Monday, February 22, 2010

Tram Through the Rain Forest

Dominica has a rain forest up in the mountains and a tram ride through the canopy that sounded interesting so we decided to give it a try. It's run by a company that also has similar tram rides throughout the Caribbean. The installation is massive and looks like it could stand a mag 7 earthquake. Everything was flown in by helicopter, we're told, since there was no access for such large structures via the local roads. By the way, the drive up to the facility in our rental car is an experience not to be missed (ha!) The road was recently blocked by several landslides and we went by a half dozen road crews cleaning out the debris with one lane traffic in many places. If you've been reading this blog you already know how narrow the roads are and how fast everyone (except me!) drives. Narrow roads aren't that much of a problem given our experience in France and elsewhere in the Caribbean but what continues to make the Dominica driving experience unique is the road design that includes a right angle, concrete gutter along the edge of the road you would normally expect the shoulder to be. If you go over too far to avoid a careering oncoming car, your tire will disappear into the depths of the gutter (about a two to three feet deep). We watched that happen to the van in front of us as he was trying to avoid a rather large bus. Luckily, this time the gutter was on the inside of the road instead of the outside where there was a hundred foot cliff. Adding to the adventure is the steepness of the roads, approaching 40 degrees in places! All with blind curves, slippery gravel and the ever present oncoming dump truck loaded with gravel.
However, we eventually did find the place and bought our tickets for the tram ride ($64 each). We road in a car suspended from overhead cables, just like at a ski resort. We glided through the forest canopy and were captivated by the the 100's shades of green of the plants, amazing.

Halfway we stopped for a short hike over to a suspension bridge over a gorge 350 feet below. Everybody elected to go (not everyone always elects) and the view down was electric. Along the way we admired the Bird of Paradise flowers shown in the photo and were given a close up and person tour of the largest trees on our way back to the tram.

On the way down, the tram rides along the top of the canopy for a different view of the forest. At the bottom we collected ourselves and prepared our nerves for the car ride down. We had wanted to have lunch at a famous local restaurant but took a wrong turn, wandered around awhile on the narrow, steep roads just for kicks and eventually found the restaurant after asking a few of the locals. I must say that the people on Dominica have been the friendliest of any we've met in the Caribbean! They are always ready to help. I've never seen them angry in the dense traffic of town and they always give way to pedestrians.

After lunch we headed home for our customary rum punch on the porch while watching another beautiful sunset, what a day.