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    i miss qwerty!

    May 27th, 2006 by steve

    DAH! Were in Martinique qnd hqve crqppy inet. Qnd the keyboqrds qre qll messed up. Dqmn French! We therefore qbstqin from blogging until ze return to Dominicq next week. Happy mums dqy!

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Defensive Driving 101

    May 18th, 2006 by steve

    I like driving in foreign places. It’s always interesting to see the rules, attitudes and courtesies in the rest of the world. But no more current or former British protectorates. Right hand drive cars on the left hand side of the road. The left hand driving doesn’t bother me too much. It’s the right hand drive with the stick on the left that’s rough. My biggest problem was the perspective change when expected to now know where the left side of your car is when on a tight mountain road.
    And that was the reality both on Dominica and here in St. Lucia. Both countries have windy mountain roads that are sometimes two lanes, but more often less. Both have bonzai taxi-bus drivers screaming through the hills. St. Lucia actually isn’t so bad; I can keep up here. But it’s like a rally race through Dominica.
    My real fear has been the open sewers and drainage ditches. Both countries have gaping open ditches or concrete gutters along the road instead of shoulders. It’s a tough choice between the taxi doing a 4 wheel slide around the hairpin and the gutter. Today today we came across a nice example of what happens when you choose poorly. We’ve driven by this spot a bunch of times, so this must have happened yesterday. Sad thing is that this spot has more shoulder than most…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Boiling Lake and the Valley of Desolation

    May 18th, 2006 by mary

    May 13, Dominica

    We left just after six in the morning for the trailhead of the Boiling Lake and the Valley of Desolation. The trail started with steps and never really stopped, it only changed directions. I felt like I was in an M.C. Escher poster. From one of the peaks we saw our first glimpse of our goal in the distance. Then it was a long, sharp descent to the Valley of Desolation. The first sign of our nearing proximity wasn’t the smoke plumes but the smell. The sulfur springs were constantly erupting and billowing steam and hot spray into the air. The colors of the earth were a stark contrast of white, green, orange, black, blue and red. The spews were rich with minerals released from the interior of the earth as a result of tremendous pressure under foot. We hopped over steaming streams and dodged scalding vents to make our way across the valley. It was a rocky climb towards the lake and the stench of rotten boiled eggs lead the way. We knew we had arrived before we ever saw the lake by the clouds of steam rising from the crater. The steam created such a thick fog that we actually couldn’t see much of the lake as first. As the wind passed through we finally caught glimpse of the boil in the middle of the lake. It looked like a hot tub for Godzilla and Thomas told us the water temp was 250C and it was 150ft deep, 2nd in size only to one in New Zealand. On the way back we stopped to soak in one of the flowing mineral springs before the arduous journey back. Ugh, my knees are aching just thinking about it.

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    oh yeah, well remember that time…

    May 18th, 2006 by mary

    It’s taking some convincing to get Steve to agree to let me put this on the blog and the constant reassurance that it’s not out of spite or anger has won over his guilt.

    The date was May 9th, we were in Dominica and had a pleasant hike to the Middleham falls in the morning. The bus system here is a network of collective vans. We took one to the dive shop and I am standing outside holding onto the van for balance over the open sewer. Just as I am about to ask the driver how much for the ride Steve hops out of the van and slams the door on my hand. My three fingers are trapped at the knuckles, lodged between the panel and closed door. I am in shock that this has actually happened and I can see the look of horror on the other passengers faces. Some of them even rise out of their seats to get a better stare at what the tourists are up to. Steve realizes what’s happened as I yell in pain and he unlatches the door to free me. I’m thinking pain means I can still feel them, and yes, they are still attached. Luckily only the index finger has a deep gash and the others are bruised. Now I can add “you slammed the door on my fingers” to the existing “you left me at the Straits of Magellan” guilt trips.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Proof of killer shrimp and other monsters of the deep

    May 18th, 2006 by steve

    These are the mountain shrimp to be found in Dominica. The guy we met would dive under and bring them up to Mary at the edge of the pool. Mary’s job was to open his Louis Vitton purse and stuff them inside while making sure none of the other prisoners escaped. She only screamed once.

    The waterfall over the pool is pretty spectacular. I would have enjoyed swimming under it a bit more if I wasn’t worried the whole time about having my toes nipped off.

    I went diving in Dominica the day before we left. Most diverse coral life that I’ve seen in one spot. There were barrel sponges big enough for me to swim into. I didn’t, of course, because that would be bad. It seems that coral around the world is dying quickly as the oceans are warming up, being polluted, etc. (hippie story at: http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/041106EA.shtml) The coral in Dominica was generally in great shape with brilliant colors, but there were a few fields of lifeless white coral. Very sad if we won’t have much living coral in another 100 years. Here’s a couple big (10-12″) trunkfish I caught snuggling:
    Right after diving, Mary, her brother John and I jumped another boat to whalewatch. Turns out that Dominica is home year-round to female sperm and humpback whales. We saw 6 female and calf sperm whales, including one grouping of three that we followed for a good half hour. They get crazy wrinkles on their back with age. We got close enough to one to have the guide prove to Mary it was a 40-50 year old whale, not a giant wrinkled pickle. Here’s another taking a dive:

    We jumped over here to St. Lucia on Monday and spent our first day sleeping on a beach at Rodney Bay. The beach has a few resorts on it with jetskis to rent and parasailing boats coming in now and then. But it was reasonably quiet. Until the Fruit Man came calling. You can’t make stuff like this up. It starts with the blowing of the conche. Then you notice a ratty dinghy with all kinds of tattered flags coming right at you. Which is fine, except you’re on a floatie trying to nap and he’s got an outboard and a machette. Anyway, John picked up some mangos just to be funny and they turned out to be some of the best we’ve had.

    More of a chicken of the sea than monster of the deep…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    man-eating mountain shrimps, oh my!

    May 11th, 2006 by mary

    Dominica is a small rainforest island with 365 rivers and numerous waterfalls. Yesterday we went up to Trafalgar falls. On the short hike we came across a sulfur river with steam coming up from the yellow milky waters. After that the trail turns into a climb as we had to scale over boulders to get to the first freshwater pool below the falls. We tried to get to the base of the second fall above by following the water but came to a dead end of boulders too large to climb and too slippery to try. A guide was heading up there to catch shrimp for dinner so we made use of his services. That’s right, shrimp…in the mountains…under the waterfall. That in itself was reason enough to hang out with him. He took us to a side trail hidden from view and we clambered our way over moss covered rocks. The second fall was even more picturesque. The water fell over the cliff down alternating rocks creating a zigzagging cascade. The guide jumped into the lagoon and reappeared with mountain shrimps in hand. He kept diving under and never came up empty handed, or even empty mouthed. These were what we would consider jumbo shrimp and he said that under the log there were hoards of them, many much bigger. Some as long as his forearm and had razor sharp pinchers that could snap off fingers. Steve decided he would take the guide’s word for it and not investigate the validity of the claim.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    sailing pictures

    May 11th, 2006 by steve

    After two days of fighting with the network bandwidth here in Dominica, I’ve finally managed to get pictures from the Virgin Islands and sailing up on the travelogue. Or maybe the bandwidth is fine and we’re just taking too many pictures…

    There’s a bunch from the Carnival parades on St. Thomas, sailing in the VI’s and a few from our eco adventure on St. John.

    Now we’re just hanging out and hiking around Dominica. Mary’s brother John flew into town today, so we rented a car to pick him up and check out some of the more remote parts of this little island. Driving here is nuts. Right hand drive cars on the left side of the narrow twisted roads covered in a patchwork of potholes, cars parked in the road and machete-wielding farmers walking down the middle. I think the roads in China may have been safer…

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    style challenged beach goers unite!! — and go away

    May 8th, 2006 by mary

    What’s the deal with the rubber clogs? Okay, so I can understand that the Aussie sheepskin Uggs that I saw back in Cali were popular for their cozy comfort and casual style which developed a bit of a cult following especially among the yoga crowd. But their rubber cousins, which I have seen on every island, are neon clunkers. They only come in parking cone orange, jaundice yellow, and pepto-bismol pink. The rubber is thick and heavy, looking like they were cut right from the tires of 18 wheelers. They’re the steel toed boots of beach sandals. They neither flip nor flop, more like a thunk with each step. They’re usually seen on tourists near the coast. But they couldn’t possibly be good for the beach because they’d act like anchors in the sand. You can’t even blame the tree huggers for this one because they’re not environmentally friendly; I saw one sitting at the bottom of Trellis Bay and even the fish stayed away from it.

    If you have a friend suffering from this affliction, intervene and show them the mirror. This must be stopped before it spreads like bird flu.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    from seas to trees

    May 8th, 2006 by mary

    119, 120, 121… ugh, there’s too many bites to count and they’re all very itchy. For the last week I look and itch like I have the chicken pox. Going to the Maho Bay Camps (www.maho.org) didn’t help because nature is protected in the national park and insects have feelings too; damn hippies. It’s built along the slope of the hill overlooking the bay with 114 individual tents and facilities connected by a maze of elevated wooden paths that wind through the trees totaling two miles long. It looks like someone wanted to live out their childhood fantasy of living in a tree house and they couldn’t stop after just one. The compound includes a ceramics workshops, pottery, recycled glass blowing, bath houses, restaurants, general store, beaches with water sports, hiking trails, painting, yoga, massage, and recycled paper making studios. Everything an eco-tourist or hippy could possibly want. I was worried they might get creative with granola, but we arrived on prime rib Friday followed by mussels steamed in a white wine and garlic sauce the next night and boy they were delish! Unfortunately while we were feasting at the outdoor pavilion watching the amazing sunsets, the insects were gorging on me like a Las Vegas buffet. 122, 123, 124…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Ahoy Landlubbers from St. John, US Virgin Islands.

    May 6th, 2006 by steve

    We finished up our sailing lessons yesterday and are now certified by some crazy organization to rent big boats all by ourselves. We learned how to do a bunch of cool sailor stuff like jibe, tack and heave-to. Mary also learned the heave-ho and YMCA, but that’s a different story. Now we just need to find some crazy friends with a boat to tool around the islands with. Anyone?

    Here in St. John, we found an eco-tourism campground just off the beach that rents permanent tents. They’ve got what seems like miles of boardwalk that run up and down the surrouding hills to connect all these little tent-cabins tucked away in the trees. It’s kinda like being an ewok, but with less fur and living a little closer to the ground. The worst part is that it is absolutely crawling with hippies. They’re everywhere… I think this net connection is even solar powered…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »