Homeward Bound

When we booked this trip we decided to try something different with our flights. Instead of doing one huge long haul from Edmonton to Toronto to Barbados, and the same coming home, we broke it up and stayed overnight in Toronto. This gave us two 4 – 5 hour flights with a sleep in between. I liked this as I am not so jet lagged and not so tired. There was less stress in Toronto as we didn’t have to make a tight connection. I would recommend doing this if you have an extra couple of days. It cost a couple of nights in an airport hotel, but I think it was worth the price.

Some random thoughts…….

The Barbados dive boat helper, M, drove us home after we dove and was telling us about Barbados on the way. We drove by what was once a McDonald’s and he told us that McDonald’s tried to make a go of it there but did not succeed. M said that McDonald’s only sold hamburgers and that the people on the island like chicken! That explains alot of the food on Dominica too. Chicken was a prominent item on all menus and the grocery stores carried lots of chicken and almost no burger. Guess there isn’t much grazing land on the islands.

Apparently, Barbados is out of the hurricane belt of the Caribbean. When looking at a map, the island is out in the Atlantic compared to the other islands. Our airport taxi driver was telling us the last big storm to hit Barbados was in the 1950’s. So it sounds like the island may be a good destination for a fall trip when the other Caribbean islands are on hurricane watch.

Don’t tell anyone, but we checked our bags on the way home. Murray has a Westjet Elite Mastercard and with that card we each get one free checked bag. We will not check bags going somewhere as we want the bags to arrive with us, but we decided to check them coming home. It was nice not having to deal with the rollie bags when boarding the plane but it was slightly annoying having to wait for the bags to show up on the carousel. Give and take, I guess.

When we checked our bags, they got weighed and we realized they were a little heavier than we thought, so we are going to reevaluate what we are carrying and hopefully shave a few pounds out of the bags.

 

 

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Musings

We spend our last day chilling on the beach. We go down to the beach closest to where we are staying. The waves are rougher today and the tide is coming in, so swimming is a challenge. Actually, no swimming is done, avoiding getting drowned by the continuous onslaught of waves is about all we can do. Murray tries to body surf but the waves are too hard to read and almost too close together. I just try to not get knocked about too badly.

Barbados

Barbados is a developed island. It is not gross like some of the islands that have been developed in recent times all in one fell swoop. Barbados has been built up over a couple of hundred years. It has a much more organic feel to it. Maybe not the laid back place that I look for but so much better than the Miami look alikes with the 5 star resort every kilometres kind of aesthetic. I don’t mind this place at all.

The roads are wide enough to drive here. Two cars can pass easily. The drivers seem quite polite. A flash of the lights means “you proceed I’ll hang here till you get by.” There is a rush hour but the cars seem to move and after all this is the Caribbean and who the hell is in a hurry anyway.

Barbados

The beach OMG, the beaches. They dot the coast for as far as we walked in both directions for our hotel. We would have to rent a car in order to confirm the beaches are like that on the entire south coast or around other shores. White sand beaches with the sand extending into the turquoise water and out into the deep blue. We swim in the Atlantic and it is warm, don’t even have to pause as we enter the water.

There is a bit more low life around but you have to expect that from an urban environment. I don’t feel threatened but one has to be a bit more leary.

Food is pretty international here. You can frequent the tourist places and it is quite expensive but if you look about you can eat reasonably cheap. We have found a couple of places worth a return trip.

We only stayed at one place but there is no shortage of accommodation. There is something to suit every taste and pocketbook.

Barbados

We are mostly packed up ready to make the trek home. I feel like the only reason we are going home is that we have an airplane ticket. I think I would continue to hop about the Caribbean if I could. See you on the other side.

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Debbie’s Dive 400 and Other Tidbits

We dive today with Eco Divers. The second dive is my 400th dive! The sea creatures must have known it was a special dive as some of my favourites swim by to help celebrate.

Barbados

Spotted Eagle Ray

There is surge here and we rock and roll with the soft corals, back and forth, back and forth. A good couple of dives with a great crew.

Barbados

When we get back to our little apartment at the Adulo Apartments, Murray realizes that a weight has travelled with us in one of his BCD weight pockets, and we have left our small fish books at the dive shop. Back to the shop we go.

Instead of walking, we take the “bus”. The buses are smallish white vans that hold 10 to 12 passengers. It cost $2 BBD to go anywhere. We flag a #11 bus down, climb in. The driver must have thought he was driving the Indy 500, as he zips through the traffic, stopping suddenly to let passengers off and on, tooting his horn. We arrive at the central bus station intact and only a little squished and shaken up. A wild ride!

We walk home along the beaches and swim at two along the way. We like to bag beaches, which is to swim at as many beaches on an island as we can. Today, the water at some of the beaches is rough, so we do not swim on every one. I remember when we where on San Salvador, with our friend B, we rented a car for one day and drove around the island having a quick swim at each beach we came across. An odd but fun past time.

It is a day filled with diving, bussing and beaching adventures and now we are pooped.

Barbados

Hawkfish

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Barbados

We sadly say goodbye to our wonderful friends D&C, hop on a plane and end up in Barbados. We have decided to stay three nights in Barbados to check things out before flying home.

We walk today, boy do we walk. I may not be able to get out of bed tomorrow! We walk in one direction, towards Bridgetown in the morning and into the afternoon. And then walk in the other direction towards St Lawrence Gap in the early evening for supper.

Barbados

We notice there is a mix of well kept buildings and ramshackle ones. We walk by an old house just waiting for us to purchase it and turn it into a boutique B&B. Across the street is a modern tourist apartment complex. There a many lots just waiting for some investment money.

Barbados

We stop for a swim on a fantastic beach. Soft sand that isn’t screaming hot and water the colour of blue that you can get mesmerized by. The water temp was perfect and it was hard to get out and continue walking. We walk the beach and the air temp is more tolerable by the water than down the concrete and asphalt roadway.

Barbados

 

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Last Day on Dominica

We have all day to get across the island which if we were in a hurry would take about an hour. Breakfast at the regular 7:30. We discuss what we should do today. There are a couple of hikes we have not done so we look at the possiblities. Jaco’s Steps is a good possiblity and is on the way we choose to follow.

As we pack the car I realize I am missing my hat. It is a Tilley hat and although it defines me as a tourist even though I try to fit in, that hat has travelled the world and has done a yeoman’s job of it. I’m quite sure I left it at the place we stopped to eat last night. A short detour to LCHQ to see if perhaps the owner had found it and left it somewhere available. But alas my hat is nowhere to be found and I resign myself to wearing Debbie’s straw hat that is 2 sizes too small. Nobody here knows me and fashion is not high on my priority list.

We get a bit over exuberent and by pass the entrance to Jaco’s Steps and drive a kilometer or so down the road before we ask a couple of folks and they indicate we should turn around. There is a place at the roadside where we could park the car but since someone smashed our window while we were parked in a similar spot and today the car is full of our stuff I do not want to park there, so we head down the goat track to the parking below. It is steep, even for this island, and it is gravel. I jokingly comment we may not make it out. Ha, quite a joke.

At the bottom it is not really a National Park and the parking and trail look pretty rustic. We decide not the leave the unattended car there either. About half way back up the track to the highway the car spins out. We are not going any farther. I will have to back down and take another run at it. The three passengers get out and C guides me backwards down the goat path. Thinking the lighter the car the better we divest the auto of most of our luggage which C and Debbie haul up the track. I get a pretty good run and I slip, slide my way up. The entire road is only about 2′ wider than the car and I use the entire width. Full gas and I don’t back off the accelerator. I get past the steep part and still don’t back off, spinning tires all the way with mud and gravel being spewed behind me as I go. This could have been a major development in our travel education but it turned out OK. We learned without dire consequences. Some roads are not for 2 wheel drives loaded to the hilt with passengers and luggage.

Dominica

Lunch looking out to the Atlantic

The rest of our trip north along the east coast is quite pleasent. The Atlantic Ocean displays its might with powerful surf and crashing waves. It is my last long drive  and I think I am far more relaxed than when I started a couple of weeks ago.

We find our way back to the Coffee River Cottages and get settled in. There is a swimable river on the property and we take advantage of it to douse our sweaty bodies. It is quite fun really, the hotel has a couple of car tire tubes and we spend our time paddling upstream and floating back down until the rocks impede any further travel.

Coffeeriver Cottages

Last day on this island. Debbie and I board a plane to Barbados at 7am and D&Ccatch a flight to St. Maartin at about 9.30. It is sad to go. I like this place. It has not be soiled with resort development and the life is much like I expect it to be on a Caribbean Island. Ciao for now we MAY return.

Torch Lily

Torch Lily

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Staging vs Nature

I have come to realize something in the last couple of days. It has taken quite a long time for me for this to come to the front of my brain but eventually if I experience something enough times I see the light. One of the things I like about diving is coming upon something as it happens naturally. One day we went around a coral head off Australia and stumbbled upon cuddle fish mating. We were voyuers  and took photographs the entire time. We didn’t feel bad about it, it’s part of the reason we dive, to experience the unusual as it happens.

Dominica

In most of the places we dive it is understood things under the water should not be interfered with. It is extremely difficult not to bump into the coral or the occasional sponge. Diving takes place is a 3D environment and to know where you are at all times is not easy. But it is not that hard to keep hands off.

On Dominica, and to be honest not just here, not handling the animals doesn’t seem to be  followed to the letter. Yesterday, the dive master managed to cup a small balloon fish in his hands. As a defensive stance the balloon fish puffs itself into a ball to make itself look  big and fearsome. This poor little fellow was so scared it was vibrating. I had never seen a fish puffed up like this and started to video the round ball. Debbie took a couple of pics but then we both realized, at the same time, the fish was in distress and we decided not to participate in the action any longer.

Dominica

Today the dive master steered a turtle back towards the group. We had a good look at the turtle but I don’t know how many years this action took off the turtles life. Again we did not photograph this.

We are never crazy about when dive masters ‘play’ with the critters but as I said sometimes it takes a while for the realization to hit home. The poor shaking puffer fish was the incident that rang my bell. From this point forward I will try not to pay too much attention to acts caused by human intervention and concentrate on natural happenings I come upon as I swim through the undersea world.

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The Way of the Jungle

On my first trip to SE Asia I lay on my bed the first night and a lizard ran down the wall and behind a picture. I was tired and not about to chase a lizard around the room trying to shoo him out the door. The next day I discussed this with a more travel savvy couple and they explained, first it is quite normal and second it is in fact an advantage to have a gecko or two in the room as their prey of choice is mosquitos. So since then I have been totally OK with them.

I have often run into folks from the northern climes that encounter a gecko in the room and find it a little disturbing. I explain what was explained to me and some are better with the presence of a lizard and some are not.

Bugs are also a fact of life in warm places. We now store any open food in the fridge during our travels. Even if it does not require refrigeration. We once left our bags on the floor with some food in one of them and when we returned to the room we had an ant highway from the wall across the floor into the bag and back out the door. Even the poorly thought of cockroach is a normal inhabitant of any place it can get into, including hotel rooms. Most  tourist places spray for the bugs but some roaches still set up a household and are hard to get rid of. You can imagine what the normal Canadian, who may have never seen a cockroach must less co habitated with one, thinks the first time a roach scurries across the floor and under some shelter.

Dominica

Not a gecko!

Today I withness why one should keep a pet gecko in your room. We are sitting by the pool and out from the surrounding greenery races a cockroach. Hot in persuit was a gecko, not much bigger than the roach. There was a bit of to and fro and then the gecko pounces. Not much of a struggle but it did take a minute or two for the roach to submit. When the twitching subsided the gecko headed back to the greenery to enjoy lunch.

Dominica

Not a gecko either!

This display of nature enforces the idea of letting a gekko run loose in your room. It is even worth the small amount of gekko shit we found on the sink drain board in out last accommodation in Dominica.

And they are kind of cute.

Dominica

Still not a gecko!

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Volcanos

Dominica is the Caribbean island with the most active volcanos. Every road here is a hill, a very steep hill. No use using an 8% grade and 5 or 6 switch backs. Just head straight up and put a sign out that says 25% grade. We go up and we go down. The roads are 1 1/2 cars wide with 2′ deep concrete rain gutters on the uphill side. Makes driving an adventure.

Dominica

The narrow roads of Dominica

The driving tests my skills every day. In the populated areas parking is allowed anywhere. Most people are polite enough to park on one side no matter which way they are headed but that leaves only about 1 car width for cars going in opposite directions to pass. Most seem quite polite and wait at a spot where 2 cars are able to pass, but as a driver you have to be a little agressive and for sure don’t miss your turn. By the by there is no special consideration for tourists even if you have a car with RENTAL written all over it. I am definately not driving in auto mode. I have to concentrate the entire time and Debbie sits on the passenger side navigating and making sure I enter the correct side of the street. Oh yeah, did I mention they drive on the wrong side of the road. Well maybe not wrong but the left side. All in all it is kind of fun.

Dominica

Today our travel companion D dives her 100th dive and we dive at Champagne Reef. Somewhat appropriate. I don’t have high expections as the reef is known for the bubbles from the volcanic activity gurgling up through the sand making it look like you are swimming in champagne. Funny how things get named. The dive is really great, albeit shallow. The bubbles are as I anticipated not a big deal but the reef has plenty of things to see and is in real good shape. I did find a new fish, at least for me, a pike blenny. Funny little fellow that spends his time in the sand only poking his head out similar to a jawfish or a garden eel.

Dominica

Murray, Debbie and the bubbles

Today was also the first day we had to share our 75ft boat with, if you can believe it, 5 other people. Jeez, a crowd. Nice folks from all over, two from Finland, one from South Africa and two from the US.

A couple of days ago we mentioned some of the hikes we have been doing. Most of the place the hikes go to exist because of the volcanos or their profiles. High falls and hot pools, one hike we will not do is an all day gig to the ‘Boiling Lake’ of course do to the release of heat from within the earth. The roads are crazy steep and the diving is somewhat affected by the presence of fire spewing mountains. The danger is not immenent but the vocanos have their influence.

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Toothache

It all started yesterday when Debbie woke up and had decided she should go to the dentist. She is in pain. One of her teeth is throbbing and hurts even more when she taps it. We dive and then head off to the dentist office. There is an appointment open for 10am this morn so we are off.

Never been to a dentist in any other city, much less a country other than our home town. We got a recommendation from the hotel manager who just happened to be at the front desk when we went to ask. Dr. Robinson is the card we draw.

Nice office. Not over the top fancy but looks dentist officeish enough. There is a salt water fish tank where one of the larger fish is busy munching on one of the smaller fish. The law of the jungle even applies to a microcosm 3′ X 2′ X 2 1/2′. There is some constuction going on behind the building where the office is and the power tools add some extra drama sitting in the waiting room.

Debbie returns from the inner sanctum  and the dentist declares she will live and probably the whining will cease as well. (Note from Debbie – there has been NO whining!) The last part was my addition, he was far too nice to say that. The appointment, diagnosis and prescription cost $90 EC, about $45 in Canadian funds. The drugs cost $9.50, ($4.75C). The insurance plan I think will like us for having things resolved in a foreign land. If we were in the States they might have made us come home. It will still cost them another trip to the dentist when we are home but we’ll deal with that when we get there.

We have found the portions of food to be too large to eat 3 meals a day so we have been trying to eat less at lunch and save a bit of room for dinner. Fran’s Patisserie and a chicken roti was the order of the day. Tasty but only enough chicken to allow for the word to be used on the menu board. The Coke was pretty standard.

Roseau, Dominica

A street in downtown Roseau

A wander through town to see what is about. There is not much glitz on the island. For me I like to wander places that have not been touristized. This is how the people live. I like the town as it is a bit disorganized and in a state of disrepair but it functions and everyday life happens. There are not very many people leaching off the system here. We do get propositioned a few times but the people seem to be gainfully employed and going about what they do for living.

Roseau, Dominica

Repurchased ancient building

Chill day and it is back in the water tomorrow. The tooth pain has subsided a bit but my travel companions are getting lazy and I may have to whip them into shape, we only have a few more days on “Nature’s Island” and we have to make the best of it.

Slave Market, Roseau, Dominica

Slave Market location

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The Drift Dive that Wasn’t

Our dive master, Cann, tells us that our second dive today is a drift dive. We are going to enter the water at the mooring ball where we are situated from the first dive and drift north to the next mooring ball and have the Catamaran pick us up. Okay! Sounds easy.

As we are getting our wetsuits on and gearing up, the crew untethers us from the mooring ball and and we move in the current north. Cann and I giant stride into the water off the back of the Catamaran and immediately are taken away from the boat. Kahn says it is the wind working on the boat and not the current forcing a separation between us and the others. The Catamaran powers around and closer and Murray, D and then C enter the water. As soon as C is in, we descend and swim into a current to get to the wall.

We are surprised by another group of divers on that exact spot on the wall. This is the first encounter of other divers we have had since starting to dive here. They look at us kinda stunned as we just came out of nowhere.

As we kick north, it becomes apparent that the current is not making this a pleasant, no kicking necessary, dive but a bit of a workout. Not too strenuous, but a constant one. Surprise!

dominica

And then Cann disappears on us not once, not twice, but three times. He goes looking for creatures and swims into the blue, or off to the right. We just keep our current speed and course and he pops into view again. This is frustrating for me as he is supposed to be guiding us and is off doing his own thing.

dominica

All of a sudden, Cann has us ascend up a short gully and we head back the way we came, with the current this time. Guess we over shot the mooring ball. Oops! An easier kick this time and we arrive at the concrete jack at the end of the mooring linw with some time to explore the shallows. We hover and snoop around for 15 minutes and then ascend for our safety stop and exit the water. Oh, Cann leaves us down there by ourselves, which is okay by us as we then dictate when we come up!

Not the best executed dive this week, but we were under water.

Dominica

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