Saturday, September 5, 2015

ERIKA 2 - Getting to Portsmouth

Having spent 3 long lonely days in lovely St. Lucia it was finally time to catch the ferry over to Dominica and then wend my way somehow up to Portsmouth.  Five AM and the ferry terminal is packed, the boat leaves at 7.  I met up with several other Dominicans whom I had encountered along the way also anxious to get home.  We settled in, the boat was comfortable, the sea calm and we promptly fell asleep.  I woke up to a strange nautical sound, looked out the window and was amazed to see the ferry terminal in St. Lucia.  Yes, we were an hour out to sea when the boat broke down and we had turned around and headed back to port.  What little information we were given was in rapid, muffled French, which no one understood.

We were herded back into the terminal and were instructed not to leave.  An hour later we re-boarded the same boat and away we went.  Two hours out with one stop at Martinique, then 2.5 hours to Dominica.  We disembarked into typical Dominican chaos and heat.  The terminal is tiny, the crowd tired, hungry, worried and frazzled.  Immigration was easy, but customs a disaster.  Everyone had multiple bags and boxes; all loaded with goods they were bringing to the ravaged Island.  Only 2 customs officers and 300 people.  I figured NO, and left the building by the side door with my one way too heavy bag and went right into the street.   I had planned to take a fishing boat and get to Portsmouth by sea, but it was already 4:30 PM and all the Portsmouth vessels had gone for the day.  I stood there, looked around and flagged the first 4 wheel vehicle I saw. There were a couple of them waiting to see if there were any people going north. I knew that the road was all but impassable, but I also knew that a 4x could get through.  I negotiated a price threw my luggage in and set off.  By now I had spoken to McDowell who was more worried than I.

 What I saw on my way up brought me to tears and is beyond words.  Cars and trucks piled on top of each other, huge chunks of mountain now on the road, a house that was on a hillside now in the sea, a jumble of broken trees, rocks, cars.  The bridge at Salisbury had been ripped from its foundation and tossed aside leaving a gaping hole, in several places you could see where the road was undermined by the rushing water.  The little sweet Macoucherie River had become a raging torrent and completely flooded the rum factory, the cricket field, the cane fields and had moved sheds and buildings.  There are many photos on the internet, but it has to be seen to be believed. Sister Caribbean Islands have been quick to respond with their limited resources.  Where are the Canadians?  the Americans? The UK is evident, but barely.

 Anyhow we bounced over rocks, plunged through makeshift by-passes, splashed across muddy divides and made it home before dark. The driver took me right to my door.  McDowell was waiting.

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