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Monday, February 11, 2019

Trinidad with Jesse James

Anchoring west of Chaguaramas

Unripe Brazil nuts
Chaguaramas, (shah-go-RAH-mas) Trinidad. What I did not know about Trinidad before this visit would fill a book. What I still don’t know, volumes more. Chaguaramas sits on a quotation mark of a peninsula that extends out from the northwest corner of Trinidad. 
Local fishermen sleep near their boats in huts

It was once an American Army post, back in the WWII days. Now the old Army post is used for Trinidadian Coast Guard, Police, Special Forces, Fish and Wildlife Service and a few other Federal departments.

Called a "Double".  Best breakfast food ever!
It is an area where there are no homes.  But, many people live there, on their sailboats. A series of marinas: Peakes, Power Boats, Crews Inn, and Coral Cove, all welcome international boats.  

Canadians, Aussies, Brits and Americans on this bus.
This week alone, I have heard these languages spoken: French, German, Dutch, Afrikans, Spanish, Australian and British English. American English is heard most frequently as well as the Trini English which I’m afraid I am no better at understanding now than when we arrived.
Power Boats workers who made
our beautiful new sole (floor)

Boats from Europe making their first landfall on this side of the Atlantic often go to Trinidad.  The trade winds are helpful for that destination. And Trinidad is known in the cruising community as a fantastic place to get any kind of boat work done, and at a more reasonable rate than many other places in the world. We have certainly been pleased.
Cow-heel soup tastes like
comfort food.

One downside of Chaguaramas is that it is some distance away from most of the other sorts of things that cruisers want to visit, such as grocery stores, museums, entertainment, etc. 

Furthermore, the road from Chaguaramas is a long and winding, narrow, two-lane with potholes large enough to play hide and seek. The bus system is somewhat hit or miss. Schedules are made to be broken. 
Two lane road from Chaguaramas to
Port of Spain

We did utilize what the Trini's call their Maxi Taxi system to get around a bit--white vans that accommodate 13 passengers. There are horror stories of a 20 minute drive taking 2 or more hours to complete because of roadwork, potholes, accident or because school got out and all means of transportation are filled with children getting home after school. 
This street seller was curious to see white
people on the east coast of Trinidad.

One should allow several hours to drive to the airport, just in case things go south. Plus driving is just plain scary in Trinidad.  Drivers pull over to chat here and there, suddenly requiring a two lane road to turn into a three lane road. Drivers accommodate to this quite quickly.  That and all of the other swerving around potholes makes for an interesting transport.
Birds' nests hanging from Immortelle trees

Now add to that picture, Jesse James.  Not a caricature of the Old West but rather a man who has recognized a need that cruisers have and has tried to fill it. Jesse has a few Maxi-Taxi-sized vans and uses them to cart people like us around in groups of 6 to 13 people.  
Buying oranges at market

He schedules weekly events:  Saturday morning at 6:00 a van leaves Chaguaramas for the huge fresh Market in downtown Port of Spain, one of the largest in the Caribbean. On other days of the week he provides transport to the grocery stores or other shopping areas.
Violaceous Euphonia

This week, for example, Jesse was taking a group to see a Pan Demonstration--really a practice session for musicians, including steel drums in anticipation of Carnaval. Carnaval is a few weeks away yet, but people here like to work up a good fever in advance. 
17 species of hummingbirds on Trinidad

Next Jesse was taking a group to meet a ferry to go out to a tiny island off of Chaguaramas called Gaspar Grande where they will have a tour of some amazing caves.
Jesse on right dividing food for us. Carl
riding shotgun to help distribute.

We took two tours with Jesse.  The first was called, “A Taste of Trinidad.”  This was a very unique kind of tour from 8 AM to 9 PM. He drove us across the island from west to east, then south and back west and north again.  
Amazing machete skills!

Every few miles, or less, he jumped out of the van to pick up tasty foods from various little street markets, and food stands throughout Trinidad. 
Young men talk about their roti lunch

Trinidad has an amazing abundance of foods owing to its many cultural influences all converging on this big island. 
Muslim residents put up prayer flags

People of every hue and religion reside on Trinidad. Folks from the Far East, from India, Africa, North and South America, and Europe. 
Miles of watermelons grown along
east coast of Trini
A fresh chocolatey
River flowing into the Atlantic.  Next stop, Africa

The foods are rich in flavor—they feature the curries, ginger, chutneys and Scotch Bonnet peppers. Over the course of the day, we ate bites of some 80-90 different foods. We were stuffed.
Hundreds of Orange-winged
parrots gather nightly on

The second tour with Jesse was a birding tour.  Asa Wright Sanctuary lies high up in the mountainous jungle. 
One of 425 species on Trinidad

To enjoy it more thoroughly, we could have stayed overnight in one of the lodges onsite so that we could watch for the birds all day. 
Purple Honeycreeper

Bearded Bellbird has a beard of skin
But as it was, we saw many species of hummingbirds, tanagers, and a rare species called a Bearded Bellbird.  We could hear the toucans nearby but did not see them.
Later in the day, he took us to the Caroni Swamp where we saw hundreds of pink flamingoes, snakes sleeping in the trees and iguanas. 
Pink flamingoes appear to walk on water

The highlight was seeing the National Bird of Trinidad, the Scarlet Ibis. We feared we wouldn’t see any but in fact, we saw thousands of the bright red birds, all flying to one specific island just before sunset where they gathered to roost.  A breathtaking sight!
Scarlet Ibis roost on this island. Immature birds inside,
and adults (bright red) roost on the outside of bushes

Unashamedly, this post has become a promo for Jesse James. What he offers is truly a unique glimpse of the real Trinidad.  The cruise ships do not offer tours like his. Basically, only the people arriving by sailboat are enjoying these tours and they are spectacular. Bravo to Jesse James.

Scarlet Ibis gather by the thousands at end of day

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