Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dominica, the Sunday island

S/V Dee, Roseau anchorage
Dominica is named after the day of the first sight, it was on a Sunday that Christopher Columbus spotted the island, Sunday 3rd of November 1493. The Caribbean name of the island is “Waitikubuli” which means “tall is her body”. Curiously, Kubuli is also the brand of the national beer.  Many people get confused with Dominica being the Dominican Republic but they are completely different countries. Yes, we call people from Dominica Dominicans as we also call a person from Dominican Republic, Dominican. So how do we know? For me I distinguish them by the language because in the Dominican Republic Spanish is the official language, in Dominica is English. 

Dominica was under the rule of French and British changing hands between the two powers for decades. Both of them attempt to establish plantations. After 1805 the island remained firmly in the possession of the British empire. In 1967, Dominica gained autonomy in internal affairs as West Indies Associated State and on the 3rd November 1978, the 485th anniversary of Columbus discovery, Dominica became an independent republic within the Commonwealth.  

The local currency is Eastern Caribbean (EC). 1 USD is around 2.7 EC and 1 EC is equivalent to 3 MOP. The Eastern Caribbean currency can be used in Anguilla, St. Kitts and Navis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Grenada. Be cautious when you want to get money from the ATM machines in Dominica because it doesn't say the currency so all the machines will give you EC's and if you want USD, you must go to the bank to exchange it with no fee. The maximum amount a person can get from the ATM machine is 3000 EC per day according to the bank staff. We still have some remaining Dominican Peso from the Dominican Republic and we would like to change it but we still didn't find a way to do it. The bank teller told us that we may not be able to change it anywhere in the East or South Caribbean, only if we tried the illegal market!

Local people are extremely helpful and friendly. Whenever we asked for the directions they would always come out of their house or shop and show us the way where we look for the way that they made sure we will not get lost and arrive the destination. Some even wrote the address or gave us the name card of the places we wanted to go. And like most of the Caribs, they are very polite. I love the way of Caribs people, unfortunately I never saw this in Asia. People who don't know you or you don't know them saying Good Morning or Good Afternoon to you in a polite way.  

Dominica is very rich in nature. The local culture  called “ Creole” or “Kweole”, a term which represent their food, language, costumes or Dominica way of life. The main religion is Roman Catholic but we can find minor believes like Anglican or others. I'm surprised that Dominican are Roman Catholic because they were under British administration.  I was so happy to know that, coincidentally, near the place we anchored in Roseau there was a Our Lady of Fatima church. We had the chance to meet the friar from India, Friar Clement Uadakkedath, who told us that the Dominican became Roman Catholic because the Belgium priests who arrived in the country worked hard on preaching, finally converting the nation religion to Roman Catholic. This church is also the parish church. Usually we don't explain much about the attractions in each place we stop because all of that you can google anytime, we rather share our experience sailing, living, and of the beaten route places. As we visited Our Lady of Fatima Sanctuary many times in Fatima, Portugal, we love to visit the worship places outside Portugal as well. We learn that the parish church in Roseau has no connection with the sanctuary in Portugal. We visited the church before the October 13th, one of the important days in the cult of Our Lady of Fatima. Joao's parents always visit the sanctuary in Portugal and this time they went there they got a statue of Our Lady and sent it to the church in the Dominica because the priest told us that the statue they have was very old and in bad shape. We are happy to be able to do some merit and if we can we would like to be part of their “way of life”. 
Our Lady of Fatima church in Roseau
Outside Our Lady of Fatima church
Inside Our Lady of Fatima church
The internet connection, from my experience, was the best one since we left the Dominican Republic. It was fast and you can connect anywhere. Where we anchor there was no password for the internet connection and we could get it on our boat! Most of the places and restaurants where we have been, they all offer wi-fi.

The local bus as a fair price, not cheap but not too pricey. We have a baby so the drivers always wait for us to load our passengers! From our anchorage area to the central of the city cost around 2-2.50 EC. We went to the local supermarket in town to stock up our missing food and they were happy to deliver it for us but don't be disappointed if they are not on time for the delivery appointment, it's Caribbean! 

The beaches probably are not the paradise for those who arrived from the neighbor islands in the Caribbean. They are mostly black sand beaches. The sand is finely thin and the water is crystal clear. Apart from the beaches which is what I like most, Dominica offers many kind of natural activities such as waterfalls, mountains, sulfur pools, underwater volcanoes, national parks and many more. But we didn't plan to stay long in Dominica and we have a little baby so extreme activities don't apply to us! Then we decides to explore other places in Dominica, mostly in Roseau the capital where we anchor our s/v Dee.  
Anchorage in Roseau
Dingy dock in Roseau
Bay view in Roseau
Street in Roseau
Duty Free shop in Roseau
House in city of Roseau
The Old Mill Cultural Center
Area of the Old Mill Cultural Center
 Alliance Francaise, building in the Old Mill Cultural Center area
History of the Old Mill Cultural Center
The best part was the food! Dominica has food everywhere and anytime! There are local food and international food. Street foods are everywhere, local bakeries just around the corner and even on Sunday you still can find restaurants open all the time. The feeling of street foods in Dominica really remind me of my country, Thailand where we can get noodles, grilled chicken or fired rice just across the street anywhere in Bangkok. So most of the time we stayed here we ate local food because of the abundance of choices and the friendly prices. Fresh squeezed juice is another highlight because where we came from the place where they are expensive but here I can drink fresh grapefruit, passion fruit, orange, tamarind, golden apple, sour orange and many more juice that I didn't mention for a similar price of a soft drink.  

To arrive by boat I guess it's more convenient in Portsmouth and Roseau where the customs are near by the port. By air plane Dominica has no international long haul flights. We met people traveling in Dominica from Jamaica and United Kingdom by plane, which proves that it should not be impossible to reach this exotic destination. The ferry from Guadeloupe or Martinique is another options to visit Dominica. Even with  no international long haul flights Dominica still has 2 airports to serve the travelers from the Caribbean region, one near the capital and another one on the North East side of the island.  
We cleared in at Roseau customs. The country opens to all travelers to support the tourism so it was not difficult even for me who hold a Thai passport and for Noel, the French bulldog. We paid the customs for 25 EC for 14 days permission with clear in and out for the same time. For dog here, we thought that would be difficult and problematic but it was easy and no fee. The official only asked if we have pets on board and if will be on land or not. Noel is good lying down under the shade on the boat so we declare him as staying on board. And there were no more questions! What I notice on land was that were not many street dogs in Dominica, the weather is humid with rain forest weather type. If your dog is prone to allergies is not a good idea to bring him on land. 
Fried fish, okra with spinach, rice and green vegetables
Creole food, Chicken curry with stewed beans
Local catch, Dolphin fish
Kubuli, the beer from Dominica


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