Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trindad- "The Land of the Hummingbird"

First, Thank you Kate and Brian for your welcome comments on our blog. We always appreciate them and miss you both. And, yes you are right our cruising days are not over. How can they be when you haven't come for your promised visit???

July, 2008

This past month has absolutely flown by, however, it did not help with my catching a “bug” that started out as congestion and put me in bed for days. Now feeling more like my normal self I can hardly wait to share with you one major excursion we went on which was to see the Leatherback Turtles. Before I get a little ahead of myself however, I want to share a bit of information on Trinidad itself.

Trinidad is approximately 60 miles long by almost 50 miles deep at its southern and northern peninsulas. Its shape reminds me of a tooth. Trinidad is only 7 miles from Venezuela and in fact was joined to South America 10,000 years ago. We understand there are almost one and a half million people inhabiting Trinidad with over 300,000 commuting to the capital Port of Spain daily. Trinidad and Tobago (20 miles East) are one country. They have a dry season Jan- May and wet season June-Dec.

Like all the other Caribbean Islands we have visited Trinidad has changed hands many times between the French and English, ultimately given to the British in 1814. The island is rich in culture due to a mix of Indian, African, Chinese, Lebanese and Afgan peoples. Trinidad was in fact the first stop for the Carib’s as they migrated north from South America.

There is an incredible assortment of natural wildlife that we have not seen previously in our travels. Particularly compared to the Bahamas where we had a hard time finding birds, we understand there are some 460 species of birds here which of coarse include the Parrots that settle each night in the trees by our marina slip. We are looking forward to making a trip to the Caroni Swamp and Bird Sanctuary where we will see Trinidad’s National Bird the Scarlet Ibis. We understand at dusk the green of the trees is transformed to a blanket of red as the Ibis fly “home” for the night. And of coarse there are the howler monkeys and Leatherback turtles. Trinidad has rain forests, swamps mangroves and a pitchlake.

Trinidad is where the Steelpan was invented. The Steelpan is the only acoustic, non electric instrument invented in the 20th Century. We are looking forward to learning about and listening to this amazing instrument.

And then of coarse there is Carnival. Carnival is held on the Monday and Tuesday before lent. The celebration of Carnival is primarily about bands and costumes and everyone having a good time. When one Carnival is barely over preparations are started for the next year. WOW!! Sounds like we are going to be really busy with so much to see and do.

We receive a local newspaper to the boat daily. The crime and murder rate here is astounding. Daily the papers are full of what is usually gang related crimes. One day, one community had three murders bringing the death toll to 292 this year on the island compared to last years 170.

The TT (Trinidad/Tobago dollar) is 6TT to 1US$. Trinidad has a 15% VAT (Value added tax) that we have seen added to almost all our purchases. To date we have only found recycling for glass which is a disappointment.

July 17th We have been really busy. Our TODO list continues to grow; each time we cross off a task we remember a couple more things that need doing. One job was my making new curtains for the lower port lights in the salon. What a difference.

This is the before picture.

And here is the completed lower port light covering.

July 18th. Now though on to our first official excursion….The Leatherback Turtle Watch. We left Crews Inn at 1500hrs . Our driver Jesse James keeps us entertained for the three hour drive to Matura Bay which is on the East coast of Trinidad. He is a walking, talking encyclopedia on Trinidad. We stop to pick up our Turtle guide (Francis) at one of the small boroughs along the way.

Arriving at dusk we start to walk the 2km beach in search of the turtles making their way out of the sea and are fortunate to come across a hawksbill turtle laying her eggs.

As we watch in awe Francis and an assistant take GPS waypoints of the turtle’s location, its measurements and finally tag it.

Then its time to continue our search for the leatherbacks and sure enough Francis comes across three baby leatherbacks that need “rescuing”. The babies had burrowed their way out of their chamber only to get stuck in a large circle of deep sand that they could not climb over. They were getting covered in sand which weighs them down. Francis said they wouldn’t have survived if we hadn’t come upon them. (They were the last three out of the borough). Francis took them to the sea cleaned off the sand then brought them back close to the borough so they could crawl to the sea on their own. Francis said the majority of babies make it to the sea however only about 1 -3 % will survive and become mature leatherbacks.
We have a wonderful bright moon tonight and as we listen to the crashing surf we see a huge formation making its way up the sandy shore. Leatherbacks grow up to 2 meters long and weigh anywhere from 400 to 1000 kg. The leatherback we are watching spends approximately an hour on shore lying between 80 and 100 eggs. It is fascinating to watch them use their big hind flippers to scoop out the egg chamber. The eggs do not break as they are dropped into the borough because they are like jelly. After the eggs are laid “mom” slowly flips sand on top of the eggs and gently pats the sand around the eggs and continues this process until the borough is completely filled in and then she starts camouflaging the nest by pulling her heavy body in circles flipping sand as she goes until she is facing back towards the water and starts her slow trek back to sea. The eggs will take 60-70 days to hatch. The leatherback turtles shell is soft almost rubbery in texture. If the shell is cut they bleed. The leatherback looks like she is crying. The secretions actually protect her eyes from bright light. Another beautiful evening of fabulous memories!!
July 20th.

Crews Inn Marina

Time for a break in the pool.

And as I said we are here in the rainy season...Jay and Pat getting a little protection on Song Bird.
After a 20 minute deluge of rain.

High States is surrounded with ugly brackish brown water.


Escoffery said...

The port lights look great! Sounds like Trini is a good place to have boat work done while you "wait out" the hurricane season. Enjoying your blogs - you may inspire us to go beyond the Bahamas one of these days!
Rich & Margaret
Dance Aweigh

Kate and Brian Fitzgerald said...

The turtles are absolutely amazing. We can't get over how large they are. These moments are what make your journey worthwhile. When I read about how you saved those 3 little turtles, I thought of the starfish poem.

"As I walked along the seashore,
this young boy greeted me.
He was tossing stranded starfish
back to the deep blue sea.
I said, “Tell me why you bother,
why you waste your time this way.
There’s a million stranded starfish,
does it matter anyway?”
And he said, “It matters to this one.
It deserves a chance to grow.
It matters to this one,
I can’t save them all I know.
But it matters to this one,
I’ll return it to the sea.
It matters to this one,
and it matters to me.”

-Author Unknown

In a world of so much indifference, so filled with the need to have more, be more, and too often at the expense of others and peace of mind, you stood above it all and made a difference to the environment, to the turtles, and if everyone did just one of these deeds a day for an animal or a person, life would be so much more joyful and full. People would feel more valued, more connected to others, and that could change everything.

Thanks for taking the time to make a difference. Those turtles will always be a part of why we love you so much - your caring, compassion, and generosity of spirit.

Happy Birthday, and "sail on" our friends. We miss you,

Love and hugs, Kate and Brian