I’m back from my vacation to Dominica! I was able to visit my fiancé during his medical school semester, meeting his friends and experiencing the island.
Back when I bought my plane ticket, Nick had told me he would be sending a driver to pick me up since he does not have a mode of transportation himself. I asked if this driver would be waiting outside with my name on a sign, since I always thought it would be cool to have that – and he did it! Upon arriving I found the driver just fine and made the short walk with him to the van. To my surprise, once the door was opened Nick was sitting there waiting for me! I was ecstatic. To top it off, he had brought pizza and something to drink – two things I devoured after my long travels.
The drive back to his apartment is about an hour long and is made entirely of one-lane winding roads. For anyone who has had the (sarcastic) pleasure to travel the roads of any Caribbean island with a native, you know that they are both the best and worst drivers at the same time. Luckily neither Nick nor I get motion sickness, so we were ok.
Once we got back to his apartment, Nick opened the door and two of his friends popped out to surprise us! It’s no secret how much Nick talks about me on the island, so his friends were all excited to meet me. It was very endearing. From there I set my luggage down and we headed up a very large hill to the bar where a fundraiser was being held. It was evening so the bar was filled with the typical American college nightlife and had a great energy. The bar itself was mainly a floor and roof with some pillars to connect the two – leaving the atmosphere to be filled with open air and a marvelous view of the island and ocean. Luckily for me the moon was out and bright so that I could actually see it all!
The fundraiser was put on for donations to provide a heart transplant for one or more local children. And how were they raising this money exactly? By holding a date auction – where both students and professors alike participated. I have personally never been to one such function before, so I’m not sure if they are always this wild, but people really went all-out for it! People would offer a second date if the bids would go higher, or one guy even stripped down to a bright yellow Speedo. People were selling for over 1,000 EC (for the American dollar equivalent, approximately divide by 3). One professor even sold for 3,000! How debt-heavy medical students can afford $1,000 all at one time like that I will never understand.
Walking home, one of the island’s very friendly stray dogs that I’d been petting earlier decided to follow us. She was so cute, and barked at anyone who passed by us. It made me feel much more secure walking around a 3rd world country in the middle of the night.
The second day we slept in, only waking up so that we could meet some of Nick’s friends for lunch. It was great to meet people I’ve heard him talk about and reference since January. Plus the sandwich was delicious!
From there we headed over to snorkel at Secret Beach. Now, it’s not a secret because no one knows about it, it’s a secret because you can only access it via water – it’s completely surrounded by cliffs. We made our trek to rent a two-seated kayak and were on our way. Luckily I had Nick to help paddle because honestly, I hate paddling. But I was able to paddle almost the whole time and our strokes synced up, pushing us along smoothly. The kayak ride itself was beautiful! Especially coming around the arched corner revealing Secret Beach.
Once we ran our kayak ashore, we strapped into the snorkel gear and hopped into the water. Right away we saw a starfish moving along the bottom. The reef was plentiful, as well as the wildlife. We saw so many fish! This moment was particularly great for me because I normally dislike snorkeling very much. I hate the feeling of being close to the reef, walls, or anything else really – and wearing masks makes it easy for such things to creep up on you in your limited peripheral vision. But this time around I felt totally relaxed. I will credit having snorkel gear that was actually nicer than what you’d get at the dollar store. I never gulped in salt water through the tube, and the flippers gave me plenty of control. Plus Nick was there by my side, and the waters were very calm.
When we swam back into the beach, we found that the crowd was clearing out and we had the beach all to ourselves. It was probably the most romantic moment Nick and I have been able to share, like something out of the movies.
As we were packing up, we saw a bunch of little things scurrying around the beach. There were crabs everywhere! It was so cool – they were all trying to claim the holes that had been dug in the sand, some fighting over their spots. We manage to capture this on video and it had us laughing the whole time.
And now I’d like to take a moment to describe the best food I had on the island. At dinner that night we went to a place called Pelligrino’s. For anyone who actually finds themselves near Portsmouth on the island of Dominica, I highly recommend this place. Nick had ordered the Lemon Garlic Penne (yum!), and I had the Spaghetti and Meatballs. My dish came in a red wine marinara sauce, and for the first time I felt like I had a wine sauce that tasted like wine! It was absolutely amazing, and we both devoured our meals in the blink of an eye. The owner even came out to talk with us, and he’s a really great guy. He’s originally from the States, but came down to the island to accompany his fiancée while she attended school there. It sounds like he’ll be returning state-side in the near future, so I hope whoever he passes the business on to does as good a job as he does.
We spent the rest of our evening visiting with Nick’s friend Matt and his family. They’re very fun people, and know a lot of good YouTube videos =)
The third day was our most planned day for the trip. Nick, myself, and a few friends were hiring a driver for the whole day so that we could venture to some of the landmarks and points of interest on the island. The plan was to visit Scot’s Head, Emerald Pool, and if we had time, Screw’s Spa. We found out when we woke up from the friend who organized the trip that our driver had cancelled on us, and now we would be with Mr. Bruins (this is relevant later on in the story). Nick and I were the first ones to be picked up, and were introduced to our driver Ken, whose last name was not Bruins – apparently we’d been cancelled on by Mr. Bruins as well?
Ken was a certified tour guide of the island, and elected to take us the scenic route to our destinations. If we had a question, Ken had an answer. He knew the story behind the island’s landmarks, the species of trees and animals that were around, and knew where to stop for us to try local food. During this drive I had tried a local banana, coconut (both the meat and the water), and cassava bread. I found the coconut to be extremely boring, but the other two were exquisite!
We also drove by the Devil’s Gate, which was a land/rock formation out in the ocean. There used to be an arch connecting the two sides, but that had collapsed many years ago leaving two separate rocks jutting from the sea. Along the drive we also passed by some royal palm trees – the tallest palm trees in the world, and not native to Dominica.
We finally arrived at Emerald Pool after being in the car for about two hours – everyone was glad to get out and walk. Between the path down to the pool and the pool itself, I would describe the whole place as a tropical Smokey Mountain scene. For anyone who has been to the Smokey Mountains, I hope this instantly paints the perfect picture. Like the Smokies, Emerald Pool and its surrounding areas are considered mountains, but look more like really big hills. The mountains are rounded rather than jagged, and completely covered monochromatically in green. Dirt paths take you to the desired site, with tree roots creating natural steps and small bridges made with planks get you over divots in the ground. Occasionally a drop of water will land on your head as it falls through the layers of trees, and as you make your way down you can see and hear streams and waterfall trickles.
Emerald Pool itself is a tall, skinny waterfall landing in a shallow pool big enough to prance around in. The cliff wall behind the falls offers a cave-like environment that we could climb around to stand behind or even in the waterfall. Below the pool, the stream continues to move down the mountain and offers even more for me to climb on. In case I hadn’t mentioned already – I’m a climber for sure. Even at home, once I’ve had a few drinks all I want to do is climb a tree, sit on my roof, or head over to the playground a few blocks away.
Nick’s one friend Matt brought his family along on our trip, and the kids were really adorable playing in the pool. His other friend Brad even tried showing the little girl how to flip your hair over head from the water. Her few failed attempts before finally getting it right were hilarious.
Once we had our fun at Emerald Pool, we hopped back into the van and headed over to Scot’s Head. Scot’s Head is a small peninsula off the island that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. It was here that we busted out the snorkeling gear again. We saw puffer fish, blue tang (although not the same color pattern as Dory), trunk fish, and eels (either Goldspotted or Sharptail)! I love eels, I think they’re my favorite sea creature, so I was really excited every time I saw one. Our friends even swore they saw an octopus.
The coolest thing I saw snorkeling though was not a fish or coral, but rather the drop off there at Scot’s Head. I totally felt like I was in Finding Nemo. I looked out to try and see anything in the water, and I looked down trying to see if the bottom was visible – both answered with a resounding NOPE! It was surreal, and definitely got my heart pounding. I did not actually wander out into the “big blue,” but it sure was unnerving and beautiful to look at.
Nick and I wanted to also trek up to the top of the hill for the view of the ocean divide before we left, so we traded our snorkeling gear for clothes and shoes and started the hike up. I was sooooo glad that Nick had been here before, because the path was as good as nonexistent with how overgrown everything was. Not being able to see below my torso really made me nervous, so I held on to Nick’s shirt as he plowed through the tall grass. Once we made it to the top, the view was spectacular – completely worth the hike. In the picture below, the water on the left side is the Caribbean Sea and to the right is the Atlantic Ocean.
On the way home, we stopped at KFC for dinner and I took a nap as the van twisted and turned across the island. When I woke up we were pulling up to one of our friend’s apartments and everyone got out. Remember when I said that our driver’s name would be relevant later? This is it. As we went to pay him for the day, our friend collected 400EC as was agreed upon during their phone call earlier. At this the driver started to get angry, and told her that they never discussed a price on the phone. Cue a battery of yes-I-did-no-you-didn’t arguments, which ended with our driver accepting 500EC and slamming the door as he squealed away in his van. Well, it would’ve squealed anyway if the road hadn’t been gravel. It was at that moment I realized I was the only one who knew that Ken was never Mr. Bruins, as I was the only one who asked his name and that was before we’d picked anyone up. Our best guess is that someone in our same apartment, at the same time and day, had hired Ken for an island tour. We just happened to already be waiting outside for our own driver, and snatched him up.
To finish the evening, we busted out what might be the most amusing game ever which I managed to pack in my carry-on: Cards Against Humanity. For anyone who hasn’t already had the pleasure of meeting this game, it is simply a raunchy Apples to Apples. We accompanied this with multiple rounds of White Russians and had an absolute blast. For anyone who is easily offended by race, religion, sex, or homosexuality, I do not recommend this game. If this sounds like your kind of good time, it’s available for purchase or you can legally download it for free!
Unfortunately for the family, their son woke up screaming as we were packing up the game. Once they checked on him, they found his lip swollen and a centipede in his bed. Hysterics began and he was rushed to the emergency service on campus – after which they determined he was fine. After such a long day, we headed back to Nick’s apartment to plop into bed.
Day four brought another day where I was lucky enough to sleep in. Unluckily for Nick though, he had to get up at 6AM to head out with a group of students for community clinic practice. He spent some time on the island interviewing a real patient, and returned home to sleep some more. Only, he was so awake and ready that he simply talked through it. Once I was convinced that there was not going to be a nap, we got up and had a scrambled egg breakfast. We took the morning easy and cracked open the wedding binder to hash out some thoughts and details that Nick had been missing while on the island. We were so lazy that we ended up taking a midday nap for about 2 hours, waking up so that we could run out to the grocery store for dinner. Nick was going to make me chicken in a sweet orange glaze with dried cranberries – even now my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Between shopping and cooking, we ran up to the rooftop patio at Nick’s apartment to try and catch the sunset – which it looked like we missed by about 5 minutes. We enjoyed the view though as light was still beaming up from beyond the horizon, toasting with a glass of sangria.
As we ate dinner, Nick’s neighbor Kim peeked out of her apartment and came to chat with us. We spent an hour or so relaxing and catching up, parting ways once she had to get back to studying. Continuing with the theme of the day, Nick and I finished the night with being lazy and watching the movie Gattaca. After the long day we’d had previously it felt nice to sit back and relax.
The fifth day was my last full day in Dominica. After Nick made us omelettes for breakfast, we grabbed the snorkel gear one last time and went to yet another location by campus. It was a pier that was no longer used by boats but stable enough for people to hang out on. Below the water was an extensive stretch of reef, and life forming up the pillars of the pier. Here we saw more eels and other fish, but the real excitement came when I spotted some cuttlefish. These are squid-like creatures which we found a group of 4. They were clear and waved smoothly yet slowly through the water. They were so cool – it was like seeing little aliens on our snorkeling adventure.
Once we were finished at the pier, Nick and I had a little time to kill before he had to be at his hockey game. We packed up the computers and headed to his favorite study spot so that he could be productive and I could catch up on my YouTube videos. Outside of the building were a few cats who live under the deck that I was excited to meet. Only one seemed to share the sentiment, and I tried to convince Nick to keep her. Never mind that he’s allergic to cats and it’s against the rules to have them in the apartments – she was great! Unfortunately I wasn’t convincing enough and we headed to his hockey game pet-less.
Nick’s team is an intramural street hockey team that plays once a week and ends each semester with a tournament. This was still the start of the semester, but both teams played well. Nick’s team this semester is called Jurassic Puck, and their shirts have the movie logo. On the back they’ve given themselves names such as Megazord or Rainbow Rex. Nick is the Philosoraptor (yay!). Every semester they’ve been a powerful group of talented people, and have made it to the finals each time. They just have yet to win it, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for this semester. This time around they beat their opponents 10 to 4! It was a good game.
For dinner afterwards Nick and I ordered Chinese and waited for the delivery in Kim’s apartment. We were also joined by their friend Andrew, and just hung out between her kitchen and the apartment foyer making fun of each other and talking about medicine. Always a good time =)
Once Nick and I finished our dinner, we went back to his room to watch The Croods since Kim had been quoting the sloth’s doom-tune all night. It was a super cute movie, definitely a good family film. When it was over, we were tired but didn’t want to go to sleep. Neither of us wanted to believe I was leaving in the morning.
As I finished packing and getting ready, Nick made us some French toast before I would have to drive off to the airport. To be frank, it sucked. Not the French toast – that was delicious. I meant the whole zipping my luggage closed and dragging it out to the curb. That sucked. We sat outside and waited for the driver, who to our disappointment showed up on time.
After making it down the road 5 minutes, I realized I’d left the SD card to the camera in Nick’s laptop and we would have to turn back. Oh no 😉 Walking into his apartment again after thinking I was gone was insanely emotional. I’m glad I got to come back and have that moment with him. It was the perfect bittersweet ending to the vacation.
Airports and Flights
One aspect of the trip I have chosen to leave out of this blog entry – my horrendous airport/flight experience. Stay tuned for an entirely separate entry dedicated to that one. The good news? It will be supersaturated with eCards!