusty 17th century cannon. It was a superb spot, way off any tourist route. It was beyond a point where the road disappeared. It had been under construction many years ago, and then all over sudden the construction had stopped. It would have linked the north-western part with the north-eastern part, and eventually the road leading to the eastern airport. The place was secluded and quite romantic, I guess. The cannon created some mystery as well.

My driver lived nearby and he was raving about the place all day. He said he was bringing his girl-friends there very often, but they were scared of the place due to many snakes, which loved the spot.

Dominica, the true primeval Caribbean paradise, is well connected by air with Antigua and St Lucia (LIAT) and by fast ferry with Guadeloupe and Martinique (L'Express des Îles).

Published on Thursday July 3th, 2008


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Mon, Jul 07 2008 - 12:41 PM rating by jorgesanchez

I am glad to read about Dominica, one of my favourite small Antilles islands.

Thu, Jul 03 2008 - 08:02 PM rating by eirekay

As always up to your usual high standards! I appreciate your thoughts on true paradise.

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