|Cruise views, Part 3
||[Mar. 1st, 2007|07:21 am]
Tuesday: Dominica. Now this is what I'm talkin' about! The infirmary on Carnival Destiny opens at 8am. I know this because when we got down there at 8:05, we were third in line.
The very nice doctor, who was much more handsome than the doctor on Love Boat, checked Amy out and gave us a packet of amoxicillin capsules. She did not have pneumonia, but she had rales in her bronchial tubes. She was doomed to spend a whole vacation day in bed.
I was spared the crisis of conscience - whether to leave a 15-year-old alone on the cruise ship while we went off on an excursion - by the fact that Bruce was also too sick to go on the event du jour. She could call on Grampa if necessary.
So off Ferrett, Pat and I went, on the river tubing adventure. What a group: 5 tickets purchased, 3 being used, 2 "walking wounded" among the remaining adventurers. Because Ferrett was suffering from a broken rib and his mother is legally blind.
Load us up!
First of all, "Dominica" is pronounced "Do-mi-NEE-ka." Ferrett and I had learned this little fact ahead of time, while watching the special features on the "Pirates of the Caribbean 2: The Search for Spock" DVD. We felt terribly smug.
Second, Dominica is the epitome of tropical rainforest: 365 rivers ("one for every day of the year") and average rainfall of 360 inches.
It's green. Really green.
It's also not very touristy. Oh, there are the little kiosks o' crap right around the docks, but if you venture two blocks away, you have left it behind. The island has a population of 70,000 people and 3,000 cars. Its tourist industry is just getting started, and most people there really don't care much about us. The island economy is based on the Colgate factory and coconut extractions for beauty products.
We learned this while driving in a van up and down the beautiful, winding coastline. The remains of sugar plantations and abandoned hotels, disappearing into the undergrowth, dotted the side of the road here and there. We passed through a couple small villages, where people were preparing for Carnival - Mardi Gras. And then we turned up along a river and began driving into the interior of the island.
We climbed. And climbed. And climbed. And I began to crane around, looking for where the river had gone. Because if it was climbing with us, we were going to be in some serious water - like waterfalls. Then we hung a left and descended nose first down a freakin' cliff. Some of these roads are excursion enough for the weak-hearted.
At the bottom, they loaded the 40 or so of us into large orange innertubes - to which plastic bottoms had thankfully been attached, since otherwise we would have been scraped and bruised and buttless of swimsuit by the end of the trek. Ferrett said we looked like a bowl full of Cheerios. We were all crowded together in a wide spot in the river, held there by a rope until everyone was in place. Then the young men who worked for the tour got to work. Most of them shot downstream, positioning themselves along the route in the places where people might get into trouble. Then off we went, bouncing over waves, bouncing off of rocks, bouncing into each other.
It was beautiful. The tour guides really knew their stuff. They leapfrogged us a number of times, gathering us up at another point on the river where a rope held us in a calm while the guides shot further downstream. The water was rough enough in places to command squeals of delight, but never rough enough to be actually scary. We bobbed through a beautiful canyon: dribbling little waterfalls seeping down rock cliffs, lush greenery all around. It was fabulous.
And I managed to get myself well and goodly teased by my lovin' hubby and his wonderful mom. Because, you see, I have canoeing experience. And so when I got caught in an eddy or thought I would be better positioned a little further one way or the other, I reached over the edge of the tube and paddled. While they just drifted and relied on the occasional rescue. Meaning that I was one of the first people down the river while they were still drifting along. So they laughed at me for being an overachiever at river tubing.
After the tubing and the requisite rum punch break, we were taken back to the ship where we checked on Amy, changed clothes, and headed back into town, hoping to get some local food for lunch.
This is where I really knew that Dominica is not completely spoiled by tourists yet. Because it was Mardi Gras and the parade was coming and all the shops were closed. Restaurants had set up bars and barbecues along the streets, but other than right in front of the tour boat, there was no where to buy souvenirs, let alone jewelry.
We wandered up into town a few blocks, quickly becoming the only white people around. And then the parade came.
The parade consisted of about 40 people in costumes, some of them native island dress, some of them heavy, full-body costumes of shredded plastic that looked like pompons, some of them burlap versions of same. The all preceded a flatbed truck stacked 15 feet high with sound system, a band in the middle of it and people on top. The calypso music was so loud that your chest resonated with it. It moved slowly down the street as the costumed people shuffle-danced in front of it. But as it came closer to us I noticed that it was too tall to pass under the power lines. I wondered what they were going to do.
No worries, man. The guy in the front of the truck just grabbed the power lines with his bare hand and lifted them over his head, passing them down to the next guy.
Which explained why all the stores were closed - they had turned off all the power in town for the parade. In all, there were three of these sound trucks. We bought drinks from a street vendor, and I had one of those weird island experiences. A guy who was just hanging out chatting with the vendor gave us a hooded, wary look as we ordered our drinks. I smiled but he just scowled. While I was waiting for my drink, though, I started getting into the music, bobbing my head and dancing a little. When I turned back to get my drink, I caught his eye again. This time he was smiling at me and raised his beer in a salute. Just a little show of acceptance and appreciation of island culture helps to erase that wariness. I'm delighted every time it happens.
We wandered through town for quite a while. I told Ferrett that I wanted a t-shirt from Dominica, but the only genuine local t-shirt would have to be one that said DigiCell - I swear that 2/3 of the uncostumed locals were wearing DigiCell t-shirts. Then as we were heading back toward the boat we stopped to get one more run and coke. A very drunken man proclaimed that his dear auntie would take care of us, and here, why don't you pour your own rum, oh you need more than that! while his auntie looked on in mild horror. I grinned at her. "More help than you need, huh?" She laughed and shook her head.
Once we were all back on the boat and getting ready to sail, it was clear that nothing about this had been a show for the tourists. From the Lido deck we could see that the streets were jammed with people, the music even louder, now that the tourists were gone.
That was when I felt my first pang of regret at the cruise schedule. Because you never get an evening on an island, never get to experience island night life.
And I wanted to party with Dominica.