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Published: December 19th 2014
Tuesday December 16th, 2014. Dominica, Lesser Antilles, West Indies.
We went for a posh breakfast before disembarking the ship. We had been to Dominica (pronounced Domineeka) before and it is M's favourite. Unfortunately we had docked at Woodbridge Bay about a mile out of town - the prime berth in the city of Roseau being occupied by a German vessel called Aida.
Dominica sits between the Leeward and Windward Island groups in the Lesser Antilles. It is 29 miles from north to south and 16 miles from east to west (a land area of almost 300 sq miles) - about 2 x the size of the Isle of Wight. It is the most mountainous and forested island in the Caribbean and is known as the "Nature Island" - probably why it is M's favourite. It has some of the most
spectacular and untamed scenery, the most unusual natural phenomena (world's second largest boiling lake) and is home to some of the world's most exotic flora and fauna.
More than 1,000 years ago a warlike tribe from South America began to displace the native Arawak Indians of the Caribbean Islands. These cannibalistic Carib tribes' success can best be recognized
by the fact that the area and the sea still bears their name. In 1493 on his second voyage, Columbus sighted an island and as he passed it by on the Lord's Day on 3rd November he named it Dominica - Sunday Island. He didn't land on Dominica having already sussed out that the Caribs were not a nice bunch. Later the French and English discovered this to their cost when attempting to settle on the island in the 17th century. After many bloody and violent scenes both nations agreed to leave the Caribs alone. This arrangement only lasted 26 years, after which hostilities broke out yet again between - you guessed it - the French and the English over control of the island. This time the Caribs where divided in their loyalties and as a consequence many died during the battles. In 1763 France ceded Dominica to the British, though they reneged on the
deal until finally, in 1805 (year of battle of Trafalgar) the French were finally ousted. The French held Dominica for a ransom of 12 grand but finally had to settle for 8 grand. They then had a fit of pique and burned the capital of
Roseau to the ground - nice! Despite the English rule however, the French influence in Dominica has remained. This is obvious in the local patois dialect, the place names and the gastronomic oddities (e.g. mountain chicken which are really frogs!). Dominica became fully independent in 1978 and the island's correct title is now the Commonwealth of Dominica.
After grabbing a map from a kiosk on the quay we walked the mile into town along the coast and then turned left towards the Botanical Gardens. D remembers this as being the highlight of our visit the last time we were here but M had no recollection of going to any gardens at all. These are the showpiece of Roseau and occupy 40 acres. With 3 times the amount of rain that fallls on London, a tropical climate and a sheltered position, the gardens flourish. The planning of these gardens began in 1890 on land where sugar cane was previously grown. Very soon the gardens, which were divided into an ornamental section and an economic section attained the reputation of being the premiere gardens in the Caribbean. Here too the gardens house another rare species of parrot called the Red-Necked Amazon
Parrot or "Jaco" (Amazona arausiaca) which is found only on Dominica in Morne Diablotin and Morne Trois Pitons National Parks, the Northern and Central Forest Reserves and surrounding areas. The same difficulty was had as with on St Vincent with the new all singing and dancing camera - hence no pictures!
We strolled through the beautiful gardens until we found a bus squashed under a tree. There was a sign here titled " David the Goliath". Turns out this was a huge African Baobab tree that was blown down on the bus during Hurricane David on 29 August 1979. Fortunately the bus was empty at the time!. The main stem of the tree is now more than 6.4 metres (21 feet) in circumference. The 150 mph winds destroyed many of the trees in the gardens within 6 hours.We made our way to the Mountain Chicken Research centre which was not open to the public. This centre is dedicated to a captive breeding program for the Crapaud which is not a chicken at all but a species of frog (a Dominican delicacy).
Next to the centre was the start of Jacks Walk Trail which leads to a viewpoint over
the city of Roseau. The sign said it would take 20 minutes - a big fat LIE - unless you were a mountain goat! The views were amazing. Back down in town we procured a lead for the laptop (got left out of the packing) and had a beer. We made our way back to the ship, had lunch and a rest - we were exhausted. We popped out to post a blog later just before the ship left.
Dinner with same Yorkshire couple as last night plus party of 4 southerners. Good company but rubbish food.
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