From the sparse populated Tobago and Diary 1, I am
now exploring Trinidad.
While we take off, over the beach and corals, I'm wondering: What is I'm doing? Half a hour later, I get a car that is even more old, scratched and destroyed than I had hoped for. It look like it have been in a bad motorway pile-up, and been "fixed" in Calcutta by a blind artist! On top of that, I discover the tank is only quarter full, and here are no charger plug at all - just a hole in the console. I pull it out, and the wires are still here.
On the last bit of the way, the GPS dies out, and I have to use the last bit from the computer to recharge it. I find the right road in the right town, but the numbers are not in line, and only a few houses actually have them. I finally find a house in a side-road, and get my room at a real nice lady.
While the GPS charges, I head downtown to do some shopping. The first I find is a new fuse for the plug in the car. The scotch's tape to hold the wires, and some food at the supermarket. But bread will be at the bakery, and vegetables at the greengrocer. I see a few guys with small birds in cages, I get a picture of one. Blackheaded Nunn with keeper. Back to eat, and at four, I set out on a little adventure. I get the charger to work; not pretty, but working. In this car, it does not matter. Apparently, here are considerably more crime than on Tobago, but this car sure don't attract any attention!
North of San Juan - the suburb of Port of Spain I live in, are some low mountains. Around the Mt Benedict and its monastery complex, there should be some nice nature. I easily find the area, but finding a path leading into the nature is way more difficult. They end shortly in a pile of rubbish. One end at some beehives - and a pile of rubbish.
Then finally, I find the trail that leads to the top of Mt Benedict. It is popular by the joggers, and have been widen considerable with Round-Up. Here are some interesting plants like orchids, but the top is dominated by pines - which should not be here at all. The sun sets, and I head home.
The car look quite dry by now, and I find a gas station. It have self-service, but won't accept my card. A cashier sit behind a hole in the wall, mumbling something in a languish I don't understand. Apparently, it is cash up front. I haven't a clue about how much I can gas, but I want it full. I give the hole my bunch, and after a considerable time, I can gas. After even longer time, where two other customers battle on sound-systems, I get a bunch of notes back along with a receipt from the hole. Only later, I think about counting the notes. Lots of 20'ies now, and besides from the gas, 500 TT$ (500 kr/€70) less. Well, that should teach me!
Home to make supper, and have a long, interesting chat with my landlady. Then it is way too late again, but photos have to be dealt with, and diary have to be written. Day 5: San Juan and Mt Benedict
23. I find my way out of town - within 90 minutes! And I'm still starting quite some distance from Port of Spain. A small incident: Some roads are one-way in the morning, and my GPS ignores that.. Then, it turn rural, with only a few scatted houses in the hills. They disappears when the assent start for real, and the forest take over. I reach the Asa Wright Nature Centre, but the drizzle and forgotten umbrella is a bad combination. Further more, the trails I already have tried are so muddy!
Never the less, I do manage to find some interesting plants. Among those I recognises are Begonias. They have small white flowers, but it is the number that make the impressive. Other plants are completely unknown to me - but surely interesting.
Making pictures of forests are a bit tricky: Lack of sight and light, and it seems like the party is way up there. I try to capture it while I drive, when the forest have a nicely, green cut, right through. It is not a dense forest: In many places, it is rather bushes and even a few openings. Here are not that many epiphytes on the southern side of the mountains. I measure 590 meter at one point, but the road might get higher other places. I can feel the temperature drop, and end up closing the window.
The road twist and turn, and the sealing is real bad most
of the way. At least, I have it to my self for most of the part.
I reach my waypoint; Brasso Seco; a tiny settlement in the middle of the forest. Here should be a great viewing point, but it is hidden up in the clouds. A track leads all the way down to Paria Bay, around thirteen kilometres away. It is thick clay, and the drizzle newer really stops. I figure I drive around, and pick it up on the other side.
I just follow it for a few hundred metres, pass some small homes and tiny gardens. Here, the mosses and bromeliads are more numerous than on the southern side, but still not as much as I had expected. I see a single, fat skink, and it is a moist place for it.
The rain pick-up, and I'm glad I didn't start on the muddy trail. It is still in the Blanchisseuse area, and here are a few more huts, closer to the coast. A village with the name is found at the coast, and I get to make yet some more "Bountyland beaches". But here are significantly more rock than on Tobago.
Again, the lagoons draws me in. Too much bamboo, but the
scenery is magnificent. I can't figure how people are making a living here.
Hardly any boats, only tiny vegetable gardens and orchards and no
production, it seems.
Unfortunately, the trail have more or less gone. Despite I don't give a dammed about the car, and just forces it through, I am so close to get stocked, time and time again. It have not clearance enough, and the slicks for tires are not mend for ankel thick mud! Then I get to a real bad hillside, and no chance I can get the car up here. I could walk the last five kilometres to where I THINK the waterfall is, but not in this mud!
On the way back, I try to get the inside mud-guide
attached again, as the noise of it dangling after the car is annoying. I
might have to clean the car before I return it....
I get back t the "big road" in Arima, and head further east. I reach the east coast, and turn north. It is turtle beaches, but not this time of year, and here are quiet. Here are several nice beaches, and I find some that have lagoons as well. Brown pelicans and small beach birds like plovers are numerous.
After many stops, I finally make it to the north-eastern corner of Trinidad, and the light tower. It is a rough sea, and only rocks make it here. Some huge trees are growing here, and my first guess was figs. But they have large, white flowers? I climb down the the outer rocks, and feel the spray from the waves, crossing to the land.
It is getting late, and I have no idea to, how the roads are on the way home. I gas the car in Valencia, as I have no idea how much left I have. And that was a good thing; the car only do around six on a litre. I guess it would do better, using all four cylinders below 3000 RPM! The spray don't work, the radio is dead, the gear shifter go straight second instead for Drive, and it bounces around, when I stop. But besides from that - and that the mudguards and bumpers a screwed on by a blind girl, it is a fine car.
I get back to San Juan, but the GPS leads me down a nice road, which
unfortunately are blocked by the police. They ask for a bus-lane permit.
"Well, you are aloud to drive the other way, and I had the low sun right in
my face, and the GPS said this way, I'm just a poor tourist and so on". I
get a warning, and directions for the right way.
24. It is a greyish day, and pretty soon, it start to rain. Never the less, I head towards the central mountains, hoping for the best. The traffic is lighter, but it is Saturday morning and expected. I clear the suburbs and reach a kind of farmland. Here are many patches with forest as well, and no big fields at all. It is manual grown vegetables and fruits on the flat slopes. Some houses are brand new and modern, others are sheets, and only the laundry reveals someone is living here.
I reach the central mountain forests, and here are quite some epiphytes, mainly Bromeliads. Some areas are planted years ago, and people seem to have lost interest. In this area, only a few huts are found, and they are really not looking healthy. Some of the bridges are wooden, while the sealing seems to have been laid on some floating material. Numerous signs warns about landslide. In many places, this mean one lane is gone.
The drizzle is interrupted by heavy showers from time to time, and I only enters the soaked vegetation a few times. I find a few new plant species like the thorny-stemmed tree, and a ginger with large flowers. Here are not much animal activity, except from the voices of some birds.
I reach the central eastern coast, and head down the recommended coastal Nariva Swamp road. The beaches look nice, although it is just not the same without sun. The harsh wind does not add the same! Nor do an occasional shower. I do a few beach walks, and on one, I find a few shells. But I do not feel comfortable under the coconut palms; they are killers in a windy day like this!
I reach a real nice mangrove area at a larger river. The roots start way up in the canopy, and spread nicely out just above the water. A lagoon have mirror like water despite the wind. A few locals are sitting fishing, but no luck so far. I look into the swamps but do not feel like investigating in the rain. And the rain is constant on the coast today.
Despite it is still early, I have reached my sights - mainly because I have stayed within the car. That give me time to drive bye Chaguanas, which should be a good market town. And Saturday usually seem to be one of the best days. It is a fairly modern town, but not fancy in any way. Here are packed with people, and it do not rain - so far.
I park a bit behind the centre, and walk right to the large market. Here are a lot of fruits and vegetables along with a bit of fish and meat. Second floor is mainly cloths. I make some discreet photos, and ask for others. One hardware-man is real eager to let me photo his shop. Besides from the hardware, he have a lot of cardboards with bible quotes. That is fine with me, but then he start to read them out loud, one by one. I thank him, and say it is great he not only supply material goods, but also mental - and then I rush on.
The main street is packed with small stalls, selling whatever. Some shops are real modern, others just sheets, filled with something. I try to find something to eat, but if I at the same time want to sit down, it is hard. I end up with a pizza in a fancy place. Not my first choice - but the only. I stock some vegetables at the market, on the way back to The Wreck.
It is still a bit early, but too late for the botanical garden in Port of Spain or any of the southern sights. I head home, and do a short loop around San Juan to get a bit more food. Not the most exiting day, but the weather did not play along. Then the usual entertainment awaits at home. And for a first in three months; I actually cook something: Pasta. toss in some vegetables and ketchup, and call it a meal. Day 7: Central forest, eastern coast and Chaguanas town
25. It is Sunday, and I recon the best day to visit the capital; Port of Spain. I actually only have two sights; A street with seven magnificent houses and the Royal Botanical Garden. I start with the houses, and on the way, I see some other houses. Port of Spain have a skyline, although not big. The power station only lack a flying pig.
I reach the street with the seven houses, and the first is a school, and quite nice. Then some governmental offices and the last is private, it seems. They are way different, build in the colonial period around 1900, and surely magnificent. Well, except the one falling apart, but considering the effort to protect it, I guess it will return in glory.
On the other side of the street is a park, and a lot of people are preparing to run around it. A squirrel ignores them, while the coconut salesman do their best. Here are several stalls, made-up like ancient horse carriages, filled with coconuts. I think it would be easier to sell something else from each?
Around the corner is the Royal Botanical Garden, and it is big and well maintained. It is mainly an arboretum, but behind a fence, some other collections are found. It is specially the orchids that are given attention. Here are names on most trees, although some are wrong. A huge picnic area have some nice shelters, and seems to be popular.
A part of the garden is more rough, but soaked by the night's rain, and I rather see it in the true wild. Some Amazon parrots are making noise in the trees, while the sky is filled with a big screw of vultures. I admire the Brazil Nut tree, which actually have fruits. At 8;30, I have seen it all, and have to find something else to entertain myself with.
Way down along the western coast is a tar-pit. I have never seen one before, and go for it. It is by the highway, and this one have no light crosses. The other one have, despite the speed limit of 100 km/t. I pass the farmers market of Port of Spain, but I am anxious to use the sun when it finally is here.
Well, in Debe, I am loured into Namdevco Farmers Market anyway. It is large, and stuffed with both home-grown vegetables and fruits, but her are also some imported. I see a few fruits I don't recognises, like the shield-peas and some strange cucumbers.
Back on the road, I enters the smaller country roads, connecting villages and small towns. Here are not that much wild nature, but on the other hand; not much farmland either. It start to rain heavily, and the roads are flooded. That in combination with the potholes make an interesting drive! I try to follow the locals, but they are not any good as pilots.
At a small ridge, I find a forest. Here are some small
ponds and a new flowering plant. Others look like they have escaped the
I reach Pitch Lake, and avoid a guide. It is a big lake, but this time of year, it is almost dry. The sun decide to join in, and I get well roasted in the mid day heat, as my sun protection now form the holder for the broken GPS holder. But I hope it is worth it.
Here are a lot of interesting plants as well. Water lilies with delicate pink or blue flowers are the first I see. Some grasses and other swamp plants do well in the cracks of the tar. It is easy to see how the tar have flown, and how the tongues meet in deep water. I look for a well, and after some time, I find fresh, liquid tar and all types until fragile rock-like. In some places, I can easily set foot-prints, while others are like rock.
Here are quite some birds from an eagle to small plovers.
One area is occupied by a group of vultures. The water is teaming with fish,
and some are big, to judge from the splashes. It seems like the tar is not
poisonous in any way - it is a natural product, but so is cobra poison.
Well roasted by the sun, I head on, following the coast down south-west. It pretty soon start to rain, and the road turn into a river. I meet a low forest, overgrown with vines. Then the coconut plantations start, and the area is drained by canals. Some lakes or lagoons have islands of big ferns
southern tip have a few fishing settlements, and I find the beaches a few
places. At one of them, some Rasta people are being baptised, wearing white
robes. It does look a bit strange on a beach, and they look more agitated
I start on the long drive home through the rain, and only do a few stops along the road. Back at dusk, I start working, and get a good chat with my host. Day 8: Buildings, BG, Tar Lake, the south
26. I get a late start, as I have to cross right through the centre of town. The worse traffic has gone, and I find my way to the western part of the country. The southern coast is a real strange mix of huge industries, oil production and fancy hotels and almost Riviera atmosphere. It make it a bit hard to access both the beach and the forest. But the hills are visible and covered in forest, I just have to get to them.
The weather is fantastic; a truly dry summer day with high, dark blue sky. I find a road, and despite the sign about "Trespassers..." I enters. The first I see is an awesome flower on a tree. Another tree is flowering; a Fabaceae, and it is flamboyant! The area is partly cleared for farming, but there are still many native plants left. It is far the most dry area I yet have seen in T&T, but some yellow might be caused by Round-Up.
Another place, I find a flowering banana. The inflorescence is large, the flowers not. A private security truck stops, and I get the feeling of being unwanted. I head on to the most western point, but it is part of a military area, and I'm for sure not welcome! Bit of a pity, as I had found a twisting mountain road, leading over the range.
The next road (Mt Pleasant Rd?), a bit further inland is closed by the military as well. I head on, and third time, I succeed. It is a long road, and I stop several times along it. A sunflower bush offers some fantastic motives against the deep blue sky. Then I reach some huge trees, Their stems look kind of slim compared to the top - but they are more than two metres.
trees are overgrown with so
many epiphytes. I try to capture as many as I
can, and actually enjoy the cleared area, mend for picnic.
I am getting closer to the coast, and I figure I can follow a long trail through the forest, get to the sea and head back on the road. The trail is sealed, but real interesting. Here are many different plants, and I see some Red Howler Monkeys Alouatta seniculus. They are munching on some fruits in the top of a big tree, and no chance I get a good picture.
One stretch is through an area with huge bamboo, but
despite they usually grow alone, I do find some new herbs underneath them.
The trail start to assent, which is strange, as it leads to the sea?
I get to the seaside - but despite I'm ten metres from the water, there are 200 metres down to it. I start following a narrow trail, but it is parallel with the shore. Further more; the shoreline is huge boulders and bedrock. I have to find another way. It seems like the entire coast is steep forest and it have not been explored.
On the way back, I find some narrow side trails, but the
forest closes out the light, and here is not much to find. A single, little
Sansevieria and two species of trees with nasty spikes on the stems
are the only new.
On the way back to the main road, I find a dry riverbed, winding its way through giant bamboo. Some 25-30 centimetre cleared trails crosses the river. It is the leaf-cutter ants highways. They are pretty straight, but despite they are perfectly cleared, here are only an ant for each meter or so?
last road I have found, leads up the mountain from the south coast - again.
Here are houses all the way to the top, where some radio masts are places.
It is around 220 metres up, and the sea is straight down. I find a trail
leading parallel with the coast, and occasional get a glimpse of Port of
Spain, way down in the valley.
Here are quite some pine trees, but also some native
plants. It seems like the road will follow the coast all the way back
to the beach I visited, but I don't have the patience for that.
27. Due to changes in my flights, I have to return the car a bit early. But I have plenty to work with on the computer, and I am fare from finish, when my flight to Toronto is ready at 13;10.
Trinidad & Tobago have been an interesting stop, and I am
amassed about how different these islands really are. Most because of the
difference in population, I guess. I have driven 1420 kilometres,
taken 2394 photos and only spend around 8.000 DKK/€.1000. Mainly because I
was in the area anyway, and the tour home is spitted up between the other
countries (that would have added 3.800 DKK).