2019 - Travels in the Eastern Caribbean, Year 8
Arrived in Trinidad for the 8th season. Nice to be back and to see old friends.
New Years Day Gam
Jesse James hosted his usual New Years Day GAM for the Trini. Cruisers at the Wheelhouse Pub. It is the seasons first GAM for the Seven Sea's Cruising Association (SSCA) and Ocean Cruising Club (OCC). This years speaker talked about the many snakes of Trinidad. He brought a number along to show us.
The New Years day celebration came to an end with a 4am wakeup with chest pains. A short dingy ride to shore followed by a taxi arranged by Jesse brought me to medical help.
The medical help in Trinidad is excellent. After some immediate attention, I was taken by ambulance to the caridiac care unit in the San Fernando General Hospital. There I spent five days recovering. Many thanks to the Cruisers who visited and brought necessary clothing and supplies.
Finally, back to the boat and starting the process of recovery. Proper diet and physical therapy being high on the list. My continuing care, included my local doctor, a visit to the hospital to have a follow up check up, and begining treatment with the VA.
Some observations, that apply to medical care many places that cruisers travel:
- Make plans to get yourself to the doctor or hospital - public transport often takes too long.
- Cash or Credit Card is often needed to pay for the initial treatment.
- Medical Care is usually good to excellent, but often the physical conditions are not what we are used to.
- In many countries the family takes up the slack where the hospital does not provide. Gowns, pillows, towels, washup items are provided by the family not the hospital.
- Visiting hours are flexable and expect whole families to come to visit.
I enjoyed some of this years carnival. The old time carnival was fun as always. The fancy Carnival parade downtown was spectacular. The routes traveled by the bands varied this year, so we did not see the whole parade by any means. But, what we saw was great. Whats is more we had front row seats in the shade. Note to self: build a time machine and go back in time to have a talk with the person that included cameras in cellphone.
From March to September (and sometimes as early as January) each year the giant leatherbacked turtles come ashore on Trinidad's beachs to lay their eggs. Trinidad takes on a very important role: the second largest leatherback turtle nesting site in the world is at Grande Rivière. Some weeks later their young hatch and make their journey to the sea. We joined a trip to take the long drive to the turtle nesting beach on the east coast of Trinidad. The turtles usually nest in the dark, so we waited until one had been sighted to treck downt the beach to watch.
Pan Making and Rum Brewing
We had the treat of two trips for one this time. First stop was the workshop of a traditional pan maker and tuner. He demonstrated how pan were made and some of the history behind the process. He also demonstrated how pans were tuned.
The second stop on the tour was to the Angostura rum distillery. We were given a tour of the distillery, its museum, and the small factory where all of the angostura bitters are made. After the tour we got to sample some of their products.
The anchorage at Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association (TTSA) was invaded by a large school of bait fish. So many that a invasion of pelicans soon followed. Each boat had its own group of pelicans. Some boats were lucky and had as many as 31. Their calling cards were not appreciated. I was fortunate and had only a few. The invasion lasted for the better part of 6 weeks and then things returned to normal.
Asa Wright Nature Center
I visited Asa Wright for the eighth or ninth time this year. As always, I had a very nice time. This time I focused on getting pictures of some of the birds that have eluded me before. One bird that I have seen before, but failed to get a good picture was the Tufted Coquette, particulary the male. I was fortunate that one cooperated and I was able to take his picture. Another bird that I have often seen, but not photographed was the common house wren.
Rodger Neckles Birding
This was my second trip out with Rodger Neckles. He is likly the Preeminent photographer in all Trinidad. His trips are always a joy. This time we headed southwest in Trinidad in an attempt to see the two species of macaw native to Trinidad. We were fortunate to see both the blue and yellow and the scarlet. We were also treated to a number of other unique birds. Two highlights were the green-rumped parrolet and the Long-winged Harrier. The parrolet is rather common, but I had not seen it before.
The day started early, well before 5am. We drove quickly to the southwest corner of Trinidad near the Pitch Lake, where Rodger had seen the macaws only a few days before. Sure enough as the sun rose we caught a glimps of a small flock of around 9 birds. It seemed like a extended family group. Several adults, a few of this years young, and some definate teenagers. The teenagers spent most of their time play fighting. We watched the group for a good half hour or more before they flew off. We then tried to spot the group again or find more in the same area. We were able to spot a scarlet mecaw, but it flew off before we could get out of the car. We stopped and visited with a local who had a pair of semi-wild mecaws. Got some good close up shots.
By that time it was time for breakfast and look further east and see what other birds we could find. We explored the hills along the south coast before turning north to the farm lands of the interior. We saw a flock of Green-rumped Parrolet in a field of Okra. The last bird was a real treasure. We spotted a Long-winged Harrier, first in flight and then feeding on a kill. All in all a great day out.
Caroni Swamp to See the Scarlet Ibis
This was another wonderful trip to the Caroni Swamp. I have been many times before, but was fortunate to see perhapse the largest concentration of Scarlet Ibis. I was also able to hit on just the right combination of camera settings that allowed me to get some nice pictures of the Ibis in flight. The sky background tended to overwelme the sensor and often I only got a shodow of the bird. Or, the camera went to a very high ISO and I got very high noise in the picture. Tried manual settings this time and had good luck.
The trip started with a quick visit to Mount Saint Benedict, a monistary high up in the northern range. As luck would have it we saw a Yellow-headed Caracara on a fence just as we were leaving the monistary.
Arriving at the Caroni Swamp boat ramp, we had to wait for the boat, so i walked around the area. Found a Little Blue Heron resting on a Mangrove.
Once the boat was ready, we motored out to view the Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost. The numbers were greater than i remember seeing before. A real sight.
Magnificent Seven Houses, Emperor Valley Zoo, and Royal Botanic Gardens
A trip to downtown to see the sites areound the Queen's Park Savana has long been on my to do list. In early December we managed to get a group together for a morning trip. We first stopped on the northwest corner of the Queen's Park Savana to view the Magnificent Seven Houses. The Magnificent Seven Houses are mansions located alongside Queen's Park Savannah in northern Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on Maraval Road in the St Clair neighborhood. They were built between 1902 and 1910 on land that was previously used as a government stock farm and are listed as heritage sites at the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. Stollmeyer's Castle was the first building in the neighborhood and took several years to complete, as was typical with the Magnificent Seven Houses.
Continuing our exploring around the northwest corner of the savana, we entered the Emperor Valley Zoo. I am always a bit reluctant to visit zoos in developing countries as they are often a bit thread bare. I was pleasently suprised here. The exhibits are spread over a 7.2 acreage, with much of the flora of the original site retained, thus enhancing the overall landscape. Enclosures, pathways, fences and buildings have been incorporated into the natural topography creating a wilderness atmosphere and a feeling of relaxation for the many visitors who come each year.
Our last stop was the Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are comprised of twenty-five (25) hectares of beautifully landscaped grounds located north of the capital city of Port of Spain. The gardens consist of approximately seven hundred (700) trees of which thirteen percent (13%) are indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. Trees in our gardens represent every continent of the world. Here I was disapointed. The collection was mostly trees with few flowers and few or no lables.
A Christmas Potjie Pot at Coral Cove, with John from Out of Africa. I joined John and a number of other cruisers for John's famous South African Potjie Pot. We all enjoyed getting together and having the wonderful food.
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