We all come from somewhere, from someplace, my opinion is simple; own your background, own your Heritage, wear it like a badge and draw from its strengths. As for myself, my origin, my family heritage is a humble one. My family arrived to homestead in rural Florida back in the 1840's, they were citrus farmers mostly. Growing up in the tropics of south Florida, we played in swamps full of snakes and alligators for fun, running barefoot through the dark water. We fished, we hunted, we learned how to camp, build a fire, run a boat and to cook whatever we caught that day.
Arriving in Dominica, after the crowded, urbanized experience on Martinique, was for me, like taking off tight shoes at the end of the day. The island is almost as large but with less than one quarter of the population of Martinique. Dominica is known as the nature island, and it's often said, the only one left that Columbus would still recognize. It's mountainous, intensely green and mostly still completely wild.
Alexis is our guide today, he's picked us up from FG in his traditional wood long-boat, and we're racing towards shore. These "go fast" boats are ubiquitous throughout the southern Caribbean, with distinctive paint jobs and equally colorful names blazoned on their hulls. Their operators are independents known locally as "boat boys". Any type of cash business is fair game for the boat boys from helping yachts to find an anchorage, to fishing, selling lobsters and local goods like fresh bread, or ferrying passengers. There's even the occasional smuggling job between islands- pretty much anything goes down here. Today, Alexis is taking us on a river tour. Dominica has copious amounts of fresh water due to its rain forest covered mountains. Their are 365 rivers on Dominica, we'll be traveling up just one of them; the Indian River.
Pirates Of The Caribbean...there's that movie franchise popping up yet again. Wherever the cast and crew filmed down here, you'll hear a mention of the episode complete with antidotes from the local folks. Dominica has been used as a location repeatedly, the cast and crew have spent months here filming. The thick jungle draped Indian River was the backdrop for scenes in POTC "Dead Man's Chest" and again in "At World's End", the colorful swamp bound home of Tia Dalma, the Jamaican Obia priestess, played by Naomie Harris, is still standing and a popular stop along the tour. Of the cast members, Alexis says it was Orlando Bloom who became an island favorite, he rented a house on the island during filming and spent his off hours hanging out with the locals. In contrast, Johnny Depp stayed off shore on his motor yacht.
We entered the mouth of the river and Alexis cut the motor. Then he pulled out a long set of heavy wood oars and began to row. It's a fantasy jungle scene: dappled sunlight sifting through a thick canopy, exotic water birds hunting for small fish, giant land crabs hiding along the shore, while jewel like hummingbirds dance between the flowers in the trees above. We lumbered up the river taking in the intense tropical beauty of this place, the huge lazy coco palms framed by lush mountains...oh wait, and then we found the bar.
The "Ticking Croc", is a legitimate bush bar, a dirt floor, thatched roof tiki hut sitting along the river and surrounded by a jungle garden of tropical flowers. A boatload of happy French tourists were just leaving as we pulled up, a group of Brits were holding up the bar inside. "try the dynamite!" One Frenchie shouted as their boat passed us. It's a rum concoction made with local berries boiled in sugar, it's powerful stuff. We ended up taking a bottle back to the boat with us...uh..yeah, for purely cultural exploration purposes of course...
Lunch the next day and my order arrives: smoked pork and callaloo stew, plantains, cassava, rice and lentils. We're eating in a restaurant that looks surprisingly similar to Tarzan's house from the old Johnny Weissmuller days, that is if Tarzan and Jane had added a tiki bar. The entire place seems pieced together from local bamboo and thatch, it's rather extraordinarily cool considering not one shred of the motif is made of plastic. Morris, the proprietor and chef is smiling broadly as we all chow down on this Caribbean feast he's prepared for us.
We'd been bouncing around the island in a cab driven by a guy named Shadow. Shadow it turns out is a Carib Indian, or more correctly, a Kalinago, a member of the last indigenous population in the Caribbean, a tribe of just over 3000 lives on Dominica. We stop at a local Carib bakery cooking up traditional flat bread made from Cassava root and cocoanut that's been hand shredded then formed into patties. The bread is cooked over a wood fire and fresh out of the oven it's excellent. Shadow himself is quite the character, sporting a long braided ponytail, he makes frequent stops along our "tour" that happen to coincide with the comings and goings of his lady friends. Pulling his cab off the road unexpectedly to chat, he seems quite energetic in his pursuits.
A thumping reggae inspired club beat rolled out from shore until about four this morning followed at around six by the thunderous rants of an evangelical preacher. Today we sail for Guadeloupe and then on to Antigua. As we head farther north the boat boys will thin out completely and the character of the islands will change. Of all the islands we've visited on our southern swing, Dominica is by far the most authentically Caribbean, this is the real Caribbean. It's been a delightful experience for our new crew member Simone who just a few days ago joined us in Martinique. His first time in the islands and he gets to see one of the Caribbean's most beautiful. Benvenuti al bordo Simone, ci sentiamo bene!
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