Pitch lake & wildfowl trust
Tuesday 4th September 2012
The plan was to have been back in Grenada by now, but the liferaft and Jonbuoy have not yet been returned. They were finally serviced last week, and we have been waiting since then for an invoice so that we can pay for them and get them back. They won’t deliver till we’ve paid, we can’t pay till we get an invoice that tells us how much…
So, as we were here anyway, we decided to join Jesse’s trip to the pitch lake and wildfowl trust, both down on the south side of the island. It was great to get off the boat and see a bit more of the island. We reached the pitch lake around midday, having stopped en route for elevenses of doubles. These were rather spicier than we’ve had before so we were glad we had passed on the pepper sauce, but they were no less messy!
Me with my Double BEFORE getting messy!
The pitch lake was, as the name suggests, a lake of pitch. The top is dried to a thin crust by the sun, making it possible to walk on it, but carefully, as there are places where the crust is too thin and the pitch below too liquid to take a person’s weight, so we were glad we had Amina, our guide, to show us where to go. The surface is springy to walk on, and if we stood in one place for a few minutes we would find ourselves sinking slowly into the lake.
The thin crust on the surface can be dug up with a finger. Amina, the guide, explains why this is a safe pool of water to paddle in.
Pools of water lie on the uneven surface of the lake, depending on how much rain there has been. Some are sulphurous and thought to offer healing properties. Others are dangerous with soft pitch at the bottom. In places, the soft liquid pitch is visible on the surface, and contrary to belief is not black but very dark brown – and almost impossible to get off if it gets on you!
Amina demonstrates the fluidity of the pitch. I was careful not to let it drift in my direction.
There are three natural pitch lakes in the world, but this is the only one that is mined. The crust is skimmed off the top and taken to the onsite factory where it is boiled and impurities like wood and stone are taken out to produce asphalt. This is then exported to various parts of the world. The lake apparently then makes up its volume all by itself, so doesn’t run out.
After a very hot hour out on the pitch lake in the sun, we were glad to get back to the air conditioned coach and head off for lunch. Another Trini staple food, this time Roti, washed down with a cold beer, was very welcome, and then we set off for the wildfowl trust.
This could not be in a more unlikely place, as it is set within the grounds of an oil refinery. The lake on which the wildfowl nested could not have been more of a contrast to the pitch lake, being shaded by trees of a variety of species.
Fowl that are endangered and some that have been re-introduced to the island are reared here and eventually many are released into their natural habitats, in an effort to stop the species dying out.