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Trinidad and Tobago 2012

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Trinidad and Tobago, 2012

Monday 23 April
Had a good trip from Gatwick to Trinidad, taking about ten hours including a 45 min stop at St Lucia. Long flights are tedious but Tom Sharpe's "Vintage Stuff" helped pass the time, as did the great British Airways cabin service. Their safety film shown before take off is interesting: it appears to start with a car crash where a camera carrying vehicle runs into the rear of another car. The video also appears old as the yellow shirt worn by the boy has the silhouette of a Concord.

We were met at the airport by friends who we will stay with for two nights. Once at their house we chatted, had some food and at 9pm (2am UK) went for a jet lag induced early night.

Tuesday 24 April
Had a taxi for the day to tour a little of the island of Trinidad. San Fernando hill has a good view over one of Trinidad's major industries - oil and gas extraction and refining. Much of the road system is narrow with lots of turns and junctions and traffic lights. And the roads are very busy. The main north-south highway from San Fernando to Port of Spain is good, having three lanes in each direction and a raised central divide for much of its length. We drove through the busy Port of Spain, a mix of old and very modern buildings. The banks and finance houses being keen to show off their wealth with big flashy buildings. We drove past the ferry boat terminals, to show us their location for tomorrow, then on via Santa Cruz (Wikipedia lists about 100 places having that name!).

Stopped at Maracas Bay. It is a wide bay protected by big headlands to each side. A large sandy beach with lifeguards on duty. Masses of car parking space but almost empty today, there are several food and gift shops along the beach road. One local delicacy sold by many of the food outlets is "Bake and Shark" (30TT$, about £3): shark steak in spiced flour and deep fried, served in a bun of similar consistency to a doughnut, plus various spicy sauces and salad. It was so good that we bought a second shark steak, but without the fatty bun (20TT$ ~ $2). The bay is popular with locals and with day trippers from cruise liners.

We drove on to Las Ceavas Bay where we had a quick paddle in the sea, but we had not got swimsuits. Adjacent to the bay is a fisherman's work area where we bought a Skip Jack, for 31$TT ~ £3.10 including cleaning and cutting. That fish was big enough for about ten portions.

The roads to access these bays cross the edge of the Northern Range of hills. The highest point on the Island is 940m ASL, but their steep sides and ravines mean the narrow roads with hairpin bends rival many Alpine roads. The wet season rainfall also causes mud and rock slides that often block roads. We passed several slides that were recent enough that very few plants had regrown.

Just off the main norh south highway we visited the Caroni Swamp for their 4pm boat trip to see some of the mangrove swamp and its wildlife. We started through channels 10m wide with overhanging trees. We saw various birds throughout the tour. We stopped to see the little crabs (max 2cm across) that climb the mangrove roots, we saw many of them anywhere between 0.5m and 1.5m above the water. We stopped under a constrictor snake that was curled up on a branch over the water. Two hours later it was still there in the same position. Later our taxi driver said that every one he had taken to this tour said their boat had stopped right under a sleepy snake, so he was suspicious of whether the snake was genuine. Several of the mangroves had dark brown termite nests between 1m and 3m above the water, the big nests we saw were perhaps 1m long and 0.5m around, but wrapped around a branch of less than 0.2m diameter. (All these dimensions are approximations and based on my poor memory, not on real measurement.) The boat continued into wider channels and we saw groups of Scarlet Ibis flying to their overnight roosts. We passed a lookout tower, maybe 20m high. The boat's guide said the tower has not been maintained and was dangerous. Another boat just like ours passed us at speed, it appeared to have Japanese or Chinese passengers who enjoy a fast tour. We moved onto areas where the mangroves formed distinct islands separated by wide waters. The tide was fairly high (the guide said the tidal difference was about 1m) for our trip. At low tides there are lots of mudflats. We stopped close by one mangrove island giving a view of the sunny western side of another where many birds could be seen. We stayed there for nearly an hour watching as groups of birds flew in and stopped on that sunny face. No other place, that we could see, had any birds landing on it. A few large white birds were visible. Many smaller white birds flew in, landed, then seemed to disappear into the trees. The Scarlet Ibis would land and stay visible leaving the tree speckled with red birds. We must have seen several hundred perhaps even a couple of thousand birds arrive. No one in our boat tried to count them. The boat left arriving back at the starting point a little before sunset. Our taxi then drove us back to our friends house, via a supermarket for some things to accompany the fish we had bought.

Wednesday 25 April
Left the house at 7:15am for the 8am ferry from San Fernando. Arrived 25min before sailing, 10min earlier than needed. Waited in a tent-like structure which had air conditioning and a solid floor. Had to carry our own luggage onto the ferry, about 200m from waiting room to the ferry. Twin hulled boat; two passenger decks; lower deck 14 (3+4+4+3) seats across and 22 front to back; upper deck 11 (3+5+3) wide by 14 seats; both decks had various chairs absent for doors, cupboards, stairs, etc; bridge forward of passenger area on the upper deck. Fairly smooth 45min ride but too far off shore to see much detail of the coast, also the sea water spraying on the windows left them a little murky so not easy to see out clearly. Had to walk about 300m from the ferry terminus to get to the inter island ferry terminal. We had been shown the two terminals and the route on our drive yesterday. The walk is easy unless, like us, your luggage is heavy! Arrived just after 9am for the 12noon ferry, the check in time here is 2 hours before sailing. At 10am they appeared to close the gates outside the building. Checked in our heavy bags then waited for nearly 2 hours in the entrance hall to the terminal, no a/c so quite warm. Then an a/c waiting room was opened. Later walked onto the ferry via the main loading ramp at the stern and up a very functional staircase and into the passenger area. Twin hulled boat; three decks; lowest deck for vehicles; front part of lowest deck has two levels for cars, rear part for tall vehicles; central and upper decks for passengers; bridge at front of upper deck; restaurant in central deck; bar on upper deck; small amount of outside deck accessible to passengers at rear of both decks. Took a little longer than the scheduled 2.5 hours, but heard that the trip can take 5 hours in bad weather. Collected our checked in bags, then walked out to be met by the manager of the villa we are staying at. He drove us, via a supermarket, to the villa, arriving about 4pm. Then had a leisurely rest of the day.

Thursday 26 April
Up at 6am, tired but could not sleep. Lazy morning including writing this holiday diary and trying to drink lots to make up for the heat and not drinking enough water etc in the past few days. At 9:30am I have got my fifth cup of tea of the day. Had a relaxed morning, with a little swimming and reading. Midday walked to the nearby hotel. Had a good buffet lunch (160TT$ each ~ £16); maya-maya fish, chicken and pork from the barbecue, plus various salads and a blow-your-head-off chilli sauce; fruit salad of pineapple, water melon and star fruit; then some cakes; we skipped the minestrone soup. Walked on for a while through the golf course then a mix of roads and sandy beach to get to a fisherman's sales area. Only two there, we bought a 2.5lb fish at 18TT$/lb, so 45TT$. It had already been gutted but needed trimming and cutting. That was done a no extra charge. We walked back taking about 75min. So estimate 8 or 9km in all.
ski holidays
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Enough of the beach stuff, what's the snow like there?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Next week i will run a report on my Clacton and Margate trip


Mods, please change web site from SnowHeads to BeachBums from May 1st to November 1st each year Very Happy
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You need to Login to know who's really who.
Adrian, waiting for the Tobago instalment, we had a great time there some years ago
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Adrian WTF are you doing in the sun when Espace Killy's still in full swing Puzzled

We're off to Tignes on Thursday - Val D shuts on 1st May but we'll still do our best to have a good time!
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You'll need to Register first of course.
10 he flight and a chewy ferry journey..... err no thanks.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
geoffers, we have discussed snow whilst here. When driving past a golf course the conversation went something like:
Taxi Driver: Do you play golf?
Mrs A: He likes skiing?
(pause)
TD: Water or snow?
Mrs A: Snow.
TD: Hmm!


Timbobaggins, I've never been to Clacton but have happy childhood memories of Margate, it beach and Dreamland. I'm looking forward to you report.

holidayloverxx, soon.

mountainaddict, Mrs A and I had a discussion about where to go and when.

Frosty the Snowman, I am inclined to agree. Our journey was over 14 hours door to door, most of it sitting in a big tin can. By comparison, a package holiday flight transfer to Val d'Isere is about 9 hours door to door. I will have to change my discussion strategy for next winter.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Friday 27 April
We are on a lazy summer holiday, so we lazed around until midday. Cadged a lift from a handyman working on our building part way into Scarborough, the capital city of Tobago. He dropped us at a shared taxi stop and it cost 4TT$ ~ $0.40 each for the rest of the way. Had a little walk around but the centre near the ferry port is very busy and commercial. We should have gone a short distance further south, from the taxi home we saw some potentially interesting "touristy" buildings.

Wandered around the Scarborough market and bought fruit and veg. I seem to often write about buying food, but we are self catering and so I feel it justified. Papaya and plantain both cost about 8TT$/lb. Two rugby ball sized papayas cost 40TT$ ~ £4; little more than the price as I paid for one tasteless cricket ball sized papaya back in the UK. Also bought okra and other greens. So we should be having a wonderful fish stew tonight. Market has a conventional mix of food and clothing plus a couple of other stalls. The only fish seller had sold all his stock. The meat sellers had very little on show. There was lots of fruit and veg. One third of the market space was temporary stalls, another third was wooden sheds and other semi permanent buildings. The final third was a large round building, inside were four or five concentric rings of concrete tables for the sellers and their produce. The centre was clear and accessed via four aisles at right angles to each other, a door at each aisle. The innermost tables were sinks with taps. Half the selling positions were empty. Most sellers had fruit and veg; a couple had dried goods including rice and beans; one had bottles of sauces; there were also some plants in pots.

Back outside the ferry terminal one taxi wanted 12US$ to take us back to the villa. Wandered a little then stopped one of the shared taxis, a quick bit of negotiation and he agreed to drive us to the villa for 7TT$ each. Another man with his very small daughter also got in the taxi; he said he was not in a hurry. Taxi stopped at a large petrol station, the pump attendants were very attentive but the shop staff seemed very slow to enable the pumps leading to loud voices across the forecourt. The taxi fare was so low and the driver got us home quickly and easily so we gave him 20TT$ ~ £2. Where else could you get a 20 minute taxi or bus ride for two people direct to your front door for £2?

Our villa is right on the coastline and, in the distance, we can see Scarborough. Late afternoon we were sitting in the shade and watching the Atlantic waves. A man strolls along the edge of the villa's garden, just above the rocky waters edge. From there he threw a fishing net into the water. He caught lots of sprats. We asked if we could buy some, he said no and that we should just take as many as we wanted. Mrs A and I then spent a delightful hour or two cleaning these very fresh fish.

Supper was a African style stew of fish and greens, with boiled plantain and boiled okra, using the fish we bought yesterday. The little fish will be saved for later.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Adrian,are you going into the rainforest on Tobago? I remember a wonderful bird watching trip with Newton George; also another day out culminating in a swim in a waterfall - I can still smell the green water, fantastic.
ski holidays
 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Saturday 28 April
Spent a little while at the shopping mall in Lowlands. Mrs A quickly found the shoe department of the first shop we entered, but we were in luck: none of the shoes matched her needs. Found that both of our mobile phones were locked to our UK provider and we could not buy a local sim card to use with them. So no cheap calls. Should have bought an old and unlocked phone with us.

The cheap taxi service seems very efficient here. As we left the mall a car stopped. We asked "taxi?". The driver said yes and so we got in and only paid 10TT$ ~ £1 for the two of us travel to Crown Point. Along the way about four other people got in and out and the car made a couple of detours from the direct route. The idea of hailing a random car, with nothing to mark it as a taxi, and driving off in it would worry me in the UK. But here lots of people, including lone ladies, use these taxis.

Crown Point is a beach holiday resort and by the beach there are several tourist trinket shops and an outdoor food court. Lots of local foods on offer. I had "Chicken Roti", it was a mild curry of chicken and potato wrapped in a flat bread. Quite greasy and with several small pieces of chicken bone - so had to be careful when eating. But it tasted very good. Do not know how the local people can have so much fatty food with bread and potatoes and stay so slim. However, saw several people who had enjoyed the fatty excesses of the Tobagan food.

I had a swim in the sea but Mrs A was worried about theft of our stuff so she stayed on guard and then choose not to swim on her own. Shame, I tried to get her to swim as the water was lovely. She promised to swim another day.

Taxi back, stopped at a supermarket. Whilst sitting in the car and just before leaving, another car reversed into the read of the taxi. Very minor bump, there might have been a small mark to our taxi; did not see anything on the other car. So a discussion ensued between the drivers.

Evening meal of salad and some very tasty little fish.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
holidayloverxx, the rain forest is on the list of maybes. We did a rock pool swim somewhere near Charlotteville on a previous visit here, it was great to do -- once.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
castara and if u get a chance stay at castera retreats
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Whole page long, you didn't even water ski? rolling eyes
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Adrian wrote:
We asked "taxi?". The driver said yes and so we got in and only paid 10TT$ ~ £1 for the two of us travel to Crown Point. Along the way about four other people got in and out and the car made a couple of detours from the direct route. The idea of hailing a random car, with nothing to mark it as a taxi, and driving off in it would worry me in the UK. But here lots of people, including lone ladies, use these taxis.


Just like one very snowy evening in St Anton this season where - all public transport having been stopped - crowds of randoms piled together into a taxi that went in a circuitous route.
ski holidays
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

geoffers, we have discussed snow whilst here. When driving past a golf course the conversation went something like:
Taxi Driver: Do you play golf?
Mrs A: He likes skiing?
(pause)
TD: Water or snow?
Mrs A: Snow.
TD: Hmm!


I had something similar during a stop-off in Bali on the way back from a season in NZ.

TD (lifting snowboard bag out of car): Hmmm.... This not surfing board?
Stevo: No, it's a snowboard.
TD: Snowboard?
Stevo: You know, for snow - in the mountains?
TD: Yes, OK, I know.
TD: [pauses]
TD: Why you bring here?
ski holidays
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
carl, We passed through Castera yesterday, one of many pretty places on the island. Had a quick look at the Castera Retreats web page, looks interesting.

abc, Have not seen any water skiing facilities here yet, nor windsurfing. Have seen kite surfing, jet skis and sail boats.

James the Last, I am really impressed by the cheap taxi service here.

stevomcd, "TD: Why you bring here?" -- wonderful.

(Edit - corrected confusing typo)


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 2-05-12 12:43; edited 1 time in total
ski holidays
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Sunday 29 April
Lazy day. Raining on and off so we stayed close to our villa.


Monday 30 April
Raining hard at 7am. Sunshine at 7:30. Raining a little during the day. Hired a taxi for about six hours for 300TT$ ~ £30 to drive us around part of Tobago. The driver rents the car, he is saving to buy his own car, for 200TT$ per day and has to pay for his own petrol. (Tuesday: spoke to another taxi driver, he owns two cars and rents one out for 150TT$ per day.) Cars can be hired for around 300TT$ per day which can be more convenient but also adds to the worry of driving in a strange road system. Also, I like to look around when in the car and so might not concentrate properly on the road!

Drove from Booby Point and then generally along the northern side of the island. Just past Parlatuvier turned south through the rain forest to Roxborough and then back to the villa on the southern side. Stopped briefly at various places during the ride. Lots of narrow and windy roads with fantastic view of the coast and the terrain inland. Tropical plants and flowers in bloom, exotic fruits growing wild. In Parlatuvier bay bought some fish: two Red Snappers each about 30cm long, a Grouper and another unnamed fish both about 20cm. Total cost 30TT$ ~ £3 including cleaning and gutting. The fisherman also had four King Fish, each about 40cm, and he wanted 20TT$ each. So his total catch would give him 110TT$ ~ £11. He goes out fishing twice per day so that represents half of his day's income.
snow conditions
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Tuesday 1 May
From Store bay we joined a glass bottomed boat tour of the Buccoo Reef. Only six passengers on our boat, plus two crew. As we travelled from the start it rained. It rained on and off for the whole 2h30m tour! We swam at the Nylon Reef, an area of finely broken pieces of coral, almost like sand, much of which has about 1m water depth. We passed a sand bank that was less that 1m high above the water, it was covered in birds including pelicans and gulls and a few others. Moved on to the live coral reef and the boat just drifted as the guide explained about the reef and named many of the corals and fishes etc that we saw through the glass bottom. Then we were given masks and snorkels and allowed to swim around. Buoyancy aids were mandatory, they did not want anyone diving down and touching the, potentially stinging, corals.

As the boat approached the finish point at rained hard. It was warm rain, but heavy. We had to wade through the sea from boat to shore and then on to find shelter in this driving rain. The paths we walked on had 1cm or 2cm depth of running water. We were soaked. Store Bay has a great changing facility. For 1TT$ ~ £0.10 you have access to a spacious, and covered, building with toilets, showers and changing rooms. When the deluge stopped we were able to dry off and change in comfort.
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Laughing Laughing Laughing

A nice report, but it did make me laugh.... Laughing Laughing Laughing
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Adrian, please don't eat Shark and tell the restaurant that you're not eating it. There are so few left they'll be facing extinction if they keep
being killed. I want to be able to swim with them.

Nice trip report. I must do mine from Thailand.
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Chasseur, ....

Spyderman, Bake and Shark is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago. As I do not expect to visit them again for a few years I do not think that my boycotting the dish will have much effect on the trade or the numbers of sharks.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Wednesday 2 May
Taxi along southern road to Argyle Falls. Walked with a guide to the falls, but told that the recent rains had made the water muddy so might not be good for swimming. Slightly muddy and gently climbing path to the falls, past lots of different plants and trees. Saw several colourful birds on the walks to and back, including, but just glimpses, two or three hummingbirds. Passed a few other people walking to or from the falls, but no sign that any had done more than paddling in the water, which is as deep as I got.

So we cut short our stay at the falls and drove to Charlotteville. Saw one big fish, possible a marlin, almost 2m long at the fish shop.

Tobago is a small place. We mentioned to the taxi driver that a mother of a good friend was a Tobagan and lived near the Argyle falls. He knew the family name and stopped at house that we found was our friend's aunt. We were quickly directed a few doors away to the correct house and it turns out that the taxi driver knew them, although distantly.

Managed to leave my camera in the taxi at the end of the day. Phoned and he said he would return it, obviously that means paying for another taxi ride. Oh well, with a tip it is only 20TT$ ~ £2 which is much better than losing photos and a camera. I have been coping photos daily onto a laptop, so would only lose today's photos.


Thursday 3 May
Stayed in the villa most of the morning. The Taxi driver returned the camera. Bit of shopping then had a long walk around the golf course and roads near the villa.

Went to the local hotel for a buffet supper. Similar menu to the lunch we had there, but with some extra hot dishes. Wanted to eat enough to justify the cost of the meal but there were too many options.


Friday 4 May
Morning of pampering at the local hotel. Mrs A had her hair done and I had a back and neck massage. After that we finished our packing and then travelled to the airport. There was no queue at check in or at security, but we were quite early. Our idea of walking the 300m or 400m to the nearby Store Bay were rained off, so we just stayed at the airport.

Had a smooth ride home on the British Airways 777, it included just over an hour on the ground at Antigua. The aircraft was almost full for the Atlantic crossing. The total time in the airplane was just over ten hours.


Saturday 6 May
At Gatwick we queued for about five minutes for passport checks and our luggage was on the carousel when we got there. There was one more queue at the airport, a sniffer dog was checking everyone very carefully as they left the baggage hall via the red or green or blue portals.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Back home now after a lovely time in Trinidad and Tobago. The rainy season is just starting and we had a couple of rainy days. We stayed at a villa just south of the Magdalena Grand Hotel ( see the map here ) on Tobago, where we had a couple of meals.
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