Trinidad, West Indies: Position 10:40.752N 61:37.896W
Bill and Judy Stellin
Sun 10 Feb 2008 17:55
Our plan since arrival in the Caribbean has been to attend Carnival here in Trinidad. We have been looking forward to it since our friends, Neil and Tracy on Adonde told us about it over a year ago. Frankly we have been underwhelmed by the whole experience. It is billed the "Greatest Show on Earth" but Barnum and Bailey need not worry.
Carnival is a one to two month event that consumes this tiny island nation. It was much different than what we expected and while parts of it were well worthwhile, the parade on the final wild day was only so-so.
The parade is made up of thousands of people who have joined together in "bands", each with a theme and colorful costumes.
They march, stroll is a better word, past judging stations accompanied by music trucks so loud even ear plugs can't stop the head hurt, all the while drinking beer and rum. The music trucks are flat bed semi's, sometimes four of them for one band, with thousands of watts of power and each filled with over fifty feet of solid speakers. The sound can be heard five miles away, plus it is head banging with unintelligible lyrics and a tune that is repeated over and over again. In the big bands, the sound trucks are synchronized so it can be half a mile of the same god awful racket with hundreds if not a few thousand people all strolling by drinking and writhing.
The "bar truck" for band members only, is a 40 foot semi flat bed with up to 10 bartenders serving mixed drinks and beer. There was a bar truck for each band. By the end of the parade everyone is drunk and the next day, Ash Wednesday, is also a holiday and called recovery day.
Some of the bands, have a third type of flat bed truck filled with port-a-johns so the participants don't have to pee in the street. If a band doesn't have a toilet truck they just pee as they walk. I am pretty sure she is just walking.
This woman was at least six foot five inches and pulled her costume using the handles you see at her legs.
The costumes are so big in some cases, they have little outrigger wheels to support them. All are human powered.
On one of the nights preceding the parade, we attended the Dimanche Gras which is the final judging for all the monster costumes which are like these above, but much much bigger. Some were over fifty feet wide, forty feet long and forty feet high. All had to be "worn" and moved by only one person. They paraded across a stage accompanied by a narrator who described them much like in the Rose Parade. That was probably the best part of the whole experience. Unfortunately, the parade route is miles long with three judging stations and it is too much for the huge costumes, so only the smaller ones like these are in the parade itself.
The back side of these costumes are as elaborate as the front. There is a guy in the front of this one surrounded by the blue feathers.
If you look under the front legs of the horse, you can see a man "wearing-pulling" this costume. He is at least seventy years old and had to walk with a cane. It was probably close to 90 degrees with high humidity.
Carnival is over the island is getting back to normal, which is for the most part, nothing to be proud of. Crime is rampant, the government is a joke and the living conditions continue to deteriorate. Trash is thrown everywhere and the populus is admonished with big public signs to not urinate on walls and against fences. There are on average, two murders a day and hundreds killed each year by auto accidents partly due to drunk driving and roads that haven't been repaired since the British left. They have a tar lake here that could pave the entire island and they can't even fix a common pot hole.
Trinidad has oil and gas which makes it one of the wealthiest of Caribbean nations. Still, forty percent of the population doesn't have running drinking water, and the nation cannot feed itself. Part of it is because of bad government, and part because the people are lazy. Everything is imported, much from the US at exorbitant costs. The selection of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables are limited to what grows almost wild in the jungle. And yet, the government lets hundreds of thousands of acres of flat, fertile, watered land sit idle.
The country could be an exporter of food to other island neighbors, instead it imports almost everything. One wonders where all the oil money is going, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess who's pockets it is lining.
Our stay here, in the Bay of Chaguramas, is in the fine marina of Crews Inn. We have a newspaper delivered each day to the boat, so what I have been describing about the government is documented daily in the press "letters to the editor" and columnists.
This marina is filled with snow bird American boats. Even the power is 110 volt, a rarity in the Caribbean as most power is 240 volt. Most of the boats are harbor queens that never go further than 10 miles. They are so overwhelmed by canvas and stuff, they couldn't move if they had to. When one does something to their boat they all follow. It is almost a case of "can you top this". No pun intended.
This is a forty four foot boat. Note the crows nest and ladder. I think the guy is trying to make a sixty footer out of something a lot smaller. I swear, everything you can put on a boat is on this one.
There is a taxi owner/operator by the name of Jesse James who runs one of the most amazing businesses around. He can arrange and do just about anything. He was able to get tickets for Carnival events at the last minute and ferry us around where ever we needed to go. He also does tours of the island and we spent all day with him seeing the rain forest, bird sanctuary and roosting place of the scarlet ibis. The scarlet ibis are brilliant candy apple red and fly in by the hundreds at dusk to roost on an island that we were taken to by flat bottom boats. Earlier in the day we were in the sanctuary where we had a great buffet lunch as well. Jungle birds, flowers and fauna are really spectacular.
There are birds feeders everywhere, so watching them from the veranda in this old coffee estate was very easy. They came to us. We did however take an hour and half walk through part of the estate where several specimen plants and flowers grew wild.
I think he is harmless, but I didn't get close enough to test him.
Our initial plan was to store the boat here in Trinidad for the summer, but after having been here, we decided instead to leave it in Grenada at Spice Island Marina. Grenada is just in the hurricane belt, however our insurance will allow storage below 12 degress, 30 minutes and Spice Island is at 12 degress so we are just under their northern limit for coverage during the stormy season.