Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Saturday, January 28, 2017


The Commonwealth of Dominica is part of the Windward Islands and has essentially the same history from the time the first Europeans arrived on the scene as the other islands we visited. It is the youngest island in the region with active volcanoes still adding to the island.  Due to its age, the beaches are less desirable than on the other islands and tourism has had a slow start here. 

It is one of the poorest islands in the Caribbean, but is known for its lush rainforests, which cover much of the inland. These areas attract a significant number of nature tourists.

We opted  for a cultural tour of the island to enjoy the scenic overlooks, the rainforests, waterfalls and some of cultural and historic sites.

Our first stop was the President's office and conference center. In late 1978, the island obtained its independence from England and formed a democratic government.  While there were some conflicts early in the process, the same system of government remains today.  With the colonial government gone, the Royal Governor's home built in the 1800's has become the office and conference center for the President.  Our guide indicated that there has been a great deal of money spent on restoration and upgrades.

We then headed into the mountains and had great views of the capital from the site of a former British fortification.

The botanical gardens is a popular spot for residents to stroll or relax and enjoy some of the unique local plants.  Our guide provided many insights to the plants and their history.  The cannonball tree came by that name during the conflicts between the French and English when the defending forces were short on cannonballs. The fruit of this tree has a very hard shell, which they used in their cannons, according to our guide.  It also has beautiful flowers in season, which we did not get to see.  What I found interesting was the 100 year palm tree.  This tree lives approximately 100 years and does not bloom until it is about to die.  One of these was blooming while we were there.  Our guide said it will be gone within the month and was approximately 80 years old.  In the gardens, there is an impressive reminder of the power of hurricanes. A bus was parked at the gardens when hurricane David arrived in 1979.  A 21 foot diameter African Baobab tree fell on the bus and crushed it flat. Fortunately, no one was in the bus at the time.

Climbing high in the rainforest, our next stop was Trafalgar Falls.  This is one of the top attractions on the island and is reached by walking up a a marked trail from the visitor center.  It is a 20 minute hike, depending on conditions, yours and the weather's.  It rained on and off most of the time, but after all, it is a rainforest.  The falls were interesting but certainly nothing truly remarkable.  Watching some folks climb around on the slippery rocks was more entertaining. Our guide indicated there are injuries on the rocks on a near daily basis.

After the falls visit, we stopped at  a nearby restaurant for some light refreshments and a great view of the rainforest and a nearly steady mist to occasional downpours.

Lastly, we headed back to the capital city of Roseau, where our ship was docked. Along the way. we got a glimpse of the city sights.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Our second port of call was the Island of Saint Kitts.  Saint Kitts and the nearby island of Nevis make up the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis.  This sovereign state remains a part of the British Commonwealth.  It is the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere for both population and size.  These islands share the same history as the other West Indies islands of European occupation and introduction of slave labor.  Also like the other islands, tourism is the main revenue source. 

We chose to tour the island of Nevis, which is reached by a ferry boat between the two island.  The ferry ride gave us a great view of the islands and a view of some of the resorts on Nevis along the shore.  I learned something I perhaps should have known already when I saw the welcome sign on the ferry dock.  Nevis is the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton is considered the founder of the United States Coast Guard.  While his local history was not part of the tour, our guide did give us a short history of his time on the island and we passed by his home very near the dock.

As we started our tour, it became apparent that Nevis had a quite different feel than Tortola.  The buildings were in better condition, and a general feeling of neatness and pride in the island. Our driver and guide was very proud of her island and explained how after the slave trade was eliminated and the plantation owners left the country, the new government worked to find employment for the population. The old plantations, confiscated by the island government, were sold only to businesses that would generate work and income to help the economy of the island. This has largely resulted in the plantations be used as resorts.  Our first stop was to visit a spring believed to provide many health benefits to those who is immersed themselves in it.  It was located near an old sugarcane processing faculty on former plantation land.

Our first plantation resort was the Golden Rock Inn.  Located high in the hills, it is in a lush tropical garden setting.  With amazing views, colorful gardens and plantation history all around, we started thinking about a stay here in the future.

Montpelier was the second plantation resort.  It also had some great views, but with a different feel.  You could tour the plantation home, now serving as a guest relaxation and dining area.  Former slave quarters are now guest sleeping units. Here the old sugar cane processing tower is used for receptions and other social functions.

After touring more of the island and enjoying the stories of our guide, we headed for a good lunch at a beach cafe and then a beach break.  Our guide made the point that on the island all beaches are public including those adjacent to resorts.  All residents have equal access.  We enjoyed the free beach chairs and walked back to the restaurant to get some more of those good rum punches from the restaurant we ate in.

This is an island we would enjoy returning to for some more history and relaxing.