Independent Canadian book publisher with office in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

When it rains - it pours...

When it rains – it pours…

Danny is coming! Tropical storm Danny transformed to Hurricane 2, and is coming. People were a bit uneasy. When it came, seriously weakened and without much umph, leaving just a bit of rain behind – people were relieved. There was in the news that anther tropical storm – Erica – is on the way. But the hurricane weakened so much encountering difficult conditions – Erica will be even less noticeable, people thought. It should pass far away – on the other side of Montserrat, heading to Virgin Islands. Too far from Dominica to be concerned.

We went to bed to be awaken by hammering sounds of rain on the roof. So loud. A heavy rain and some remote thunders. But it was only in the morning when we so how powerful this rain is. A wall of water, mixed with stormy wind gusts. A constant humm of water hitting the roof like a power wash, and hiss of wind bending old bamboo and coconut palms. The power went off, our Digicel mobile phones can’t find the network.

Our driveway looks like a stream

Our driveway looks like a stream

We found a pool of water in the kitchen and some water in other parts of the house. Roof clearly gave up a bit under constant showering. We dried things, and now – sitting in dark living room we are waiting for the storm to pass. Water is all around us. Our rainwater tank which usually takes several days of rain to fill, overflowed pouring water through bursting excess pipes. Our driveway turned to a stream, front lawn to a pool. Dogs hid under our bakers’ oven – the most secure and concealed spot in garage area. It also is wet, but not as wet as most other places. They didn’t even want to leave for their meal.

It is now after noon, thunders still rolling from time to time. With power off it is as dark as in early morning hours. Rain does not ease, and I can imagine the mess on Eggleston road. For sure there are some fallen trees and land slides – possible the reason behind no power. We are happy our stove uses gas, not electricity. At least we can have some hot tea, while waiting for the storm to pass. Erica – the Wet Lady. She clearly sent Danny as a decoy to have a more mighty entrance with an element of surprise. And – she succeeded!

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides...

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides…

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This is what I wrote in the morning of Erica’s arrival on my laptop. Battery died soon after, and no power and phone made it impossible to comprehend the scale of destruction.  Only after noon when rains eased a bit we went to the Retreat House – our neighbours – to find out about situation. And, we were told of terrible misery and damage! We had no idea! Then more and more details and stories came to life as we met with other neighbours and I started our generator, so we could use some moments of internet.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

People working tirelessly to clear the road

I will not repeat all the tragic details, nor I will repost photos of destruction down on the coast which were shown by various papers and media. This is just our humble contribution to the whole image emerging slowly as the aftermath of this tragic night. We hear more and more stories about stranded tourists, people lost in mud slides, boat trips to cut-off fishing villages… It just starts to give us an idea as to the shocking size of this tragedy.
We can only say we are amazingly impressed with all people of Dominica. No hysteria, no fuss, just the sober understanding that it is up to all of us to clean this mess, and we need to get to it. If any nation can pull together and overcome this disaster – it is Dominica. Wish us luck and pray for us.

photos and text by Derek Galon. No usage without authorization.

We had a nice hike last week – around the Freshwater Lake in the Morne Trois Pitons Natonal Park. It used to be our favorite place when we were coming to Dominica as visitors, only for a short time. Now, because we live here, we have an opportunity to take our time and hike the entire loop around the lake and enjoy stunning vistas.

Freshwater Lake, Dominica

Freshwater Lake, Dominica. Sun behind fast moving clouds creates spectacle of lights.

When we left the capital town of Roseau, car thermometer showed 31 C; upon arrival to parking lot, temperature dropped to 20C. We are on elevation of over 700m above sea level, high in the mountains, at the heart of the island. There’s always wind blowing clouds of mist soothing the skin after scorching heat of the city. We breathe deeply fresh air and take a first look at the lake. It’s situated in a valley surrounded by sharp peaks covered by montane rainforest, dense patchwork of every shade of green color. The natural beauty of the place is astounding; it is also very calm and serene. As we start to hike, thoughts and noises in our heads gradually quiet down, and we fell under charm of this magical place.

The trail is made entirely of steps held together by wooden logs and tree fern trunks. We’re lucky it isn’t raining; it can be really slippery. Apart from the wind, there is only glass flute-like sound of mountain whistler (rufous- throated solitaire) singing long notes, beautiful and soothing. We climb steeply uphill taking a closer look at the unique vegetation found only on higher elevations. Shrubs and trees form a dense, low growing thicket dripping with moisture from the swirling clouds. There seems to be more ferns, bromeliads and epiphytic plants than anywhere else. Some plants are striking like Lobelia stricta with spiny leaves or epiphytic vine with red and yellow flowers (Alloplectus cristatus)

Finally, we are at the top of the ridge, and views are amazing! We can see Freshwater Lake shrouded in mist and all volcanic peaks of the interior. Standing there, you can see both sides of the island (how small this island really is!): to the west there is Caribbean sea, to the east, distant views of Rosalie Bay on the Atlantic side. The path descents and climbs up again yet to another peak with slightly different vistas, equally stunning. _DSC5429_30_31

After the walk we feel thoroughly refreshed and amazingly light-hearted. We have to return there soon.

Actually, we may return indeed, as while hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of this place, our old idea of creating a coffee table book about Dominica rippened in our minds, and we just decided it is time to do it. Therefore in upcoming months we will be travelling the island scouting for most picturesque locations, photographing, interviewing people, and collecting all material for this fine task. It may take up to a year to produce it, but we hope it will be as nice as our Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean, Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean – or even better, as our publishing experience over last years accumulates, helping us do what we love better and better._DSC5438

We will keep you posted on progress of our works, therefore please subscribe to this blog, and share it with friends.
Cheers!
Margaret and Derek

All photos by Derek Galon, writing by Margaret Gajek. Please respect copyright.

Serenity

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Morne Guay, our current home.

Last couple of months were a busy time for us. We received our residency documents, created proposal for publishing a tourism magazine, edited videos for Tourism authority in Montserrat  (lots of my photos from 3 months ago are already on their new Web site, check it out!), and took some more photos and aerial videos for clients in Dominica. We are also updating our photo competition site and work on improving our culinary skills – in order to soon open so called “closed door restaurant” here in Dominica. On top of that we meet with our architect and builder, preparing our land to build our new home.  So, why do I title this post “Serenity”?

Well, work is something we will always do and have, being idle is not our thing. But the place we rent now – one of the oldest inhabited houses in Dominica – it radiates sense of peace and serenity. Mornings with breakfast on patio with fresh breeze, afternoon coffee watching yachts on Caribbean sea, listening to birds, hissing sound of bamboo wadding in wind – it all is quite a new experience for us. A bliss of serenity, harmony and peace. We love every moment spent around this house, and we want to share with you a few insignificant, but lovely things we just experienced.

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A male Cigarron awaiting female

We noticed amazingly big bee-like insects clumsily flying in our front garden. Totally black, insanely huge – like a small hummingbird – they make strong impression and lots of noise. We tried to find more about them and found only a skimpy info on line. Someone said there are huge black bee-like insects which are sting-less and clumsy. Local name for them is Cigarrons as they bring to mind flying black cigar. We started watching them and soon noticed that the huge black one is actually female. Males are about only 1/3 of their size, nice brown and more bee-like.

Did meet one!

Did meet one!

They hide in dense bushes where they fly in small circles, performing a sort of dance and trying to attract these big black females.  I was lucky enough to take couple of photos. Hopefully those who see Cigarrons will enjoy these photos – and also appreciate our impression that indeed these are sting-less (or at least not using stings in aggressive way). I intruded with my camera quite enough to irritate a more aggressive insect. But these big ones don’t mind.

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

Glassy Point cliffs on Atlantic side of Dominica

We went for an excursion yesterday. We visited a place called Glassy Point. What a magnificent rocky shore of Dominica! Atlantic side can be rough, but seriously beautiful at the same time.
Here is a photo taken from the sharp cliff.

And here is another unrelated story  adding to our experience:
There were couple of wild dogs living in our area. We heard them at night, and sometimes saw them far away, but they are very shy. And just 3 days ago a dog – female and a mother – decided our place is the safe place. She drops off her 5 puppies at the edge of our lawn, disappears for hours, and they just play around. She comes and goes. we give them leftovers from our diners, and they love it! So, suddenly we have 5 little puppies, and a friendly mom.
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Well, not much of a big story, but all these little things add lots of colour to our current life. We hope you enjoy reading about them.
Cheers, until next time!
Derek and Margaret

Click Share if you enjoy this post!

(all photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright)
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PS. We just have a small announcement, we are selling 1 acre of land in Giraudel, Dominica. it is a prime location. Have a look if interested, thanks!
https://dominicalandforsale.wordpress.com/

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Roseau and last cruise ship of the season. Aerial photo from session I did for a client.

 

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On a typical winter day, tourists get off cruise ships in Roseau to explore narrow, sleepy old streets and lanes and take some snapshots of tiny, cute houses built here long ago.

It all changes during Carnival time. Streets are full of activities, and the town is bustling with music, performers and excited crowds. Specially the two last days of Carnival season (13th and 14th of February) are full of colour and activities covering all streets of town.
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The festivities take place day and night. Concerts and performances in Fort Young Hotel and other places go until late hours (so late it’s rather early) At some 4 in the morning a strange parade fills normally quiet streets signalling part of Carnival called J’ouvert. Under cover of darkness a mocked wedding ceremony is repeated over and over. Strangely dressed brides and grooms of all sorts create an unusual mystery like from a fantasy or dream, only to disappear in early morning hours. But one does not wait long for more fun. The colourful parades – so attractive to all tourists and locals – draw large crowds of people awaiting spectacularly dressed performers. And they come in big numbers. _DAG6351

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Different t-shirt bands, kids’ groups, amazingly dressed adults and official winners of several Carnival categories march together through Roseau forming a long, noisy stream. Dancing to Caribbean rhythms, this parade later regroups forming smaller clusters of people having fun. Two full days and nights of dance, music, food and drink, and most unusually dressed performers are certain to make strong impression on all visitors.

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We photographed for a few hours on streets of Roseau, catching the most spectacular creations. Some dresses go actually far behind typical dress as you know it. They are whole contraptions surrounding parading performers and actually being wheeled along them on little carts. Whole compositions of most unusual props, balloons, ribbons and many other colourful things are mixed into each spectacular creation.
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I am happy to show you some of awarded dresses and best performers of this Carnival in Dominica.
Perhaps you should consider enjoying them next year in person!

Cheers!
Derek

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If you like this post, click Share or Like!
All photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright.

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 DSC04701-2  We’re renting an apartment high on the hills in a quaint village on Dominica island. Our apartment is small but it has a large terrace with a really stunning view of the capital town of Roseau surrounded by lush hills and Caribbean Sea. Usually, we have our breakfasts there. Sipping morning coffee we watch this awe-inspiring view in silence. It’s still a rainy season with occasional passing showers followed by periods of sunshine. DSC04094

From our vintage point, we watch a spectacular display of rainbows suddenly appearing in front of us and quickly vanishing. Very often they form a complete semicircle, an impressive arch filling the sky with colors. Sometimes, we can see fragments of the  circle or an accumulation of rainbow-colored fluffy clouds. Today, “our morning rainbow” was especially impressive: it looked double!

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There was the first semicircle arch outside which appeared to be a second one, but thinner and fainter. I was much surprised when I noticed that the second bow had color pattern inverted. What a treat to see! All the colors of the main rainbow were really intense, very saturated and easy to distinguish: even bright orange and violet which are usually blurred.

Dominica is a land of rainbows: I saw many in different locations on the sky or near waterfalls and lakes around the island – but nothing as spectacular as this one. This phenomenon was also witnessed by our frequent visitor here, the Smooth-billed Ani, a medium size bird with black plumage and parrot-like bill. He seemed to be totally unaware of the subject of our fascination.

Smooth-billed Ani (from cuckoo family) on a nearby bush.

Smooth-billed Ani (from cuckoo family) on a nearby bush.

This fleeting moment of beauty will stay forever in my memory. In two weeks we’ll move out of this apartment and “we’ll lose the view” However, I’m sure that rainbows will still be here without us- witnesses and admirers- as stunningly beautiful as always.

Wishing you all a happy New Year filled with colorful rainbows where ever you are,

Margaret
(Photographs by Derek)

Huge cruise ship docked overnight in Roseau looked from our patio like a giant Christmas ornament

Huge cruise ship docked overnight in Roseau looked from our patio like a giant Christmas ornament

Revisiting Montserrat

Revisiting places you are fascinated by or feel affinity with is a very special treat. We were lucky to had an opportunity to come back to Montserrat, British Overseas Territory nicknamed “the emerald isle of the Caribbean.”

photographing outdoor activities...

photographing outdoor activities…

Life on this beautiful island was changed forever after series of volcanic eruptions on Soufriere Hills in the mid-1990s. Two-thirds of the island was destroyed including Plymouth -the capital town buried by a 40-feet thick layer of lava and volcanic debris.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph's hill - the closest possible point, already in the dreaded  zone V.

photographing Volcano from St Joseph’s hill – the closest possible high located point, already in the dreaded zone V.

Nineteen people lost their lives, eight thousand were forced to leave the island. Today, the volcanic activity is closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory with state of art facilities. Life is concentrated in the “safe zone” up north, where a new capital town is been constructed, and a new airport and marina recently opened.

Mutual attraction - Margaret photographing wild donkeys wondering over destructed old airport area...

Mutual attraction – Margaret photographing wild donkeys wandering over destructed old airport area…

Government’s renewed focus is on bringing new visitors to the island, and we were part of a creative international team working on a new promotion of the island, photographing it’s top attractions.

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

preparing our drone in the dreaded Volcano Exclusion Zone V

photographing volcano from a boat

photographing volcano from a boat

Along with the crew from London and Barbados, we were travelling island up and down, day and sometimes night, photographing and filming many different places. We are not at liberty to show you “official” photos, because they soon will be used in a major international promotion. However, we can share with you some photos showing us in action. We hope these will also give you a glimpse of this fascinating place….

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes - a rare treat during busy schedule ;-)

photographing iguana gave me a chance of resting flat for a few minutes – a rare treat during busy schedule ;-)

The island had changed a lot since our first visit 2 years ago. Perhaps the most striking difference for me was its lushness: some parts of the island which I remember as covered in ash are now filled with new vegetation. Boat tour around the island was a highlight of this trip for me: watching an awe inspiring, breathtaking scenery. As usually, we all worked long hours and hard …
We were able to get permission to enter the exclusion zone to photograph Plymouth, this time also using our drone which proved to be very helpful. You can read about previous our experience and see more photos in our earlier posts:

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/montserrat-another-photo-shoot-trip-to-the-caribbean/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/new-pompeii-montserrats-old-capital-destroyed-by-volcano/

https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/plymouth-the-new-pompeii-margarets-notes/

leaving the zone V for a safer ground...

leaving the zone V for a safer ground…

We hope to be back in Montserrat for some more work, and would like to thank MDC, the Tourism Director, our amazing hosts and Montserrat Government, for having us in this brilliant international team. Not only it was a fascinating work, but we all became good friends.

We also thank you for stopping by at this post. Until next time – and Happy New Year to you!
If you like this post, Share and Like it, or Follow to be updated on further stories. Cheers!

Margaret and Derek

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Margaret with our boatman after boat tour, along with Patrick and Mark from our creative team.

Written by Margaret Gajek, photographs by Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek. Please respect the copyright.

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

Beautifully dressed children going with mom to join parade

During the Independence Day celebrations in Dominica, all restaurants and hotels are serving festive Creole food. Street food stands are dressed up in national colours, and people proudly wear traditional dresses.CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0293

We went to our favorite Fort Young Hotel to try some of the traditional dishes. As we’re vegetarians, we skipped traditional “goat water” – a kind of a broth/stew, and concentrated our interest on roasted veggies with breadfruit and plantains, cassava bread, callaloo soup and colorful salads – all very delicious!CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0428

Walking through the streets of Roseau feels like taking part in a fashion show: almost everyone is wearing some version of national costume made of colorful madras cotton. The history of this fabric is fascinating. Produced in Southeastern India, it made its way to all corners of British colonies including Caribbean in the 18th century. It is believed that its criss-crossed pattern was influenced by tartan worn by the Scottish regiments in India. CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0286However, unlike tartan with particular patterns representing one clan, Caribbean madras is used by everyone in endless variations of colors and patterns. The only limit is one’s creativity, although some rules may apply as Adrianna Henderson explains in her article about national dress of Dominica:
http://ciad.org.uk/2012/05/07/adrianna-henderson-on-the-national-dress-of-dominica

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The best costumes are awarded in a special ceremony called Wob Dwiyet. Next day, the winners take part in a street parade; a dazzling display of vibrancy and color. My favorite part of the whole costume was a headdress, a creative combination of a hat and a head wrap worn in a fantastic number of shapes; each one a unique showpiece creation.
Check the link to this interesting article, if you wish to know more.

CreoleParadeAndFYH2014small-0277We end this story with a bunch of colorful photos from the streets of Roseau and from Fort Young Hotel, where during lunch time we also enjoyed watching a dance group performing to traditional Jing Ping music.

Stay tuned, if you like it – share, and FOLLOW to be notified about next posts! Thank you!

Margaret

All photos copyright Derek Galon. Story by Margaret Gajek. Please respect our copyright. No usage without authorization, please. We are now available in Dominica for photography and publishing. Contact us for more info.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

Creole Fest decorations at Fort Young Hotel brought to mind decorations we see in North America for the Thanksgiving Day.

 

 

 

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Lots of tasty Creole food at the Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

Traditional Jing Ping band performed along with a dance group at Fort Young Hotel.

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