I don’t know why I do it but a hike always tempts me. Seeing new things, the adventure and yes, even the exercise interest me. But then I never like it! I think it is the pace. I like to stop and look at things – a flower, tree roots or the view but it seems that the rule for a hike is that you have to rush along precarious paths and the only thing you can see are your feet. Beans (our guide) had told us that we would be out all day and that we would have two hikes each 45 minutes. I do remember thinking – that will be ok!
On the morning of our adventure the clouds were coming in low over the hills and the rain was so heavy that it was like being in an expensive hotel shower with the setting on the highest power. It really was like a power shower as it switched on and then off in bursts.
As the shower turned off Beans collected us from Magic. Beans commented that I was brave wearing all white when going into the forest (I should have realised at that moment that this was going to be a big mistake) but we went with him to the dock.
We were introduced to Joe who would be our guide for the day. We got into his dusty van and we mentioned that we needed water filters and if we were passing a chandlery we would like to look for some. He drove us into town and we found ourselves being guided to what looked like a small version of Currys. Joe had thought we needed water filters for a domestic water system. We explained that we needed a chandlers, and as that was going to be in the too difficult pile were soon back in the van and off again. We drove up and up then stopped at a forestry office. The power shower had been turned on again and we hid under the covers in front of the office and watched as steam rose from the road – proving that there can be smoke without fire. We needed a ticket each to go into the forest, which is a national park. Mark went in to get a ticket and I stayed outside (under cover) with May. I read a notice about a Cane Toad epidemic – I was thinking, aren’t they the ones you lick and get high? But the notice was warning how toxic these toads are and that the skin of the toads and their tadpoles were dangerous. I immediately thought of May and was becoming more concerned about this adventure.
Note: I just looked up Licking Toads and found this helpful note
A lot of people mistakenly think that the cane toad is the infamous licking toad, but it is not. Licking a cane toad will not result in a high, but rather some very serious illness and possibly even death. The licking toad is the Colorado River toad (Bufo alvarius), also known as the Sonoran Desert toad. Even with these, licking them can make you very ill and again, even possibly kill you. I’ve never done it, never will and don’t condone it, but the way people actually get high from licking toads is to squeeze the warts on the toad, causing it to secrete the toxin, which is a white, creamy substance. They dry it and then smoke it in a glass meth pipe. I talked to guy who did it and explained this to me. He said the taste was horrible and the high lasts only a few minutes. He said it was extremely intense to the point where you are laying on the floor, drooling on yourself, and unable to remember your name. Doesn’t sound like fun to me, but to each their own.)
Mark found getting the permit a particularly Caribbean experience. The lady who was issuing the permits had no one else to serve but still Mark had to wait while she took her medicine before she served him! It took 20 minutes to get the permits which cost 13 EC which is about £3. This small fee goes towards the management of the forest. But we couldn’t help wonder who set this fee and why it wasn’t more as that amount would hardly cover the cost of the administration to print and sell the ticket. Back in the van we headed up and up into the forest and then parked up. Joe got out of the van and I was disturbed to note him changing into an old t-shirt and shorts and leaving his dry clothes in the van. No one had mentioned to us that it might be a good idea to have a change of clothes. Don’t think I am good at rain forests.
We read a sign about all the bats and snakes and beetles that are in the forest and then headed off. I told Joe that I was not very sure footed and he said it was ok and that we would go at our own pace – right! We headed out …
Just a change of direction for a moment while I tell you what just happened. To demonstrate that living on board you are always one moment away from something challenging happening. I was sitting writing to you and suddenly I heard Mark shouting for me – he was standing on the stern watching our new dingHy and outboard floating away! “you or me?” he said – I was wearing only a white linen shirt and excuse me for this – and no pants!! Knowing I am the stronger swimmer and watching the dinghy float away I jumped in and swam hard. It is still pretty windy and the waves were quite high and there is about a knot of current in the bay. I swam hard and soon caught up with the dinghy. Then I was thinking – urm how do I get in so I can start the engine. It is really hard to get into a dinghy from the water plus the no pants thing was an issue. So, I grabbed the line and swam pulling the dinghy behind me – this was going to be tough. Just then I noticed a handsome guy from a neighboring yacht (Sea Biscuit) had seen what was going on and was in his dinghy coming to the rescue. He said,
“ Hi, I will tow your dingy for you. Do you want to get in?” I said “thank you, but it is only a short swim” meaning – “thank you but there is no way can I climb in your dingy, I have no pants on!”
I waved a thank you as he took Sparkle 2 to Magic where Mark was waiting. The lovely man then went back to Sea Biscuit and I then got out of the sea and back on board Magic to dry. We had been so diligent with our beloved new dingy. We were shocked to see that the rope that had tied her to Magic had come loose. What happens with wind and waves over time is that it seems to be able to undo bowlines or anything. We will be more careful.
Now dry and back to thoughts of Dominica! Where was I?
We headed out into the forest and within 5 minutes of pleasant walking along a good track past Ginger Lilies and gum trees we came to a river – May had been skipping along happily by our sides but she looked like she was thinking the same as me – “do we have to cross that?” Our guide just tripped across like a mountain goat and I thought I had better take off my trainers and socks to keep them dry. I took them in my left hand and Mark lifted May. One step onto the first rock and I was in – I slipped backwards and was on my bum in the river completely soaked. I got up and carefully managed to cross without falling again. This was the start. Perhaps some people are just not designed for trekking in rain forests. To cut the painful story short – we trekked in torrential train over rocks and more rivers – up steep paths made of tree roots and down shale that slid – we did see the most incredible waterfalls and due to the rain we saw them at their fiercest – thundering into the pools at their feet where we could have swam but not today as we would have died. What fun we had – soaking and bruised and actually cold. May was shivering. I thought, “I don’t like hiking!” It’s good to know what you like and what you don’t – but I must remember next time to say no. The rest of the day was spent going to swimming holes that we couldn’t swim in and looking at the incredible scenery – the rain made it all the more dramatic. At one spot Joe stopped the van and got out a knife – he went up to a tree and took off some bark and brought it too us. “Smell this” he said. We did – it was cinnamon. Then he gathered some coffee beans and some lemon grass and wild thyme. All of it just by the road. Dominica is a wild larder.
We ended up our day at a swimming place where we could swim with out fear of death but I was so wet and tired I just sat and dried out in the hut with May while Joe our driver watched Judge Judy. Mark went and sat in the muddy water that was the naturally heated hot tub. It was getting dark by the time we left and we were tired. What an incredible place Dominica is – just think Jurassic Park and you will be there in your mind. It is dense, green, steamy and wild. You can imagine you hear the squeak of things actually growing while you watch them. Back on Magic for a rest and to plan the next day when we would fill up with water on the dock and then head North to Portsmouth.
The next morning we slipped our mooring and went to the dock to get fresh water. It was straight forward to mooring alongside the dock. It was good to get water onboard as we had run out completely. Then we were off and sailing again. We put up our main and our genoa it was going to be a lovely sail. The wind was light and the sea state was calm – I like sailing like that.
Arriving in to Portsmouth we called for Providence – a boat boy who’s actual name is Martin. He was recommended by ‘Beans’ in Roseau. Portsmouth bay is beautiful – natural horse shoe – calm and protected. There were several super yachts in the harbor – some with all their toys out – things I would love a go on include – the massive slide that goes from the side of the yacht to the sea and the jet boots that shoot you out of the water (although I think I would be scared in those)
We were met by Martin and he helped us onto a mooring buoy. He was warm and welcoming and he explained PAYS. Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security was set up by a group of enterprising boat boys who realised that if the yachties were safe and happy then they would stay and spend. So they all work together to ensure that everyone who stays feels safe and happy and it works really well. We arrived on Saturday and Sunday was Mark’s Birthday. Sunday is also when PAYS runs a massive Beach BBQ party for all the yachties as a fundraiser for PAYS. We had heard a lot about the Indian River Tour in Portsmouth so we asked Martin to take us
He promised to be with us 7am Sunday morning. We went ashore to find out if there was anywhere for Mark to watch his beloved Manchester United on Sunday. We found a restaurant that had a big screen but it was broken – then we found another who said they would be showing the game at noon. Perfect. Marks birthday was shaping up – 7am river tour, midday Man United and Beach BBQ in the evening.
Happy we went back to Magic and then out in the evening for sundowners and supper. At the local bar we met some guys we had met in Saint Lucia. It is lovely to keep bumping into people who are also cruising up and down. We had supper with them and agreed that they would join us for the River Cruise in the morning.
It had been a full day – sailing from Roseau (4 hours) arriving and exploring, drinks and supper ashore. We went back to Magic tired and happy.
Marks Birthday – I found a card and some balloons (the sort of thing you have aboard when you live on your yacht!) He was surprised and delighted – oh the simple things in life are good – a yellow balloon and a kiss. I had written him a silly poem too and we laughed – today was going to be a good day. Our friends arrived to go on the tour and we waited for Martin – and waited and waited – we called him on the VHF but he didn’t come – eventually Charlie another member of PAYS came and took us on the tour. We didn’t mind, as we know all the guys know the river well. Charlie drove at speed from Magic to the mouth of the river. Then he turned his engine off and got his oars out. Nobody is allowed to use engines on the river – it is a wild life sanctuary. It was a gentle and soporific experience being paddled up the river with Charlie like a gondolier skillfully steering his boat from the stern. He pointed out the wild life – shoals of fish dark shadows blurring under the milky surface, exotic birds watched us carefully as we sculled beneath them and huge crabs with beady eyes that scuttled along the banks. The river had an eerie quality to it – swampy and quiet but deeply sensual and beautiful. It was like a film set and in fact it is where some scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed. The ones that show the home of Jamaican Voodoo witch Tia Dalma (played brilliantly by Naomie Harris – she is English but her father is from Jamaica and her mother is from Trinidad so her Patois in the film was perfection) She had a wooden house on stilts on the river and Cobra, one of the boat boys, has rebuilt it wonderfully. At then end of the river we got out of the boat on a wooden jetty and walked though a bar was a skull (spooky) and into an orchard filled with bananas, coconuts and passion fruit vines – as we walked Joe cut fruit and gave it to us and explained what the trees and plants were. He showed us a weed that recoils if you touch it – mimosa pudica – locally called Morir-Vivir (Die and Live) it protects itself by recoiling when you touch it. Locals pick it dry it and use it to make a drink that they say has the properties of Viagra.
Next to surprise us was a local guy running past us with a wheel barrow full of coconuts. He said “ I will climb the tree for you if you like” we said that was kind but he already seemed to have all the coconuts we would need. Mark bought one from him and he took his machete over his head and brought it down with great force on the nut to sheer its top off. Then he handed us a straw and while we drank the coconut milk he told us of the positive effect it would have on our reproductive organs. Everyday is a school day. Then when were finished he used his machete again to open the nut and showed us how to scoop out the young coconut flesh. What a great birthday breakfast.
Back to the boat and gently we retraced our track back to the mouth of the river. It was a wonderful trip and we thanked Charlie. Back on board we had a coffee and changed to go to see Manchester United play. We got the dinghy ready and headed ashore. We parked at the fishermans dock and as we got out an official asked for May’s papers – thank goodness we had them with us. They do say that if you have a dog ashore with no papers they can have it killed. So that sharpens your focus when making sure the papers are all in order. He seemed happy and we were on our way. We walked down the high street looking at the locals and their shops and houses. These people really have very little – we went to the chandlery and there was hardly any stock. The same was true of the supermarkets. Dominica is poor but very special – it is so unspoilt and it has the last population of Carib people living in the centre of the Island. We walked to the restaurant that had promised the match would be on but there were, rather predictably, shut. Mark was disappointed. We turned and walked back down the high street and as we passed a small general store we heard the match. Two locals, one wearing a Man U shirt were sitting on wooden stools watching the match in front of the counter. Mark and I stepped in and Mark asked if he could join them to watch the match. He was welcomed and we both sat in the shop and watched the game. It is a weird thing to be watching a foot ball game in a tiny shop in the Caribbean. Weird but lovely and typical of the sort of welcome you get here. After the game we walked back to the dinghy and went home to Magic. Next we changed and got ready to go to the BBQ – life is fun.
The BBQ was fantastic and we met some people we had last met in Maderia – the cruising world is a small one. We ate and drank and danced in the sand and then we thought – early night. The next day we had a five hour sail to The Saintes.
I am writing this from The Saintes and will tell you more about them soon but honestly today was mad! – it began with jumping off the stern and swimming after the dingy – then in the middle we had an excellent French lunch and finally in the afternoon we decided – innocently enough – to walk to the petrol station and get some fuel. Anyone who has been to The Saintes will now go “Oh no!” as to get to the fuel station you have to walk about two miles over a hill and then, when the road runs out, you have to hike (didn’t I mention I hated hiking?) up and up and then down steep steps. We set off for fuel and it took two hours to get the fuel. Once I realised how steep the steps down were I rebelled and Mark said he would go. Off he went down the steep steps and to call it a path would be wrong. He then said he arrived at a modern fuel station in the middle of nowhere. This is the only fuel station on the island and you cannot get to it by road – isn’t that amazing. The fuel for the cars and scooters on the island is collected in cans by a local fishing boat and brought round to the town. Apparently the fuel station was built and then road was never finished. Local people take their boats around to the fuel station. However the reason we needed fuel was because the fuel in our dinghy was low so we didn’t want to risk it as it is quite far. So now we are back on Magic – and after getting some food for tomorrow, taking the dinghy back, dropping off a bottol of wine to say thanks to the guys on Sea Biscuit and finally putting the outboard and dinghy away we are physically tired. What a bonkers day. Tomorrow we have a five to six hour sail from The Saints north to Guadaloupe ( I like saying Guadaloupe out loud – try it it sounds and feels great!) We will stay in Deshaies tomorrow night – Saturday night in Guadaloupe – how exciting. We will stay there on Sunday as well as the wind is due to pick up on Sunday and calm again on Monday. We like to hide if it is blowing and we have to cross from one island to another. We plan to set sail for Jolly harbor early on Monday morning – we have an appointment with the vet on Monday afternoon and want to prep the boat for our VIP guest Claire Archibald who arrives on Tuesday. It is £100 a night in Jolly Harbour so we won’t stay long!!