Rainforests, Beaches, and Steel Pans--oh my!

First of all, I'm sorry I'm not able to include any pictures in this post--our Wi-Fi access has been cut off and I'm having to write this post on a computer from 1998. If you can be patient (and I know you are!), I will remember to post some pictures once we either get to free Wi-Fi at the airport tonight or at the latest when we get home!

Our day started like every other day here, aside from being a little bit earlier than usual. We had the typical breakfast buffet, and got on our typical tour bus, and made the typical bus ride out of the hotel parking lot and onto the Queen's Savanah (the world's largest roundabout, by the way--sorry I forgot to mention that in previous posts). However, this day would be anything but typical...

We made the turn at the sign that said, "Maracas Bay 15Km", and were off to yet another narrow, winding road up the side of some mountains. Passing through a small village called LaFillette, we made our way towards the lush rainforests of Trinidad. Stopping by a food stand at the side of the road, we were offered beautiful views of the sea below us, as well as many local treats--milk fudge, coconut fudge (it was fantastic), Trini candy, a pineapple concoction that had all sorts of peppers and spices (also very good!), and mangos with a similar but slightly spicier concoction (not quite as good, but I'm partial to pineapple). We also had a chance to see a very rare coral snake (the most poisonous snake in all of Trinidad), albeit a dead one--the bus had run it over. I suppose it may have been better that way--our tour guides said that this is the first time they had ever seen one up there. We all posed for a few group shots and selfies (the girls love taking selfies, and I love photo bombing or joining in), and then we were back on our way.

Passing by the beautiful beaches en route to our destination, our tourguide Tano made sure to give us warnings about everything that could potentially kill us in the rainforest (very reassuring), as well as telling us all about Trinidad's vampires (the mosquitos that really only come out at night--our mosquito repellant wasn't even needed!). We even came up with a new species of deadly animals to scare the other bus with--"jumping jellyfish" that lived in the trees and dangled their tentacles, which you should not confuse with normal vines lest you get stung and die. They were not amused. I think with all of the treats of the rainforest--poisonous snakes, frogs, plants, razor grass (grass that can actually slice you up like little razors--sounds like a good time!), they were already on edge enough without having to dodge vines that were literally EVERYWHERE along our walk.

We finally reached our destination--a rustic building with a bathroom and some changing facilities. The girls changed into their swimsuits, put on a ton of sunscreen, and as a precaution, put on a ton of bug spray. Because we would be crossing water on our hike, some girls opted to do the whole hike barefoot--brave, due to the rocky terrain. The hike wasn't particularly strenuous (a puppy travelled with us and was able to make it), but it was a bit tricky--very narrow, high paths along drops into the river, crosses through the river over slippery rocks (I took a spill into the river after slipping on a rock, as did a few others on the way back), and steep inclines where we needed to use tree roots as footholds and handles. In the end, it was all worth it--we arrived at a beautiful waterfall and pool where we spent the next hour or so swimming and enjoying the beautiful sight! 

When it was time to head back, we all put all of our shoes back on (most of us decided to put our shoes on and just deal with soggy shoes the rest of the day) and headed back to the bus. Along the way, we encountered some termites. Embracing my inner survivalist (ha--I complain when there isn't air conditioning--like back at the hotel this past evening), I decided to eat some. While it was a little bit strange picking crawling bugs off a leaf and eating them, the rumors are true--they DO taste like carrots. Or maybe carrots taste like termites? In any case, I now know that if I was ever trapped in a rainforest, I would be able to stomach bugs for survival!

We took an 20Km ride back to Maracas Beach for our next exciting adventure--the world famous Shark and Bake restaurants. It was an interesting and cool experience--all of us that wanted to received fried shark on a roll, and then were able to put whatever condiments we wanted on them. There was spicy pepper sauce (this was very spicy--I would NOT have been able to handle eating a whole sandwich covered in this, but I survived a taste-testing), a delicious cilantro sauce, garlic sauce, sweet sauce, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and small chopped tomatos. I opted for the cilantro sauce, garlic sauce, sweet sauce, lettuce, and tomatos. Let me tell you--it was AMAZING. It wasn't overly fishy, but it didn't quite taste like chicken, either. Somewhere in between. But the sauces made it a fantastic explosion of tastes that were enjoyed by all who tried them.

Finishing up, we headed across the street to the beach--a beautiful beach surrounded by beautiful palm trees and mountains. It was a true Caribbean paradise! We quickly headed into the water to body surf, and noticed right away that the water was saltier than we were used to. The waves were also relentless--I got tossed under a few times. Fortunately, it was a very soft, sandy sea floor--not cuts or scratches like you might get on the rockier Jersey shore. Despite the waves, there wasn't much of an undertow, so I never felt a fear of being swept away. The girls had a really great time, and were sad when we were called back onto shore to wash our feet off and get back onto the bus.

We rode back to the hotel for a buffet dinner (that we were an hour and a half late for--I guess we were having too much fun at our two swimmin' holes). They didn't seem to mind our tardiness. We took a few minutes to freshen up and change into some different clothes, and then it was back into the city for an AMAZING performance by the Silver Stars steel pan band in their steel pan yard. Apparently, steel pan bands buy large yards in the city, putting up walls and a stage, as well as concession areas, to host concerts and events throughout the year. We were their audience last night, and I think we impressed and amused them with our enthusiam, dancing, and singing. As the band jammed away at the most exciting arrangements of "I've Got a Feeling", "In the Mood", "I Will Survive", "Mamma Mia", "Phantom of the Opera" (featuring the girls on vocals), "You Are Not Alone", "Bad", and "Bohemian Rhapsody" I've ever heard, the girls danced and sang their hearts out--finding energy from I don't know where. We even had a "Soul Train" line going at one point, with Ms. Jenkins, Ms. Butler, and myself each getting a chance at solo dancing glory (I busted some moves from "Thriller"). At the end of the show, the girls were all able to try their hand at the steel pans again, getting mini lessons from the band.

And so our evening ended--we headed back to the bus, and drove back to the hotel. The girls are currently having a pool party, and then checking out of the hotel this morning. We will be having a chance to do some shopping (finally!), and then taking a sunset cruise in a mangrove this evening--all before heading to the airport to begin our journey home. I will probably write an update/post at some point tomorrow detailing today's activities when we get back on Wednesday. Until then, time to get ready for the day!

-R Dawg