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A Walk Around Dominica

The approach to the airport was through a maze of vertical green walls, mountains covered in foliage of the most brilliant green. The runway was short and ended at a river where people were busily tending to their laundry, as unconcerned over the approaching plane as was the air traffic controller, who was reclining on a bench outside the ramshackle terminal building. Dominica is not the Caribbean island you want to come to if you crave white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, sprawling resort enclaves, or opulent amenities.

A ferry ride south of much better known Martinique, or a quick hop through the air by way of Puerto Rico, Dominica is the still untamed corner of the Caribbean, a haven for those who want rain forests, mountains, waterfalls, hiking, and snorkeling. The people are poor, the towns threadbare, but there is a rugged happiness about the place, an impressive lack of crime. Curried goat that was probably alive earlier in the day. Fresh fruit and fish. The sense — accurate — that the two dreadlocked Rastas with machetes you run into in the jungle mean you no harm, and might even be down for a cold Kabuli beer or two at the nearest thatched hut bar. From Scott’s Head in the south, to the capital of Roseau, to the Carib Indian reservation and Portsmouth to the north. Up Morne Trois Piton, through the rain forest to Boiling Lake, across a suspension bridge to Titou Gorge, or under the calm waters of Soufriere Bay.