Caribbean Day 13: Macoucherie

I woke up from the best night’s sleep of the trip. I slept like a log without interruption. No bugs, no yelling kids, no barking dogs. Glorious. My shower even had water pressure now! I could hear light rain on the roof and had a look outside. The ground was wet and I could see a village of crabs all out in the rain standing still guarding their holes. A leaf fell near one and he quick grabbed it and squirreled it away in his hole. The weather didn’t seem like it was going to play nice, that wasn’t just a passing shower, the sky was murky everywhere, not a patch of blue. My goal for the day, the Macoucherie Rum Distillery wouldn’t be too affected by rain. I kind of need a rest day though myself. I feel relaxed but not horribly energized to do things.

I wanted to try to arrange my tour at the same time as James and Severine from the hike, but got no response by email, and had no other way to contact them so I just decided I’d leave at 10am and go hoping to run into them as a happy coincidence. After taking my time getting going I found the bus and hopped on. I used the help of fellow passengers to know when to get off, people here are quite friendly.

There wasn’t a rental car at the distillery, and I was the first guest to show. I elected to start the tour not knowing when or if they would show up which turned out a good plan. The distillery wasn’t in action though right now, the rain that had fallen around 2 weeks ago had made the sugar too dilute in the cane so they couldn’t do processing. They expected in a few weeks to get going again, hopefully before the monsoon starts, but I went ahead with a pretty quiet tour. It turns out, part of what makes Macoucherie sought after is that it’s one of only 3 distilleries in the West Indies to use cane sugar like in the old days, Molasses is used mostly now, and it’s a pretty simple process. The guys here though think it adds some undesirable flavors and scents to the Rum, and I guess a few others agree with 2 more plantations springing up on other islands to make Rum straight from cane as well. I knew a little bit from television programs how the process went, but now I got a lot more detail. I got to see the juicing process, the fermenters, the boilers and distillers, even the lab where they test the rum. The rum comes out of the process at about 75% abv and has to be diluted down to 40% with filtered water. Then they have 3 different types, the white un-aged rum, a “red” 3 month cask aged rum, and then the one their known for the Bois Bande which is a spiced rum aged with the bark of the Bois Bande tree that according to the native population is an aphrodisiac. At the end of the tour I got to try all 3. As described to me, the use of sugar cane really does give a different smell. When you open the bottle it’s not nearly such a harsh smell, but a very pleasant sweetness. The aged rum was very smooth, I’d never had such a smooth rum before, and the taste not bad. The Bois Bande was smooth but very spicy leaving a hotness in the mouth and an interesting after taste. I picked up couple bottles of the Bois Bande as gifts, coming in at around $15 each.

On my way out I asked the woman working there where was the best place to eat in Merro or Salisbury the two small towns in walking distance. While I was there this old guy was buying a large jug of cask rum, the lowest quality for a shop. He offered to take me to a restaurant he was raving about in Salisbury. I thought it sounded good and followed him. Somehow this lead to me in the back of a pickup truck going deep into a pretty dirty town up on a hill. We dropped off the rum and he was paid for the task a shot of vodka and 5EC. I started to connect the dots and realize the guy was an alcoholic and I didn’t especially like where I was. The restaurant I was at was called the Hot Pot, but I’m starting to think the Pot part of name wasn’t to do with the cooking implement. A bunch of young men were standing outside and it smelled heavily of Marijuana. Not wanting to cause trouble I ordered food and wolfed down as much as I could stand, I’m sure I would have been happier at the Tamarind Hotel down the road. I like to think of myself as pretty adventurous, but this definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I think to me a bunch of guys hanging around in one spot in the middle of the work day is a bad sign. This notion wasn’t helped much when the guy sitting next to me, clearly high pulls out a bag of weed and sells a joints worth to a Rasta fella who walked in the door. Great I’m sitting next to a dealer. I think my chances of being here when a bust goes down in Dominica are very low, but it’s not something I want to explain to a police officer. As soon as I could I paid for my meal and the meal of my “guide” again to not cause trouble and booked it out of town.

Down at the bus stop I felt like I could relax, though the mosquitoes were going after me. I had picked up like 6 or 7 bites at the Macoucherie estate, and wasn’t pleased. It took a while for a bus to pass headed to Portsmouth and I was the last seat. At this point I wasn’t in the mood to do much of anything and the weather wasn’t especially good.

Back at my high end cottage on the beach I enjoyed some water, took a nap, chatted with Jen online, and took a quick dip in the ocean. Dinner rolled around and as I walked out the door I saw the sunset, I didn’t expect to see it today with the weather, but it was gorgeous. The clouds had parted enough just at the right time. I ran back inside and grabbed my camera for a few shots.

On my way back from dinner I wanted to grab some bug spray and a couple Kabuli, the local beer. In line with me was a couple, the husband was a student and the wife was living here with him but not going to school. It struck me as a little strange, she was in her 20s and more or less a stay at home wife in Dominica. Somehow I doubt she expected life to lead to that. But life takes all kinds of turns, and she clearly had to love her husband because there isn’t much to do in Dominica except hike or swim, or apparently smoke weed.

I’ve started to notice a pattern in the islands. There are a few people working, though rarely doesn’t it seem very hard unless they have children they’re providing for. A lot of locals just seem like they’re on vacation themselves, walking around idle. Wars were fought over the West Indies for their resources and potential. People were enslaved even for it. It just seems like a lot of that potential is being squandered by a culture more interested in drinking and smoking than working. Ben had remarked that Taiwan had been in a similar state when he was born, but if you looked at it now you’d never guess.

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