In Trinidad everyone works hard. People always seem busy with their day-to-day hustle and bustle. Tobago is a place to play!
At 6am on DAY 5 the ferry departed from Port of Spain and set sail for Tobago. The two hour trip to Tobago is a great way to catch more of a glimpse of the coastline. For the most part the boat ride is smooth sailing, but the last 20 min. of the journey was the first time I’ve ever experienced sea sickness. I was able to keep it under control but there was a few not so lucky guest that regurgitated their breakfast.
(Ferry docked in Tobago)
Once on dry land in Tobago all of the sickness subsided. Tobago is a magical place. Much smaller than its political counterpart, Tobago thrives on tourism. After a quick bite to eat at a local shop we started our day of touring the island. Traveling around the entire island only takes about 2 hours so we rented a car and made our way around the loop of Tobago.
Known for its pristine beaches and expansive rain forests, Tobago boasts the oldest protected forests in the western hemisphere. It has turned into a hot spot for eco-tourism, and although touring the rain forests was tempting with only a short time to spend on the island we decided to just be beach bums. Driving around from beach to beach we spent the day in Tobago enjoying the scenery, eating in local restaurants and cooling off in the water. My favorite was the picture perfect beach in the seaside village of Castara on the northern shore of the island. All of the beaches in Tobago had a relaxed and inviting atmosphere and were surprisingly empty. Although this is the slow season, apparently the beaches are normally like this. Tobago also lacks massive hotel chains dominating the skyline. The hotels on the island are smaller and seem to blend seamlessly with the natural environment of the country. This is one gem of the Caribbean that has yet to be discovered by the masses.
(Beach in Castara.**My Favorite picture of the trip**)
(Sign overlooking Englishman’s Bay.)
(Steelpan drummers on the street in Tobago)
(View from the hotel room patio)
After two wonderful days on the island unfortunately we had to leave it’s beautiful shores. Opting out of the boat trip back we decided to take a plane instead. The short 15 minute flight back to Trinidad was on a small, propeller plane my dad would refer to as a “crop duster.” Back in Trinidad we made our way to the Caroni Swamp for a bird watching tour. The bird sanctuary here is home to flamingos, egrets, and the scarlet ibis. The highlight of the tour is the ibis’ nesting ground on a small, isolated island. At dusk hundreds of the bright red birds descend on it to stay safe from predators throughout the night. We also saw multiple fish going airborne out of the water, a boa constrictor, and a spectacled caiman (similar to a gator, only smaller) on the prowl.
(Caiman on the shore)
Filed under beach, bird sanctuary, caiman, Caroni Swamp, Castara, eco-tourism, scarlet ibis, Tobago, tourism, travel, Trinidad
Sitting 1,000 ft above Port of Spain, Fort George was built by the British in 1804. Nestled high above the town the fort was used to monitor all advancements on the capital city. From the vantage point at Fort George you have an amazing birds-eye-view of all of Port of Spain. The beautiful view of the city and the conveniently placed picnic tables and decorative landscaping make it a favorite for locals wanting a small escape from city life. The only problem with the fort is the journey 1000ft up the mountain to reach it! The windy one-and-a-half lane road up the mountain with no guard rails (I repeat, no guard rails!) was treacherous and I probably wouldn’t have made it safely without an experienced driver. But besides risking your immediate safety it’s a great place!
(Cannons overlooking the city.)
After trekking down the side of the mountain we journeyed into Port of Spain to go on an impromptu tour. This was our first real day of going into the heart of the city and it is a very lively place, especially during lunch hour. I got a little taste of home from the pedestrians who blindly darted in front of oncoming traffic. It reminded me of UGA’s campus, specifically the intersection of Baldwin St. and Sanford Dr. during class change. Once in the city we made a pit stop at Queen’s Park Oval, the cricket stadium. With a capacity of 25,000 people it is the West Indies largest cricket grounds and is home to the Trinidad & Tobago cricket team. Our guide, with surprising ease, talked our way into the stadium although it was closed. It was eerie actually being inside the empty stadium after researching so much about the sport before the trip (see “Cricket” post).
(Queen’s Park Oval)
At the official halfway marker for the trip, today we ventured out of Port of Spain into the southwest region of the island. Our destination was San Fernando and it’s premier attraction San Fernando Hill. Affectionately referred to as simply “The Hill” by locals, the limestone formation is the tallest point in the region. The Hill provides excellent views of the of south and central Trinidad, the Gulf Of Paria, and on a clear day, the coast of nearby Venezuela. Unfortunately today was slightly overcast and Venezuela was not visible but the Hill still offered a very commanding viewpoint. Being employed by the UGA Vistors Center, I was excited to learn that the Hill had its own “Visitor Centre.” This pathetic excuse for a visitors center was disheartening. The entire building was empty. Not a single brochure, pamphlet, tour guide, information desk, NOTHING! The only thing their “Visitor Centre” offered was a flight of unmarked stairs that led to a look out point. Needless to say I was very disappointed but overall the Hill was still a powerful attraction.
(misleading “Visitors Centre” sign)(EMPTY Visitors Centre!)(View coming down from the Hill)
On the trip back to Port of Spain we were able to see some of the industry that keeps the island afloat financially. Unlike many of its neighbors in the Caribbean, tourism is not Trinidad’s main source of revenue. The thriving oil and gas industries are the country’s main source of income. We travelled through some of the oil fields and were able to see some of the oil refineries that support the area. We also saw Pitch Lake, the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world. “Discovered” by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595 it has fascinated explorers, scientists, and tourists ever since. Now it provides a boost to the local economy through the exportation of the asphalt for road construction.
(Pitch Lake)(Oil refinery)
To cap off the midway point in the trip we ate dinner at the marina. The restaurant was hidden away in a place that only locals and “yachtees” (yacht owners parked in the marina) knew about. The food was great, but the atmosphere was better. The patio sat on the water with the sights and sounds of the marina engulfing you. As the sun slowly faded away past the horizon, the mesmerizing sound of the waves slowly crashing into the shore was profoundly peaceful. A true Trinidadian way to end the day: Liming.
Filed under cricket, economy, Fort George, mountain, oil, pedestrians, Port of Spain, Queen's Oval Park, Tobago, tourism, travel, Trinidad, UGA campus, Visitors Center
Liming: (verb) hanging around, usually in a public place with friends, enjoying the scene (Trinidadian).
With my first full day here complete I have a full understanding of the Trinidadian term: Limin’.
Today started off with a trip to the Trinidad & Tobago Yacht Club. We got the opportunity to take a speed boat out into the water. Each year Trinidad & Tobago hosts the Great Race a speed boat race between the islands. The boat we used today was the first boat to break 100mph in that race. Needless to say we were flying. We raced the boat around the tip of the island to the point where Trinidad and Venezuela meet. Only separated by about 10 miles, Venezuela is actually closer in distance to Trinidad than Tobago. After a quick glance at the Venezuelan coastline we parked our boat at tucked away beach and the limin’ began.
For the next couple of hours we relaxed at the beach taking in the sun and not quite doing much of anything. Re-energized by a quick nap on the bow of the boat and another dip in the water we set sail back for the yacht club. With the wind in may face and the ocean mist spraying me I completely understood Andy Samberg’s excitement in the SNL Digital Short, I’m on a Boat.
To top off my day of limin’ in the caribbean I got back to the house and relaxed in the hot tub on the balcony overlooking the water. Life is good.
(You know, I’m limin’!)
6am- Flight departed from ATL
8am- Flight arrived in Miami
8-11am- Layover (Listened to “Welcome to Miami” – By Will Smith on repeat)
2:oopm- Arrived in Trinidad
After a brief issue with a discrepancy in the maintenance logs that delayed our plane, we finally left Miami and touched down in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The airport in Port of Spain has a very familiar feel to it. It has a distinctly Caribbean atmosphere. All of the employees seem to move at their own, slow pace but with a very positive attitude that is almost contagious.
While the airport had a relaxed atmosphere, as we made our way into Trinidad the rest of the area was teeming with energy. As the Caribbean’s top producer of oil and gas, it is clear that T&T’s economy is fueled by the large oil industry. The abundance of oil keeps gas prices low, at around $.60/gallon, which provides an easier access to cars. The overflow of cars driving hastily on the wrong side (well, the left side) of the road can be slightly intimidating.
After a surprisingly draining day on and off planes, all I managed to do when we arrived at our home for the week was relax. Located a few minutes outside of Port of Spain, the condo sits on the waterfront with a beautiful view of the bay. The huge balcony overlooking the water was an amazing place for a late afternoon nap in the cool, ocean breeze. As daylight faded away the picturesque view of the lights from nearby Port of Spain provided a great end to my first day in Trinidad & Tobago.
(View from the balcony)
I am officially one week and 4 finals away from the beautiful beaches of Trinidad & Tobago. Only Philosophy, Anthropology, Spanish, and Comparative Literature finals stand in between me and the tropical island destination.
Watching an episode of my new favorite Travel Channel show, “Dhani Tackles the Globe” inspired me to find out more about the sports culture in Trinidad. Dhani Jones, a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, travels the world learning to play the national pastimes from many different countries. One of the most popular sports on the double island nation is cricket. Similar to baseball in concept, only soccer and basketball are more popular sports worldwide.
This sport is highly popular in the West Indies and Brian Lara, regarded as the best player to come out of the region, is a native of Trinidad. Lara happens to be a close friend of my family friends that I will be staying with in T&T. He retired from international play after the 2007 Cricket World Cup, where he served as the captain of the West Indies team. The BBC reported that “he will retire as Test cricket’s leading scorer with 11,953 runs from 131 matches and holds the record for the highest Test score, an unbeaten 400 against England in Antigua in 2004.” With no real knowledge of the game, those stats are foreign to me. But Brian Lara is considered one of the best players of the modern era by many. His late coach, Bob Woolmer, brought it into perspective for me. “Anyone who can score that prolifically has to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time, not just of his era.”
Needless to say I am very excited to have the opportunity to meet such an outstanding athlete and learn a little more about this sport. Countdown to Trinidad: 6 days.
With the second semester of my sophomore year quickly coming to an end my thoughts are shifting towards summer. To kick off my summer break, I will be taking a week long trip to Trinidad & Tobago! Having thoroughly googled EVERYTHING the beautiful island destination has to offer I am ecstatic about my trip. The culture and the traditions there seem to be very rich and unique and I can not wait to delve into them.
This will be my first official blog and I hope to use it to cover the travels I do in the near future. On a side note, it seems appropriate that Trinidad & Tobago is my first destination because the colors of the flag are red and black and the name of my blog is “Dawg Trekker.” Stay tuned! (and Go Dawgs!)