…I was in Barbados and it was day 3 into our 35 day trip to the Caribbean. We took the bus from Christ Church to the capital city, Bridgetown.
Meat donut. Your choice of sausage or minced meat. We got the coconut.
I couldn’t resist sharing another image from the presentation I am working on and will be giving later this month.
This is Giant Milkweed (Gossypium). The only time I saw it on the trip was when we travelled to the north end of Barbados to visit the Animal Flower Cave. The cave was a must-do item for me. When I was growing up, my mother, who is from Barbados, spoke of it fondly. What she described was an ocean-side cave filled with blooming flower animals: sea anemones. Unfortunately, the anemone population has dwindled significantly over the years. While the cave and the surrounding landscape was fantastic, and one of the highlights of the Barbados leg of our trip, what I saw was nothing like the cave as it would have been in my mother’s day.
But I digress. When I hopped off of the last of a three bus journey, the very first plant I noticed was the Giant Milkweed. How could I miss it? It looked like an overgrown version of the milkweed that grows in dry landscapes here in Toronto. The landscape at the north end of the island, and on Barbados in general, is quite dry and flat. There are a lot of dry fields. For that reason, I didn’t see this plant in Dominica, an island that is almost entirely mountainous rainforest!
I did some research and discovered that Giant Milkweed is sometimes called “pillow cotton” because the giant pods are filled with a soft and silky fibre that was once used to fill pillows. How appropriate. You see, for a good month prior to our trip I worried endlessly about the availability of a decent pillow in Dominica and wondered aloud to anyone who would listen as to how I might pack my pillow in addition to all the books and camera gear I felt necessary. This is all because I read somewhere that there was a pillow shortage in Dominica due to a fire, and that it is hard to get stuff there period, regardless. Which is true.
I know this sounds very Princess and the Pea, but I assure you that I can sleep on rocks as long as I have a good pillow. I NEED my pillow. Of course, after all of that fuss, I forgot the pillow at home and then worried about it endlessly during our 4 days in Barbados. Where could I get a pillow? When would I get a pillow and would it take me over Liat’s minuscule carry on limit?
I should have harvested some “pillow cotton” from the Giant Milkweed and made my own while I had the chance.
Amazingly, later that night — our last night in Barbados, and well after I had resigned myself to “suck it up already”– I purchased the perfect pillow from a group of ladies (the Pillow Ladies), and at the fish market of all places!
It’s about as hot as the Caribbean out there this week, if not hotter, so I thought I’d dip back into the pool of photos I took on the first real day of our month long journey through the Caribbean this past December. I still remember the giddiness we felt knowing that we had over 30 days without hardcore work or serious responsibility ahead of us. FREEDOM.
We began the trip in Barbados, staying in Christ Church for 4 days before heading to Dominica, our primary destination. There are no International flights to Dominica, so traveling there means flying to another island and transferring via a local airline such as Liat. Since we had to go somewhere else anyways, I suggested flying into Barbados and staying there a few days since it is where my mother is from and where my maternal relatives (aunts, uncle, grandmother, cousins) emigrated from to Canada. We didn’t stay long because it is a very high-traffic touristy place that would easily eat into our budget. I also had personal reasons against staying there long and was most eager to get to Dominica. Now that I’ve been, I regret that we didn’t stay longer and I would like to go back. Barbados and Dominica are very different places in more ways than just population and traffic. Barbados is a coral island, while Dominica is volcanic.The landscape is very flat and the heat incredibly dry compared to Dominica, which is entirely mountainous and predominantly covered in rain forest.
We started the first day of our trip hoping to walk from our hotel in Christ Church, through the countryside, and into Oistens, a fishing town that was listed at about 2 miles away. Of course, we got started just before noon, the hottest part of the day. The hotel receptionist looked appalled when we asked for a map or directions. Surely these winter-white Canadians do not think they can make it all that way through the heat! And we didn’t, but we put in a good effort and did continue walking past Oistens later in the day after we gave up and hitched a ride with a local van-bus.
Oh how I LOVED the public bus system in Barbados. The rides were often too fast and furious, the wait for buses unbearably slow, and at times we were packed in like sardines (Was it 20 people in a van one night, Davin?). And yet it turned out to be the very best way to see the island and connect with people. I had as much fun riding the buses as I did swimming in the ocean and discovering tropical plants. Dominica has a similar bus system but with a much, much smaller ridership, which made for an incredibly frustrating and impossible system to navigate. I am not exaggerating when I say that it took several hair-pulling attempts and the entire three weeks of our stay before we finally cracked the secret code that dictates where to catch buses and when. And that was with a lot of help from locals!! No one wants to give bad news, so time and time again we’d be told “Soon come” or “You’re alright, man!” as a reply to when the bus was coming and if we were waiting in the right spot… only to discover later on that there were no more buses that day and we were NOT waiting in the right spot for any bus!
In Barbados there were bus signs everywhere, buses constantly honked to ask if you wanted on, and it always cost exactly $1.50. On only one occasion did I truly worry about catching a bus when we sat on the side of the road WAYYYY on the other side of the island for almost 2 hours at dusk hoping to god that a bus would come before dark so we wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of nowhere without cash, maps, bank machines, food, or a sense of direction.
But I digress. Tangent, tangent, tangent. What I really set out to do today was show a few pictures of plants and gardens we saw one day in Barbados…Leave a comment
I thought I’d post a sunny photo today since we’ve been living under grey skies all week and I’m about to collapse into a no-sun, low-energy coma. Although, scrolling through folders of photos of us frolicking in the Caribbean a few months ago is kind of miserable in its own way.
I took this photo on the first of a short four-day stay in Barbados, where I saw lots of wonderfully fragrant fragipani (Plumeria) trees in bloom. If you have never smelled a real frangipani bloom I hope you get the chance someday. They are extremely sweet, soft and rich. For many they epitomize tropical floral fragrance.
We walked for miles through the countryside on that first day trying to see as much as we could. It’s a good thing I soaked it all in while I had the chance because I don’t believe I saw a single frangipani through the following three weeks. Frangipani plants do not like their roots to be waterlogged. Barbados has a MUCH drier climate than Dominica so I figure that has got to be the reason.
Here’s a link to the photo and story of the very first frangipani plant I had a chance to see and smell, ten years ago.Leave a comment
Can you believe the size of this thing? Me neither. I have not seen a euphorbia of this size before or since.
This photo was taken at the Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Bathsheba, Barbados.
Euphorbia make up a very large and diverse genus of plants, but because of the size I believe this plant may be one of the tree euphorbia (e. abyssinica, etc) that we North Americans commonly grow as houseplants. We have two in our bedroom; ailing plants that Davin bought from a corner store years ago, repotted, and nursed back to health. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, they will never grow to be more than a tiny fraction of the size of this tree.
One of the many things I brought back from this trip (or the Barbados portion of it anyways) was a new respect and appreciation for euphorbias. Now to find myself a nice Euphorbia lactea for my collection.
Here’s an encore minus the cheesy tourist.
Leave a comment