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. It 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 line 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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Crustaceans and Coasts

Today we get a surprise when we go down to the dock to board the dive boat. This is the boat we are using for today, for the four of us! There are four crew so the crew to client ratio is 1:1.

Anchorages 75' Catamaran

Anchorage’s 75′ Catamaran

The diving is great again. The reef in the marine park is in excellent condition. The fish are plentiful and varied. We even find a lobster we haven’t met before.

Dominica

After diving, we drive south to Soufriere and then to Scott’s Head, where there is a narrow spit of land that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Dominica

Debbie and D with their feet in the Atlantic

Dominica

Debbie with her feet in the Caribbean

We also journey to the Soufriere Sulfur Springs and hike into the forest to see the springs and have a quick soak. We end the day with a dip in the ocean and pizza for supper. A day of crustaceans and coasts!

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Dive 400

Today is dive 400 for me. A milestone, one that pales to some of the divemasters that lead our group. I didn’t really remember it was an auspicious dive until I sat down to do my log this evening. The dive itself was a good dive but not one in the special category.

Dominica

Our first day at the south of the island, the place where most of the divers come. The dive sites are for the most part in a marine reserve. The coral is in good shape, the sponges and like are colorful and big, there is plenty of wildlife but for the most part are the ususal Caribbean suspects. Our dive master did point out one very big crab under a ledge.

Dominica

The last stop on the coast does confirm one thing. The dive companies here have yet to do the pamper the diver service. After diving else where in the world and even in the more popular resorts in the Caribbean we have been spoiled. Never having to lug gear, always having the BCD tranfered to a new tank at the end of the first dive, someone rinsing our equipment and storing it at the end of the day. Here each company has its own routine but not one of them covers the complete service. The office and gear storage facilities are adequate but not top of the line. On Dominica this is a budding industry, even though it has been around for 20+ years, and it has a way to go before it matches most of the rest of the world. No problem of course, I am still capable of dealing with my gear from the start of a dive to the storage, it is just one gets lazy.

Dominica

The crew here is in no hurry. The boat, a very big boat has only the 4 of us on board and we leave the dock when it is ship shape. So just sit in the bar and wait for a while, we will leave soon enough. Post 9.30 and we set off. 2 dives and a fast trip to the dock and it is 2pm. Late start, late finish. This puts us behind the 8 ball as far as our hike is concerned.

The hike today, Trafalgar Falls. Short walk with 2 spectacular waterfalls to view. It is possible to swim in the pool but there is some major bolder climbing to be done and we opt out. We’ll find a place tomorrow.

It is a long day and we head back to the room to chill. Onward and upward to 500.

Dominica

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Emerald Pool

Today we move from mid Island to the south, into the capital of Dominica, Roseau. It takes us until 1:30 to pay up,  check out, drive, check into the hotel and dive shop, buy gas and groceries. After all our chores are done, we drive to the Emerald Pool.

The drive to the pool is a windy, up and down affair. The forest we drive through is lush, dotted with the occasional house or farm.

Dominica

The Emerald Pool is a much visited tourist site so the path is well made, no roots or rocks to step over. The greens in the forest are vibrant, the aroma is of deep forest. We walk for only about 15 minutes before we hear the waterfall cascading into the pool.

Emerald Pool, Dominica

There are some young people in the pool enjoying themselves. We wage into the cold water. Once in it is refreshing but those first few steps are chilly. D&C frolicking in the waterfall, Murray chats with a young Italian fellow, and I dog paddle around.

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Once out, we continue on the circular trail to a viewpoint with a far away view of the Atlantic Ocean. The walk is easy and a nice way to spend an hour after all our chores.

Emerald Pool, Dominica

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Scuba Diving, Dominica Style

We have now dove in the north of Dominica (Portsmouth) and mid Island (Salisbury) and there is a different style of diving here than in, say Hawaii or Little Cayman or Virgin Gorda.

The expectation here in Dominica is that we handle our own gear. We haul it to the boat, we set up our own tanks, BCD and regs and we change the tanks between dives. Help is available if we require it, but a diver needs to know how to put gear together.

Green Moray Eel, Dominica

Green Moray Eel trapped in a fisherman’s basket

The crew in Salisbury had us all helping unload the dive boat this afternoon as the waves were knocking it about and they needed to unload quickly. We are fine with this, but some pampered divers may not be.

Dominica

While diving mid island, we were donning our wetsuits on the shore before boarding the dive boat as the boat was smaller and crowded. Snacks and drinks are not in abundance as with some dive operations.

We are moving to Roseau tomorrow and will see if the dive operation there has similar expectations.

Dominica

The diving in Dominica is great so don’t let a little work deter you from coming to this lovely island.

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Derelict Auto Repository

After plying the roads around Portsmouth and surrounding area for a few days, we notice an unusual phenomenon. It seems the curbside is a repository for derelict autos.

Your van has engine trouble? Can’t get it started again? Leave it where it died. No problem!

Dominica

Your truck’s axle breaks? No problem! Just leave it on the side of the road! Forever!

Dominica

You want to use your car’s old wheels on your new ride? Put the old ride up on blocks and just leave it outside your house. No problem!

Dominica

Another great day of diving. Two shallow dives with D&C had us finding coral banded shrimp, pederson cleaning shrimp, trunk fish, angel fish, golden spotted eel and many other fish friends.

Pederson Cleaning Shrimp, Dominica

Pederson Cleaning Shrimp

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