May 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I am writing this post about home for two reasons. Today, I visited a place where I would someday love to live. It was high up in the mountains on a trail that those who live there hike almost every day to school. The hike lasts about 2 hours and it ends at Pomme's House nestled in the tops of the mountains.


The views are spectacular and they have the most amazing garden I have ever seen. We were given a tour of the grounds and saw pineapple plants, cabbage, tons of herbs, sweet potato plants, sugar cane (I was given a foot long piece to suck on and it was delicious), pepper bushes, and marijuana plants scattered about. One was growing right next to the basil.


We saw cocoa bean trees, jack fruit trees, and we tasted the fruit from one tree that they call apricot, as it tastes, but it is the size of a cantalope.
Someday, I would like a life that is as simple as this. You eat what you can grow on your own land and sell the rest at the local market. You walk to everywhere you need to go, hitching rides with locals when necessary. I asked them if I could come live with them and the woman said "No Problem." I almost waved goodbye to my group and said "Come see us again!"


On the trail, Moses stopped many times to pick us some oranges, cut us open a dried coconut, pick us some wild raspberries, and even showed us how to taste coffee bean fruit. You peel off the rind, and suck on the seeds inside. Usually, they roast the beans to make coffee, but these had a lightly flavored jelly like substance around them that you could eat.

Upon our return to Jungle Bay, Sam the owner asked me to help him cut down a bunch of bananas that were ripe. He handed me the machete and we walked a few hundred feet to a tree on the side of the road. Just below the tree was a ravine about 30 feet down to a creek. Sam says, "Well, there is your bunch."


He explained to me how banana trees grow and that they only flower once, so you have to cut down the big tree so that it doesn't starve the little trees growing from the same roots below. I thought...cut down the tree?...I thought I was just cutting down a banana bunch?...what have I gotten myself into now? So, Sam told me to take the machete and hack through the trunk just below where the bunch stemmed from. I took a big swing and the machete went about 1/2 way through.


I could feel the weight of the banana bunch start to pull the top of the tree down. So I reached up and touched the bottom of the bunch. Just then, CRASH...the bunch came toppling down and I lunged to catch it. I slid a few feet down the hill, still with machete in hand, and caught the bunch just as it touched the ground.


I think in weighed about as much as me and had about 50 green bananas that will be ripe in a few days. I set down the machete and pulled the bunch higher up the hill so it wouldn't fall into the ravine below. Then, Sam told me to cut the trunk of the tree lower down so that it would not try to grow again. I took a big swing and cut again 1/2 way through the trunk. Sam told me I wasn't being agressive enough, so I took another big swing and it cut most of the way through. After I was done, he showed me how they chop it into pieces and that later he would place those pieces around the base of the smaller trees to help provide them water. Sam helped me carry the bunch back to the main building and told me that I could bring a bunch home with me. Apparently it is ok to travel home with bananas from here, but no other fruit. So...if you see me in the next few days, I will share with you my banana farming loot.


I leave this beautiful place tomorrow and return to my real home in Seattle. I can't wait to see all of you and share with you my pictures and stories from this amazing journey. I have truly learned what I am made of here on this island...sweat, machete swings, sore muscles and all...and I will forever consider this a place that is like home. Now...sit down, have a banana, and know what hard work goes into its harvest.

May 25, 2009

Boiling Lake = Bay Oil Therapy

I did it! I finished the hardest hike in all of Dominica! Well...at least the hardest that I know of. The Boiling Lake is a lake near the top of one of the island's mountains that has volcanic vents that heat it to boiling temperatures from the bottom. You can see the bubbles coming up and the steam is so thick that sometimes you cannot see the lake.



This hike is one of the reasons I chose Dominica and Jungle Bay Resort and I am so happy I didn't chicken out after some of the other easier hikes we did gave me a cardio run for my money. They do this hike twice a week for the guests at Jungle Bay Resort. However, on Saturday they offered it to 11 guests that were leaving on Sunday morning and I was concerned that they would not provide it on Sunday. I signed up at dinner and prepared myself to leave at 7:30 the next morning. After a quick breakfast, I walked up to the main building and found that I would be the only one going on the hike. I was getting my own private tour!

Moses, my guide, and I hopped in the truck and off we went on an hour and a half drive to the trailhead. When we arrived, I used the "ladies" room...a bush...and we walked past a hydropower plant to the first stop on the sightseeing tour. It was the cavern and waterfall where they filmed part of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.



After a few pictures, we began the easiest part of the trail that is about 1/4 of the trip. It was through the jungle and consisted of ALOT of mud from the past few rainy days and ALOT of stairs made of fern trunks and various types of wood.



A quarter of the way in, we began our descent down into a valley to cross a small river and then, of course, we would head back up. If I had known what I was getting into I would have counted stairs. There must have been a million! Just when you thought the bend ahead meant you were at the top, you would turn and there would be more and more stairs! "It never ends..." I said and Moses laughed.



The hike overall takes 6 hours...3 hours in and 3 hours back. Some do it in less and some in more. However, imagine being on the stairmaster for 6 hours straight...then add some mud, some running water, some boiling sulfur puddles...but then add some amazing views from the some of the highest peaks on the island, and a nice relaxing bath in a hot spring below a waterfall. Sounds like a mix of Heaven and Hell, right? Yeah. That about sums it up.



Since it was Sunday, all of the locals were at church and the cruise ships had gone for the week. This meant we were the only two people on the trail! Typically there are multiple groups of 10-30 people along the way. Sometimes the trail is so narrow that I can't imagine trying to pass someone while walking on muddy, slippery, wooden steps. There had been a few mud slides in the past week and we had to follow a makeshift trail to the bottom of Desolation Valley and then another to the top where we found the boiling lake. Though it's hard to say that some of it was even a trail...it really felt like I was just walking through the jungle, willingly following a man with dreads named Moses.



Today, I am very, very sore. I've been aiding my aching muscles with a mix of lotion and bay oil. Bay oil is the local Tiger Balm or Icy Hot. You cannot put it directly on your skin because it will cause a burn, but mixed with coconut oil or lotion it is great for relaxing sore, tense muscles. My calves are hard as rocks. I think I may need a bucket of bay oil to get me through the rest of today.

So, I will be home in a few days and I have been journaling the prior day's adventures each evening. That has given me time to digest everything and hopefully write humorous stories to go back and read later. I plan to put the stories up online when I return, so I promise you will hear more about my solo adventure. For now, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend and make it safely through the rest of Monday. If you struggled with it...go home, relax and find your inner paradise. If you didn't...maybe you should do the same. Paradise is ire for everyone.

May 23, 2009

Paradise Found

I have only been in Dominica a few days and I am already dreading having to leave. While I can't wait to get home and tell you all about this beautiful island that has already found a special place in my heart, it is going to be very hard to say goodbye to paradise.

On my first night here I settled into my cottage, greeted the resident lizards that help control the bugs (you wouldn't believe how many types of lizards they have here), and relaxed in my hammock for a bit. I swayed, closed my eyes, and listened to the sounds. The birds chirping, the rustling of creatures in the fallen leaves below, and the waves crashing. I have a cottage with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic, even on a cloudy day.



Shortly before the restaurant opened for dinner, I left my room to get aquainted with the grounds of my new home for the week. Everywhere you go here at the resort is connected by one mossy stone road that leads from the main building to the cottages that rest high up on the hill. (Luckily, my cottage is close to everything.)



I wandered around until I was ready to eat and I headed to the open air pavillion for dinner. I found a table for one with a view and to make myself feel more at home I ordered a cuba libre made with local rum from the neighboring town (more like a village) from the bar. It was my first time dining alone and I have to say it is an experience that should not be missed by any single woman, or married for that matter. It's not quite as liberating as skinny dipping, but it feels nice to just relax and let your mind and meal take you where it wants. It helps that I am in paradise, but find a restaurant with a view and kick up your feet, read a book, or just meditate on the view. I did fine and it was just me, my journal, my drink, and the ocean.

The staff came by to greet me and find out my name and where I was from. Now, they are happy to greet me by name at every lunch and dinner and at the spa. Wouldn't you like to get away? Where everybody knows your name...and their always glad you came? (Sorry...just a little lyrics montage...I couldn't resist.)

After my meal, I returned to my room to read and relax on my mosquito net adorned bed. After a long few days of flying and airport sitting, I listened for a while to the frog choir outside that harmonized with the crashing waves and drifted off to sleep and dream about the next days activities...

May 19, 2009

Bon Joyage!

My plants are watered. My apartment is clean. My bags are packed.

I am leaving tomorrow on my first solo trip. What an experience this will be. A true test to my confidence, independence and emotional strength.

Many people have asked me why I would want to travel alone. To which I replied "Why wouldn't I?" (I think I'm pretty good company.) I thought it was a strange question until I realized that many people don't ever get the chance to do something like this. Either that, or they don't realize it is something that they would want to do until they see someone else do it. Honestly, a year ago I would never have dreamed of taking a trip alone. It hadn't even crossed my mind.

Last fall I told the universe that I wanted to travel more. Shortly after I found myself invited on all sorts of trips. It seems that if you tell the universe what you want, you shall receive. (Sorry...that was a very "The Secret" moment...but it's true.) I had been invited on trips before but never had the means to get myself through it. This time, I had funds and vacation time and nothing was standing in my way but ME. I vowed to myself at that moment that I would not pass up any opportunity to travel. I mean, it's a good thing no one has invited me to the Bermuda Triangle or I'd have mysteriously vanished by now.

So...here I go...on vacation again. I know, I know. "Didn't you just get back from somewhere?" I have been hearing that a lot lately. To which I happily reply "Why, Yes! I did!" Don't be jealous. Use that energy to make your own personal commitment.

What is it that you have always wanted to do but never did? Whatever the obstacle may be, trust me, the only thing standing in your way is YOU. Pack your "bags." You can make it happen.

May 12, 2009

Confidently Uninspired

So...here we are...sliding our way through Confident May.

I have to be honest.

I AM feeling confident.

I own leather chaps that SCREAM confidence.

I bought a Honda REBEL...sort of on a whim.

I am traveling SOLO to a foreign country soon...a warm, jungley, islandy country.

And yet, with all of this excitement in my life...

I

HAVE

WRITERS

BLOCK.

Oh, joy.

I want so badly to write to you. To inspire you. To share with you the joy that I have about where I am in my life. I sit here at my computer with fingers on the keys, but nothing comes.

Maybe I am just awestruck, or overwhelmed, or dumbfounded by all that I am taking on? I have a strong feeling that Dominica holds the cure to this mental clog. How could it not? Good thing I am leaving in a week! I need some inspiration!

For now, I will put this question out there...maybe you can inspire me instead...

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired...restless...bored? Go for a walk? Spin around in circles? Make faces in the mirror? Whatever it is...please share...I'll do anything!

(Click "comments" below this post to add your thoughts and inspiration.)