Saturday, 16 February 2013


We are flying down the West coast of Dominica at 9 knots in flat water in the lee of this big mountainous island. When Columbus was describing Dominica to the King of Spain he used a crumpled sheet of paper to illustrate the dramatic form of the island and as it sweeps by on our starboard beam it is easy to see why this land is so difficult to cultivate and commercialise. With only 70,000 inhabitants it is calm and peaceful, a paradise of thick rain forests, rivers and waterfalls, where trees hang heavy with fruit, and vegetables sprout by the roadside.

The sail across from Martinique was fast and 'sportif' as the French would say. A big 3 metre sea was running and with 20 knots of trade wind just forward of the beam we charged across the Dominica channel at 9 knots, occasionally slowing when our bows ploughed into a large Atlantic wave. Rounding Scotts Head and into calmer waters we are immediately struck by the natural beauty of Dominica, which has the largest mountain in the Caribbean at over 4,000 feet and seven potentially active volcanos which explains the brooding contours of the island.

We pick up a mooring buoy in Roseau, the capital, and join a handful of other yachts moored off the small town. A security guard called Marcus appears in a bright orange tender and helps us with our lines, his reefer never leaving his lips and as he takes our mooring fees he promises us 'security twenty four seven, ya man'. He insists that we should use Bobby Jones as our guide and he fetches him from the shore. After some rather half- hearted negotiation we agree a price and make a plan for the following day.

Marcus collects us in his rib early the following morning and we join a young French couple in Bobby's minibus, waiting for us on the dock. First a trip to the customs hall where I am reprimanded for not clearing out of Martinique and then we are off, bouncing along the rough roads that lead up into the hills. The trek to Middleham Falls is not for the faint hearted and we follow Bobby who strides ahead in silence along the marked path beneath the thick canopy of leaves over our heads. We climb quite rapidly up the hillside and although we are still in dense jungle, the air cools a little and it is a pleasant temperature for this strenuous trek. Eventually we reach a fork in the path and we head downhill towards the sound of the waterfall that thunders in the back ground. When we arrive at the small viewing platform the air is damp with mist from the falls which pour from a small ravine high above us and plunge 300 feet into a pool below.

The walk back downhill is easier and gives us the chance to look around at the vegetation. Fatty suddenly jumps behind Bobby when she spots a small snake darting across her path, its head held high as its coils propel it through the undergrowth and into the trees. On the way to lunch we stop by the roadside near a tin shack and our guide emerges with a pole which he uses to dislodge coconuts from the trees. He then climbs a tree and throws handfuls of grapefruits down to us. He also cuts down a sugar cane and hands us shards of white fibrous cane which look unappealing but when we bite into it the flesh it produces a delicious sweet juice. The grapefruits are the sweetest we have tasted and the milk from the coconuts, although quite tasteless, quenches our thirst. We tip the old lady who lives in the shack and we head for lunch at the river café, a local restaurant near the Trafalgar Falls where papayas grow wild by the road and tiny hummingbirds hover over the leaves. A gecko watches us intently as we eat, not in the slightest bit frightened by our close presence.

As the day goes on, Bobby becomes more forthcoming, occasionally stopping the minibus and leaning out of the window, pulling low-hanging fruit and spices from plants along the roadside and handing them back to us to taste or smell and admire. The overwhelming impression we have of Dominica, is of a land that is unspoilt and fertile, where mangos, papayas, limes, oranges and bananas grow in abundance. Rivers and waterfalls cascade down the valleys and hot sulphurous springs bubble from hot gases released from beneath the volcanic surface. We collect our grapefruit, sugar cane, limes and watercress which we gather wild from a stream in the forest and head back to Juno to prepare for the next leg of our journey to the French island of Guadeloupe.

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