April 29 - Liming in Trinidad

I arrived in Trinidad at about 6am after a red-eye from Toronto. I hardly got any sleep because the plane landed in Caracas, Venezuela for an hour at about 4am.

The island is very tropical and the lush green hills surround the sun-burnt and somewhat dirty city. I spent the day just "liming" as they would say in Trinidad--it's their version of "hanging out".

I asked the ladies at the front desk for things to do in Trinidad. The first time I asked, the girl said that things don't open until 2pm on Sundays. The second time I asked, another girl said that everything closes at 2pm on Sundays. I guess I missed out either way!

So to kill time, I went to the mall next door to my hotel and tried a few of the local specialties. The Shark 'n Bake didn't have much flavour but was very tender under the lightly crispy outside. The beef soup was mixed with dasheen (taro) and was very tasty.

I also had a chance to try some Mauby. Nasty drink. It's hard to describe the taste. It's like a sweet, spicy, carbonated coffeeish drink. Very strange. But the locals seemed to be avid fans as I saw a few people filling their cups.



May 3 - Watching the Leatherback Turtles

Under the light of a full moon, we made our way to Matura, a small village on the north east side of the island. The waters at the coast are quite rough as the cold Atlantic crashes onto the fine sand beach. Although swimmers stay away from this beach, at night, dark shapes crawl out of the waters like demons from the underworld. But they are the leatherback turtles returning to lay their eggs.

The ritual was slow and measured and amazing to witness. The mother turtle, weighing 500 to 800 lbs, crawled up the beach in a zig-zag path. Once she found a spot she liked, she used her big back flippers to scoop out a hole. Every few scoops, she took a deep breath, almost like she was letting out a big sigh and wishing it would be easier.

Finally, once the hole was done, the mother went into a deep trance as egg after egg dropped into the hole. It was at this time that we were allowed to take pictures and "pet" the turtle. The shell, although tough, was very much alive and if you looked closely, you could see it undulating as each egg passed. Her body was meaty and her skin felt like soft leather.

As she laid the eggs, tears fell from her eyes. If she were human, you could imagine she was crying from the pain of the childbirth. Or crying because she was happy to see her children for the first, and last, time.

Finally, once she was done, she covered the hole and then proceeded to camouflage the area by flipping the sand all around where she laid the eggs. With this, she slowly made her way back down the beach.

As the waves lapped against her back and she slowly disappeared into the dark waters, I felt a tinge of sadness. Although she does this only once every 3 years, she will never see the babies she had borne. 2 months later, 40% of the eggs will hatch and scramble their way back to the sea. Out of these, 1 or 2 will survive to be adults. It's no wonder that they have become an endangered and protected animal.

For those who want more excitement, you can wager on the Great Turtle Race. Vote for your favourite tagged leatherback as they get tracked from Costa Rica to the Galapagos. Which one will finish the swim first? Which one will decide to take the scenic route? Which one will just plain decide not to leave the beaches of Costa Rica?


May 5 - Stuck in Trinidad

So in an ironic twist, AkaWesley is stuck in Trinidad for two more days.

I think it was because of my undying wish to get off this island that the universe decided to strand me here for two more days. I had asked my co-worker what time our flight was leaving and he confidently replied 10:30pm. So we arrived at about 9pm only to find that we had the wrong time and it was leaving at 9:30pm! Needless to say, we were screwed.

So if this were an episode of Lost, we would suddenly cut to another scene with the words "3 days ago" neatly shown on the bottom, just to see why the universe did this to me.

3 days ago, I was complaining to my co-worker that this was the worst work trip I've done so far. I felt isolated at the hotel, with only a crappy mall next door and average overpriced food to look forward to each day. I wasn't getting much sleep at night because the guy next door to me would leave the tv blaring all night and the walls were paper thin.

2 days ago, we had the turtle tour. After getting the outrageous tourist price of US$85 per person, I was expecting to get tourist quality service. But we were picked up in a crappy car with no air conditioning and purple tinted windows, and a sloppy driver dressed in an oversized hawaiian shirt. The tour service said that they would provide water and sandwiches, and so during the tour, we were each given an allotment of TT20 (about 3 bucks) to buy dinner and drinks! Definitely not what I expected. And finally, when I asked the driver how much it cost for a permit to see the turtles, he lied through his teeth and told me US$65 (it is really more like US$1!).

1 day ago, I was ready to head into Port of Spain to walk the streets and see if there really was an excitement to this place. After talking to the clients and hearing that it would be hard for me to get back, and that there was not much to see downtown, I gave up and just decided to go watch Spiderman 3.

So that comes to today. After seeing how fed up I was with Trinidad, the universe saw fit that I stay here for two more days. I think the key is to never NOT want anything too badly and just to enjoy what comes your way. This gives me a chance to work on my tan and swim in the pool for a weekend. How is this so bad?