Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Titiwi Festival 2010, Dominica

I went to the first Layou Titiwi Festival in Dominica reunion year 2008 and I remember having a great time and thinking "I hope they do this again next year". The event was jointly organised by the Layou Improvement Committee (LIC) and Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation (WEF) in celebration of World Rivers Day, celebrated in the last weekend of September. Now in it's third year, I think it has rightly earned it's place to be promoted in Dominica's calendar of "must-visit" annual events.

This weekend 25th & 26th, the Layou village was once again transformed into Titiwi village. I was there the Saturday and Sunday, arrived far too early on the Saturday and probably left too early on the Sunday (must listen to the radio more). It looked like Saturday was more of a night time thing and Sunday a more family affair during the day, followed by the requisite "jump up" in the evening.

The activities were pretty similar to last year. The Wacky Rollers crew did a great job, as usual, organising the zip lining for kids of all ages, all sizes, boys and plenty girls too. Only charging a nominal price it meant that for many kids this was a new experience, one they might not otherwise be able to afford. Watching the different expressions coming done the line made me laugh so much. There was also sack racing, football, volleyball, Rodney's Rock boat trips and a new cool addition for this year, the ATV vehicles.

And of course there was LOTS of titiwi. Cute 'n' colourful, palm leaf decorated booths lined the beach and served titiwi in every form imaginable, titiwi pizza, pasta, accra, sancoche, steamed, smoked, pie, lasagne and in some forms I really could not imagine like "Titiwi punch"???
I admit titiwi dishes are not the most attractive and not to everyone's taste so although the spotlight was certainly on this diminutive, translucent gobi fish, you could still get other varieties of fish, breadfruit, provisions, bakes and of course chicken.

The wide beach and river makes an ideal setting and even resident Dominicans, who are not familiar with the area, often comment that they never knew Layou village had such a big beach. Unfortunately the quarry and equipment in the background is a real "blot on the landscape" and ruins the backdrop as well as the environmental message; as does the big barge transporting tarish to wherever.
Overall the environmental aspect and "World Rivers Day" celebration, part of the original festival concept, seemed to have been side-lined this year which was a shame.

I think it's important for residents and visitors to patronise and support "community" events like this one. You don't even have to add the word "tourism" at the end because the way I see it, the benefit and attraction of many of these initiatives, is that they started off as grass roots, "bottom up", community ventures first and foremost, which visitors became interested in often because of their authenticity. They did not start off as disconnected "only aimed at tourist" projects and consequently hopefully stand a greater chance of survival when some crisis or another impacts the numbers of tourists coming to the island.
Mr Lazare and the rest of LIC are doing a great job and I truly hope Titiwi Festival grows from strength to strength and benefits Layou and surrounding communities.
I also hope that as it expands it keeps sight of the key ingredients, (not just the titiwi), that makes it such a popular event for both resident and visitor alike.

For more information click Layou Community Tourism website

Click for Slideshow - A sample from the weekend
Click for Slideshow - All photos from the weekend
Click for Slideshow - All Titiwi festival photos

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Waitukubuli National Trail, Segment 5, Dominica

Walking, I think, is one of the best ways to get a real feel for Dominica, giving a more “up-close” experience and encouraging a personal connection not easily obtained from a car or bus.
Dominica already has several great hiking trails but the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) is well on the way to becoming the ultimate island hike. Broken up into 14 segments and totalling around 95-115 miles, the trail will traverse the island from top to bottom. It is estimated, that once finished, average hikers can complete the whole trail in around 2 weeks.
The success of the trail to bring tangible economic benefits, relies on community participation and support to provide auxiliary services such as accommodation, transportation, food, beverages, guides etc (that is assuming of course we resolve the issue of actually getting hikers in large enough numbers to come to Dominica in the first place). A full understanding of what the WNT is all about, what is planned and what is required from the communities it passes, is therefore crucial.
On 29th August the WNT project team organised a public awareness activity day with various competitions and challenges for all ages; Kiddies Baton Relay event, Negre Mawon Iron Team Hike, Heritage Photography and Literature Challenge etc.
The photography challenge took place along part of segment 5, Emerald Pool to Pont Casse, not the most dramatic segment but a really pretty hike nonetheless; scenic rainforest paths and river crossings too. I am so thankful that my past, my history is rooted on this island and walking along the trail I was happy to recall childhood stories from my Mum and her siblings. They had walked these very same paths before roads from Castle Bruce to Roseau, lighting their way with flambeaus and scaring themselves with folklore tales of soucouyants and lajabless.
I love hiking; it is one of my passions. I love the physical exertion, the onslaught on all the senses, the primal awe it inspires and everything that goes with hiking in Dominica, including sometimes getting very dirty and wet. As with other hikes around the island, I emerged from this rain forest hike, with a renewed respect for nature and a deepening of my possessive love for Waitukubuli.
The WNT is a great idea and I wish everyone involved the very best of luck with it, from those who came up with the initial concepts, to the teams who have to make it all happen. It is a huge amount of work with some serious challenges to overcome but having walked a few segments already I am really looking forward to its completion.
You never know, it may just make the National Geographic Top Trails list one day.

Click on the following links to find out more about the WNT.
Waitukubuli National Trail Website
Waitukubuli National Trail Feasibility Study
Waitukubuli National Trail Segment 5 Photo Slideshow