Month Eighteen of travel saw us on the road again!
The first few days of the month we were still at our mountain retreat housesit in Green Mountain Falls, and with fresh snowfall that only added to the beauty of the place, it was very hard to leave.
We did leave the house a couple of times, to head to our favourite mountain town Manitou Springs down the road, and into Denver for Thanksgiving, my first in the United States (!), which we spent with Toby’s family in Aurora.
Then we left our favourite housesit for a few days back in Denver with family. We mostly just got everything sorted for our trip but we also fit in a game night at one of Afor’s friend’s places, some beers in RiNo, and brunch at Snooze.
And before we knew it, it was time to head off on our big trip!
First stop was a night in Fort Lauderdale where we stayed in an Airbnb in the southern neighbourhood of Dania Beach. The area was OK, nothing too exciting, but we were there for less than 24 hours so it didn’t matter much.
Early the next morning we flew to Barbados – the first stop of our Caribbean adventure.
We spent our first week in Barbados staying with a local – Sade, her English boyfriend Luca, and her five year old son, Eli. They were all awesome, taking us to a couple of local spots for dinner and drinks along with taking us on a tour of the east coast of the island. Oh, and there were also two super cute and cuddly baby kitties at the house so as you can imagine, I was in heaven.
Sade lives down a quiet road on the west coast of the island near the town of Speightstown. It was a fantastic location and we mostly spent our days at one of the nearby beaches – Mullins was our favourite – or in Speightstown. We also made it out to St Nicholas Abbey – a 350 year old Plantation which stills operates as a rum distillery today.
We loved our time on the lush and quiet west coast, but with Toby’s friend Ron and his girlfriend Pamela coming, we had booked a holiday rental in the south for our second week on the island.
Our new house was great and within easy walking distance to Oistins, where we attended the famous fish fry over the weekend. We found that the beaches in the south had whiter sand but the south of Barbados is a lot more built up and commercialised so I felt it lacked the charm of where we had been staying on the west coast.
Highlights of our week on the south coast was swimming in the turquoise waters of Carlisle Bay, walking the boardwalk between Accra Beach and Hastings, and snorkelling with turtles and above shipwrecks on a boat excursion.
We also hired a car for the day and did a loop of the island, with me as the driver because no one else had driven on the left hand side before. It was awesome to visit Bathsheba on the wild east coast, and I loved the drive from Cherry Tree Hill down to the east coast – rugged and jaw-dropping.
After two weeks in Barbados I was sad to say goodbye – we had some awesome and memorable times there – but I was excited to get to the island I had been looking forward to the most: Dominica.
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is located between Guadeloupe and Martinique and is known as the Nature Island due to its rugged mountains and lush rainforest, which is protected by an extensive national park system.
The week we spent on the island was incredible. We hired a house on a property with a creek running through it in the remote village of Calibishie, on the north east coast of the island. We fell for this vibrant village immediately and loved meeting the super friendly locals and wandering the colourful town.
It may not have been that close to a lot of the natural attractions on the island we wanted to visit, but I am so pleased we stayed there.
Other than exploring the two wild beaches that were within a 45 minute walk from the village – Number One and Batibou – we took the bus over to the second largest town on the island, Portsmouth, to check out the local market, swim in the calm waters of its black sand beach and – most importantly – we visited Cabrits National Park which is home to a restored Fort and two hills with spectacular views over the emerald coast.
Our last three days we hired a car and drove all over the island, a lot of the time on some pretty hairy roads. We swam at Mero Beach, took a dip in Emerald Pool under a waterfall, walked through the rainforest in the middle of nowhere looking for parrots, soaked in natural hot pools in Roseau Valley and Soufriere, and climbed to the top of Scott’s Head at the southern tip of the island.
This island completely blew us away, and we are looking forward to coming back to explore more next month.
The last day of month eighteen was frustratingly long, and involved a long wait to check in and board our ferry, rough seas getting over to Guadeloupe, a mission with all our bags trying to find an ATM, then getting lost trying to find our Air BnB apartment, which was made harder due to our lack of French.
Not a great way to end the month but we got there in the end and it’s a great little spot, half way between Grand Anse, a long stretch of golden sand backed by jungle, and the lovely seaside village of Deshaies.
It feels great to be back in France!
Now onto the Stats:
Countries visited: USA, Barbados, Dominica, France (Guadeloupe)
- Colorado: Denver, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs
- Florida: Fort Lauderdale
- Barbados: Speightstown, Paynes Bay, Bathsheba, Bridgetown, Holetown, Oistins, Hastings
- Dominica: Roseau, Portsmouth, Calisbishie, Wotton Waven, Soufriere, Mero Beach
- Guadeloupe: Pointe-a-Pitre, Deshaies
Islands visited: Barbados, Dominica, Guadeloupe (Basse Terre and Grand Terre).
National Parks and Monuments visited:
- Morne Diablotin National Park (Dominica)
- Cabrits National Park (Dominica)
Best meal: Everything at Rainbow Restaurant in Calibishie, Dominica. We frequented this restaurant a lot and tried about five dishes on the menu – we were completely blown away with the taste and quality of every dish. The passionfruit curry lobster with plantain, beans, and rice was probably my favourite but shout out to the lion fish too – who knew that a deadly fish could be so tasty?!
I also have to mention the salt fish cakes at Mullins Beach Restaurant in Barbados – I ate a lot of these delicious little balls during my time in Barbados but Mullins did the best – also, the lunch we had on the snorkelling boat trip in Barbados was awesome – BBQ chicken, flying fish, macaroni pie, and various salads with Malibu fruit cocktails.
Worst meal: Fish burger at the Patty Shack in Roseau, Dominica. With slimy lettuce, cooked cucumber and the worst quality fish you can imagine – this fish sandwich was actually inedible.
Best craft beer: Brainless Raspberries Belgain Ale from Epic Brewing in RiNo, Denver. Such a tasty little beer – a bit tart and full of flavour. One of the best Raspberry wheats I have tasted, and I have tasted a lot.
- East trail in Cabrits National Park, Dominica 2miles/3.2km return
- Scott’s Head Viewpoint, Dominica 1 mile/1.6km return
- Syndicate Nature Trail in Morne Diabotin National Park, Dominica 1mile/1.6km return
Not much hiking per se this past month, but so much walking – along beaches, and around and between towns.
Reading: I have been stepping up my reading game now that I am doing a lot more beach bumming. There were two books I read this month that I really loved: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
Born to Run is a non-fiction book on ultra running. Sounds boring doesn’t it? It isn’t. The main focus of the book is around the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who have the ability to run hundreds of miles over rough terrain without injury, barely breaking a sweat.
Big Little Lies, which is currently being made into a miniseries, is a juicy story about parents behaving badly and someone winding up dead. Here’s the blurb: ‘Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?’
Watching: Lovesick. Loved this British comedy about a group of best friends – two who have been in love with each other for years but haven’t had the courage to actually tell each other. Hilarious, heartwarming and addictively watchable. I can’t wait till they release Season 3.
The Mate Factor and Christmas lights in Manitou Springs
I have mentioned a couple of times before that I love the Yellow Deli, and I have visited two of them – the one in Katoomba, Australia, and the one in Boulder, Colorado. Little did I know that the Mate Factor Cafe in Manitou Springs is also owned by the Yellow Deli, although as soon as I walked in I figured it out – everything was exactly the same except the name. I love this cosy hippy haven and the rooboos latte I had was simply awesome.
We also got to catch the Christmas lights in Manitou Springs just before we left our housesit and being in the mountains with the cold, crisp air, the cute shops and streets of Manitou lovingly adorned with twinkling lights, it definitely made me feel excited for Christmas.
My first American Thanksgiving
My first American Thanksgiving shaped up rather nicely. I took mini pavlovas to bring a touch of Kiwi to the occasion and there was a ridiculous amount of food (of course I had to try everything which lead to a very full belly). Along with all the eating, we also did a group lesson from the pros in the family to learn the moves to the popular line dance for ‘Wobble Baby’, played boardgames, and caught up with all the family – there were about 30 people there which sounds like a lot but is actually only a fraction of Toby’s massive family. My verdict: LOVED it! Looking forward to next year already.
Getting back to the beach
After a six month hiatus for ocean swims, I was ecstatic to finally be getting back to daily swimming once we arrived in Barbados. And with so many gorgeous beaches to choose from, it was something I looked forward to every day of our time on the island. There’s really nothing like floating in natural bodies of water to clear your mind and help relax you – that’s what I have found anyway.
Exploring a historic plantation
St Nicholas Abbey was built in 1658 as a sugarcane plantation house. Sugarcane is still grown on the land today and there is a working rum distillery on the property. We did a tour through the historic house, wandered the trails through the gully, tasted aged rum, watched a 1930’s film taken by the owner at the time’s son, and checked out the displays in the small museum. I love historic homes and St Nicholas Abbey is one of only three genuine Jacobean Mansions in the Western Hemisphere. Nearby is Cherry Tree Hill which offers stunning views over the east coast of the island.
Hanging with our Airbnb hosts
We definitely lucked out with our Airbnb hosts for our first week in Barbados – Sade, Luca and Eli were fantastic, taking us to a couple of their favourite spots for dinner and drinks that we otherwise wouldn’t have found. One night we went to a no name place in Speightstown that had the best tuna I have ever tasted – I don’t usually even like cooked tuna but this spice encrusted version was incredible. I also loved the spiced sweet potato and bread fruit and potato bake. We had sunset drinks and played cards at the awesome Santi Bar overlooking the beach south of where we were staying, and we got a taste of the East Coast when we were taken on a short road trip to a hole in the wall bar and restaurant on a hill overlooking Bathsheba. I always love local experiences when travelling and we certainly got that with these wonderful hosts.
If you want to join Airbnb, do it through my link and get $40 off your first trip!
A day on a boat and snorkelling with turtles
We hadn’t been planning to do one of the boat excursions in Barbados – we don’t do a lot of ‘activities’ on our travels when we are visiting expensive destinations as our budget is low – but when Toby’s friend Ron very kindly bought us tickets for a day trip snorkelling and sailing, we were excited to do it. The day turned out perfect – there weren’t too many people on the boat and it wasn’t a party boat (Thank God), we snorkelled with a couple of turtles off Carlisle Bay and over shallow shipwrecks that were covered in coral and teeming with colourful fish, we sailed up the west coast past gorgeous beaches, the lunch was delicious – a buffet of fresh salads, sides, BBQ chicken and fish, the cocktails were tropical and so tasty, and the boat staff were really great people. And I didn’t get seasick – always a plus! It was such a great day.
Staying in the friendly village of Calibishie
I had read that Calibishie on the north east coast of Dominica was a nice village so when we found a house on Airbnb there that was in our price range, I immediately booked it. It isn’t super close to a lot of the island’s main attractions, they are further south in Roseau Valley, but we ended up loving our time in Calibishie. Practically everyone we passed on the street would stop for a chat and welcomed us to the village, we were regulars at the best restaurant on the island – Rainbow Restaurant – and made friends with the owner Michael, we found a tiny Reggae Bar with a super friendly owner – Carol, and we felt great being in this attractive and colourful seaside village. By the end of the week we were recognising locals in the street and were starting to feel very at home there. I will miss it.
Exploring a restored Fort and overgrown ruins
Before we hired the car, we did a day trip by bus over to Portsmouth with the intent of visiting Cabrits National Park, just north of town. The walk out there was beautiful, past a picturesque black sand beach, but the views once we walked up to restored Fort Shirley took the cake. The north west coast of Dominica is lush and mountainous, and the Fort was the best place to view it from. There were information boards talking about life for the English soldiers who lived in the fort, as well as a number of the original cannons pointed out to sea. From the Fort I walked another trail to the top of the one of the twin hills, passing the overgrown ruins of the Commandants House. There were hermit crabs everywhere and twisting tree roots climbing the stone walls. It was very, very cool.
Checking out the view from the top of Scott’s Head
At the southern tip of Dominica is Scott’s Head, a small peninsula with a hill that can be climbed for awesome views over Soufriere Bay. It was a quick and easy hike to the top via the ruins of a small fort with cannon, and we loved it. It is definitely one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
Issues with getting cash in Dominica
This turned out to not be so big of a deal but we were initially stressing hard when we arrived into Dominica and there was no money exchange or ATM at the airport. I had read that there are only ATMs in the larger cities of Roseau and Portsmouth but our taxi driver said there was one in Calibishie where we were staying. Then we arrived in Calibishie and the only ATM in town wasn’t working. Luckily Toby and Ron both had US dollars and were able to buy something at the supermarket and get change in Eastern Caribbean dollars so we were able to pay for the cab. The next day we went to the Credit Union to change some money so we could catch the bus to Portsmouth to find an ATM, but luckily we were able to withdraw money with the cashier there. So it all turned out OK in the end.
Not gelling with travel companions
I was nervous when Toby told me that his friend Ron and his (much, much younger) girlfriend were joining us for a large chunk of our time in the Caribbean. I hadn’t met either of them and from what I had heard, Ron was more of a luxury resort kind of traveller than a backpacker, and his girlfriend Pamela hadn’t travelled much at all. They were both nice people but my concerns turned out to be well-founded – we had very different ideas of how we wanted to travel, and very different views on life in general. They ended up leaving us much earlier than planned and it was for the best. I think it’s important to always go through expectations before travelling with someone, and this is why.
A long travel day full of mishaps
Our journey from Dominica to the French island of Guadeloupe seemed like it would be pretty straight forward: drop off car rental and catch a ride to the port, pick up our tickets, board the boat for a 2 1/2 hour trip, catch a bus to where we were staying on Guadeloupe, and walk the short distance to the apartment. There turned out to be a bit more to it than that.
The first problem we had was getting stuck behind an excruciatingly slow driver when we were driving the bendy road through the centre of Dominica. I was unable to pass and this delayed us by about 30 minutes.
Once we got to the car rental place in Roseau, we were already late, not that it ended up mattering. We were dropped at the port and were greeted with a long line that was going nowhere fast. We stood around for about an hour before they finally opened check in, then stood around for another hour to wait for our boat, which was late.
The first half of the boat trip was fine, but then we hit open seas between the two islands and it got rough fast. I started to feel sick and I was pretty scared too – I hate turbulence on planes and boats.
We finally arrived in Guadeloupe and it was a long wait to get through immigration, then once we were through, we couldn’t find an ATM to get out euros anywhere. We ended up having to walk into town in the searing heat with all our bags to find one, then back to the port again to catch our bus to Deshaies.
We arrived at the stop we were told to get off at and followed Google maps directions to get to our apartment, but it ended up being the wrong road. I had to go into a hotel and luckily the Receptionist spoke English and was able to ring the apartment owner for me. Turns out there are two roads with the same name, about half a mile from each other. Our host picked us up at the Gas Station and we finally reached our destination – after 11 hours of travel.
Yep, this total is a lot – more than three times what I spent last month. But I had budgeted for a larger spend for our time in the Caribbean – about $3000 for 6 weeks – so I am on track with that. We have actually been able to keep costs down to about $45 per day (not including ferry and flight costs).
One of the highest accommodation months in a while but still not bad considering we spent most of month eighteen in the Caribbean – some people would spend this in just a handful of days to stay in Barbados but this is my half of the accommodation spend for the whole month. We have been staying at vacation rentals and in rooms and apartments through Airbnb which helped us keep our accommodation costs a lot lower than they would be otherwise.
Food and Drink $552
Food is not cheap in the Caribbean and we have had a few splurges, but we have mostly been drinking local beer, cooking our own meals, and eating at cheaper local places when possible. But still, it’s a lot more expensive than the US.
- $6.50 Singlet top
- $30 Maxi dress
- $20 Socks and underwear
I don’t include International flight costs in my round-ups
- Flight from Denver to Fort Lauderdale $78
- Fort Lauderdale Public Transport $2
- Taxi from beach to Air BnB in Fort Lauderdale $5
- Public buses in Barbados $23
- Car hire in Barbados – one day $20
- Taxi from Airport to Air BnB in Dominica $8.50
- Local buses on Dominica $10.50
- Car hire in Dominica and gas – three days $84.50
- Ferry from Dominica to Guadeloupe $73
- Bus from Pointe-a-Pitre to Deshaies in Guadeloupe $4
Ugh, a high month for transport costs, but totally worth it – hiring a car in Barbados and Dominica gave us so much more freedom, and catching the ferry to Guadeloupe was always part of our plans.
- Skeeball $6
- Entrance into St Nicholas Abbey in Barbados $20
- Weekly Pass for Dominica Attractions $12
- Batibou Beach Entry $5
- Hot Springs in Wotton Waven, Dominica $9.50
- Toiletries $21
- PDF Lonely Planet Guide for French Antilles $5
- International bank transfer fee from NZ to AU account $10.50
- Snorkel and mask $15
- Day Planner $4.50
- Departure tax for Dominica $23
- Tip for boat trip in Barbados $5
- Charity $4
What’s in store for next month:
The first week of the month will be spent in our cute studio apartment near Deshaies, where we plan to just chill for a while, having a low key Christmas and swimming at the beach. We are going to look at hiring a car for a couple of days to explore the National Park and perhaps do some diving (Toby) and snorkelling (me).
I also have my heart set on climbing La Grande Soufrière – an active volcano that towers over Basse Terre, the island in Guadeloupe that we are staying on.
For New Years, we have booked a studio on the island of Terre Haut, one of the Les Saintes, an idyllic group of islands south of the main islands of Guadeloupe. I have read great things about Les Saintes and am very eager to get over there and see these islands for myself.
After Les Saintes, we will head back to Guadeloupe for a week to see more of the main islands of Grand Terre and Basse Terre, before catching the ferry back to Dominica for a few more days to check out the hot springs, waterfalls, and lakes of Roseau Valley, including hopefully hiring a guide to hike to Boiling Lake, the second largest boiling lake in the world.
After six weeks exploring the Caribbean, we will fly back to Fort Lauderdale for a night before catching a flight to one of my favourite countries in the world: Mexico!
The last ten days of month nineteen will be spent travelling in the Yucatan Peninsula, a region I travelled through briefly back in 2012.
We don’t have any set plans but there are many, many ideas including island time on Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox, visiting the colonial towns of Valladolid and Izamal, checking out Merida, ruin hopping (Coba and Chichen Itza are possibilities) and lots of cenote and beach time.
I can’t wait!!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here