My epic trip has come to an end and I’ve been back in the freezing north for a few days. Brrr…. It’s time now to begin processing the experience for myself as well as find a way to express on this site some of what I have learned and experienced.
Boy did I learn a lot. I may have spent a whole month away, but it never quite felt like I was taking a break. The trip was more comparable to enrolling in an intense immersive learning program. With my brain so filled with new experiences, thoughts and feelings, I lamented on Twitter yesterday, “Where to begin?”
Some of you responded, “With the beginning” but I am having a hard time deciding where that is. Which beginning? I’ve never been very good about pinpointing where a life experience begins and ends. Did it begin when I got on the plane and arrived in Barbados? Or perhaps the part that felt like the real beginning to the personal journey, flying into Dominica. Do I begin with a specific plant that intrigued me (they all did!) or try to express my overall impressions of the trip? Should I stay focused on the botanical portion of the trip or allow myself to veer off into non-botanical terrain and tell a larger story?
And just what is the larger story? I don’t quite know yet. The trip was both what I expected and yet mostly filled with surprises.
Perhaps it is a cop out, but I’ve decided to begin randomly. I literally clicked on a folder of digital images and pulled up the first photo that brought up a memory. If I didn’t begin this way, I’d probably never begin and an entire month of travel would go the way of Cuba and so many other travel experiences I’ve had.
I took the above photos about a week or so into the Dominica portion of the trip. Travel around the island can be a bit gnarly. While the island isn’t particularly big, winding, thin and sometimes rough mountain roads increases the distance between places. In Dominica you are always going up or down but very rarely straight or flat. For this reason we decided to book a few nights in Calibishie, a small village on the northeast side of the island so we could do some walking and exploring at our own pace.
Dominica is not the place to go if you’re looking for a sandy beach vacation. We could see the ocean from the little cottage we rented above Roseau, on the west side of the island, but it was a 3 hour walk to the closest beach, which was rocky, not sandy. Staying in the northeast also gave us closer access to ocean swimming.
Our second day in Calabishie fell on a Sunday. Local buses don’t run on Sundays in Dominica and we don’t drive so we decided to try and walk through the village and see if we could make it to the closest sandy beach in that direction, or find somewhere to dip into the ocean if it got too hot. The people of Calabishie were very friendly and inquisitive, quick to find out who we were and chat. We stopped many times to take photos or get into conversations with locals.
The last stop we made before leaving the village was when the guy in this picture, Stevie (not Wonder) called out from his porch for us to take his picture. Turns out Stevie is a farmer and a gardener so I asked him to show me what he had growing around his house.
That’s dasheen (Colocasia esculenta) in the foreground, one of many ground provisions that were originally brought to the West Indies as food for slaves. As you can probably tell by the leaves, dasheen is related to taro. You’ll find it growing just about everywhere in Dominica. The young, unfurled leaves are harvested for a soup or stew called callaloo, and the roots (or corms) are typically served boiled.
That huge bush behind it is a hot seasoning pepper. It looked to be some type of habanero/scotch bonnet, but I was too chicken to taste it. I never saw a mature hot pepper plant in the Caribbean that was smaller than this bush. Some were larger still. I understand now why the scotch bonnet types require such a long growing season to get to the fruiting stage. The plants we grow here just don’t have a chance.
The third edible Stevie had growing was a small tangerine. It didn’t have any fruit yet, but the spines were a good inch and a half long, the largest (and scariest) I have seen on a citrus tree.