Trinidad: February 9-18, 2008

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Post-Carnival Experiences

Yes, this period is still about Trinidad.  Sticky place, Trinidad.  Actually, we were first waiting on the water maker to get repaired, which it finally did, and then waiting on weather.   This is the time of year when the trade winds are extra strong.   Cruisers wanting to travel back north for a spell find themselves waiting for weather patterns elsewhere to impose themselves upon the trades and moderate them.   Everyone seems to agree that this year has been unusually windy -- the moderating forces have been absent or weak.  As a consequence, the seas have been rough, and so most of us chickens, who see no reason to go out and get beaten up, have been spending extra time in whatever location we find ourselves.   Our email tells us that all up and down the Caribbean, friends are anxious to move on, but sitting tight for the short term and waiting for better weather.  But Trinidad is a large island with many many features and attractions, so we have found plenty to keep ourselves busy and -- more to the point -- entertained.  :-)

Water Maker is Repaired!

Preparing to bring back on board to install

Botanical Gardens, Port of Spain

We visited along with Devi and Hunter (Artic Tern) the Botanical Gardens which lie adjacent to the President's Residence and the Prime Minister's Residence, and across the street from the Savannah where so many of the Carnival events took place.   As we began our walk, we were approached by a fellow who offered his services to show us around and describe the various plants.  Since there were no printed materials available, even though many of the plants bore numerical badges, we readily accepted.   At the end, each couple gave him $50 TT (about $10 US).   He quietly asked if we had a little more -- he said his usual fee was $25 US.   Chuck gave him another $100 TT, which he proclaimed to be more than enough.   Nice guy, and very knowledgeable.  We got his name and cell phone number so that we can recommend him to others.

Chuck took many pics of palms to send to Norwegian friend Lars Helge, who is interested in planting palms around his new villa in Spain

Our free-lancing guide David, who did a great job of describing the plants

Devi hams it up

Barb and Devi stand in front of a tree with remarkable bark

Zoo, Port of Spain

We walked from the Botanical Gardens to the nearby Zoo, where for a modest admission price we found a remarkably varied and interesting collection.   Chimpanzees and many baboons and many kinds of South American monkeys and lotsa birds and lions and tigers and ocelots and otters and turtles and ugly-as-sin torpors and snakes and agoutis and on-and-on.   We took very few pictures -- just enough to prove we had been there.  Stupidly, we did NOT take a picture of the caiman -- the South American/Trinidadian relative of the alligator.   Dumb, dumb, dumb.

??? from South America



Ms. Pat's Restaurant

After the Zoo we walked to Ms. Pat's restaurant, where we joined Steve and Ann (Receta) and Heather and Don (Asseance).   Ms. Pat used to run the restaurant,  but now only cooks there on special occasions.   We enjoyed beers in the bar (run by her husband) which is at the front of the same building while waiting for Pat to show up.   Soon she arrived carting many supplies from her home.   We were there by special invitation: on a previous visit Ann had asked her about corn soup, which we had all enjoyed at some of the Carnival events at Queen's Green in the Savannah -- now we were all gathered so that Ann could learn by helping Ms. Pat make some corn soup, and so that we could all enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Enjoying beers ...

... in the bar while waiting for Ms. Pat

Ms. Pat and Ann preparing the soup

Barb and Ann making dumplings for the soup

The finished product

Ms. Pat serving up the delicious soup

Ms. Pat hamming it up

One end of the table ...

... and the other end of the table, with Ms. Pat close by to Ann, whom she has "adopted"

Chatting at the end of the meal

Devi's Birthday

We celebrated Devi's birthday aboard Tusen Takk II, joined by husband Hunter (Artic Tern), Chris and Yani (Magus) and Steve and Ann (Receta).  We served champagne to the guests when they arrived.  Yani brought two! platters of delicious appetizers featuring smoked salmon and cream cheese and cucumbers and caviar and goodness knows what else -- they disappeared rather quickly.  The next course was a yummy salad provided by Ann.  Barb served her signature shrimp-asparagus-pasta-tomato-parmesan cheese dish and then we enjoyed Ann's delicious chocolate cake accompanied by ice cream.  Life is good, if somewhat artery clogging!   (Photos by Steve [*])

Yani, Chris and Hunter enjoying Champagne before dinner

Ann, Steve, Chuck and birthday girl Devi

[*]Devi with her welcome-to-the-party champagne

[*]Barb serves up the last of Yani's appetizers

[*]All the guests except Steve, the official photog of the evening

[*]Devi preparing to blow out her slightly-under-represented set of candles


Visit to Pan Maker

On another of Jesse James' fantastic tours, we visited a pan maker.  He demonstrated how shot puts, cannon balls, or hammers are used to push down the tops of the barrels into concave shapes of a prescribed depth -- depending upon which section of a conventional band the instruments will be designed to emulate.   They then use templates to pencil in the appropriate shapes for the notes.   Then, this shape is rendered permanently into the top by the use of a small punch.   (Below, the pan maker demonstrates with a pencil instead of a punch, since, as he explained, someone had stolen his set of punches.)   The depths of the outside "skirts" are also prescribed, and dependent upon the intended voice of the instrument.   The deepest instruments -- the bass -- use the entire top for one note, and the skirt consists of the entire barrel.   So a bass player, in order to be able to play a number of notes, is surrounded on all sides by full-length barrels -- each capable of rendering only one note.   (It is really fun to watch these guys and gals contort themselves to be able to play a series of notes to a quick beat.)   Pan making used to be highly seasonal, with all of the activity just before the time for the bands to begin practicing for Carnival.   Now, the makers are a little more busy all year long, since the current government just a few years ago made pan instruction compulsory in the public schools, and so the pan makers are moderately busy during the off season making pans for the schools.

Barrels held in reserve, ready to be made into pan instruments.

The group waits for the pan maker to appear

The pan maker himself

Demonstrating how templates are now used to make the areas that will give the various notes

The concave surface of a pan, with the separate zones that create separate notes

Visit to Angostura Bitters/Rum Factory

After the visit to the pan maker, we went on to the Angostura Bitters factory, where all of the Angostura bitters for the entire world is produced.   The factory also is a rum distillery, producing a number of rums bearing the Angostura name, as well as a number of rums that bear the name of "competing" brands.   They also produce pure alcohol for sale to educational and medical institutions.   And vinegar.  Unlike the rum factories much further to the north in the Caribbean chain,  the rum here is produced by fermenting molasses, a by-product of the production of sugar.   (The alternative is to ferment directly the squeezing of cane sugar -- the result is called "agricole" rum.)  Angostura is an official supplier to the Queen of England.   Several years ago the plant was visited by the Queen.  Did you know that when the Queen is to visit a site, it must provide a new, never-used toilet for her majesty?  No one seems to remember that the Queen has ever felt the need to actually take advantage of such a facility, but the requirement stands none-the-less.   The facility remains at the Angostura factory to this day, but is now a guard house with a peculiar name:  the Queen's loo.   The tour starts with a movie, and then a trip through a museum, the first part of which is a huge room filled with butterfly specimens.   What do butterflies have to do with bitters and/or rum?   Absolutely nothing.   But a local scientist spent a lifetime collecting butterflies, and needed a place to dispose of them as he approached death.  He donated them to Angostura, and they accepted and now display them.   We spent a fair amount of time in the huge room where the bitters are created in accordance with a secret recipe known only to five individuals.   No pictures there, however -- pictures are forbidden in the bitters room and in the bottling room.   We were also treated to a golf-cart-train ride through the sprawling grounds outside of the plant.   There we saw the areas where the whiskey kegs (from America) are disassembled, cleaned and reassembled for use in aging the rums.   We also saw the huge storage containers for molasses and the huge distillery tower.   And of course, the Queen's loo.   At the end of the tour, a complementary rum tasting, followed by an opportunity to purchase from the company store.

One of hundreds of panels of mounted butterflies in the butterfly room

The original cooker used in the production of bitters

Our guide explains the utilizing of used whiskey casks for aging rum (cf. text)

Molasses storage tank

Massive distillery tower

The Queen's Loo

Tasting the rums...

Traffic was horrible on the way back from our visit, so Jesse took an alternative route that gave us this view of Port of Spain