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.

Posts tagged ‘Dominica’

And So The Dust Settles – part 4 of our Hurricane Maria memories

Trees start to have green leaves again – the same tree as on first hurricane post. compare them!

It is now two and half months after the hurricane. Sometimes it feels like all that was just a bad dream. But you don’t need to look long to actually realize you are still in post-hurricane zone. Our road was cleared by an excavator, but it is badly broken and driving is quite dangerous. Everywhere you drive you pass broken poles, debris and damaged remains of cars mixed with piles of mud. The green is back, but it mostly is just the morning glory taking over every empty space created by fallen trees. Yes, nature heals quickly, but the landscape will stay different for a long time, before it gets back to previous harmonious balance. Also wildlife will recover, but for now you can spot hungry parrots flying over villages they would never visit before. They, same as hummingbirds, other birds and animals are hungry, misplaced and desperate to find some sort of food. Even our dogs are still under visible stress, barking at night and anxious during the day.

trees on a starry night – stumps get their first leaves again.

Some say that around 20,000 people left the island. Such number would make about a quarter of the whole population, and the long term economic impact of such exodus is yet to be seen. One thing is clear – this all will change our island for years to come.

one of many dumping places for damaged roofing materials

We all feel things slowly get back to normal – but is it really so, or we just get used to this situation that we accept it as the “new normal”? Truth is probably somewhere between.

As for our situation, we notice that even simple tasks take longer and require more energy. Dealing with insurance, driving, baking our bread – it is now more effort than before. Yes, we do have a small generator, but it only runs our fridge and couple of small lamps, so all work needs to be finished before darkness – making our days shorter. Yes, we just restored a basic line of running water to the kitchen, but the kitchen itself is wrecked and we do most food preparations outdoors.

our rented house used to be totally covered by green. now it slowly gets the green cover once again

Margaret and an uprooted bamboo

Soon it will be time to decide about rebuilding of our new, shattered home. But this has too its new challenges – material shortages, enormous delays at the port and damaged roads will make the process much more tricky than before. We don’t complain – merely observe. Many others had it much worse than us, and now together with a friend, a BBC cameraman, we are recording interviews about the hurricane experiences. Some stories we hear are so shocking that it is even hard to listen – yet people say their experience in simple words, like stating simple facts about life – and sometimes death.

Damaged piano – another victim of hurricane Maria

Once again we realize that the hurricane itself – while really scary – was just the beginning. At least for us, it is the long months of years ahead which prove to be the real challenge. With no regular power and no internet we can npt do our normal work – editing photography and video, writing, sending files to clients, and so on. We are professionally crippled, and can only rely on generosity of management in Fort Young Hotel, which – despite being seriously damaged and hosting only a few teams of various international aid groups – but otherwise closed for business until restored – allows us and other local professionals to leech their wi-fi internet – our only and rare moments of contact with the rest of the world…

Hurricane brought also some beauty – a picturesque ship wreck near Portsmouth

So, the dust finally starts to settle and more and more people get grip of their situation. Some decide to stay, many decide to go abroad, some businesses opening but many to be never seen again – you can feel we are at the cross roads. Hopefully there will be a visible recovery, but now it is all in the air. It will be fascinating to watch and participate in rebuilding this tiny island. But it will be difficult and long process. We quite understand those who already left Dominica, and hope we will not have to. We are ready for the next challenge…

Despite intense cleanup, you still can see many scenes like this…

Please subscribe to see more photos and read our next posts.
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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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

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.

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!

Erika – the Lady Made of Rain

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. Erika – 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.

Carnival Fun in Dominica (2015)

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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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All photos by Derek Galon, please respect copyright.

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