Brian and Lynn Tonkin's seven week vacation tour commencing 13th March 2010

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Guadeloupe and Dominica
Days are starting to run into one another but after a couple of nights we weigh anchor and head off down to the island of Guadeloupe. The weather reports are not real good and we have about four hours of boisterous sailing ahead of us. However just when we are nearing our destination and looking forward to smooth water, a swim and some lunch our skipper springs a surprise by saying that there was good merit (weatherwise) in us continuing on past Guadeloupe and making for Dominica. The choice is ours according to Alan but if we agree Liz will make up some gourmet sandwiches to munch on as we bump from wave to wave for another three hours. Not to be considered wimps, we agree.

In due course we arrive in a tranquil Dominican Harbour with glassy blue water, palm trees on shore and dozens of small timber bumboats coming alongside to sell us limes, mangos, on shore tours and you name it. This is a former British colony so we can speak the lingo and do a bit of bargaining with the guys on the bumboats. Most of these guys are friendly and happy but one individual has lots of attitude and also tries to con us. He even demands a can of beer which we refused before giving him the bum's rush.

Brian and friend... sans le computer

Bumboats circle arriving yacht in Dominica

One of the tour offerings involves a late afternoon trip up the Indian River into the nearby rainforest. We signed up for this excursion on learning that we'll be picked up and dropped off at our own vessel. So convenient and we couldn't knock it back. It turned out to be both pleasant and good value for money. A few photos appear below on this webpage.

Monty, our bumboat skipper in Dominica

Trish takes it easy on our Indian River cruise in Dominica

On safari upon Indian River

Liz, Monty and Lynn on Indian River

I think his name must have been Albert

Jungle Jim and his mate Jane

"Hey, this is almost as good as Disneyland!"

One of many Dominican wrecks caused by past hurricanes

Just in case skipper Alan was thinking of another seven hour sail we thwarted any such plans by lining up a taxi and driver to take us on an island exploration tour the following day. We awoke next day feeling a little hung over because a shore side cafe had been belting out reggae music until about 3.00am and it was clearly audible in our cabins. Still, a quick plunge into the aqua blue water followed by a delicious al fresco brekkie in Cerulean's spacious rear cockpit and we're all ready to go. The bum boat chauffer arrives exactly on time, ferries us ashore and passes us over the shore transport chauffer and we're all hot to trot. Dominica here we come.

Big Papa's reggae music kept us awake half the night

Typical Dominica Snack Shack

As we move up from the coast and into the jungle it become clear that our driver George (name changed to protect his identity) knows a lot about the local flora. He shows us many bush foods and also well known spices like cinnamon and wild vanilla just growing wild in the jungle. He then explains their nature and how they are used by the local people. He really makes our tour most interesting.

We saw lots of scenery like this

Boats off the beach in a tiny and remote fishing village

The roads are very narrow and quite hazardous due to deep drainage ditches on one side of the road and steep drop-offs on the opposite side. But George is a skilled driver and doesn't drive in a reckless way so we feel reasonably safe. All is revealed when he tells us that this Toyota SUV is his boss's personal transport.

Took this shot from inside a cliff edge village dunny!!

A close up shot after exiting said dunny

George takes us into a tiny hillside village and spots his old school headmaster, Cyril Thomas. Lot's of chat chat and introductions whereupon we are invited into a private home where the lady of the house specialises in making various kinds of cocktails based upon rum (naturally), coconut (naturally) and many different secret ingredients. In retrospect one of them may have been cannabis perhaps? Well we all try a few different concoctions and finally Brian bought a bottle of one type and asks the lady to sign the label, perhaps to provide his legal Executor with some evidence if worse comes to worst. Then it seemed wise to drag good old George away, given that the roads are very challenging and we have a long way to go before the day is done.

Farm labourer with machete and load
Brian couldn't resist these tiny islands

The rest of the morning passes pleasantly (thanks to the mid morning cocktails) and George then takes us to a simple oceanside cafe for lunch. We each chose various kinds of Caribbean food which included a number of local veggies we've never had before and probably won't have again. We weren't shown a menu but we were informed what had been cooked for this day. The owner probably charged us double the usual local price but the food was very tasty and far from expensive in our eyes.

Mum and child check us out whilst we lunch in a cafe

Deserted church. Want to start your own religion?

Oh no, not another rock shot !!

Deserted beach. Heaps of virgin beaches like this

Late in the afternoon we arrived at a small jungle car park where a steep track leads down to "Emerald Pool". We make our way down a long winding track of hand hewn stone and dirt steps through beautiful lush jungle rainforest. The going was not too hard for the young ones but Brian observed that not one of the 300 or so steps was the same width or same height as any other step in the staircase. He reaches the bottom very puffed and wondering how he'll make it back up again. He's certainly in no condition to take a swim in the Emerald Pool but Matt accepts the dare notwithstanding the fact that he has no swimming cozzie or towel and is wearing his best formal dinner shorts

Brian's photo of Matt's photo of Trish
Matt accepts dare to swim up waterfall

After a very long day we thought we were nearing home but George swerved off into a village where he seemed very well known, stopped the car and seemed to engage in some suspicious merchandising  transactions !! In due course he got back into the car and our tour resumed. George finally got us home in the early evening and by then we were darned pleased to call it a day. All in all it was pretty good value at US$50 per person for an entire day with our own personal guide and chauffer.

We didn't see any iguana this night but we loved this sign

Our very tired foursome finally get back to the boat

Next morning a enterprising Dominican gentleman paddles up to the back of our boat on a very old, rather small and VERY moth-eaten surfboard. He offers to ferry our garbage ashore for a few dollars and as the garbage keeps accumulating at an alarming rate our skipper accepts the offer with alacrity.

Today is a sad day because a week has now passed. Matt and Trish have to leave the cruise at this point and make their way to Las Vegas where a friend is going to be married by a look-alike Elvis Presley in a few days time. Fortunately Lynn and Brian have another five days to go before ending their cruise.