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Published: July 10th 2018
Saturday July 7 - Last night I got a message from Verena saying she tried to call, but Michael told her to call back at 7am. I told her I'd still be asleep with any luck, so not to bother. Of course, Michael did not know this, so he came knocking at 6:30am to tell me Verena would be calling in 30 minutes. I told him she wouldn't and went back to sleep. The door and large windows to the room - most of the building - is made with shingles or slats, so you can easily talk through the walls. I didn't even have to get out of bed to have this conversation. Fortunately, I was able to go back to sleep.
Verena sent me a message saying to meet her between 12:30-1pm at Zaka's cafe in town. There was not much I could do before that, because I didn't feel like getting super sweaty walking up and down the hill more than once, so I just stayed in, skyped a bit and repacked. I also checked the weather and the Hurricane Beryl was downgraded to a tropical storm overnight, so that was good news. Still no word on
whether the ferry would go tomorrow, but it seemed unlikely.
I met Verena, Josh and their friend Jill who is visiting from the US, at Zaka's, and soon we were on our way in their rental. We headed up north along the west coast, stopping at a place on the side of the road for cassava bread. I got a chocolate one for lunch and it was really good. The others had eaten in town and got them for snacking. They are round, a bit thick, and maybe 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Yummy. I got to try a few flavors - cinnamon, plain, saltfish - and they were all good. We drove past Canaries, and then through Castries, the capital. We stopped at the ferry to ask if it would go tomorrow, but it was all closed up and the security people did not know. We continued to drive north into Rodney Bay, the more touristy, beachy destination on the island. We were headed to Pigeon Island, where I had originally wanted to go, but they were setting up for a big concert to do with Carnival, and it was loud. The island is now joined to
the mainland by a causeway. We decided not to go, but just went down by the water to check out the beach a bit and we saw a cool eel that looked like a sea snake.
From there, we drove to the marina, where some of us had beers and some of us had gelato. I got chocolate and mango gelato. Not bad. While there, Verena called the main ferry number on Martinique and found that the ferry was canceled for tomorrow. The weather turned a little while we were there and it rained a bit on and off for the rest of the day. The next stop was visiting Verena's sister Anitanja and her 5-year-old son Jai. She had a room set up for me since I had planned to stay the night, but we decided I'd just go back to Balenbouche with Verena since I'd be here for a couple more days. The next ferry is on Tuesday. While there, we got to eat the fruit of the cacao plant (chocolate), which is a white pulp that covers the seeds you would ferment and roast to make chocolate. They made a game of spitting the seeds off
the balcony to see who could get it the furthest. Anitanya also made me chocolate tea, which I had seen at Morne Coubrail when I was there. It was quite nice, with some milk and sugar and some spices like cinnamon.
Then it was 6:30pm and we had to move. We stopped at the supermarket and I got some yogurt (of course) and will contribute to whatever I end up eating while I'm here. We drove back in the dark, cutting across the island and then on the west coast road, which is a faster option, and we got back somewhere between 8-9pm. It was raining when we arrived, but when it stopped, we unloaded the groceries and I had some stew that was on the stove for dinner. Verena showed me to my new cottage, Banyan, which is even larger than the first one I stayed in, and then I met them over at Waterlily cottage to hang out and play with the kittens. They still do not have names. I am working on it. Their mom Abbey is now on site, as she has also been adopted by the property. While there I also met the other
couple who is staying here for the next three weeks - Chris and Allie. They were here in March and wanted to come back to spend a little more time. I called it a night around 10:30pm and went to check my email before coming back to my cottage to shower and sleep. The frogs were loud, but I opted out of my crappy earplugs since they are more hassle than they're worth.
Sunday July 8 - I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of rain, and I was thinking hurricane! But the rain stopped and eventually I was able to get back to sleep, though it took some time. I woke up again after 8am, and was dozing in and out, thinking I heard the rain and having hurricane dreams. When I took off my eye mask, I could see that it was sunny, not raining, and I realized I must have been listening to the fan and making it into a storm. When I got out of bed, I put my feet down on the floor and within seconds, I had a mosquito on my legs that I could see through the mosquito net that the
rest of me was under. Insane! They certainly don't both everyone else, but they do seem to like me and Allie. I put on some pants to hide from the bugs and headed over to the big house for breakfast.
My food is stored in the fridge there, as the fridge is unplugged in Banyan and it doesn't make sense to plug it in for one day. I said hi to Verena and Josh and pulled up a bowl of yogurt and granola and mango. I chatted with my mom and Jeroen and spent some time on the internet. I went back to my cottage to put on some shorts. I couldn't have been back for two minutes before it started to rain. When I changed out of my pants, I saw that they did not protect me from mosquitos. I had 6 new bites through the pants on one leg. I cannot win. I waited out the rain and then did a short walk to the beach and back, sans dog. I came back with six mangos. Duds, all. Then I came over and sat with Jill while the others were out returning the car from yesterday. I
hung around the big house, eventually having some bread and leftover stew from last night with Verena. She also made some chai tea which was delicious. People came and went through the day, including a photographer taking pictures of a young boy playing a set of drums in the lawn. Verena also made mango smoothies at one point. Delicious.
I spent some time visiting the kittens and their mom and fell in love all over again. I also got an introduction to drones and what they can do with imagery when Josh took some cool panoramic photos of the property. Eventually, I headed back to the cottage to take advantage of a hot shower before the solar heated water went cold, as it had last night. I seriously did nothing today. I think this is what some people actually do on vacations. Is this what relaxing is?
Back at the house, Verena made dinner and some friends came over to eat, so we were a full house of seven. It's been nice being a part of this little community at Balenbouche and all of the people who come through here. In the evening it rained a little, but
very little overall, compared to what I would have expected with tropical storm Beryl. It looks like Dominica has gotten hit worse, with much more rain there. I've written to Charlotte, to try to see if anyone would be able to pick me up on Tuesday, or if the river is even crossable right now after all the rain, but I have not heard back yet. Maybe tomorrow I will hear something.
Monday July 9 - I slept pretty well last night, despite being pretty sure that there was a mosquito in my mosquito net. There probably was, but I'm so covered with bites that I can't tell the new ones anymore. There was also a cow outside that was calling a lot, and when Verena went to check, she discovered that four of the cows escaped at some point and the other cow was calling for them. Their recapture would have to wait until morning, and the cow eventually settled down. Thanks to the gardeners, all the cows were back in place when I woke up.
It started raining shortly after I woke up, and I thought this would be the hurricane rain, but no, just normal
rain that did not last that long. I went over to the big house to eat some breakfast and putter around on the internet. I later went with Josh and Verena to play with the kittens. They also invited Moose, one of the dogs, inside to see how the momma cat Abbey would behave. They are hoping she won't run away when they finally let her out, since they have five dogs. She was defensive but it went fairly well.
I had lunch with everyone and then booked a place to stay in Castries for the night. They were making some cool plans for the night, including going to the volcano and bathing in the sulphur springs when all the tourists left. It would have been nice to join them, but I have to sleep in Castries to be at the ferry early tomorrow. I expect it to be quite full with people who had planned to go Sunday as well as those who were scheduled to leave tomorrow. I hope there will be no issues with my ticketing.
Another day of doing not so much, but I got an email from Lisa, one of the bat girls
in Dominica, saying that all four of us will survey off-site tomorrow night, and they will pick me up from the ferry and we'll get lunch in town and go straight from there. Kind of sucks, as we won't get back until 2am or so. Quite the reintroduction.
I said goodbye to everyone at Balenbouche and left at 3:45pm, and by 4pm I was on a bus going to Vieux Fort. From there, I had to grab another bus to Castries. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to get a bus because there are fewer in the south and later in the day. But Verena assured me that if I left around 4pm, it wouldn't be a problem and that I would get to Castries before dark. She was right. I remembered where to find the buses going to Castries but checked with a police officer to be sure. I could see the buses and the one thing that was between them and me was Carnival. Carnival is usually in February/March, but each Caribbean island does it at a different time so you can have six months of Carnival. The one in Vieux Fort started
this week and I didn't think there were any activities going on today, but there was definitely a parade of music, cars and half-naked girls dancing through the streets. I got on my bus as soon as possible, since they leave when full, but I took some photos from inside the car to remember the scene.
I asked the bus driver to drop me off at the ferry terminal, since I was staying nearby and my directions started at the terminal. He kindly drove in, thinking I would get the ferry now, but I hopped out and was told by security that check-in starts tomorrow morning at 6:30am. The ferry leaves at 9:00, so that is quite early to check in, but I'll be early to make sure I can get a spot. I'm hoping to see Jessica and Justin, the Americans I met on the boat ride over. They should be heading back to Dominica as well.
It took about 10 minutes to walk mostly straight uphill to get to my guesthouse, which is true for every place I have stayed on this island except Balenbouche. That is a seriously sensible location, and I would fully recommend
it to anyone. I have a small apartment which is pretty basic, but it does what I need. I was checked-in by a woman who was very professional, but it took over an hour to get my change back and it came mostly as Eastern Caribbean dollars but there were a few American dollars thrown in. Messy. It's quite warm inside, but there is a powerful fan in the bedroom which will be good for sleep. There is no mosquito net, but there are screens on the windows so I am hopeful that there will be no need. I don't have room for any more bites as it is.
It was almost dark when she returned the change and brought my key, and I wasn't super hungry after the nice lunch we had, so I decided to eat my emergency ration of ramen noodles I bought on my first day here. A little yogurt for dessert and everything was well. Early to bed so I can be less grumpy with the early to rise.
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