We were very chuffed that our grandmother was coming – hey, we get an aircon and a car! (We are still hiring the aircon even though she’s gone. It’s just waaaaay too hot without it!) We also moved from a swing mooring to dock A, which was a bit open to the bay, but at least meant that Ouma wouldn’t have to get into a rubber duck to get onto the boat. (Later we moved to a more sheltered dock – dock C – but that was only after she had arrived.)
The day we picked her up from the airport happened to be election day for T&T (Trinidad and Tobago). We thought we left ourselves lots of room, leaving an hour and three quarters early. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The GPS insisted on taking us on a lot of back roads. (With the best of intentions – the information it was working with said that the main road was going very slowly. Too bad the back roads weren’t any faster, even without the traffic!)
We arrived an hour after her plane was supposed to have landed. (Three hours in traffic.) We did this manoeuvre where we took the car round and dropped three of our number right outside the airport to go and find Ouma while the other lot went to go park the car. I was part of the ‘’go find Ouma’’ group, so off we sped and hurried as fast as possible toward foreign arrivals. We were so blessed, because our grandmother’s plane hadn’t landed yet! We actually had to wait 15 minutes before she came out!
When she did arrive, we all swamped her of course, and chatted all the way back to Chaguaramas. On arriving at the boat we unpacked all the stuff she brought over from SA for us. ^_^ Yay! Some proper chutney at last!
She had arrived on the Monday, and unfortunately there were people working on the boat that week, so we couldn’t go anywhere specific for a few days. It did give poor Ouma some time to try and get used to the tropical heat without any strenuous exercise.
On Thursday we went to the military museum that was like 5km down the road from Power Boats. (The marina where we are staying.) The most prominent thing about it – when you are approaching it – is the airplane. It stands above all the ground hugging buildings and the other military jeeps and stuff on display.
There is also a restaurant there which is in much better condition than the museum itself. (My guess is that the museum can’t really support itself, and so the people are really depending on the restaurant.)
When we first went in it looked like we might be done in an hour or so, but the museum is much more extensive than we had guessed! The building hadn’t looked that big from outside, but whoever had set up the stuff in there had really done their job well. It was like a maze you walked through, and all the information was interesting. It’s actually very sad – it looks like a lot of money and effort went in to establish it, but there isn’t enough for the upkeep.
It started with all the pirates of the Caribbean, working its way up until the Second World War. There was one story of a woman who had a whole pirate career in something like four years. Her name was Anne Bonny, and she had a few years of extremely intense pirating, and was then captured. She was due to be executed, but she was pregnant at the time, so they put it off. After that she basically disappeared. It was fascinating 😉
That first week we didn’t do a lot during the week, but that Saturday we went to ASA Wright centre. That was one of the best trips we did! ^_^ It was soooo nice! We had to drive for quite a bit to get there – winding roads, and a lot of uphill.
The ASA Wright centre used to be a plantation. The last owner was a woman who had come from Europe, and who had decided to make the plantation into a wildlife reserve. The centre itself is only a small part, and I think the whole area is now a wildlife reserve. You can drive in up to a certain point, but there is a lot of the mountain you can’t reach with a car.
We arrived at about 10:30 and arranged for an 11 o’clock tour. They have a few rooms people can pay to stay in for a night or two, and these people are allowed to walk the trails alone, but they keep the general public out, so as to keep down the number of visitors. They have a cave there that is one of only a few places the Oil Bird nests They used to take down every tour they had, to go and see them, but then the birds left the cave. So now they have scaled down to two visits per week.
There was a little rain before we left, but it cleared up, and we headed out into the rainforest. It was beautiful! The guide showed us a few of the flowers and told us more about them, and I was fascinated by the leafcutter ants. They make a huge colony, but there isn’t a new queen when the old one dies. A queen will live on average about 15 years, making new kings and queens in her lifetime. These will then go out and make new colonies, but when she dies, the colony dies with her. Another random fact – if it starts to rain, they will drop whatever they were carrying and run for the colony. The colony we saw looked deserted, but she showed us that they were just still hiding after the rain. (We even saw a trail of the abandoned leaf clippings!)
We also saw a few birds, and the exoskeleton of a type of bug that only comes out every 17 years. There are different species – this type won’t come out all at once, but over the whole season. Next year though, you won’t find any!
When we reached the end of the tour, the rain really started pouring down. At first we thought it wouldn’t last that long, and just sort of started trudging back. At last we realised it was just going to keep on coming! So we started running for the shed some way up the path. By the time the grownups caught up to us, the rain started lighting up some. (Not soon enough for us though – we were soaked!) Once we reached the veranda it started raining again though.
We had a great time. We watched all the hummingbirds drink from the feeders, and all the other birds that were in the garden. (Hummingbirds are more active in cooler weather, so we actually saw a LOT!)
We bought some coffee that was made from the plantation’s own coffee beans, which was delicious. I don’t usually drink coffee, but we were all cold, so it was nice. (The first time since arriving in the tropics that I was actually cold again!)
There was a tarantula that was walking about under the roof, and one of the guides caught it in a net and let it walk on his arms. He also allowed us to try – they weigh more than I expected, and yet they’re lighter than I expected. Don’t ask me why – I have no idea!
While we were driving back, we discovered that we couldn’t just leave. The rain had done some damming up, and so the road was under water. We had to wait about a half hour/hour before we could continue home. (Apparently this had been one of the worst rains they had had this season.)
Eventually the water went down enough so that we could pass, but since the car we had was a very low one, we weren’t taking chances.
Sunday was my Grandmother’s birthday, so we sang and did presents before going to church, (really nice church, by the way – we settled right in) and after church we were planning to go to the botanical gardens. That was a wonderful idea, but didn’t happen. -_- There is only one road out of Chaguaramas, and there was some parade filling up that street! (The parade had something to do with the new political party that had been elected.) The Plan had been to pack all the stuff we needed for a picnic (our Basic Picnic Kit) and then buy lunch on the way out of Chaguaramas. As this was not possible, we stopped at a Chinese takeout place, and got some Chinese food for lunch. ^_^
Since we couldn’t go to the botanical gardens, we went down tucker valley. There were some picnic tables under big trees there, so we had lunch there. (Yum!) Had an impromptu photo shoot too, so we have some nice ones of Ouma on her birthday. =)
The Monday there was a specific job that needed doing, so we didn’t get out, but on Tuesday we ventured forth once more to go see another corner of Trinidad. There is a golf course in Chagauramas, and in this golf course there is a waterfall. Or rather, a few little waterfalls. We spent the late afternoon doing the 20 min walk to the waterfall, and suffering from mosquito attacks!
Wednesday we went to go see the pitch lake. It is quite a long car ride to the south of Trinidad, and we spent two hours in the car before we reached it. It was a rainy day, and because it is summer (Trinidad’s wet season) we had to walk around the water which had dammed up, becoming too deep to cross.
There are lilies growing in the water, and quite a few birds in the area. (We learned a little about cashew nut trees as well – apparently the nut has a layer of oil on it that will cause blisters to form on your hands and your mouth, if not washed off. )
The whole place has a peculiar smell – almost like a petrol station. It feels like there shouldn’t be such chemical stuff lying around naturally! 😉 The lake itself is hard, but has patches here and there (most on one side) that are more liquid. They used to mine it, but at the moment they aren’t because of a strike.
They also need to pump the water out during the wet season, otherwise the dip fills with water. (The level of the pitch lake is much lower than the surrounding countryside, since a lot of mining has obviously already taken place.
Hehe, we kept on wanting to call it a tar pit 😉
The same day (on the way back from the pitch lake) we went to go see the temple in the sea. It was built originally by a man who came from India as a laborer. He didn’t make a lot of money, but each year he scraped together enough to buy passage back to India so he could worship at a specific temple there. But one year he couldn’t manage it, so he decided to build his own temple in Trinidad. He used to haul supplies with a truck, and when that broke he used a bicycle. He used it for a while, and planted the most beautiful flowers there. A lot of the people liked it. –Except the water company on whose ground he had built it. I can’t remember if they told him before to get off the land, or if they only told him after he had already built the temple, but he refused anyway. So they smashed the temple.
He then began all over again, building a temple at the same place, but out to sea, far enough so that they couldn’t complain that he was building on their land. I think this temple eventually also was destroyed, by the sea, I think. But then the community decided to build this temple to remember him by? Maybe just because he was so determined.
Thursday we went to Maracas beach! It’s the place where you eat bake’n’shark. =)
The road there is renowned as the most difficult, winding, twisting, narrow road in Trinidad. One of our youth leaders said her dad had made her do the drive to Maracas just after she had got her license, and after that she was paranoid of driving till after university. 😉
The bake’n’shark is like a big vetkoek that has a piece of shark on it. They give it to you just like that, and then you get to put on what toppings and sauces you like – for example, they’d have tomato, raw cabbage strips, carrots and more. For sauces they have a big variety, and one of the favorites is lots of hot sauce!
(They eat everything in Trinidad hot, completely opposite from Brazil!)
The sea was nice, we enjoyed the swim a lot – not overly spectacular, but very nice.
After swimming, we went driving up the road a bit before heading back. ( I can’t remember finding anything in particular.)
There was a specific stand on the road to Maracas which was at an awesome lookout point. We bought some Trinidadian goodies for the trip. (Very sugary!)
That night we also went to the cruisers potluck. It’s held every Thursday night, and the exact equivalent of a bring-and-braai. (Normal potlucks don’t include the ‘grill’, but this one does.) We do it every Thursday night, and it’s a great way to get to know more of the cruisers.
Gaspary Caves . . .
Friday we went to Gaspary caves. They are on Gaspary Island, which is a tiny little island in the middle of the harbour. We rode our dingys over, and at first had a little trouble finding the caves! We were lucky enough to talk to someone who could ring up the guide and get us on the tour (the one and only) for that day. (My dad had tried calling the guide several times during the week. No success.)
Anyway, off we sped around the island to the correct location. We tied up the dingys and walked up the cement path that winds around privately owned properties all the way to the caves. The group we were to go with was already there (the guy who called for us had basically just caught them before they went into the caves). They were quite a rowdy group, but we enjoyed the caves despite them – it was just to amazingly beautifully wonderful! I think this is my favourite spot in Trinidad.
There are two or three sinkholes that let in light to the cave, and underneath the biggest one is the saltwater pool that is in the cave. The water is crystal clear, because it comes from very deep, and the water isn’t stagnant, since the tide makes the water level fall and rise every day. We were allowed to swim in it, and my dad was very sorry he hadn’t brought his snorkel and the underwater camera. (We did go back to the cave once when my grandmother was already gone, so he did get his chance.)
There was one formation I especially liked – when you shone a torch on it, it looked as if it was covered in diamonds. *_* Loved it 😉 Unfortunately cave photos are never as spectacular as the real deal. Ever. The cave was truly magnificent, and one of the places that strengthens my conviction that you can’t capture moments effectively with camera. It’s just not the same.
Saturday we went to the market first thing. It was all the grownups, Franci and I that went. (Karin and Sophia were sleeping over at the Knechtle’s house – they are an American family we met at the church). It was interesting, and strange. I guess all markets have their own style of strangeness.
Later that day we picked up Karin and Sophia and headed over to Caroni swamp – the place where you can see the red ibises. It wasn’t the right season, as most of the ibises were still at the breeding site, but some of them had started returning to the main sleeping area. They are a beautiful red colour, and our boat ride was a lot of fun. =) The guide was very knowledgeable. (He had apparently been doing this since he was too small to handle the boat on his own! They always sent him with someone who could handle the boat while he did the tour.)
Sunday was my dad’s birthday, (which meant an Yskastert of course – Fridge tart) and Monday we used to catch up on abstract stuff, also to make ready for the next day.
The next day we went on our Tobago tour! ^_^ We had to get up really early, load everything into the car, and drive to the ferry terminal. Then we had to check in and wait around for a really long time before we were loaded into the ferry. (We had to drive the car into the ferry, which was rather cool.) The ferry is BIG. When we were sailing into Trinidad with Shang Du I saw these ferries go by, and when I saw it for the first time I thought there were some strange clouds on the horizon – turns out they weren’t clouds! It was the ferry’s wake!
We enjoyed the ride over, (I think mostly because there was a movie playing – Avengers 2 😉 but also because it was just new and exciting (We were much more blasé on the way back ^_^ ).
When we arrived we were met by our tour guide, and drove over first thing to the apartments we would be staying in for the time we were there. We left all our stuff there, and piled into his maxi van. We had a great tour, both that day and the next. He showed us a lot of things, and it was a great way to experience Tobago with Ouma. (By the way – you pronounce Tobago ‘To-bay-go’)
We went swimming at a waterfall, snorkelled some at little Tobago, had a much nicer snorkel at Charlottesville, enjoyed some nice T&T food at restaurants with beautiful views. We also had some yummy mangoes. (I have ascertained that I don’t like Julie mangoes, but I do like little green mangoes. Don’t know what they’re called though. )
We went to little Tobago in a glass-bottom boat, had a mini tour there, went snorkeling in two different locations. (Charlottesville, the second location, was the best one. The water wasn’t clear enough at little Tobago.)
There was a rubber tree he showed us – you can see all the cuts in the bark where previous people have already cut the tree to see it.
(Right) The guide stopped randomly at the side of the road, and asked if this was a sheep or a goat. We all answered ‘goat’, but he then informed us that it was indeed a sheep – sheep don’t survive here if they have long wool, so they look more like this.
Our visit to little Tobago included seeing tree-climbing land hermit crabs! 😉 (The guide told us he’d never before actually seen one climbing a tree, so that was new.) Those are about as big as your hand, by the way . . .
Sophia loved these – they are spiders that dig into the mud bank, and then make a little door for themselves. There are sticks at the entrance of the ”cave” that help the spider detect if an insect is walking by. The spider then comes out and attacks! Here the guide was dragging a miniature twig over those little twigs to trick the spider into making an appearance. (It worked)
The snorkeling wasn’t great, since the visibility was low, but it was still cool =)
We enjoyed our time in little Tobago a lot. =)
Ouma flew back to South Africa on Saterday evening. We had a great time while she was here! =) Mis jou Ouma! ;*