Caribbean Day 12: North

Onward! Finally done with Roseau, it was on to Portsmouth. It’s hard to leave a place as nice as the Fort Young Hotel after the morning showers without water pressure, the barking dogs and hissing cats, and screaming 4 year olds. We had breakfast and mopped up the last few things. I had seen something I wanted to get Jennifer, so I went looking for it in some store I had no idea where among the streets. I also needed a tube from FedEx which they weren’t happy to give me, though I had tried to buy it from them, they didn’t sell them.

With the tube, my pack was over filled, I still wanted to bring home Rum so this was a problem. Fedex wanted 180EC to ship the painting home, more than I had paid for it in the first place. I guess they only do airmail which seems to me a large useful segment missing for a third world country. Ben had something he wanted to ship too, and as we were leaving we found a post office. It came out to 35EC, not much more than $10, bingo! Even cooler, the package has stamps on it like any letter which will make a fun souvenir when it arrives. Now my pack has space again! The young man working at the post office asked what I do since I mentioned it was going to my office, and I told him I make video games. He asked me which ones and I told him I worked on Guitar Hero for a number of years and listed off some of the titles. His eyes went large and he asked if he google’d my name if he’d find me. I told him he probably could. He whipped out his blackberry and punched in my name from the mailing receipt and up popped a bunch of results with my name for credits on games along with my resume website. He was excited and it made me like I was a rockstar to him, and not just some programmer. I usually get good reactions when I say I worked on Guitar Hero, but this was cooler.

We then headed off towards the buses and quickly found one mostly full. With my big huge pack and camera bag I was stuffed in, but it’s kind of par for the course with these little public buses, sometimes other patrons will even help by keeping a stranger’s load on their lap. I didn’t exactly want to hand someone my camera bag though. The ride was much longer than expected, even though the road didn’t twist and turn a whole lot, I thought the far north was much closer, but it took about an hour. We got dropped off at the Portsmouth Beach Hotel, a hotel I read about online. I checked out a room and they were ok, kind of like a motel 6, but was told the cottages were only $10 more so I had a look at them too. Apparently they have a special because of the school next door for students and families of students and were discounted 30%. For $105 you get a cottage all to yourself with AC, kitchenette, bath tub, a bed room and a living room with another bed. A lot of space and much much nicer. Even better, the main bedroom comes with a bug net! Joy! I had gotten eaten up at the Fort Young because the ceiling was high and I guess I missed a mosquito.

After dropping our stuff off we inquired about sailing, I had read they had boats. I was told that their boats were out for repair (I’m skeptical), but I could use their sister hotel’s boats back in Roseau. Oh great, we’re not doing 2hrs of public buses to go sailing in Roseau. This had been part of the motivation of moving up north, to go sailing. Ben really wanted to go, and I miss sailing enough to want to take any chance I get myself. So we set off down the beach to see if we could see any other hotels renting boats. Not 100ft from the hotel was a guy with a few Hobie Waves, one of which had a sail up. The price was what I expected, but we wanted to lunch first. Setting off down the street we see a Shwarma restaurant, which sounded good to me at the time and we sat down. Creole food is good, but its French influences make it not that different from the norm. I noticed a bunch of Americans at the other table and when they weren’t deep in conversation asked them where they were from, New York and Houston. Then another guy walks by wearing an LA baseball cap so I talk to him too. It turns out there is a medical school right next to the hotel here in the Picard town of Portsmouth. The school is American accredited, and is filled with students from the states. It’s an interesting idea, though as Ben points out your degree will say Dominica. The guy complains there is nothing to do, and they’re worked so hard they don’t have time to enjoy the cooler parts of Dominica. Then I start noticing everything is very American Ex-pat targeted, food is very global, and I see tons of young Americans walking around, kind of like I expected this time of year with backpackers.

Back at the beach, we push the Hobie out to see and set sail. The bay we’re in is large and protected with few obstacles unlike Marigot Bay, and we set sail for the far side a couple miles away. Then wind was very favorable, going as close to the wind as we could we were aimed right where we wanted to. There was enough wind, though it wasn’t that strong. These Hobie Waves are so tourist proof as soon as you get almost enough wind to lift a hull, the lack of a solid boom causes the sail to lose shape and spill air powering down. The sailing is starting to re-ignite that idea in my head of one day owning a Musto Skiff, though I think even that would need something like a Laser for a while to get back to it. I’m fine at the basics still, but I’m having trouble telling wind direction on feel anymore. At one point I remember it just felt natural to know where the wind was coming from, but now I’m not very sure.

We made it out to the far point of the harbor and had a look at a few of the boats including a slightly ratty looking French steel boat that was clearly a cruiser, then headed back to the beach. The wind was now at our stern and we made good time nearing the hotel with some minutes in hand. Only as we got close to shore our wind died completely and we were left to drift a while until we got a small enough puff to push us the rest of the way.

We cleaned up and Ben packed up. Off to the actual town of Portsmouth. Ben has a 7:30 flight onwards so once we got directions to the bus to Melvill Hall airport, we said good bye and parted ways.

I took some time while I was here to walk around town. Portsmouth isn’t large, or really any cleaner than Roseau. The gentrification that had an effect on Picard hadn’t made its way through Portsmouth. I waited for the bus asking where to catch it and a guy indicated a woman was going back that way and could show me. It turns out she wanted to walk so I figured why not cruise back on foot, I had nowhere to be. I chatted with the woman a while, but she had trouble understanding my English. I got the impression she didn’t especially care for company but was a little intrigued by the foreigner, enough to put up with me. When we got to the next junction I asked where I could catch the bus and left her to continue her walk home. The only interesting part to me out of that was she had no idea people from America didn’t like the guys walking up and trying to hard sell them on a river boat tour, that we generally knew what we wanted to do, and if we didn’t we would ask a trusted source and not just follow some guy on the street. I told her I found it annoying, but we kind of expect it as part of the cultural differences.

Returning back to my room I relaxed a bit before heading to dinner. I didn’t feel especially hungry and just wanted a small bite at the hotel restaurant. I should have figured here too would be Americanized, nothing Creole on the menu at all, but at least it was affordable. I had a hamburger and the always affordable rum punch. As it turns out this is the nicest restaurant for miles, so many students come to have a beer and enjoy the ocean front. I didn’t spot many hotel guests. The low season has been in full swing since I got here, though many hoteliers seem in denial about it.

Then off to bed in my wonderful mosquito netted bed. All in all it was a pretty relaxing but full day.

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