Independent Canadian book publishers working 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.

Archive for the ‘exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean’ Category

Early Days – our hurricane Maria story, part 2

Margaret checking damage morning after hurricane

First weeks after Hurricane Maria are really tough for us. Not only because watching such an enormous destruction of the island hurts the soul, but also because simple everyday tasks combined with the challenge of survival require a lot of energy and effort. We have no roof – rain comes inside making a waterfall in the living room. We are trying to save our possessions moving them to dryer corners and covering them with plastic bags. With so much messy water our Syrian furniture are disintegrating, books melting away, clothes discoloring and moldy, photo equipment malfunctioning. Evening by evening, wet and tired we retreat to our car where we sleep.

Preparing food for lunch

There is no running water in the house, all pipes are broken. We’ve made a simple contraption to catch rain water for washing, and thankfully we have a bit of drinking water left. With our bathroom shattered we wash outside using a cup of water per person. But we need to cut our way through fallen jungle quick, to get drinking water from a nearby the spring. Day after day we make progress cutting bit by bit using our small chainsaw and cutlass. After ten days of exhausting work we can hardly move our hands. Derek says I am looking like a ladybug, covered with neat round bruises from heavy branches I had to pull out of our way. Finally we cleared our way to the neighbouring Retreat House.

Derek and Brother George from Retreat House clearing path to the spring

Seeing our neighbours for the first time since hurricane, we learn that the road to village is blocked by many land slides. What used to be an easy walk to the spring, is now a serious hike. With heavy backpacks we need to cross fallen trees, landslides and surprisingly deep mud ponds. Broken bamboo make haunting, eerie sound. There is profound silence – no birds and no sound of leaves. Leafless trees don’t provide shelter from the scorching sun.

Collecting water from the spring

However, we had to undertake this hike to village soon, for we were told at the top of village road we can sometimes get mobile phone reception. I’ve always liked to walk this road from Retreat House to the village, enjoying lush vegetation. There was always cool here, even on the hottest of days. Now it’s very different. Countless trees uprooted from the hillside fell to the ground. It it difficult to climb over them. Although we both have cutlasses, we make a slow progress. Dense clusters of fallen bamboo with their sharp prickly branches are especially hard to cross.

On the path to the village

I turned another corner and stopped in awe: what used to be a sleepy creek became a raging torrent during the hurricane and made this wide white valley full of huge boulders blocking the road. We finally reach the village. The view from the road takes our breath away. This immense destruction we see has a suffocating effect on us. Destroyed roofless houses, concrete walls crumbled, lots of debris, countless landslides are all around, as far as an eye can see.

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Destruction of Eggleston

We call our family and friends. Hearing their voices in this scenery of desolation feels surreal. I am happy to hear them but it’s very difficult to describe in a few words what we’ve been through. Soon we have no money left on our cell phones. For top-ups we need to hike to Roseau; the road is not cleared yet – it will take us at least four hours one way. We head back home.

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Drying our salvaged stuff on broken mango tree.

Our generator broke after only three days of working, so we have no power. As we need to clean food supplies from our dead fridge, we have a feast lasting for two days. I spread spoiled mango jam on the grass for bees and other insects – there is nothing for them to feed on. I can see unripened fruits scattered by hurricane on the ground. Most fruit trees are damaged, but even these standing will have no fresh fruit crop for half a year. Feeding five dogs is a challenge. There were only two dogs with us during hurricane. The rest disappeared day before hurricane on one of their adventures. Now they are coming back, exhausted, frightened and hungry.

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Our dogs have fun on broken mango tree

Friends from the village brought us canned food and horrific stories about many deaths and miracle survivals. They also heard that our newly built house on the hillside is totally destroyed – only one wall still standing. What if we spent the hurricane night there? I am afraid to think what might happen to us. Our friends leave soon – the hike back to village is long and dangerous after dark.

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Remains of Champagne Beach facilities

We get up with the first rays of light – just after 5 am. The gas stove still works. We can cook our simple meals in roofless kitchen while it is not raining. We eat on a small patio with roof still on, sharing food with always hungry dogs.

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Cleanup of Roseau

It is remarkable how quickly one can adjust. Life in a shattered house, in conditions unworthy a basic camp site is quickly accepted as the new normal, just the way things are. We live on…

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One of trees we had to cut to get to Retreat House

This story covers first two weeks after #HurricaneMaria. Another part coming soon. Please subscribe to see more photos and read next part soon.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

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Secret Bay… once again!

Secret Bay as it looks today

Recently, we felt lucky again to work at the Secret Bay eco-resort here, on the island of Dominica. We felt lucky because this is one of our favorite places on earth. We witnessed the birth of the Secret Bay when six years ago we photographed the first, newly constructed villa called Zabuco, and watched with excitement their further development over the years. This time, our job was to photograph two Ylang-Ylang villas, a newest addition to six already existing ones.

One of Ylang Ylang villas

 

Shortly after arrival, when carrying our photo equipment (heavy!) and setting it up, I felt it again: calm joy of being there, my blood pressure decreasing, my muscles relaxing. The place is of extraordinary beauty: situated on a cliff with stunning wide view of the Caribbean Sea visible from every villa and bungalow. Looking at the new villas I’m amazed how well they fit into the landscape; they look like they were always there!

Covered patio with kitchen blends inside with outside space

We’re photographing the state of the art equipped kitchen entirely open to the surrounding nature. Inside the villa, sliding doors and huge windows allow the inside space harmoniously blend with the outside.

Another angle on patio reveals its fantastic view

Secret Bay was built by sustainable methods: all the surrounding trees were preserved, only higher brunches were trimmed to open up the amazing vistas. We’ll write more about sustainable development of Secret Bay for the next MACO magazine; please check it out.

While working on our first Caribbean photo coffee-table  book  “Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean” we saw many extraordinarily beautiful homes and resorts all over the Caribbean. Secret Bay is unique among them; it has it all: breathtaking location, exceptional organic architecture, fabulous food and unpretentious friendliness of people who work there. Being here is a very special privilege for us. After work, we take a swim at the Secret Beach and night snorkel – what an uplifting and blissful experience!

 

Ylang Ylang villa with its swimming pool connected by hardwood patio.

We did not post anything for a while, and we missed you! We will try to publish another post soon. It is just that we are getting incredibly busy at times – working on many projects such as photo-shoots of Miss Dominica, photo sets for hotels and resorts, and also – building our own little house! But that is yet another story…

Stay tuned! Cheers!

Margaret

Story by Margaret Gajek, all photos by Derek Galon. Please respect the copyright.
Thank you.

Giraudel Flower Show 2016

_DAG8956-smWe were fortunate this year to attend the Giraudel Flower Show in Dominica, where we live now. This special event was held in the village of Giraudel situated on the slopes of Morne Anglais, one of the tallest mountains in the south. The village of Giraudel is known as the “flower basket” of Dominica.

At the entrance to the show

At the entrance to the show

Rich volcanic soil and frequent rains make ideal conditions for growing flowers and healthy vegetables this village is famous for. The Flower Show started in 1973 and grew out of local celebrations of Achievement Day, showcasing local produce, crafts and the best gardens. Since then it was run every second or third year with a bigger break after devastating hurricane David. _DAG8903sm

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

We, the Flower Grower Group, recently bought this piece of land and finally have a permanent home for the show,” explains Sybil Alfred- one of the organizers who is involved from the very beginning. “It is very much a community effort, everyone contributes in a different way and everyone is welcome – from small individual growers to commercial flower shops and gardens”.
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”We went into the small house containing flower arrangements. “This year’s general theme is ‘Flowers in a changing environment’”, says Sybil. “When you look around, you see trees being cut, too much garbage and destruction. We say- stop this and concentrate on natural beauty instead.” The display space is divided into sections with different themes and corresponding flower arrangements. Some of the themes are: “Prevent destruction”, “Protect nature’s diversity”, “Resilience”, “Bury careless damage”, “Eat local”, “Harmony with nature” and the last one: “We will bloom again.”

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The display is colourful and striking. Different varieties of Anthurium, Ginger and Costus are the most frequently used plants, together with Alstroemeria, Dahlia and Marigold. I really like a bouquet made of blue Agapanthus- these showy globes are three times bigger than what we grew in our garden in British Columbia, Canada. I truly started to be fond of these strong combination of reds, orange and yellow only when we begun to work on our book “Exotic Gardens of the Easter Caribbean”. As a gardener, I’ve always preferred pastels, whites and textural plants – but here, under tropical sun these vibrant colours really make a strong statement against the background of intensely green rainforest.

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We step outside into the sunshine and wonder around another section showing a variety of natural landscapes and different growing conditions on the island: from lush rainforest of the interior to dry Caribbean coast. This section is skilfully put together by Desmond Augustine, owner of the local plant nursery and a master florist. Here the display includes funky mannequins impersonating workers in the fields.
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But this is not everything: there is a tree house with ferns, a shade garden, a field of colourful zinnias, bromeliads… there is still so much to see! We had a wonderful time discovering all corners of the Giraudel Flower Show and ended up buying beautiful peace lily, spathiphyllum wallisii to be planted in our garden later on. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
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I wish you were here!
Until next time!
– Margaret.

If you enjoy this story, please SHARE, let your friends read it too!
Thanks!

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photos: Derek Galon, Ozone Zone. Please respect copyright.

Hiking around Freshwater Lake

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.

Dominica – We Arrived!

So, we did it! We said goodbye to Victoria, BC, Canada, and left for Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean! Flying from Victoria through Vancouver and Toronto, we had three days in Barbados before getting on the final LIAT flight to Dominica.

Hunte's Gardens, Barbados - in October 2014 (photo Derek Galon)

Hunte’s Gardens, Barbados – in October 2014 (photo Derek Galon)

Air Canada prepared for us a farewell surprise – they lost our luggage. We arrived in Barbados in rather warm long-sleeve Canadian clothes, and were kept on a warm side for two extra days until our luggage materialised again. That did not stop us from visiting our favourite places in Barbados – the Welchman Hall Gully and Hunte’s Gardens. Both places look quite amazing, they matured and changed quite a bit since our last visit.

Hunte’s Gardens are now  a definite #1 attraction on Trip Advisor, and we fully agree with it.  It is an unbelievably designed, beautiful garden full of nooks and surprises.  Photographing it was actually our first job in the Caribbean as Caribbean residents. Despite the sweat  (our warm clothes) we spent several hours documenting recent changes all over the place.  These photos will be used by Virgin Atlantic for their guide to Barbados, and by Barbados Tourism Board for a local tourist map.

Hunte's Gardens - lower level (photo Derek Galon)

Hunte’s Gardens – lower level (photo Derek Galon)

 

Our welcome surprise in Dominica!

Our welcome surprise in Dominica!

Dominica greeted us with truly beautiful weather and very smooth proceedings through customs. We felt like returning home. A short ride brought us to the apartment we are renting in Eggleston – a village high in hills above capital town of  Roseau. A nice surprise – Dutch friends who live in Dominica dropped off some grocery shopping for us, along with a fine composition of local exotic flowers! Thank you!

Evening view at Caribbean Sea - from patio of our apartment in Dominica.

Evening view at Caribbean Sea – from patio of our apartment in Dominica.

So, here we are, awaiting arrival of our car ordered from Japan, taking care of formalities (permanent residency permit), and accommodating to the new life style. The last one is not so difficult, as getting around is a true delight to us.  Super friendly people, relaxed atmosphere – it all is just what we need at the moment.

View from our apartment at hills and volcanic mountains of Dominica.

View from our apartment at hills and volcanic mountains of Dominica.

Today we received news from Canada that our container started its journey from Victoria to Dominica, so we will be awaiting its arrival in about a month time.

Our container gets off -  first meters of 7,000 miles journey

Our container gets off – first meters of 7,000 miles journey

In regard to our photography work – it seems like a nice start. We are discussing with Montserrat Ministry of Tourism a week-long photo shoot in Montserrat (it would be lovely to return there – remember our volcano shots?), and we are also getting accreditation for the International Creole Fest here in Dominica. We arrived right in time for this huge yearly event. Three days and nights of concerts, with participation of the best Caribbean and international artists. We may not stay awake until 6am every night (yes, concerts end at 6am!), but I am sure there will be lots to photograph while we will be awake!

Stay tuned! And SHARE/FOLLOW if you like this!

Cheers!
Derek
(please respect copyright of my photos)

Today Is The Day (personal thoughts)

Today, after some 28 years of living in Poland and next 26 years spent in Canada – we are moving to Dominica! It will be a major challenge. Will we enjoy and handle it all? Well, we already changed our country of residence before, and we hope we will cope. We plan to put all our skills, professional experience and enthusiasm, to promote the beauty of Dominica and other Eastern Caribbean islands. But will the Dominica be good for us? So many unknown factors.

walking in Victoria, Canada...

walking in Victoria, Canada…

We went for a last stroll on Pacific shore, right here in Victoria, British Columbia – on Vancouver Island. It is a beautiful place indeed, and some people say we must be crazy to leave it for an unknown future. Perhaps we are a bit crazy, but we hope to find the new destination rewarding, with a more balanced life-style. We hope to leave behind the race for better jobs and always more money, we hope to find a bit of time for ourselves.

My last photo session in Victoria - with friends Michael Ward (on photo) and Jon Hoadley.

My last photo session in Victoria – with friends Michael Ward (on photo) and Jon Hoadley.

Yes, changing the life style is perhaps the most appealing factor behind our decision. But still, before we can hope for that, it will be a hard start. We don’t have a place to live and we will need to quickly rent something, we don’t have any gigs in the Caribbean yet. We are not kidding ourselves, it will be a hard start. But we really hope it will be worth it. So, will the Caribbean be good for us? We love this region and were always happy to return to do our photography and publishing work. But it is different to be visiting – even frequently – and living there permanently. So many unknown factors. We will be newcomers. We will need new contacts, opportunities, friends…

We know one thing for sure, whoever will hire us for world-class photography services or our internationally awarded publishing – will not regret. We know we are good at what we do. It is for others to try and discover it… so, perhaps we also need others’ good will and a bit of trust.

Ah, there is one more thing we will need – some good luck! We hope you can wish us good luck…

Thank you!
Derek

PS.
We will be posting progress of our moving and settling in Dominica here. We will stop in Barbados to see friends (Hunte’s Gardens, Welchman Hall Gully, and others), then we will fly to Dominica a few days later.
Stay tuned and Follow this blog to get all these news. And of course – please Share and Like it!

The New Beginnings

Last pieces of furniture leave our Canadian home.

Last pieces of furniture leave our Canadian home.

We already did it once before. We packed our things, and moved out of our old country – to Canada. It was some 25 years ago, we arrived with two suitcases to a totally new life saying good bye to our careers in Poland – me – an active jazz musician, jazz group manager and photographer, Margaret – a young art historian cataloging old churches all over the country.

We had to reinvent ourselves in Canada many times to keep on the surface. We landed in British Columbia and had the last few years pretty stable. And now, it happens again! Except that this time we are older, and are packing a container full of stuff we may need – computers, wide format printers, all our office and photo/studio gear, plus many other little things which may not be easily available there. Where? In Dominica, Eastern Caribbean region. Yes, we decided to move to Dominica and many people call us crazy. Time will tell if they were right.

shores of Dominica

shores of Dominica

We went some 3 months ago to Dominica to do some more photography work for a hotel and an eco-resort. And we thought – why do we have to fly so far every time we have to do a job there? In fact, we have more work in the Caribbean than in BC and Canada. So, why not to try to live there at least for a while, and see how it goes? We love the place, which made our decision even easier.

Volcanic hills of Dominica

Volcanic hills of Dominica

We sold our house in Victoria, packed up our container, and now we prepare for the Big Move, which will happen in October. We registered there our company Ozone Zone, so we can continue our work under the same name, and we are excited to start a new life. New beginnings once again! We will keep you posted on this blog with progress of things – good or not so good. So, make sure to follow this blog to get all updates. We were quite silent for last months as it was incredibly busy with selling house, moving out, deciding about details, closing business in Canada, preparing for the move, etc. I also had my last art photo session with old friends here. Now all is clear to us, and we have green light to go. Stay tuned!      We will be in touch!
Derek and Margaret

Emerald waterfalls in Dominica.

Emerald waterfalls in Dominica.

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