Trinidad Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Charlie Flesch started our day with a lecture at 9:00 am on “The Formation of South America” that began billions of years ago even before the Big Bang. It sounded pretty daunting, but Charlie really put it into perspective that helped us understand the concept. He concluded with a short video clip from “The Early Tonics”, which someone else remarked that it is an excellent movie. Charlie will be our lecturer for our journey through Brazil and will tie all these parts together.
We had to wait to get cleared off the ship, so it wasn’t until 11:15 am that we were able to board two small buses for a panoramic view of Trinidad. Venessa was our guide and she made an effort to speak slowly and distinctly. Even though English is the official language, the local dialect is Creole. She gave us a sampling of some phrases that only people with an ear for the dialect would understand.
We drove down Abercrombie Street, named after the British governor that took control of Trinidad from the Spanish. Venessa pointed out important government buildings, churches and cathedrals, a beautiful fine arts building similar in design to the Sidney Opera House, sports facilities (especially cricket) and a large public meeting place across from the Parliament Building. We noticed all the flags were at half staff because Trinidad’s first president just died and will be in state with the funeral in a couple of days. Venessa said the people prefer to leave politics to the politicians; what they’re mostly concerned about is having the money to buy a costume for Carnival. Even though Carnival is weeks away, people are excited for it and Vanessa told us about the preparing that takes place, especially in getting a costume and being part of a band.
We drove up a steep hill where we noticed terraces that help prevent mud slides during heavy rains. Petroleum is the main industry in Trinidad; however neighboring Tobago attracts more tourists with its beaches and easy life style.
Our lunch was at a private residence owned by a woman named Marion. She was a former hotel owner, but now uses her home for private parties and small dinners. The home still had Christmas decorations and was very festive. Our buffet included cole slaw, salad, fish rolled up around some vegetable, chicken, rice, potatoes and baked lentils that looked like baked beans. Everything was very tasty.
Trinidad has a multi-ethnic mix of people with a large part Indian. It also has a number of religions, predominantly Hindu and Muslim, which are all respected. There was a light rain as we stopped at the first of two Hindu temples. The Dattatreya Yaga Center
had an 85-foot tall statue of a monkey god outside an ornately decorated temple. The building was locked, but it is considered the Taj Mahal of the West. Our next stop was the Indian Caribbean Museum with a collection of artifacts representing Indian culture. A man told us how Indians were brought to Trinidad to work on sugar cane plantations with an agreement to stay for five years and get free passage back to India. Many Indians chose to stay in Trinidad, especially when they were offered free land instead of taking their skills back to India. There wasn’t’ enough land to go around and eventually the Indians had to pay to go back, which didn’t seem like a popular option. It was unusual to see a small Nativity scent as we were leaving. We made another brief stop at the Temple in the Sea. The temple was begun by a dedicated man who wanted his dream fulfilled in building a temple. He completed the temple but the government restored it to honor his dedication.
A rather long ride took us to our final destination: The Wild Fowl Trust established to preserve mostly ducks and other wetland birds from extinction. A former hunter realized that by killing the birds by hunting there would soon be no birds left. The oil refinery set aside ponds on the property with bridges and walkways where we could observe a number of water foul, guided by Venessa’.s great identification and knowledge of the birds. Thankfully, the rain had stopped, so it was a pleasant 45-minute walk. The most numerous were the black-bellied whistling ducks, Muscovy ducks
, and herons. We also saw a yellow hooded blackbird
, and the national bird of Trinidad, the scarlet ibis
; a most gorgeous bird.
We had no time to lose to get back to the ship in time for dinner at 6:30 pm. We pulled in at 6:15 pm and it was surprising that everyone was seated by the time I got to our tables.
There has been a change in the itinerary. Because the Amazon flow is below the seasonal norm, making the crossing of the Bar located off the mouth of the river is only possible for Discovery at high tide.. As a result we will not be taking the proposed cruise into the mouth of the Orinoco River. Our time in Trinidad was extended by a few hours to bring on a local show that performed native music. It was a very nice show performed on the upper deck under the stars. The steel pan originated in Trinidad and it was used throughout the performance that included singing dancing and a flaming limbo.