Monday, April 30, 2012

Tropical Dominica

Dominica's tag is the Nature Island, and it is instantly apparent why. This little volcanic isle in the Caribbean is covered with lush forest, full of greenery and an abundance of fruit trees, and the occasional splash of tropical colour.

We have managed to cross the island a couple of times now, in our 9 days here, and from the window of each mini-bus, these vast mountainous views are spectacular. Cloud brushing the tops of several peeks most days, and then ocean views at every other turn.

Walking within the central forest area, when we visited the Falls, the tropics included ferns and tributaries, and crisp, fresh air!

Last night was our last night here, as the last of the group pack and prepare to head to the airport this afternoon, marking the end of the cricket tour.

Will be pretty sad to leave, as we have all fallen in love with this little island nation, it's amazingly friendly people, and gorgeous picturesque vistas. The group has had such a great week here, and this test match visit will be long talked about as a favourite of the small group of us who made it to this final game.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Series Victory in Roseau

What an amazing test match, and week, we have had here in Dominica! We have loved every little bit about this place, and Windsor Park is now ranking top in most of the touring group's best places to watch cricket lists.

Following our first great day, the Sheilas in the Waving The Flag group, and many of the blokes, donned our Chick Pink, as is our tradition. Adrian, inexplicably, managed to come to the day's play in a full Santa suit, and wear it all day, attracting so much attention. So funny.

Day 2 was a cracking day of cricket, with the home boy in Shillingford finishing the innings with an impressive 6 wickets, and Aussie 'keeper Wade gritted through to score his maiden test century. The day just kept giving, with the change in innings giving us 8 WIndies wickets, as the Aussies had a very good day.

After the Dawn Service, Springer and I ventured into the Party Stand for the first time on tour, and as a right of passage here in the Caribbean.

Having heard of the disappointment of the Party Stand in Barbados, and seeing the action but not making our way to Trini Posse in Port of Spain, it had to be done. Also, the sign promised all that we wanted in a party stand for Day 3, with drinks listed within the price (for Days 3 and 4 at Windsor Park), and so we thought we were set. Getting over to the sun-drenched side of the ground and grabbed a shade tent, we were given drink tokens which certainly did not last long!

Getting a different, ground-level perspective of the ground and the day's play, we were soon chatting with the locals around us, and taking it all in. But as the sun crept further into our shade position, and it's heat was unbearable, we returned to the shade of our stand seats with the group, once our rum allowance was exhausted! Nothing will really beat the Party Stand day in Antigua!

With Australia completing their second innings, with half centuries to Cowan and Ponting, the West Indies were set the seemingly mammoth target of 370 to win by Lunch on Day 4. Shillingford, again, brought the crowd to life with another 4 wickets in that innings, bring a 10-for for the match. So impressive!

Getting to a five day test match at this beautiful ground, the atmosphere walking through town to the ground yesterday morning was buzzing still. The stands were full, loud, and full of local colour and excitement. It was so great to see, and be part of it. Dominica is certainly proud to have test cricket here.

The West Indies put up a great fight to the end, with an amazing last wicket partnership between the captain Sammy and home boy hero Shillingford, before the final wicket was taken by the Australians, and the series was won 2-0.

It felt a bit bittersweet at the end, to be honest, with the local crowd so involved and vocal throughout that last partnership, as they believed in the possibility of victory. The Aussies were humble in victory, and our Waving The Flag group were acknowledged and mentioned in captain Clarke's speech, which we were very pleased about!

The celebrations moved from the stand, to a walk over the ground and look at the wicket, to more drinks and banter out the back little bar village with the locals. Several bars were found on the walk home, before a hotel party here had our group's final tour dinner and the players from both teams, and all the pretty people of Roseau having a great time at the Fort Young.

This was such a great test, in an amazing venue and town, and everyone talked of the hopes of returning here for another amazing week within the cricket schedule. Dominica has elevated to be my favourite Caribbean destination, such a surprise and late inclusion, which has been so amazing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cute Ramshackle Houses of Roseau

Walking around Roseau, these houses are a feature in every block. Homes to locals, with much life all around them, they are a sight to be seen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ANZAC Dawn Service in Dominica

This morning a group of us gathered around the War Memorial here in Roseau, Dominica, to pay our respects to our ANZAC heroes, at dawn.

Nothing official, just a large section of our Waving The Flag group, and the Australian cricket team management members, up before the sun to be part of it. Luke read out a piece about the meaning of the ANZACs, and then also read the names of the fallen soldiers who served alongside the Aussie and New Zealanders from the Commonwealth of Dominica. Peter read a prayer. Justin Langer read the Ode to Remembrance. A Dominican Army officer played the Last Post, after a minutes silence.

Just a simple service, as the light arrived for the day, with a gathering of proud Aussies marking the sacrifice of our serving men and women. So proud to be there for this special experience, to be part of it. And so very proud to be part of the Waving The Flag group this morning, with Luke putting together this lovely and important service for us all.

Lest we forget.

Third Test at Windsor Park

Only the second test match ever to be played at Windsor Park in Roseau, it was clear that the locals were very, very happy and excited to have the Australians in town to play cricket this week. Never have I been to a ground where the atmosphere and feeling among the people in town, and in and around the groups has been so ecstatic.

Walking to the ground from our hotel, the Fort Young on the waterfront, Springer and I were greeted with smiles and calls of hello from the locals all through the town, the place abuzz about the match. Taking our seats in the stand with the Waving The Flag group for the first ball, the cheering from the locals barely stopped all day. Such a shame that the schedule had it so that this match is being played Monday to Friday, perhaps preventing more locals from coming to the ground.

With the Aussies batting, the locals got to cheer even louder as their homeboy Shillingford did some damage with the ball, finishing the day with 4 wickets.

Another picturesque ground, Windsor Park is closest to the mountains from town, and thus as you sit in the stand you have a full view of the clouds tempting to spill over and down, but never quite managing it. Just gorgeous!

At the end of play for the day, Fi and Dave and I popped down to the little food and bar village within the grounds, for drinks and banter with the locals. Meggsie joined us, and as we laundered with the crowd about how great a day, and place for test match cricket, it was, we started making our way down the street into town.

Going from bar to bar, then down to the local party on the waterfront, and then back to the little bars around town, we had such a fun and crazy night! We love Roseau and Dominica!

Titou Gorge, Trafalgar Falls, and Screw

Sunday was a day trip into central Dominica, and was such a brilliant day! We experienced the amazing Titou Gorge, swimming deep into the gorge to find a waterfall with a killer current. We then checked out Trafalgar Falls, before a perfect lunch stop. The day ended with a swim in the sulfur spa pools, which was glorious!

Driving into the volcanic mountains of inner Dominica, our little busload took in the forest and the mountains all around us in every direction.

Our first stop had us walked down to the water of Titou Gorge, and taking a dip in the chilly water. Equipped with a flouting device around each of us, we ventured into the gorge in the rocks, paddling through the narrow gap in the volcanic rock, through pristine water. Above, you could see the sun and sky, and the trees aloft right at the top, but as we swam deeper into this gorge, we could hear the waterfall at the end. This was such a spectacular experience, and place to find ourselves!

The gorge had pockets of space to take a break, and hang in while working up the strength to give the waterfall another look, and swim up to. These areas were actually used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (2 and 3, I am told). (photo source)

Swimming in the pool before the gorge was pretty magical, right there in the middle of Dominica, but working ones way into those rocks, that sliver of water, cool and crisp, with the sun above - one of the most amazing things to do, and a highlight of this trip.

Back onto the bus, we drove a little longer and checked out Trafalgar Falls. Here, from the vantage point in among the trees, you could see both the Papa and Mama Falls making this waterfall landmark, cascading down from above.

Being within the forest, and the tropical plants and flowers all around, highlighted the Nature Island tag for this little Caribbean nation.

Not far from the Falls was our lunch stop, with a 3 course meal including callaloo soup, fish for me, and then coffee and cake to finish. All washed down with a rum punch with a kick!

The restaurant allowed for more views of the mountainous and forested surrounds, a perfect place for our long table of Flaggers.

Our day continued after lunch, to drive just 7kms away from Roseau, and to the sulfur spa pools called Screw.

These hot water springs have been sectioned off into pools, ranging from the hottest at the top, graduating down in temperature as you made your way through to the next pool. This, again, was so amazing, swimming and chilling in these baths of murky water out in the open, experiencing the strange sensation of hot, warm and tepid water pools.

We spend ages here, enjoying every moment. A completely brilliant day here in Dominica!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rum Shack Stop Between Melville and Roseau

Saturday was our travel day, coming from Trinidad to Dominica. A very early transfer, and a very early flight, I bounced through St Lucia, before landing at Melville Airport in Dominica.

Now, Dominica was not part of the original schedule for this tour, but substituted in near the last minute, with trouble in Guyana. So this seems to be a bit of a bonus travel treat for us on this tour.

With the mini-buses full of Flaggers and luggage, a rum/breakfast stop was suggested to our driver, and he found a spot called Isle View Bar.

Here, a wall of homemade rums was found, ranging from Star Fruit to Guava, Carrot to Garlic, Spinach to Gooseberry, to Grandma's Kitchen special. These were pretty potent on empty stomachs!

Sitting on wooden benches over looking the forest and the sea, this was a gorgeous rest break, before pushing on through the middle of the island to Roseau.

What a view!

Our roadtrip to the hotel consisted of winding roads, with thick lush forest and ocean views, with sheer drops at many turns!

A gorgeous introduction to the Nature Island of the Caribbean, and what has started out as an amazing last stop of this tour. One of the surprise country visits that amazes you, and you totally didn't expect it to be so wonderful!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Port of Spain

My last day in Trinidad I had all to myself, with the rest of the group heading to Tobago, and Melissa flying home. Thus, after taking it easy in the morning, and also waiting out the rain, I walked into town to check out the city sights of Port of Spain.

Taking about 30 minutes to walk from the hotel, past the Queens Park Savannah, and all the way down into town to the Independence Square, I was able to chat to school kids as they spilled out onto the street for the day (or they dared each other to speak to me, the only white girl in town at the time!), take in the food stalls and bustle of the middle of the day.

Once I got to the imposing Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I sat and took in the strip of space that runs all the way along the bottom of the city, before walking the length of it, seeing men out playing chess among more stalls, and people leaving work for the day.

Reaching the other end, just adjacent to the water taxi terminal, I found the Brian Lara statue. In some brochures this Independence Square is actually referred to as Brian Lara Promenade, such is the reverence to the great local batsman. 'The Prince of Port Of Spain', as the sign below the statue declares, Lara is certainly a figure about town. He has been given a piece of government land for his home on the edge of the Queens Park Savannah for his very impressive, and much talked about, residence. Several of our group managed to meet him during the match, and have their photo taken with him. Some very jealous Sheilas among us, let me tell you!

Walking back into the city and away from the waters edge, I found the impressive Old Police Headquarters and the pretty Old Fire Station Tower, before wandering into Woodford Square.

This space of land in the middle of the city is famous as a place of political and religious gatherings, but there was nothing so topical going on on this particular day. Just people walking through after work, or hanging about.

From the Square I could see the Red House, which is the house of parliament, and perhaps one of the more prominent buildings of the city. It was covered in scaffolding, but grand and bright nonetheless.

Also from the Square I could see the Old Library building, as well as Greyfriar's Church. Having grabbed a leaflet about the historical buildings in Port of Spain, it seems they are all really close together in this compact city area.

Walking back out of the centre of town again, I returned to the new and very modern National Academy of Performing Arts for a closer look, and to take some photos of the impressive sails. This is on the edge of the Savannah. We had joked with a taxi driver earlier in the week that it was the Trinidad Sydney Opera House, which he was delighted by!

Taking one last look at the capital of Trinidad, I returned to the hotel for a swim and some relaxation time within my much needed holiday. I then packed and prepared for the early morning airport run, which will take me and the rest of the Waving The Flag touring group, to our next destination.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drawn Match in Port of Spain

A disappointing end to what was poised as a great day of cricket, the Second Test between the West Indies and Australia at Queens Park Oval here in Port of Spain finished in a draw, as the rain washed out the final day. The match ended whilst the covers were on, and the rain falling, and with the majority of the Waving The Flag crew having beers and cocktails in the All Out Bar in the Member's Stand.

With the day before seeing just 30 overs, and Melissa and I taking our daytrip to Tobago, we were keen to soak in the last day of cricket, which was also Melissa's last day on tour. With Springer, we walked around the Queens Park Savannah and past the Magnificent Seven one last time, mainly due to flooding due to the rain the day before, and to soggy look of the massive patch of land.

Australia resumed it's second innings at 3 for 73, and batted past lunch, working on a target for the West Indies reply, and a timely declaration several wickets after Lunch by Clarke had the match at a point where either team could win, but the Aussies confident.

As the Aussie attack was a bowler down with Pattinson reportedly on a plane home due to a back injury, Hilfenhaus did some damage early with 2 quick fire scalps, and spirits in our stand were high.

This shifted pretty quickly with Sammy taking to some loose bowling, and lofting the ball over the fence...and the possibility of the WIndies doing this easy was asserted. But alas, we could see the rain approaching over our shoulders and the mountains in view, and the players were offered the light. As soon as they were off the rain started, and didn't let up for the rest of the day. Such a shame, because this game was set for a cracking finish!

Queens Park Oval, with the mountains around Trinidad just beyond, and the views of the ocean out the other way, is really one of the most picturesque cricket grounds around the world. The characters of the locals, and the food and drink sellers, also make it an amazing place to visit for the cricket. Having beer served to you at your seat is always a winner! With the corn soup and roti for lunch add to the flavour of Trinidad.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Thinking that one could not really claim to have been to Trinidad and Tobago without actually going across to the little brother island, a day trip to Tobago was in order. Melissa and I debated which day to make the journey, and take a day off from the cricket in doing so, and ended up picking Day 4.

We caught the 6.30am ferry across, which was painful given a large impromptu night the night before. This ferry took 2.5 hours, and got fairly rough when we were out to sea, although it did allow us some valuable nap time! The ticket seller was very reluctant to sell us our return ticket on this day, a Wednesday, when there are not as many ferry's running, and an 11pm cargo vessel being the option. We pressed, and got our tickets.

Upon arrival into the port of Scarborough, we were approached by Jerry, one of the many locals spruiking for business for the day. He talked about the type of island tour we were looking for, and of course, he could offer us just that!

He took us through a section of the main town on Tobago, including a visit to the fort to allow a view of the town and ocean, before we made our way our of town to start the lap around the island.

Having our own driver meant that we could stop and see anything that caught our eye, but also given that Jerry was a local, born and bred, and also that he is a prominent character on the island due to his work with one of the annual festivals, he seemed to know and say hi to everyone we passed all the way around!

The road wound up and around the forest mountains, with coastal views at every other turn. Full, lush forest with fruit trees, palm trees, and even evidence of landslides and water trickles from the centre, were the feature of the day.

Jerry stopped at each point of interest and explained the local way of life to us at every opportunity, including the Mystery Tombstone, and so many beautiful vantage points of a gorgeous blue ocean lapping the beach below. We also stopped at many of these beaches when we were at ocean level, to walk along the white sand, often with almost no one around.

Through village-sized towns on the map such as Plymouth, Castara, and Charlotteville, we stopped at Englishman's Bay and Bloody Bay, with Jerry pointing out the Sisters Rocks.

At L'Anse Fourmi, Jerry took us to meet his brother and a group of Rastas who were hanging about after working that morning. Chatting with the locals, many of them impressed we were in Trinidad for the cricket, we got a sense of the laidback lifestyle on Tobago.

Our lunch stop was at Jemma's Treehouse in Speyside, where levels of her restaurant were built around a huge tree, right on the beach edge. Amazing coconut grilled fish, and the local treat of butterfruit pie was delicious.

We completed the lap of the island for the rest of the afternoon, taking in the mountain views and beachside spots. It was around this time we got a sense of the rained out day at the cricket in Port of Spain, which made our decision to pick this day for our Tobago trip even better!

Upon hearing about our passage home, Jerry talked about ending out island tour by going to the airport and checking out flight options for Trinidad.

When we got to the airport, thinking we would buy a flight and then head off for a swim, we were told that the flights were all full. Jerry did some investigating, and got us standby tickets, and then at the check in desk, had us with boarding passing for the next flight. No swim, but a $23 flight home. On the flight, the sunset was gorgeous out the window over the ocean, and we heard confirmation that the cricket in Trinidad had been washed out. The guy next to me also told us about the cargo vessel return trip we had planned on – a 5 hour all night journey with a boat full of truck drivers, with no passenger spaces, just a barely covered area. We can laugh about this as a crazy near-miss, but I am not sure we would not have survived that, for a whole host of reasons!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Magnificent Seven

One of the most glorious sights thus far in Port of Spain, Trinidad, is that of the Magnificent Seven, along the edge of the Queens Park Savannah.

Coming up on the final portion of our walk to Queens Park Oval, these seven Victorian buildings, each built with very different styles, are along Maraval Road.

Several of them are currently undergoing significant restoration, or transformation into new uses, but several of them are also in esteemed use today - one being the office of the Prime Minister, and another a private residence and two others the residences of the Anglican bishop and the Roman Catholic archbishop.

The final one, closest to the city and the cricket ground, is Queens Royal College, and is the most grand. Lit up at night, this is a prestigious secondary school.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Queens Park Savannah

One of the thinks I had heard most talked about in relation to visiting Port of Spain and going to the cricket, was the morning's walk across the park to get to the game, and so I was very keen to have this experience when in Trinidad for the cricket. Day 3 was the first time we actually got to do this, allowing ourselves the time to just wander through it, and take this space in.

Queens Park Savannah is a 1.1km2 piece of flat land situated in the middle of our walk from the Normandie Hotel and Queens Park Oval for the cricket, and being out in the middle of it, you are surrounded by the mountains at one vista, the city skyline at another view, the outline of the Magnificent Seven in front of us (more on these in the next post...), and peacefulness, despite the crazy traffic always hurtling around the whole park in one direction. It's the world's largest traffic round-a-bout! It's a vast space with just a handful of trees interspersed with sporting spaces.

On this particular day, the Savannah was fairly deserted, apart from a couple of guys rolling out a pitch for cricket. There are also soccer and rugby pitches set up at different places, and was full of activity on the weekend.

As we neared the edge, and back to the roads before the Oval, a school group had crossed the road, and begun setting up a group activity, peeling off into their team colours.

We are continually warned not to cross the Savannah at night, but after doing the walk through during the daylight, and navigating through deep ditches, concrete strips and long grass, I am beginning to think that this is more for fear of breaking your neck in the process, rather than any issue with the reported crime of Trinidad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Second Test at Queens Park Oval

Arriving into Trinidad ready for the second test of the series against the West Indies, I actually missed Day 1 due to illness, but listened from the hotel room through streaming radio. Tentatively back on deck for Day 2, I am not one to miss Chick Pink Day! I caught the bus in with the Waving The Flag crew, and then followed them all the way upstairs to the second level of the BG T&T/Scotiabank Stand. A great view of the ground, we settled in for the days play.

We watched Hussey bat through to a gallant 73, before a rain delay took us too and past lunch. But then a cracking start by our Aussie bowlers had 3 quick wickets, which managed to swing the momentum of the match back into the balance.

Today has been a fairly slow day for Australia, with the West Indian batsmen scoring steadily throughout the day, and through another lengthy rain delay.

Finally, a breakthrough was made, followed by 3 more in close succession, and again the balance of the game seems to have returned to a neutral setting.

We have managed to dance up a storm tonight at the All Out Bar at the Member's Pavilion at the ground, having a great night. So much fun, which such a great group!
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