Today, I was supposed to go on a tour with the guide who took me out the other day, but he sent another guide instead. The guide and I worked out what I'd see for the day and took off.Stop #1 was the freshwater lake. It was cold and rainy the whole way up, but stopped raining about the time we got to the lake. However, it was still foggy. I took a little walk around one side of the lake, and fortunately, the fog lifted enough for me to see some of the lake before it settled back in. Since I wasn't going on an extended hike, there wasn't a whole lot to see/do, so we moved on. As we drove back to town, the guide pointed out all sorts of plants to me. There's the “David plant” named so because it didn't exist on the island until hurricane David hit. There were all sorts of shorter versions of normal plants that grow stunted in the one area (larger than bonsais, but still short). The coolest was this particular fern that responds to touch. When you tap it, it closes up for a while. In town, I grabbed lunch from an “Italian” restaurant. Basically, it had the same kinds of local foods that the places in St. Kitts have- macaroni pie, cookup, steamed veggies, grilled meats. I'm not sure there was anything actually Italian available. I also got a bottle of seamoss from the market. My Dominican friend had told me that I had to have seamoss when he was telling me about Dominican things to try. Basically, they take seaweed and spices and make them into a drink that tastes a lot like chai tea. I actually liked it a lot to the point where I picked some up later to bring back home.
Next, we headed to the Emerald Pool, another pretty place to go. There was a short hike I took to actually get to the place where people were in the (cold) water. The hike was pretty and the waterfall that fills the pool at the end was nice too. I went in up to my knees, but no more as I wasn't in a swimsuit and it wasn't exactly warm. On a warm day, this would be a lovely site to swim around in, but it was pretty chilly and wet when I was there. From there, we drove around the island, passing various mountains and villages on the way. The guide was doing a good job of telling me what everything was. The thing the annoyed me a little though is that we were driving everywhere and the guide kept saying, “oh, that's a great place to take pictures.” He'd stop for me to take the picture of something that looked more or less the same as everything else (so I didn't really feel I needed another picture of it), and wait until I took the picture. I wanted to go hike the areas and experience them, not just look at them through a camera lens. When I look back at my pictures, there's no way I'll be able to tell the pictures of the various towns apart because we didn't actually do anything there, we just passed by. Finally, we made it to the Kalinago territory, where I was able to actually do something. The Kalinago territory is marked by a line on the road that is labeled “start” the way a race starting line would be labeled. It is the Dominican version of a native American reservation. Here is the only place in the Caribbean where the people who were here before Columbus still have a thriving community. The tour through the community was a very good one and I highly recommend it. It starts with some background. Columbus came to Dominica, named it, left because he couldn't find a decent place to land, and then came back. The people who referred to themselves as Kalinago used to bury the dead, wait until the body rotted away, dig up the bones, bring them back to their homes, and worship their ancestors. Columbus saw the bones and decided in his ignorance that these people were cannibals, so he named them the Caribs. All over the Caribbean, the Caribs/Kalinago were pretty much wiped out by the European invaders, but not in Dominica. They now have their own land where they can practice their own culture, although most of them are now some sort of Christian and don't hold on to their old religion. Also, many of the children (like many children all over the world) don't care so much about their heritage and are more concerned with the latest youtube music video than their traditional music. However, there are still some who hold on to the old ways as they modernize. The tour goes through a village that is built with thatched roofs and is set up to show the way life was. They had some demos, like a guy who was making some sort of tamale-like food, and a hammock that you could climb into for a rest. The guide also showed me all sorts of plants that her people used for various things- noni plant that “cures cancer” and at least a dozen other things, bay leaf tree, candle tree that gave off an oily substance, a tree that was naturally rotten inside and made a great drum. I got to sit in a real dugout canoe. Every few feet she was giving me a really good explanation of what everything was and why it was used. She also told a great story that is a lot better when she tells it and you're actually at the rocks where it “occurred”- There was a guy who went down to a certain spot on the rocks to bathe. He saw a lady there combing her hair, but he frightened her, so she dropped her comb and fell into the water, but never came up. He looked and looked for he, but didn't find her, so he just bathed, picked up the comb, and went back to the village. That night, he had a dream where she came to him and told him to go put back her comb. The next day, he brought the comb back, put it in the spot where he picked it up, and waited. Nothing happened until he turned around to see something, and when he turned back, the comb was gone. The mermaid had taken it. The tour of course ended at the gift shop. Even the shop was interesting. They sold a lot of baskets that had been hand-woven by Kalinago women. They also sold actual snake oil. Overall, I think that the Kalinago tour was the highlight of the day. After the tour, I hopped back into the van and saw some more of the island. We passed the Dominica Club- a very nice-looking hotel that was never opened because the owner died before it was finished being built. We passed Hampstead Estate where some of the Pirates of the Caribbean scenes were filmed. We almost passed a boat tour place, but I asked for a stop so I could actually do something. Mangrove Boat Tours has a whole bunch of little paddle boats that you can rent for 20EC for the hour and take into the mangrove swamp. The guy said that it would take 40 minutes to go up the rive and back, but I think my grandma who uses a walker could probably do it in less time than that. It took me about 10 minutes of slow pedaling to get to the farthest end of the river. On the way back, I mostly didn't pedal and just let the boat flow, which took longer, but still got me back well within 40 minutes.The ride itself was very calming. Mostly, I heard tons of birds, although in a few choice spots I could hear the cars on the road nearby or the kids shouting from a nearby beach. The river was placid. I saw a few ducks up-close and spotted either a small crab/crawdad or a large spider. Other than that, I didn't see much wildlife. I'm sure if I had better birding eyes I would have been able to see more of the creatures that were making all of the chirping noises, but I'm not so good at that. After the boat ride, it was time to go to the airport. Dominica was a great island, but on to St. Lucia!