From Dominica to Martinique: a complete culture shock


Our stay in Martinique was a bit longer than planned as it may be easy to do your clearing by yourself in a cyber, on Monday almost all shops are closed. So we hired a car for an other day, no problem because Martinique has combined all the good things from France with lively Caribbean atmosphere. So we enjoyed the stunning nature on the northern coast: dense tropical rainforest, beautiful trees and everything within reach through neat roads; picturesque fishing harbours with the familiar colourful boats and friendly fishermen.
We also visited the Centre de Découverte des Sciences de la Terre in St.Pierre (located in an earthquake resistant box) and this made us aware of the fact that on Dominica we step onto the next vulcano. If it is not for the hurricanes ravaging the islands, then it is the vulcano's as they are all more or less active. With Montserrat on top with an eruption in 1995. However, in St.Pierre we learned that we don't have to go there because more than half of Montserrat is forbidden area. But Dominica is actually more challenging; it is full of boiling pools and sulphur springs and it also recently had an eruption, so adventure still exists.

Dominica is the youngest of the islands; only 26 million years old. Therefore it is rugged and the rocks rise steeply from the sea. There is actually only one suitable anchor bay: Prince Rupert Bay in the northwest.
Four miles out we were already welcomed by boatboy Fire (fresh fruit & vegetables, Indian River tour, island tours etc.).

We were warned that boatboys are quite active in Dominica and most sailors hate them, not realizing that those guys also have to make a living. After Fire came Eddison, Cobra, Danny, Jerryl, Junior and Albert - it seems to be quiet times in the boatboy-business; but once you've made your choice, the others won't bother you anymore.
Because of the little opportunities to anchor, Dominica is mentioned in the pilots as “a sailor’s nightmare”. But in our opinion the opposite is true. We are anchored in sand with 3 meters under the keel, the formalities were settles in 5 minutes (you clear in and out at the same moment with Customs and then you are permitted to stay for two weeks; do you extend your visit, then you'll have to go to Immigrations); and the people! Super relaxed, extraordinary friendly and helpful (we immediately got a ride to the village) and they have a great sense of humour.

The people are not rich and the homes are small. But you see contented faces all around, sometimes they sing a song and not because they've had one too much - although in fact they often have as alcohol consumption is quite great. On Dominica nobody will starve as the soil is extremely fertile. The population is 71,000, not much. The city centre of the capital Roseau (one hour by mini-van from Portsmouth, zigzag zigzag) consists of only a couple of streets, but is very busy. Also they have three cruiseships each day, but fortunately the passangers stay in the area of the tourist market and don't dare going to the local market. Here they sell fruit and vegetables and in the covered hall we found several “snackettes”, where the locals lime. This is where they serve the best bakes and it is a great place to hang out.

Dominica is going for “the next level”, managed by a young president (34) who wants and does anything to improve Dominica's position and circumstances. He went along with Chavez and with China, that seems to have a say in every developing country (also in Surinam). Not every Dominican agrees, the locals in Roseau told us. But the former government did even stranger things and invited Ross Medical University into Dominica. Ross is a profit-organisation but we are not sure that the profit is to the advantage of the Dominicans. Dominica seems to have sold her health care. More than half of Portsmouth consists of campus (4,000 well paying students, of whom perhaps only a few are born on Dominica) and the local docters prefer working for the university above Dominica's own health care. In short: the great abuse is that there is an enormous training centre, full of medical know-how, but there is almost no doctor on the island who can or wants to treat the sick in an adequate way, because for the practical part of the training the students go to the U.S.

The kittens. They are now four months old. Rita was nicknamed Batman because she flies from the doghouse to the bimini.  Also when we are sailing! Robin also plays her part by jumping from the main boom, thus covering the gorge to the mizzen where the bimini is attached. Rita also caught her first cockroach, played cruelly with it (groaning loudly), killed it and ate it. Of course we were the proud parents.

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