The small and impoverished country of Dominica has a few natural wonders to attract the cruising traveller. For example, there is a volcanic boiling lake on top of Morne Trois Piton National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The kind of thing I would usually go for, but it’s an 18 km mountain hike and there were risks of rain. So, after several days of continuous day tours and, in my case, quite sore from my Flyboarding experience, we decided to take it easy in Dominica and just spend the day walking around town.
In hindsight, it was not the best idea, as there is really not much to see or do in the country’s capital, Roseau, seen here from the highest structure in the area, our ship. Honestly, the small country does not often make the news. But in 1981, it did.
As I was reading a little bit about my next destination, I stumbled upon an incredible story dating back to a time when I certainly didn’t read the news. Colonel Patrick John was the Prime Minister of Dominica at the time of independence, in 1978. In 1979, he was forced out of office by mass protests and, following the elections of 1980, replaced by Eugenia Charles. In 1981, she faced two coups, one from the Dominican Military and one from John, who wanted to overthrow her Government using foreign mercenaries.
Now the best part: this black Dominican man wanted to overthrow this black Dominican woman, using an outfit of mercenaries composed of members of the American Ku Klux Klan and Canadian neo-Nazis led by Wolfgang Droege, with the whole thing allegedly financed by a successful German-Canadian real estate investor, Martin K. Weiche, himself a fringe neo-Nazi politician and former actual German Nazi in the days of the Third Reich. In the deal, the former Premier would get back in power, and in turn facilitate Weiche and others in establishing businesses in the country. The strange coup may also have involved dreams of moving the local population to Canada and establishing some sort of Arian Nazi utopia on the Island!
Not sure how to comment on something so strange, so here’s the outcome. The ATF got wind of this and passed it on to the local police. The gang, along with a Barbadian arms dealer, were arrested in New Orleans with a ship full of weapons and explosives. Col John was tried in Dominica and served 12 years in jail for attempting to overthrow the Government. The rest were tried in the US but incredibly, they only got a misdemeanour conviction for violating the American Neutrality Act of 1794 (making it illegal to launch a military operation from the US, against “any foreign prince or state of whom the United States was at peace”). They got a three year sentence, but I don’t know how long they actually served. Completely. Totally. Incredible.
On the ground today, the most interesting attraction was this school bus, crushed by an African Baobab during Hurricane David in 1979. Fortunately, no one was on board (it would have been a rather stupid place to hide from 240 km/h winds!).
Both the bus and this strange bamboo house are located in the Botanic Garden Dominica, a free attraction about 10 minutes on foot from the centre of town.
The National Museum (second floor only).
Very similar to The Louvre, in that they are both the best museum in their respective countries.
The tourist market, seen from the museum’s second floor. Souvenir vendors and touts for tour companies were rather insistent in Dominica. Not aggressively so, like in Morocco or India, but much more so than is typical in the very, very laid back Caribbean. Perhaps this has to do with the fact people in Dominica are rather poor compared to the other places where we stopped during the week.
The pretty impressive Government House, where the President resides. A little over the top for an impoverished country with a total population under 72,000.
Parliamentarians didn’t get this level of architectural extravagance when the Legislature was built.
A boarded up old church.
Bored and unable to find the restaurant I had read about, we headed back to the ship early and bought a Happy Hour bucket of Heineken at the ship’s sordid pool bar.
Next, our favourite port of call of the week, Grenada.