Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dominica, Trinidad, and Trinidad...again

February has been flying by. We started the month in Dominica, where we hiked through rainforests, visited Carib Territory, and enjoyed Carnival. Carib Territory was amazing, I have a hard time imagining any other group of white Americans getting such a welcome. From Tortola BVI, we had a Carib named Bobsey aboard as our guest. He'd been one of the crew on the Gli Gli and needed a lift home.

In visiting Carib Territory, we were able to visit him, meet his family, and even learn some of their crafts such as basket weaving. Additionally, he had arranged for Chalu, the master Carib canoe builder (who built Gli Gli), to come down from the hills to meet us and tell us about his life. It was incredible!

Carnival was equally amazing, though in a completely different way. Roseau was throbbing with life and music as the Carnival parade went through. Once it started, the parade never stopped, just seemed to go in loops and loops. At first, it seemed like some of our students felt out of place, however, everyone crowding the streets seemed so welcoming and happy to share their annual holiday tradition, that they soon grew more comfortable.

From Dominica, we moved on to Trinidad. It was supposed to have been a 4-5 day sail, but with the wind in our favor, it took only 2.5 days. Trinidad is amazing. We had what I wrote in my journal as "The Best Day EVER" here. We visited Asa Wright Nature Center, where I fell in with a group of (compared to me) expert birders. There I saw twenty-five new species, including toucans and a male collared Trogan. As I left, all I could think was how I wanted to return for a few days (it happens to also be a small hotel) to bird in depth and relax. I was truly in heaven there.

After Asa Wright, we moved on to a Caroni Swamp tour. These are done in the late afternoon so as to experience the awe of watching hundreds of brightly colored scarlet ibises return at sundown from their daytrip to Venezuella (about 7-8 miles away). I have never seen such beauty in flight. Even pictures do their coloration no justice. Flamingos are dull in comparison!

We also visited Chacachacarie, an island a few miles off of the main island. From the 1930s until the 1980s, Chacachacarie was a leper colony. It was then deserted in the 80s and basically remains that way today. There are building being taken over by trash left from explorers (similar to my group, except that they leave debris and graffiti, whereas we try to clean up the places we visit) and nature. I am now eager to learn more about this fascinating island.

We left Trinidad on Wednesday, returning Thursday for some unplanned boat repairs. This return has allowed us to dive headlong into our classwork (a number of people have yet to adjust to classes while seasick) and also to explore more of this great island. Yesterday we went to Pierre-A-Point Wildfowl Center, where we were able to see some scarlet ibises up close. The center is breeding and releasing endangered birds of the island. Today we are heading to the beach for the afternoon. It is Saturday, afterall!

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