The Jacoway Inn, Dominica : Storming Back To Business
The deep blue Atlantic Ocean gleams under a hot Caribbean sun. The cool, sweet tradewinds blow a cleansing breeze into the beachfront mainstreet of Calibishie adding to the recuperative sense of regeneration found throughout the lower village and the surrounding community in the hills behind.
It is late May, and eight months after catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Maria dealt a mighty blow to Dominica, and this northern seaside village of Calibishie seems to be showing the rest of the island how to ‘get over it’ and get back to the business!
On an island whose principle income is eco and adventure-tourism, about 55% of visitor accommodation is still closed countrywide. But here the main street is buzzing, with most of the small hotels and resorts open for business. At the northern end Verandah View Guest House right on the beachfront has just reopened, looking sparkling and all buffed up. In the middle, a few steps from the Calibishie Primary School, seventy-something proprietor of Austrie’s who opened his store within 7 days of the storm is still serving the best local lunch since time immemorial.
Austrie’s serves out back on a little wooden gazebo over the water, and has seized the moment to brighten up his paintwork; and at the other end, on the opposite side of the road just after the small, detritus free ‘Balasuah’ River marking the southern entrance to the village is A and A Low Price Centre.
The cheerful owner boasts the only air-conditioned Wine Room in Dominica and the only store outside of Roseau that has a working electronic Visa payment facility. Its true, we tested both!
When approximately 25% of the island still has no electricity, and (un)relies on petrol driven Chinese made generator power of a doubtful wattage, Calibishie literally is a bright energised beacon lighting the way forward!
The village faces due north although positioned on the eastern side of the island, but avoids the brunt of the long Atlantic rollers on their unobstructed 3000 miles journey from Saharan Africa behind a deep reef. Even Maria was unable to change the shape of that natural defence, which de-powered the hurricane driven waves which otherwise would have caused untold destruction to the beachfront community.
Lunch at Mr. Austrie’s sitting out over the water was good local chicken and ‘provisions’.
Now in May poised on the edge of the next hurricane season, we are self sufficient again in local vegetables including dasheen, tania, and even (after 8 months) plantain and green bananas. The growing cycle of a banana plant takes 8 months, and we are only now seeing our first ripe bananas.
Local chicken farmers lost nearly all of their stock, and it has taken up until now to see chicken and eggs that are not expensively imported and of doubtful provenance. Alas, coffee, cocoa, avocado and citrus harvests are at least another year away, although there are mangos and a few avocadoes apparent in parts of the island that perhaps were little more sheltered from the worst of the 200 mile-an-hour gusts. The calm inner lagoon fiercely lit by sunlight, is clear to the bottom, and we can see no wreckage and signs of the September savagery lying either along the beach or in the water along the bay. So many of our beaches and harbours are still littered with the signs of destruction, this is such a welcome change.
Our wonderful, indomitable hostess for the day Carol Ann Watson, a Canadian who has lived on Dominica for 12 years and run several hospitality businesses, drove us down to Point Baptiste the southern end of Calibishie bay. Cloud 9, with its high end accommodation, is open for business there, looking pristine from its stunning position overlooking the rocky Bay and further out, the French islands of Marie Galante and Guadeloupe.
Carol Ann, the irrepressible proprietress of Jacoway Inn, had told us on the phone that Calibishie and its surrounding community were well ahead of the rest of the country in its getting back to business process, I am not sure we quite believed it till we saw it with our own eyes.