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Showing posts from December, 2017

Day 12: who'll stop the rain? Dec. 29 2017

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Yesterday it rained all day, again. It rained hard, much of the time. The Grande Rivière actually overflowed its banks. Local roads were 'ponded', so we couldn't drive anywhere. We did a couple of walks outside in the short grey intermissions between downpours. The locals all say this isn't right. Oddly, though, I have photos. This I think is adorbsballs; five white-winged swallows down by the swollen river. And I finally got a picture of a yellow oriole And despite the close confinement, a new bird: a grey-breasted martin. I also saw a southern lapwing down by the river, and surprised this common black hawk tucking into some land crab just out the side of our cabin. Marjie says she just wants to go home. And, today, at least, if the roads are open, we'll be doing the 100 km drive (20 km as the crow flies) trip up to the ASA Wright Nature Center today. There there will likely also be rain, but perhaps more to do. And perhaps not so much rain. The rain is…

Day 11: The wetness, and the mess. Dec. 29 2017.

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"Trinidad and Tobago is the wealthiest country in the Caribbean as well as the third richest country by GDP (PPP) per capita in the Americas after the United States and Canada." It has a higher per capita GDP than Portugal or Poland. So why are the roads potholed and narrow, the power intermittent, and the tourist industry in the crapper? Ask any Trini, and they'll tell you 'corruption'. I think this has to do with oil. The oil and petrochemical sector make up 80% of exports, but employ only a small fraction of the population. Much of the revenue goes direct to the government, which builds glitzy tower blocks for itself and neglects the roads. The government creates make-work employment for a substantial fraction of the population. A rational society would use all this oil money to build up tourist infrastructure, but they're not apparently doing that. Why? Well, I speculate the problem with tourism income is it's distributed widely over hotels and rest…

Day 10: roughing it. Dec. 27 2017.

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After a non-fish, non-meat breakfast (a bagel and cream cheese), lots and lots of therapeutic coffee, and a couple of naproxen, the gout seemed to be beating a retreat. So we set off for the northern coast, a 2½ drive along a decent highway (eastwards), a respectable secondary road along the east coast (northwards), and then a single-lane, pothole pitted death trap (back west along the north coast). There is no road across the Northern Range. As we passed town after town, civilization retreated and the rain forest pressed closer and closer. About 5 km from Grande Rivière, we came upon a tree that would have fallen across the road, were there not some nice electical wires that caught it. In Grande Rivière and points westward, the power was out, and had been since Christmas Eve, so the town was almost shut down. We found lunch along the beach, in a tiny restaurant, attached to something called the Mont Plaisir Resort. We had charcoal-grilled chicken and warm beer. They assured us their …

Day 9: Boxing day

A travel day: a 1½ hour drive to the airport, and back to Port of Spain. We walked around the city, and found it dead to the world. All the restaurants and bars were closed, even on the Aripata strip. They take Christmas very seriously in Trinidad. This forced us back to the Hyatt Regency, for a late-lunch/early-dinner of a fish sandwich and a different girly drink -- a frozen mango daiquiri. This was a mistake. My right big toe, which had been hurting a little for days, became really swollen, enough to stop me from walking. A little WebMD research indicated gout, which is aggravated by alcohol, fish (and I've been eating fish twice a day, and fruity drinks; and suppressed by coffee (which I haven't had enough of) and vitamin C (which I haven't taken since I left the US. Gout, that dread disease of sedentary, cranky, boozy old men. (Of course they're sedentary; their joints are frozen). So it looks like lifestyle-change time. Gotta give up the fish. I can't poss…

Day 8: I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas

Christmas Day it rained. All day. Heavy rain. A few interludes, but mostly drenching, constant rain. The locals say this is the way it usually is in November, but by the end of December, the rainy season should have ended. The locals say the rainy season has been getting longer, extending into January, and they blame it on climate change. I can't say they're wrong. No big deal, though. Nothing is open on Christmas day, anyway. And you can sit outside, under cover, and it's perfectly pleasant, watch the ocean, down some rum, and scribble scribble scribble. Christmas dinner we had an open house; for us, our hosts, Reggie (the Sargent's property manager), his fourteen-year old daughter Cassandra, and Caroline. Reggie was shy and seemed a little uncomfortable. Caroline was the first white person I've heard talk with a Tobagan accent; she was born here and has lived here all her life, except for college in Canada. Nice dinner; I peeled the potatoes, as befits an Iris…

Day 7: Christmas Eve on Little Tobago

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The day did not begin propitiously. The driver from Frankie's Tours was supposed to arrive at 9:00 a.m.., picking us up outside Andy's bar. At about 9:05 a.m. a drunk Tobagan to whom Wynn and Bea as the 'crazy neighbor' turned up in a black pickup, with the rap booming. He turned it up further, got out, and asked us if we appreciated his speakers. We equivocated, hoping he'd turn it down. We couldn't hold a simple conversation at a distance of 6 inches. He walked away, leaving it up. I wanted to reach in and turn it down, but was vetoed. He's drunk, I can put him on the ground I said. Please don't she said. Another guy came out of the bar and turned it down, but crazy guy came back and turned it up. Eventually, we were driven away. Alone, I would not have been; his speaker wires would have been yanked out. OK, drunk, but more hostility. After 3 phone calls from me and one from Wynn, Frankie's driver guy turned up at 9:35 a.m., with a Surinamese gra…

Day 6: Rain and hostility, Dec 23 2017.

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We decided for a quiet day after our rain-forest heroics, so we descended the stepped pathway beside Andy's Bar to Parlatuvier Beach. Most remarkable were the flocks of frigate birds overhead; usually I only see them in ones and twos. On the way back we saw an immature yellow-crowned night-heron and a pale vented pigeon. So where are the photographs you ask. Just as we reached the steps it started to rain. And then pour. Tropical rain forest rain. By the time we reached the shelter of Andy's bar we were drenched, and so was my camera. I've drenched cameras before, and they never minded, but this little Canon EOS Rebel SL2, which I'd bought just before we left, figuring these days a camera is just a box with a CCD, and the lenses are the important part, had a fit. I tried to dry it out, but it was doing all sorts of wild impetuous unpredictable things, and so, after getting home, and following some internet research, I opened up all its apertures and blew it with the…

Day 5 trip report: the rainforest, Dec. 22, 2017

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Day 5: the rainforest. Left at 7 a.m. for the Tobago Forest Reserve. Our guide, Fitzroy, took us along a stretch of the Gilpin Trace, the old trail across the island. It was mostly easy going, but muddy as heck. Starting on the trail we saw a jacamar (picture later), palm tanagers, red-legged honeycreepers, blue-backed manakins, a white-tailed sabrewing, and a rufous-breasted hermit (hummingbird). The photos unfortunately are all hopelessly back-lit; always a problem in the forest. But here’s a tropical kingbird. A well-fed manicou crab, where previously there were two manicou crabs. Ya just gotta believe this is a copper-rumped hummingbird. The forest is full of blue-crowned motmots. This is a yellow-legged thrush. A banded antshrike, from a funny angle. ...and a yellow-bellied elaenia, from an even worse angle Here's an upside down orange-winged parrot. There were trapdoor spiders all over the place. This looks slightly obscene, but I'm not sure why. ...and a …

Day 4 trip report: Scarborough, Dec. 21 2017

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Two things you learn very quickly in northern Tobago. First, no one accepts credit cards. If you're lucky, they'll have a PayPal account. Second, the ATMs are all First Citizens Bank and don't recognize American plastic. We knew neither of these things before we set out, and had something of a cash crisis upon arrival. So circumstances dictated we travel to the capital, Scarborough, to get some money. This necessitated our learning about the Tobagan bus system. I looked up the schedule online, and discovered we could catch one at Andy's Bar, and it would take us to downtown Scarborough. I also found a schedule, but was immediately informed that the schedule is in the realm of fiction. So we hiked up to Andy's, bought some ticket from him, and ware allowed to sit out on his balcony and watch for the bus come down the hill into Parvatuvier; Andy assured us that would be in half-an-hour or so. And, miraculously, he was right. The bus turned up in about 35 minutes, a…