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 ‘tourism’ Category

Dominica Film Challenge

The last three months saw us crossing our island of Dominica back and forth, filming some amazing places. Now that all the work is already done we can sit down and tell you about it.

Margaret starting our drone in Scotts Head

For the last few years Dominica Tourism Authority (DDA) organizes Dominica Film Challenge to promote the island as a nature destination. So far it were teams of avid travellers from abroad who got invited to participate. But this year for the first time the concept changed, and only local Dominica filmmakers were invited to apply.

Nahjie securing our way in canyon

We offered ourselves to participate and were among the six teams selected to create a short movie on a given theme. Our theme was “hiking”, but we decided that we should expand over this theme, taking advantage of being both local and also foreign. I mean, yes – we live here for five years and know Dominica for much longer. But we also spent half of our life in Europe, then many years in Canada – travelling a lot – including various off-the-usual-path places, also in the Caribbean. That gives us a different perspective. We thought we could see what visitors may find most thrilling in Dominica, but also how the post-hurricane recovery and all the changes it caused may create an added attraction for them.

Margaret in the canyon

That gave Margaret a nice start to write her script, beginning with a short introduction of Dominica as a beautiful Nature Island, then reminding of last year’s hurricane and then going on a trip to re-discover Dominica and see the changes. We had some nice pre-hurricane footage and also documented Dominica soon after it. So, now we recorded recovering nature and visited some amazing locations, also filming short interviews with tourist guides.

Trafalgar Falls 6 months after hurricane

The trip we both remember as the most unusual was the canyoning with our friend and a fantastic guide from ExtremeDominica.com, Nahjie Laflouf, and his climbing partner, Junior. They brought us to a beautiful rock formation at the bottom of a canyon. Beautiful and amazing place to film. However, dragging the equipment through a rough path often changing to a vigorous stream, then through high river waters was not exactly easy for us, and without their help it simply would not happen! But the reward for this hike was amazing, and the footage shows it well.

on hiking trail over Freshwater Lake

Our favoutite locations such as Freshwater Lake or Trafalgar Falls were surely nice to revisit, but I also filmed in the bush, taking close-up shots of recovering nature and re-growing forest. The last on our list was a boat trip through the Indian River with “Fire”, a great guide we know for years. We found Indian River changed but really beautiful – as “Fire” said – we could see “a different kind of beauty” around us. We saw the nature bouncing back, a heart-warming assurance that soon it will regain its old glory.

Derek on boat with “Fire”

Being on boat with “Fire” is always great. Whenever we had visiting friends we made sure they go with him exploring Indian River nature reserve. But this time – although this is how he makes a living – when “Fire” heard we make a film to promote Dominica – he refused any payment for the trip. What a guy! Respect, man!

With all material in hand we spent quite a time editing it and crafting as a super-short movie.

We actually decided that requested length of 3 minutes did not have proper chance to tell our story the way we wanted – so we delivered… TWO movies! One is officially entered to the Dominica Film Challenge, and another one is a bonus. Two-for-one, well – you know – like a pizza. This version extended by two extra minutes shows more of nature recovery process which we find fascinating.

What really adds to our video is the voice-over. We were in luck to “discover” a great talent in the person of Kevin Francis who recorded Margaret’s narration in a single take, bringing out every flavour of this short text. Combined with fantastic music by our Polish friend, a guitarist Andrzej Chochol, it added a really immersive sound layer.

Indian River nature reserve

All work is done and delivered, now progressively launched by Discover Dominica along five other videos.

We surely hope you will this short film. We had a blast doing it, and thanks to it we visited places we did not see before. So, all is well. Now, click the link, have a look, and “like” and “share” the clip if you find it nice. Your clicks will help selecting the winning video!
Please use headphones if watching on a tablet or small laptop.
Dominica – Hike an Island Reborn

Enjoy!
Derek and Margaret

Please remember all photos are copyright Derek Galon and Ozone Zone Books. No usage without written authorization. Thank you.

#DominicaFilmChallenge,  #rediscoverDominica, #DiscoverDominica

 

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Still Stranded – Hurricane Maria notes – part 3

Dutch Marines coming

In roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure.

It is hard to believe two weeks already passed since the hurricane Maria. We are still spending lots of time sorting our things drenched in muddy water. It takes hours to pull them out, dry them in the sun, clothing spread on branches of our broken mango tree. In the roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure. Nothing stayed dry.

Soaked, messed boxes of stuff ready for our moving – now ready for garbage bin.

destroyed chapel at Retreat House

I am opening soaked boxes only recently packed to move to our new home – now totally destroyed by hurricane. In a dry weather we burn wet packaging, discoloured moldy clothes, destroyed furniture. Our neighbours, the Retreat House, kindly offered us a dry room to store the few things we managed to salvage. We are at the retreat house unloading boxes when we hear loud engines of approaching helicopter – a large Dutch military craft. Two uniformed figures descend on a steel line. They came from St Maarten hit by hurricane Irma and can compare. Dominica was hit much stronger, they say. They are looking for a Dutch couple living nearby to check if they are OK. They left only to come back soon with food for all of us – cans of beans, juice and rice. We laugh saying it will make the most expensive dinner in our lives.

How this tiny stream could turn to the nasty river? All these rocks were brought by water, damaging all homes around…

We are tired of experiencing a waterfall in our living room with every rain, so we decide to call village rastas for help making a temporary roof cover. We hear there is one store in town selling metal galvanized sheets for roofing. We can’t possible go there – our road is still blocked. We decide to find all our old pieces of galvanage and patch them together.

Typical scene of destruction

Finding them is not easy – some are blown away as far as the bottom of the ravine. Dragging them through bushes is a daunting task. We gather wooden rafters and metal sheets scattered around the house and go searching. I found a good sheet of galvanage, but it is stuck on a tree. We are out of luck for this one. After two days of hard work the job is done. To celebrate it, we spend the first night since the hurricane in our own bed. What a luxury, comparing to three weeks spent in our car!

Margaret walks on main street of Soufriere…

Step by step with much effort, our lives slowly improve. We made our pizza oven work again and bake our European bread. We can’t deliver it yet to shops, but we simply share it with neighbours and people in our village. An old friend of ours shipped a new generator as a gift – this will surely make big difference. Another friend invited us to see page www.gofundme.com and do search for Derek Galon. She organized a donation fund to help us, with friends and total strangers chipping in! Some other friends sent us their individual donations. Each such thing feels like a miracle. Gestures like that not only help rebuild our lives, but also show us much needed support. We are full of gratitude and appreciation. And we feel even more motivated not to fail.

While path to Emerald Pool is now cleared, the waterfall looks like set in middle of forest clear-cut

Soon we will be able to drive again – a hired excavator is clearing the road. We are invited to a bbq chicken party at village’s roofless bar. Everybody share their hurricane stories. There is a strong sense of togetherness which makes it easier to face days ahead.

 

 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

 

Center of Roseau

what remained of our bedroom and new home. most belongings were later stolen

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.

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Thanks!

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

Martinique

Beginning of this year has been extremely busy for us, filled with new, exciting, and often challenging projects. Among other activities we contributed articles and dozens of images to several publications including two last editions of MACO Magazine – the ever-popular Caribbean lifestyle magazine. Our write-ups are about unique and quirky homes on Dominica island where we now live. MACO also featured our story about rebirth of Montserrat after it’s last devastating volcano eruption. When our family came from England for a visit, we decided to take a short break from work, and travel with them to a neighbouring island of Martinique._DSC7245

We boarded catamaran ferry operated by L’Express des Iles which links a few nearby islands with Dominica. From the ferry you can really see how extraordinarily beautiful this mountainous island is, covered with lush greenery and surrounded by turquoise coral reefs.

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Last glimpse at Dominica – heading to Martinique

Our boat left calm Caribbean Sea and entered rough Atlantic waters. With strong winds it could be a rough ride. Fortunately, the day was calm and soon we were able to see silhouettes of approaching Martinique. It is much more populated than Dominica – over four hundred thousand people live there. From a boat you can clearly see quaint little villages dotting the coastline, and much bigger concentration of population around the Fort-de-France area. It is a metropolis comparing to Dominica with only seventy-two thousand inhabitants.

photo: Derek Galon

Bibliotheque Schoelcher by architect Pierre-Henri Picq

The first thing we noticed after leaving the ferry terminal in Fort-de-France was an elaborate, colourful building of Bibliotheque Schoelcher on the other side of grassy lawns of La Savanne park. Its architecture has a fairy tale quality, and perhaps could look more at home somewhere in Turkey or Italy – maybe because of eclectic, curious mixture of different designing influences including Byzantine, Art Nouveau and ethnic building traditions of French colonies. Library is named in honour of Victor Schoelcher, the French cabinet minister and influential abolitionist. In 1883 he donated books from his own collection to the people of Martinique and was inspiration for this development.

This intricate building was designed by Pierre- Henri Picq in 1884, built in Paris, displayed at the 1889 World Exposition and shipped in pieces to Fort-de-France. Picq is also an architect of other city landmarks like Cathedral St-Louis, Grand Marche – covered produce market, and corner building of Magasin du Printemps. His another eye-catching building, the Museo Artequin in Santiago, Chile, perhaps resembles Bibliotheque Schoelcher the most. Interestingly, in most English speaking travel guides (including Lonely Planet) his last name is spelled Pick, which explains why I couldn’t find any information about him on-line on English sites.

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Patisserie Friandises des Iles – our most favourite, perhaps the best small chain in Martinique, with shops in Fort de France, Schoelcher, and case Pilote.

The old city of Fort-de-France is small but full of interesting buildings and… patisseries. Our sightseeing was seriously distracted by our weakness for sweets – but how can you resist delicious French eclairs with fluffy, delicate and fragrant cream?

We took a drive up the scenic coastal road north, which goes through old fishing villages. Our favourite was Case Pilote with old stone church and a charming town square with town hall, a water fountain in the middle and yes, a delicious patisserie.

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Fountain in Case-Pilote

Atmospheric town of St Pierre has a fascinating and gloomy history. On May 8th , 1902 the whole city was totally destroyed by pyroclastic flow from erupting volcano of Mont Pelee in 10 short minutes. The speed of black clouds carrying volcanic gases and burning ash was over 670km per hour and temperature as high as 1,075 degrees C. Wikipedia brings a very detailed description of this tragic eruption. Nearly 30 thousand people lost their lives. One of the lucky escapists was a prisoner named Cyparis, locked in a jail cell.

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Mont Pelee

Not much have been left from the original city. The most impressive ruins are of an old 18th- century theatre, which once seated 800. It was built in 1786, reconstructed in 1831, resembling a theatre in Bordeaux. Well preserved a double set of stairways gives a sense of grandeur and an enormous scale of the building.

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Double set of stairs to amphiteatre

Depth of the stage allowed for big productions, ranging from classical to vaudeville as well as great operas. Setting for the theatre is as spectacular as the building itself – located on a hill with spectacular views of the sea and Mont Pelee.

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Mt Pelee seen through old gate of theatre

In times of its glory it must have been an awe inspiring sight. Curiously, the theatre was closed down shortly before the eruption of Mont Pelee as a result of huge loans for renovations in 1900, that couldn’t be paid off.

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Old, rusted trasnformer in theater ruins.

 

We wandered through the narrow streets of this fascinating town ending up (of course!) in another delicious patisserie.

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Remainings of the theater

Back from this short trip, refreshed and excited, we got back to our work with new energy – but this is yet another story…

Until next Time! Cheers!
Derek and Margaret

If you like this story, please Share and Like it.
Story by Margaret Gajek
Photographs by Derek Galon – please respect copyright.
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Front of a typical old house in St Pierre

The Nature Island Still Rocks!

_DAG1505_6_7-Panorama-sm-sAbout a month passed since the tropical storm Erika lashed  Dominica, flash-flooding it with about 15 inches of rain in mere 10 hours of time. It was in the news around the world, so I won’t repeat the tragic ordeal we all experienced here. With the destruction and heavy losses, the whole country stood together working hard to patch the biggest wounds as soon as possible. Countless and  huge  landslides are in most part cleared, temporary bridges are being installed, whole villages keep working together on major cleanups. Both airports are reopened and the tourist season will start soon.  And guess what? Dominica is still as beautiful as ever!
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We both were anxious to find out what happened with most popular and beautiful attractions, making the Dominica what it is – the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”. Weather became beautiful once again. We packed our photo and video gear, and went on hiking.  Trafalgar Falls – the iconic falls were easy to drive to, and we were impressed how quickly landslides were cleared off the long, winding road. The falls themselves changed a lot. Not only they are now devoid of much vegetation, exposing huge, bare boulders (some of which are freshly fallen, pushed by massive power of flooding waters), but also another surprising change occurred. _DAG1453_4_5-sm-sHidden for decades, hot sulfur springs running next to the taller waterfall were uncovered by the storm. So, now the waterfall is joined by picturesque hot springs, clearly visible thanks to their sulfur-stained, intense orange rocks. The milky water running down the spring mixes with fresh water of the waterfall in a small rocky pool, making it a delightful option for a nice, warmer bath.  We went up and close to both falls which was a bit tricky as we had to drag with us about 20 kilograms of photo gear, and it is not a typical hike but rather jumping and climbing between huge builders, constantly up and down. Our efforts were well rewarded by the beauty of the newly reshaped falls. To be so close to them, to hear hiss of falling water, feel the cool breeze of tiny droplets – it was quite magical experience. We photographed, filmed with drone and regular video camera, and enjoyed every minute of this blissful time. It was so good to see the falls in full glory, perhaps even more unique than before._DAG1475_6_7-sm-s

See them up and close as we did, simply play the HD video we are sharing with you. We hope you will enjoy!

Fantastic weather continued, and just couple of days later we decided to check the trail to Boeri Lake, and our favourite Freshwater Lake. Driving up the steep road to Laudat, once again we were impressed with amount of work done to clear dozens of huge landslides. Parts of the road damaged by floods are already being restored and fixed.

We arrived at the beginning of trail without problems, and started the one hour long hike to Boeri Lake. The views were breath-taking and hike was fun. In one spot we had to take hiking shoes off to cross a shallow  river, which added a flavour to our walk. The trail survived Erika really well and  the whole hike was really enjoyable. Arriving at the end of path, we looked in silence at the serene, small but amazing Boeri Lake. [Group-6]-_DAG1683_4_5__DAG1704_5_6-8-images-sm-s
It is the highest freshwater lake in Dominica, set in an old volcano crater at 850 meters above sea level. Air is cool and fresh here, lush greenery around  – pristine and unspoilt.  We were alone, enjoying the serene feel of the place. The weather was fantastic and lake full of vibrant green and blue colours. We were told most times it is misty and cloudy here, with lake looking mostly  black and eerie. Seemingly we were lucky to catch it on one of these clear, sunny days.  Looking closer we were surprised to realize that water level was clearly much higher than usually. Grass and smaller plants were visible some two feet under water, adding a green carpet to the shallow shore of the lake. _DAG1719_20_21-sm-s

As we descended back, we decided to stop at the nearby Freshwater Lake, which is in the same area and located just slightly lower. We were there just 6 weeks earlier, and saw it covered with low clouds, mist and fog. At this time, however, it looked sunny and happy, inviting for a quick, refreshing swim.  Never before we saw this place with no wind at all, so calm, fresh and still. I just had to fly our drone and film it.

Same as with Trafalgar Falls, we would like to share our hike with you and show you our short video clip. We hope you will enjoy!

These two trips awaken our appetites to see more. We plan to visit other places soon, filming and photographing them for you.
So, subscribe to our blog and be among the first to know our new posts. And if you like what you see – please SHARE with friends.
Until next time, cheers!

Derek and Margaret

Please note: all images/video are copyrighted, please respect our rights. no usage without authorization. Thank you!

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.

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