Dominica is an island which may give people a bad first impression but is actually one of my favorites in the Caribbean. The downtown area is just pretty run down, or as a friend once asked “so what happened to all the white people?” (ie. the colonists). I mused that perhaps the local cannibals had a preference for light meat, which might not have been the most comforting thing to say to a white person.
Dominica doesn’t try to be fancy and touristy like St Maarten or Barbados. It’s more authentic, focusing instead on eco-tourism rather than on luxuries like building maintenance. The only problem is that it can be a bit overwhelming when you just get off the ship, especially to be hounded by taxi drivers trying to sell you tours. Or taxi vultures as I’m fond of calling them.
After having visited Dominica over a dozen times, I feel like I’m very comfortable with the place. I have my favorite street vendor I visit each time, who has his stall by Ruins cafe, selling yummy smoothies for US$2 (or EC$5). Still, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Like when a guy off the street walked up to me just as I got my smoothie, grabbed my arm and demanded that I give it to him. I said “no” and walked off, fully expecting that he was next going to throw a punch at me, which would inevitably spill my drink. But he just moved on to the next person with a smoothie. I guess it’s a numbers game – eventually someone will comply. Sort of like hitting on women.
A bunch of us decided to visit Trafalgar falls. This is my favorite place in Dominica. The cab ride normally costs US$20 per person for the round trip but you can usually negotiate a discount if you have more than 4 people. It costs US$5 (or EC$13) to enter Trafalgar falls and you will no doubt encounter tour vultures offering to guide you from the entrance to the actual falls. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s a 5 minute walk along a straight path. I mean, you can basically see the falls from the entrance, so it makes sense to walk towards it. It’s not really rocket science.
We started walking and of course, someone started following, trying to chat us up. Mind you this happens in many places, not just Dominica. Anywhere there are tourists, there are people trying to make a buck. I tried to politely tell him that he should go “help” someone else but he insisted on following us. So we ignored him. I wanted to tell him to “fuck off” but generally I find it hard to be rude to strangers. I tend to reserve obscenities with people I’m close with. Perhaps I need to revisit this philosophy. Anyway he was harmless, so my friends and I ignored him, stopped and started taking pictures. He decided to stop as well. After a few minutes, he said “I’m ready when you guys are”.
A female friend shouted “We aren’t going with you!” and the vulture left. I don’t know who was more shocked – the guy or me. This girl is like one of those super polite people who’s always smiling, as if she lives on a diet of rainbows and sunshine. You know, one of those people who’d probably stop to help a wounded wild animal and nurse it back to health. And then take it into the forest to release it.
Anyway, life was good again. We got to the bottom of the falls and jumped into the water. This was when I suddenly remembered that I hate cold water. Oh well. Then, we climbed up some rocks to get a closer view of the falls. Now, climbing rocks I enjoy. Whenever I rock climb, it makes me feel as if I’m a mountain goat, just one with nature. (Except that time I got stuck while rock climbing down a cliff in Karpathos, Greece. That time, I thought I was going to die.)
The foot of the falls was amazing. It was like being in a shampoo commercial, surrounded by mist and rainbows. Definitely worth it. After playing in the falls for a while, we climbed down towards where the natural sulfur hot pools were located. This was even better than the falls because the water was warm. It was like sitting in a jacuzzi, except with a funny smell like someone had just farted. Despite the odd smell, I was assured that the sulfur is good for you as it apparently detoxes your skin.
All in all, it was a great day and one of those which makes me glad to be doing what I’m doing. How many people are able to say that they visited a waterfalls and natural hot springs during their lunch break from work? Well, I guess the people working at the entrance of the falls could say that. And the taxi driver could say that too. And I guess that weird guy who was lurking behind us. But apart from all those people, there’s not many people who could say it.