Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Victoria Falls and la Riviére Blanche

The first time we tried to reach the Victoria Falls, we didn’t even make it to the first river crossing. And driving up from Grand Bay, towards the village of Delices it is far from obvious where the entrance to the falls is.

We drove back and forth a couple of times and finally decided to ask a couple of young boys hanging out by the bus stop on the main road. “Just here”, they immediately shouted, and pointed towards a small gravel road, leading inland. It all made sense, but as we are experienced and not too easily fooled we knew better. Wouldn’t rely on just one opinion. A couple of hundred meters inland, we met another group of boys. They all confirmed: We were on the right track. “But it is quite far”, they added, with big Dominican smiles on their faces, and made a detailed description on how to get there. The road got narrower, steeper, but no sight of the big tree or bay rum factory they mentioned. After a while what is left of the road made a sharp turn, started going downhill and all of a sudden we found ourselves back on the main road again. Going back down again, towards Grand Bay, we drove pass what now had turned into a large group of kids, all laughing and giggling.

Instead, we stopped and asked a couple of young women, on their way to Mass, no risk of them lying, Sunday and everything, but by the time we found the Riviére Blanche, or White River, where the trail starts, we were hungry, decided to have picnic already, then threw some pebbles in the river and decided to return soon, now that we knew where it is.

Several months passed, but this Sunday we easily make it back to the entrance, turn where the signs to the Pichelin-Delices trail stands, just south of Delices, long before the unfortunate bus stop, and leave the car on the “security parking”, are excused from the five US fee and set off, determined to make it this time.

To get from the parking to the actual waterfall, you have to make five river crossings, and although the hike is not extremely difficult, it is best to avoid it when it is raining, as dangerous flashfloods can appear surprisingly fast and unexpected. With a 25 pound almost two years old on your back, it is definitely not recommended.

But today the sun is shining and the water never gets more than knee-high, sometimes up to the thighs, in any of the crossings.

And there is nothing wrong with the trail. Once you find it after each crossing it is easy. The trouble is finding it. And also knowing exactly when and where to cross the river. There are absolutely no signs and I am absolutely convinced the local, most likely self-appointed, so called guides are eager to keep it that way.

Half way through the first river crossing a man conveniently appears, offers us his guide services. And the truth is, we probably wouldn’t have made it all the way to the waterfall without him. At least, it would have taken several hours longer, and plenty of discussions on how dangerous or not dangerous this or that crossing or rock-climbing is, especially with a baby on the back.

With our guide we move along fast, cross the river five times, walk the trails on each side and finally, after the last and deepest crossing, do some basic climbing over a few rocks.

Here we can already get glimpses of the waterfall and it is impressing. It is not the tallest in Dominica, with its 100 feet it makes the forth or fifth, after the Middleham Falls 200 ft, River Jack Falls 150 ft, also found on the Pichelin-Delices trail, and the Trafalgar Falls with its approximately 120 ft. But it is definitely one of the most impressing.

Below the falls there is a huge pool, and as the water cascades into it, you get quite a shower, blowing strongly in your face when you stand on the shore, wetting you almost completely. It is like a super-version of the Emerald Pool. We stay for a while to absorb the beauty and strength, but decide to have our lunch by one of the many turquoise-white pools we passed on our way up. The water in the Victoria Falls and the White River, all come from the Boiling Lake in the mountains high above, the reason for its milky mineral rich water.

The way back is easier, we know our way and it is easier to slide down the rocks to get back to the last crossing, at least for me who don’t carry a baby on my back. Beware of little feet that shouldn’t get stuck between rocks!

After three crossings, about halfway back, we find a perfect enough pool, with a small sandy beach full of pebbles, say good bye and thank you to our guide and sit down on the soft and warm rocks, contemplating the river, listening to the birds, having lunch.

Later in the afternoon, on our way back to the car and just before the last crossing, we swim in the bigger pool, the one just where the trail starts. It is definitely refreshing, almost cool, but extremely relaxing. To let the stream bring you down-river looking up at the scattered clouds and trees hanging over, makes you forget about everything but the moment.

We will soon be back, if only to have a swim, make a couple of crossings and sit by the river. And now that we know the way, it wouldn’t be that hard to make it all the way to the falls on our own either.

How to get there: From Roseau, head for Grand Bay (that is south to Loubiere where you turn left to cross the southern tip of the island) and then continue up north along the Atlantic coast, on a wonderful and beautiful, breathtaking and sufficiently winding road, up and down the hills abruptly descending into the roaring ocean. Then, just before (!) the small village of Delices, turn left when you see the sign for the Pichelin-Delices trail. It is about an hour’s drive from Roseau. Finally, it is a short drive downhill until the road ends, where there is a “security parking”, obviously on private land. This time, a small reception center was under construction, the men working there promised us we would be able to get cool Kubuli next time.

If it is your first time, I would really recommend a guide. The trail itself isn’t hard, but it is hard to find it after each crossing and it is also hard to know exactly when and where to cross. Two or three times the trail also splits in two, and it is not always obvious which to take.

Four or five small signs along the trail would do it, but that would, of course, mean no more need for guides. I can understand the low priority given to this…

Monday, 23 July 2007


We are late, very late and as we wind up and down the road heading almost as far south as you can get I am getting a little concerned we already have missed the DiveFest grand finale event, the annual canoe race in dugout Carib canoes, held in Soufriere, in the middle of the Scotts Head Soufriere Marine Reserve.

But, as my husband keeps reminding me, this is Dominica, we are on the island, island time rules, not clock time, relax, no problem. When we reach Soufriere and park the car, finally finds a spot close to the old catholic stone church where there are also some natural ocean hot springs, the first thing we see are three soaked racers, water dripping from everywhere, coming from the complete opposite direction from where the actual race is held. “I think our captain was a little drunk”, one of the girls says, “the boat capsized before we even got started”. It is probably true, but how they managed to get that far from the race track remains a question.

On the beach in the middle of the village the party is already going on, has been going on for a while, Kubulis are sold in a continuous flow. Chicken is on the grill, fish too. The racing, it has just started.

Almost immediately someone grabs my husbands arm, starts to convince him to form a team with a couple of other guys. He finally agrees and our friend is off to register. We continue down to the shore, try to make our way out on one of the overcrowded old piers, but are forced to turn after a short while. Our son is not interested in anything but to jump straight into the water, with clothes and shoes and everything. No hard grip around his fist is going to work much longer.

Every now and then three or four canoes are off, racing, back and forth to a certain point out in the ocean, several other boats surrounding them, trying to make sure rules are followed, trying to give support, or just make fun of and annoy the serious and not to serious participants.

Every July, Dominica's diver community gathers forces and presents the annual Dive Fest. And it is one intensive week of activities and fun for divers and others interested in Dominica's marine life. Dive Fest saw its first lights fourteen years ago, and was created by the Dominica Watersports Association to give local Dominicans a chance to learn more about scuba diving. Education about the marine environment has always been an important part of Dive Fest, and there are plenty of opportunities for all to try scuba diving or snorkeling. More recently other more advanced activities have been added, like treasure hunt and photo contests for the more experienced divers. Today it is a great festival where tourists and Dominicans together enjoy the island’s great under water and marine life.

Back on the beach again, our son is doing his best to get rid of his clothes, to get into the water, actively hindered by his parents, knowing that it would just be a matter of time before a runaway canoe with a drunk captain aboard would hit him hard. Then our friend is back, annoyed. There will be no racing he says, “and you know why. Well, four fishermen have gathered to race one canoe. Four fishermen!”. As I don’t really understand the problem he vividly describes how they of course would win, “I mean, come on, four fishermen”, thereby making it meaningless to race, no chance of winning the price, the cage of Kubuli beer. And the honor.

So, we head for food, get dried fish and plantain, some fig pudding and of course chicken. Eventually, our son forgets about the missed opportunity for a swim with canoes, and Dive Fest is going towards its end for this year. For us at least. For many others, there are still a couple of hours left, to discuss race techniques and drink more beer.

And, maybe I am stupid, but I think it would have been fun to race the fishermen. Next year, definitely.

More info: The 2007 Dive Fest was held from July 6th to 15th, more info and a complete schedule of the events is available from avirtualDominica's special Dive Fest site. This year the festival are also proud to present its own blog: http://divefest.wordpress.com/
Finally, the official name of the race is of course the Kubuli Carib Canoe Race, what else could it be…

Friday, 20 July 2007

Dominican facts, from those who know...

The people of Dominica is the forth happiest in the world. At least that’s what the latest results from the Happy Planet Index lets us know. How to measure happiness is of course widely debated, and who can actually tell what happiness really is? But, living in Dominica, you don’t really have to worry about wars, violence (the crime level being one of the lowest in the entire Caribbean), drought, famine or bloody coup d'état, not really either how to be able to afford health care or education for your child. Despite the yearly hurricane season, and a tiny risk for volcanic activity, Dominica is a safer place than many others, and that helps to make you fell happy.

To get some true, real and completely objective information and statistics on Dominica, is probably just as impossible as everywhere else. It all depends on who you are asking and what the purpose is or have been. But still, some institutions seem to never get enough of collecting statistics and writing reports on those objective facts.

The UNDP Human Development Index sometimes serves as quite a good guide. It is based on adult literacy, school enrolment, life expectancy at birth and per capita GDP. According to the 2006 Report 2006, Dominica is ranked 68 among 177 countries, placing it just above countries like Brazil, Colombia and St Lucia, and among the top five of countries considered “medium developed”. Dominica have, in fact, met almost all of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

But, even though Dominica was ranked 95th in the 2004 report, and the jump to no 68 may seem like a really good shape-up, everything is not perfect, not even in Dominica.

The recent and quite severe economic crisis has led to a rise in poverty and unemployment. The poverty and unemployment levels are quite high, with an estimated 39% of the population being poor and 15% indigent; and an unemployment rate of around 25% nationwide and 40% among the poor. As so often, poverty is concentrated mainly in the rural areas and is particularly severe in the Carib Territory, where the majority of the indigenous Kalinago people live. The high level of rural poverty has its roots mainly in the ongoing decline in agriculture which has long been the mainstay of Dominica’s economy. Today, the Government does what is standard in the Caribbean: doing its best to increase tourism as a main source of income for the country.

Unemployment is one of several reasons why the emigration from Dominica continues to increase. From 1990 it has almost doubled. 1990 about 1% of the population emigrated, while as in 2003 about 2% decided to leave the country. The main destinations for migrants are Antigua and British Virgin Islands, as well at UK, USA and Canada. Today Dominica has a population of about 70.000. I have been told that there are about the same number of Dominicans living abroad. The loss of skilled labour force is a great challenge to the island and its future economic development.

Then what about those who come, at least to visit? (although some of us can’t help but to stay…) In 1994 Dominica counted a total of 56,600 stay-over guests, increased by almost 50% ten years later: In 2004 80,000 stay-over tourists visited the island. Today that number has risen slightly more, to about 83,000. However, more than half of them, about 50,000, originate from other Caribbean countries, only about 20,000 travel from US and Canada, about 10,000 from Europe, and only about 40% use paid accommodations. A great part of the people visiting Dominica seem to belong to the fastest growing segment of today’s traveller; those who travel to visit friends and family. Of course, they are also tourists, but doesn’t contribute economically in the same way as those who actually use the hotels and restaurants.

While the cruise shippers outnumber the stay-over visitors by five – almost 400,000 cruise shippers visit every year, with high season days with four or five ships docking in Roseau and Portsmouth (don’t forget to avoid places like Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool these days, at least until you hear the sound of the ships horn in the afternoon), they only account for about 20% of all spending. It is not hard to see why the Governments newly approved Tourism Policy clearly focuses on stay-over guests.

GDP per person averages around USD 5.500 per person and... that’s enough... enough from all these experts who adore hard facts, statistics and everything that is “objectively” measurable. Let’s go back to where we started and concentrate on what really matters:

Dominica is the fourth happiest country in the entire world.

I really think that’s enough to know. And, although I haven’t counted, I am sure a Dominican smiles about a hundred times more a day than the average Swede, German or Canadian.

More hard facts and stats on Dominica: Can be found in the UNDP Human Development Report and Index, in country reports etc. on Dominica, i.e. at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the Caribbean Development Bank, and, last but not least, in the Happy Planet Index.
According to them, if you are curious, the only countries considered happier than Dominica are, in order of major happiness, Vanuatu, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Trafalgar Falls and Hot Springs

I don’t know anymore, how many times we have visited the Trafalgar Falls. I still remember the first time we came there, though. We were new on the island, hadn’t even got our own transport yet (yes, in Dominica you say transport, but it means car, or bus, or any kind of means of transport). We used to rent one and drive around like crazy, not being able to stop the demand of beautiful views and experiences. Then we came to Trafalgar, one Sunday afternoon, late enough for the crowd of the day to be on their way back home, greeting them along the trail. We got the hot springs and the waterfall views all for ourselves. We stayed until it got dark.

It is just a ten minutes drive from Roseau, you basically just take the Valley Road out of Roseau and drive until the road ends. But first it splits in two, where the right turn would take you to Wotten Waven, you take the left. Then it splits in two again, where the left would take you to Laudat, to the Freshwater Lake, the Boeri Lake, the Titou Gorge, the Rainforest Arial Tram and all that, even to the Boiling Lake if you continue long enough. You turn right and just goes straight, although through a lot of curves, until the road ends.

The walk up to the view platform is short and easy, not more than ten minutes, but just as you take your first steps on the path towards it you get the feeling of being in the middle of the rainforest. The green is lush, intense, the air is moist, full of oxygen, birds and insects fill the air with their peeps and chirps, humming and buzzing. The ground is soft and the giant ferns the path is made up of lets you walk on almost dry surface, its not slippery and you don’t get wet, the little streams crossing the path are easy to jump across. Almost anyone can make it to the platform.

We still come here a couple of times a month, and we still stay on the platform for a while, to catch our breath and to watch the two waterfalls cascade down the mountains, the left one, the Father and the larger (about 120 ft or 30 m.), the right one, the Mother. And to admire the immense, green mountain or enormous rock between them, where high up our son is convinced Totoro, the Lord of the Forest, lives.

The father fall has hot springs at its base, and to get down to them there is another ten, or maybe five, minutes of climbing down the rocks, the sign says “on your own risk”, but we have never really felt any risk, not even with a small boy jumping down the rocks. We just keep a steady grip around his waist.

Down there, the view of the mother waterfall from the big bold rocks is stunning, you can climb really close to it and jump around the rocks. I don’t know why, but I always feel like a strange figure in a cartoon, it is all to unreal maybe. In the beginning we always went down to jump around, nowadays we normally just get changed and soak our bodies in the hot water of any of the natural pools. Our favorite is the highest one, where the water is warmest, and where there also is a great little back massage waterfall coming down. The pools are as great for grown-ups as for little kids.

Last Friday we took another visiting friend up, and as always, we try to stay as late as possible, just a little later than you should.

I have difficulties finding all my clothes in the dusk, but finally get it and set off back, climbing the rocky path uphill with an almost-two clung to my waist. When we reach the platform again it is almost, almost dark. We sit down for a while, have a banana snack and wait just a little longer.

The trail back to the entrance and office building is dark, and there they are! We see a couple of them, then more, then more and all of a sudden – what we have been waiting for. The forest is filled up with thousands and thousands, if not millions, of fireflies. They are everywhere and the bush looks like a twinkling starry sky, it’s like rainforest’s New Years Eve, and we stop, just look, try to absorb it all.

Nowhere I have seen anything like this, it is fairy tail beauty, almost unreal. I have seen it several times now, but I don’t stop being totally amazed, feeling swept away into a dream.

If you ever get to the Trafalgar Falls, go late in the afternoon. That way you don’t have to share the place with the cruise ship crowd (no offence cruise shippers), and maybe, if you stay late enough, you get to see the fireflies parade.

How to get there: Head inland on the Valley Road towards Laudat, passing the Botanical Gardens. Don’t turn right towards Wotten Waven, just continue straight. Next time the road splits, turn right (to not end up in Laudat). You have to pass the little village of Trafalgar, do some turns and finally pass the Papillotte Wilderness Retreat (a great place for a Kubuli beer and sandwich after the falls) and the hydro-electric plants, and there you are!

Friday, 6 July 2007

Jungle Weekend in la Plaine

“The bridge is broken, we have to cross the river by foot” my friend tells me, for I don’t know what time in order. We are going to her place in la Plaine for the weekend and are checking the last little things. We’ve got sheets packed? Yes. And quiche ready-made for dinner, something for breakfast, wine, beer, rum, mosquito repellant, swimsuits, cameras, sunglasses… Yes, everything is there and we are off.

We leave Roseau, turn toward Pont Casse in Canefield. Half an hour later we pass the entrance to the Emerald Pool and head south east, toward the Atlantic coast. The one and a half hour drive – I really dont think it is possible to get any farther, the island may be mountainous, but it is still small – is pleasant, as always. Up on the cool plain after Pont Casse it is raining, as always, the Morne Trois Piton looks down at us, somewhat gloomy. We stop at the usual spring water tap, fill up a couple of bottles with some of the best water on the island, straight from the spring, and continue. Music is on and it is a perfect day for a jungle adventure.

When we reach the coast we pass the Rosalie Bay Beach and I wonder if some little turtle hatchlings may be on their way down to the sea right now. La Plaine then, is a nice and slow village on Dominica’s southeast coast. It sits on a wide slope of hardened lava once emitted from the volcanoes in the Grand Soufrière Hills behind the plain, and has ha population of a little less than 1500. Today we are going to turn before we reach the village.

We stop at the Bout Sable Bay and its little beach and do some redistribution. Girls and kids and all stuff get squeezed into one car, the one with four wheel drive, and the boys get the other. Two different dirt roads will take us to the house, one somewhat less bumpy but ending farther away, with a short hike through the bush following the car ride. Machete stays in boys car, we get the bumpy road.

I turn on the four wheel drive and we head inland, uphill, and the scenery is completely wonderful. Straight ahead we have Trois Piton and all around us hills and valleys, all green, green, green. Here and there a cow, some banana plantations, and when the curves are sharp we see the Atlantic ocean, far down the valley now, but still there. We drive up one hill, then serpentine back down into the valley, cross a river – this one has a bridge – and make our way back up next hill, we are almost there. Just one more steep downhill drive, breaks work fine, and we reach the next river, park the car under a small lime tree.

Out of the car comes bags and boxes, food and drinks, a huge mattress and several kids. We take everything down to the river and soon after the boys appear from the other side.

The bridge is broken. We have to cross the river by foot.

I still have no idea where the house is, but it is just there my friend assures, on the other side of the river, just behind those huge mango trees, making it impossible to get even the tiniest glimpse of it. But there it is, just there. Carrying all kind of stuff, kids, the mattress we reach the house. It is a small gingerbread house, built from wood from the land, with a huge veranda. As so often, no glass in windows, just hurricane shields, in case of. The sound of the river, a lot of birds, the breeze are the only sounds. We are deep into the forest.

So, then, what to do in a small one-room gingerbread house without electricity, running water, close by bars, internet connection?

We relax. My friend is working on the garden, that is, what is supposed to be a garden, keeping up with fast growing jungle plants is not the easiest thing in the world, but it is beautiful in all of its wildness, flowers are everywhere, wild banana – or heliconia, red ginger, different types of hibiscus, oleander, jasmine, pink frangipani and lots of others I don’t know the name of or don’t even recognize. The boys are off crayfish hunting in the river, funny walking in the shallow water with special equipment, the little ones jumping up and down on the river rocks, throwing pebbles into the water, they are all in flow. Later we all have a swim, meanwhile I lay down in the hammock on the veranda. And so we eat, and eat again, drink wine and at seven it gets dark. About an hour later everyone is asleep. One family downstairs, the other in the small loft. Someone in the hammock.

The best thing, I think, with escaping to the jungle for the weekend is waking up. Waking up by dawn, just when it starts to get bright, when every bird in the entire forest is up and singing, when everything is still fresh, cool from the nights rainfall. And while everyone else is still asleep. The river keeps flowing down from the mountain, the garden as beautiful as yesterday, and I am far, far, far away from any visual contamination and information overload of every day life. I want to stay.

But we can’t, after breakfast we have to leave, we have commitments, have to have lunch in Bagatelle, attend a meeting in Grand Bay. We have to leave, we cross the river, walking. We will be back soon.

How to get there & how to do this: Well, to get to la Plaine is not really that complicated. It is the second largest village in the Saint Patrick Parish (that is the southeastern part of Dominica), after Grand Bay, and can be found on every descent map. Then, to do this you need someone who agrees to rent or lend you a little house deep in the forest, ask around the village, or maybe my friend could rent you hers…

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Caribbean as it used to be?

Walking the streets of Roseau – preferably early in the morning, when the streets and the town comes to life, street vendors arrange their selections, shop owners open up their shops, people rush back and forth on their way to work, or, if not, later in the afternoon, when the sun is lower, the heat bearable – is really a great way to loose a couple of hours. The town is full of old buildings, remainings from the colonial era, which really did not end until 1978 when Dominica became an independent state, after almost two hundred years of British ruling. Two-story building with large verandas hanging out over the streets, some transferred to cafes or restaurants, the majority still private homes, lines the streets of King George V, the one that takes you from the old market, towards the Botanical Gardens, or the Independence street, one of the main streets, the one that leads into town from the bridge, from Goodwill and the northern parts of the island.

Roseau is a town that still hasn’t suffered from hardcore, development aid funded, well paid restaurateurs who have transformed the buildings to dollhouses, the streets to artificial tourist shopping streets, the town to a museum, to a so called “export-ready” heritage site. Roseau is still alive, full or real people, running real errands, living in real houses. I really don’t know how the Caribbean used to be, but I get the feeling Roseau is quite a bit as it used to be. Maybe with more cars.

The other day we were having lunch at the Fort Young Hotel. Up on the second floor veranda we started talking to the people at the table next to ours. Visiting from St Martin for the weekend they wanted tips on where to go for a couple of day tours. We talk about Trafalgar Falls, Soufriere hot springs, going snorkeling at Champagne or Scots Head, and more. And then come to ask them how they like it so far. “Oh”, says the young woman, “its great, it remains me of Saint Martin twenty years ago. I really, really hope it can remain this way.” Dominica’s population is about 70.000, compared with same size Martinique’s 450.000 or St Marten with the same amount of inhabitants, on 15% the size of Dominica. As soon as you leave Roseau, there is a more or less total absence of large development projects, the little villages remains little villages where life remain rural and slow, just as it always have used to be.

The absence of international hotel chains, charter tourists, golf courses and international airport helps, of course, to contribute to all this. And Dominica’s newly approved Tourism Policy states that “Dominicas extraordinary tourism resources cannot be experienced without exploring the country” and that all tourism should benefit the local communities. However, both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism seem interested in playing golf, and change is, always, inevitable. And definitely not always bad.

This month the EU-funded 6 million euro “Eco-Tourism Development Programme” just finished. The programme has enabled for the upgrade of more than 20 tourist sites, shape-ups of certain areas in Roseau, training and awareness building on the importance of tourism for local communities and a lot more. The work constantly carried out by S.H.A.P.E., the society for heritage architecture preservation and enhancement, have resulted in a greater awareness of the beauty of many of the historical buildings, and in the importance of preserving this heritage and its memories, to progress slowly and with care.

Dominica is an island with many nicknames. The most common must be “the Nature Island of the Caribbean”, or, as the official website now states, just “the Nature Island”. Dominica’s nature is incredible, and it is worth visiting just for experiencing all the different shades of green, I still cant believe there are so many, but Dominica has even more to offer than nature. The ride through narrow, winding roads, short breaks at small hilltop villages, a fruit juice or cup of bush tea, a kubuli and some fish and provision at the very local restaurant or little café, the warmth of the people. These are the real experiences. It is Caribbean as it used to be. Or maybe it is Dominica - Caribbean just the way it is.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Indigo Art Café and Tree Cottage

The sign to Indigo is tiny, but there is something about it, something telling you, you should go check the place out. We saw the sign the first time we passed, on our way from Portsmouth to the small village of Paix Bouche in northeastern Dominica, and decided to visit, next time. Next time, it happened, my husband passed by on his own and he did go check the place out. Today, Indigo is one of our absolute favorite spots on the island.

Some restaurants and hotels just sell a meal or a room. Some others try to sell you an experience, they sell eco or luxury, or maybe the unspoilt or even the true and authentic. Indigo, I think, just gives away a little space in time, a brief moment to breathe and to spare.
It looks like nothing else, it looks like the visualization of a dream.

The place is run by the Dominican-French couple Marie and Clem Frederick, Marie being a “roots” artist with a truly own expressionist style and Clem more of a sculptor, responsible for the construction of the buildings, carved directly out of the remote, forested mountainside. And for all the organic, almost alive, wooden furniture.

For our wedding anniversary, we decide to spend the night at Indigos tree cottage guest room. It is the only room, and for dinner, we are the only guests. When we arrive in the afternoon, Marie is already busy, preparing for everything. We sit down in the garden. Sipping on fresh passionfruit and ginger-lime juices, we exchange latest news from our villages and try to find out who we actually are talking about, mixing everything and everyone up. We pet the puppies that have grown a lot, just since our last visit, Marie has got a problem with her computer, my husband promises to come back during the week, on his way from work, to have a look.

The tree cottage is full of fresh flowers, from the garden and surroundings. As it only have three walls, birds fly in and out, waiting for us to prepare the do it yourself welcome rum punch. Grapefruits and mango, brown sugar, a little bottle of rum and glasses have been carefully placed on an old metal tray. The coconut mobile is specially made for pieces of fruit left over, for the small black and yellow banana quit, for the black and red bullfinch, and for all the other birds I don’t know the names of. The rum punch is excellent, and the one we have later, just before dinner, even better.

For dinner Marie serves crab terrine with beets and tomato salad and later pasta with freshwater crayfish, the catch of the day from a nearby river. We have some of Marie’s wonderful bread, a lot more for breakfast next day, and we have bush tea and the best candied ginger I have had for years. We don’t have no space in our stomachs for dessert. I would have loved one of the homemade sorbets or ice creams.

Later, we walk up the stairs and the short path that takes us from the main building to the cottage with a lantern leading our way. The cottage has no electricity but there are plenty of candles, all different kinds of candleholders, and a large oil lamp that lights up the entire cottage. The breeze comes in from the mountains, there are no mosquitoes, we sleep without a mosquito net. It feels like we are in heaven.

At Indigo, there are so many details, so much sense for details, so many efforts made to help you rest all your senses. Nothing disturbs you, everything seem to be in harmony. The air smells of fresh flowers and herbs, the jazz music is low enough not to compete with the birds singing and the whole place is art, not only the many pieces of art work. Even the food is art. And the shower. And the toilet. There I read a National Geographic from 1979. I thought so much had changed since then. In the world, very little have changed since then.

Oh, there is one thing about the toilet. And actually about the cottage as well. And maybe about the open space that serves as restaurant, gallery, bar, a little bit of everything, too. Everyone on the island seem to know that Indigo turned out to be some kind of favorite spot or hang out for the “Pirates of the Caribbean”, for Johnny Depp and those, while filming the second and third of the Pirates films in Dominica. I am glad, of course, they discovered the place, but I could actually manage without pictures of them here and there, or with plasticized extracts on Orlando Blooms experience, placed on the table and in the cottage. But. To know that something is perfect, you need something to compare with. These tiny, tiny sources of irritation are probably placed there for you to remember that few things come closer to perfection than Indigo.

When you enter, there is this sign. It says “No photos. Memories are in your mind”. It is great. We put back our digital cameras and enjoy the moment as it is. The place is full of Clem’s wisdom and in the open space that serves as restaurant, café and gallery, there is another. It says

Nothing makes man happy. Happiness is in your mind.

On the web: Amongst Marie’s paintings, there are some photos on the tree cottage on the website. If you cant wait until you get there, have a look:

How to get there: From Portsmouth, take the road that leads you towards Melville Hall Airport and Marigot. It is about a fifteen minutes drive, and you will see a small sign on the left hand side, just after a sharp curve, just before the village of Bornes.