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We arrived safely in Portsmouth Harbor, Dominica and anchored in front of the Coconut Grove Hotel.  Dominica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. What a busy boy!  The island gained its independence from the British in 1978, having been passed  between the British and English four times.  The official language is English but many of the natives speak incomprehensible Creole, a broken French-English. Many of the town names are French.  The mountain's rain forest has 350 inches of rain whereas the coast gets only 200 inches!  With that amount of rain and the fertile soil, almost every fruit except apples is grown here,  avocados, pineapples, mangoes, breadfruit, bananas, passion fruit, etc.  Islands usually have only one volcano but Dominica has twelve! 

Because of the volume of rainfall, there are 365 rivers.  One of these is the Indian River where we took a tropical river tour with a boat boy.  The guides paddle up the river to avoid pollution and noise of motors.  We saw incredible roots of hundred year old trees and lush green vegetation along the banks of the narrow river.  Edison was our guide and told us that guides were patrolling the harbor at night to prevent boardings as had happened in the past.

Indian River and Edison, our guide

The next day we took an inland tour with Tony as guide and taxi driver.  His van was rated for fourteen people so seven of us were quite comfortable.  The two-lane roads were narrow and curvy, winding high up into the mountains with vehicles driving on the left side of the road.  Tony was a wealth of information and, in addition to telling us about the agriculture, he showed us examples when he stopped at his family's banana plantation.  He cut a stalk of bananas and picked up a couple of coconuts. 

Bananas are the most important crop with coconuts second.  The country attempts to promote tourism but the black volcanic sand has not been as appealing to tourists as the white sand of neighboring islands.  Dominica is trying to protect the environment while marketing itself as a tourist destination.  Numerous parks and trails with hot and cold pools and several waterfalls offer hiking opportunities.  Diving attracts other tourists. 

Bananas take nine months from planting to harvesting.  A single plant produces only one stalk of bananas and usually three to four shoots each of which produce only one stalk.  The plant must then be destroyed and a new plant started.  Blue plastic bags with air holes are placed around the baby banana stalks to protect them from the sun, birds and insects.  Bananas are easily destroyed by hurricane force winds.  In 1979, a hurricane destroyed the entire banana industry and 65% of the coconut industry.  Coconuts are used for soap, animal food, and fertilizer.  They are not picked but collected when they drop from the trees.  The trees are usually planted high on the hills so when the coconuts fall, they roll to the bottom.  As you stand around in the lush vegetation, you frequently hear THUNK! You realize it's a coconut falling from a tree.

There are still some  traditional houses built on stilts to keep small animals from intruding, built with pitched roofs to shed the rain. 

Our tour became a culinary experience as Tony picked a coca pod and opened it, offering beans surrounded by a citrus flavored membrane to suck.  He explained that to produce cocoa, the beans are dried, roasted, and ground, sometimes with flavors added.  At another stop, Tony cut cinnamon from a tree trunk and also picked fresh bay leaves for us.

Local swimming hole.

View from a high road on the northern coast of Dominica

Viking Rose at anchor

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