Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trinidad, A Beautiful Afternoon Drive


Just outside of Port Of Spain while navigating narrow winding roads through a few small but busy island communities, the landscape soon transforms into magnificent tropical lush green beauty.



SAM_2348I am on an afternoon drive on the North Coast Highway headed for Blanchisseuse Bay where I hope to do some kayaking. The surrounding landscape is amazing. On one side of the road are mountains and hills covered with all shades and shapes of greens, the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea on the other.



Approaching Maracas Bay I spot a gentleman on the side of the road collecting something that peeks my interest. He is making trips back and forth to his car with clear plastic containers.

I am told, “You see there is no one living above”. Now I understand why he is doing what he is doing and I accept his offer to partake although I do not have a plastic container.

With cupped hands, I drink cool refreshing mountain spring water straight from the source with the help of a tank and a PVC pipe.




SAM_2350North Coast Of Trinidad 



Next it's a stop for “Trini Treats” and another spectacular view of Maracas Bay.


SAM_2353For US$1, a bright pink coconut candy is just the way I like and remember it from my childhood.

So good, so nice, grated coconut and lots of sugar. Yeah, I feel good.





Continuing the drive provides more striking views as from a seaside cliff I stop to breathe the fresh ocean air and listen to the sounds of crashing waves below me. It is times like this that I can truly appreciate the beauty of nature and having the freedom to enjoy it.



SAM_2360Tyrico Bay



Through more quaint communities and along roads that have seen better days, I eventually arrive at Blanchisseuse Bay. Stopping along the road an elderly gentleman walking the street smiles at me and extends his hand through my car window. We exchange pleasantries and I tell him about my plans to go kayaking while visiting here. He tells me I need to go back up the street to the first white house and ask for Eric Blackman, “He's the one that rents kayaks”.



SAM_2397I find Eric but he is painting and preparing for the upcoming Easter weekend which is a very busy time here.

I miss the chance to go kayaking but I do not mind and I just head to the beach area where I pay US$1 for parking.



On a weekday afternoon the beach is practically deserted. It seems that this beach with a continuous flow of crashing waves is more for surfing and relaxing than it is for swimming.

During certain times of the year Blanchisseuse Bay is also a popular turtle nesting area.




SAM_2378Blanchisseuse Bay Beach


Although the beach has non-stop wave action and surf, the area to the right side seems safe enough to enter the water. Standing in waist high water on a relatively smooth ocean floor, it is fun to be thrashed around by the pounding waves.


SAM_2382Across from where I stand is a fresh water river where kayaking can be done. This river flows into the ocean via an interesting stream.

Leaving the crashing salt water waves I walk across a sand barrier between the ocean and the river.



Finding the right spot I take a seat in the clear river water but hold on as it streams rapidly to its salt kin. It is a natural process to free myself of the oceans salty residue.



SAM_2383What does a “Leepee”, “Gootee”, red snapper and lobster all have in common?

They are all fresh on a metal ring and are hanging around the waist of a local fisherman.





He has just speared them a few hundred yards of the beach. Although I think the lobsters are pretty big I am told they are small compared to the others that are caught here. It is hard for me to imagine a 20-30lb lobster.



SAM_2384A Leepee, Gootee, Red Snapper And Lobster



For the drive back to Port Of Spain I take the road less traveled (by most tourist, anyway) and return via Arima.


SAM_2400Maybe not for most but definitely rewarding for the scenery and as my college aged son and his friends would say “The XP”.








Monday, March 25, 2013

Guyana, Celebrating A Century Of Flight


My impromptu visit to Georgetown, Guyana has an unexpected pleasant surprise.


GUY D2 011This weekend the country is “Celebrating 100 Years Of Aviation In Guyana”.





Joining in the festivities are members of The Smoke Squadron a part of the Brazilian Air Force who will be performing an airshow in Georgetown.

Leaving my hotel around 3:30pm, I take a stroll to the Sea Wall area of Georgetown where the performance will be held. Even without an airshow the area is a popular hangout for local families on a Sunday afternoon.

Arriving at the Sea Wall, it is a bit disappointing to see the place littered with all sorts of trash and poorly maintained.


GUY D2 041The beach area is definitely not for swimming. However, the wide brown sand area does provide a spot for kids to fly kites and play games.

I chat a few moments with one of the young kite fliers who reminds me of my earlier days doing the same thing.



Nearby a circle of girls are playing an interesting clapping game that boils down to who will be the last girl standing. It turns out to be the one with the longest legs and best balance.



GUY D2 042Last Girl Standing


Although the airshow starts off behind schedule some of the performances have most of us in awe.  



GUY Airshow 025To enjoy the miracle of flight so amazingly demonstrated turns out to be a fine way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon in Guyana.






Thursday, March 21, 2013

Barbados, A Connection



2013-03-20 13.29.00Although my visit to Barbados is a part of my goal to complete visiting 100 countries by the end of 2013, it brings an unusual and sometimes forgotten connection to my past.





Had I made a different decision out of high school, I would have came to Barbados almost 35 years ago and most certainly my life would have been on a different path.



004Chicken And Potato Roti



Out of high school I had the opportunity to join the priesthood but declined my chance to attend seminary in Barbados. For a few moments,  I journey down “What if I had taken what was behind Door No.2” lane.

As I enjoy a chicken and potato roti, I know for sure I would be two hundred pounds heavier, I LOVE these things!


2013-03-20 16.06.20With a rental car I make my way to The Boatyard at Carlisle Bay.

Claimed as the No.1 beach on the island, I pay a US$20 admission fee to find out. This fee is subtracted from whatever food or drink I have during my stay here.




I start into my food and bar credit at the bar with The Boatyard's world famous “Pirates Punch” which turns out to be one of the best rum punches I have ever tasted. I am sure it is because of the Mount Gay Rum in it and the right touch of bitters. A few of these and I will be making myself walk the plank.



2013-03-20 16.08.59A Pirates Punch


The Boatyard does offer some nice beach facilities including free Wi-Fi. From the shade and comfort of the bar area I take in another beautiful tropical view.


010As the sun begins to say farewell to Barbados, I take a stroll along the beach with another “Pirates Punch” in hand.





With the combination of fine grain cool white sand, the right amount of surf and warm colorful tropical waters, Carlisle Bay has to be one of the most awesome beaches on the island if not in the world.

I walk to one end of the beach and watch an almost spectacular sunset as the sun disappears behind dark gray rain cloud. I imagine that on a clear day you would experience a sunset here that would be difficult to beat.



017A Carlisle Bay Beach Sunset


As I sit back in the bar area, a young lady approaches the bartender and asks for a bottle of rum. This is no ordinary bottle of rum. As the sound of local music and dancers approach the bar area from a bridge in front of us, I discover this rum is Mount Gay's latest product which currently has limited distribution. I beg for an invite to the beach party celebration for the visiting Mount Gay distributors, I don't even get a sample or a whiff.

I tell ya dis mate, lucky for all of 'em I am feelin generous, caz in me younger days, I would hav made all of 'em walk the plank to wet me whistle.... Arrrrrrggggh!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Indonesia, Ayung River Whitewater Rafting



Bali D2 023In my travels I have done several whitewater rafting trips and without a doubt the scenery along the Ayung River is among the best that I have ever experienced.





Getting to our launch point it in and off itself is quite an experience. I am dripping in sweat after descending several hundred feet and multiple steep steps to get to the rushing waters of the river. A few minutes of safety and basic whitewater rafting instructions and we are ready to begin about a two hour journey downstream.



Bali D2 036Ayung River



Bali D2 050Although most of the rapids are Class-2 or less, combined with the surrounding scenery this becomes an amazing adventure.





Through one rapid to the next we are laughing and screaming as we spin around and around tossed about by the forces of nature.

At one point we voluntarily “abandon ship” and float downstream in the cold but refreshing river water. It is so calm and relaxing floating on my back as I peacefully watch the lush green landscape go by.

A stop for refreshments then it is “paddle, paddle... boom, boom (get down)” as our guide skillfully navigates us through more rapids.


Bali D2 039One area of the river is lined with some carvings that represent a part of Indonesian culture and life along the river.

Although these are recent, about 20 years old, they are still awesome.



To top off our whitewater rafting experience near the end of our journey we are offered a free massage, a natural and fun one.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Indonesia, An Entertaining Drive


For many visitors there is a fear of driving in Bali and one option to overcome this is to hire a car and a driver for the day. This is relatively inexpensive especially when it is combined with a tour package.


Tanah Lot 037Getting the right driver can definitely make the experience worthwhile and for me this turns out to be the case.

Driving to the first outing of the day I get to enjoy the beautiful Indonesian countryside without worrying about dodging motorcycles and the other hazards of driving here.





Bali D2 052Rice Fields



Rice fields and temples of all sizes line many of the roads we drive down. I am told that here many of the homes have individual temples where daily offerings are made. Some of these offerings which often contain bananas can be seen as we past homes that extended right to the edge of the streets.



Bali D2 057Old Temple



Bali D2 056Surprisingly, bananas here are very expensive as they are used for daily offerings and in numerous festivals.






Although it is tropical here, I am told Bali has too much water to grow an abundance of bananas. If there is too much water for the banana plants the fruit is often not good.

As we approach our destination our conversation turns to talking about a special coffee that I am sure Starbucks would not be offering anytime soon. Although it will cost me about US$5 for a cup just like at Starbucks, I am looking forward to sampling this interesting coffee.

However, for now it is time to get wet.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Indonesia, Batik Processing


As one that has little or no artistic talent, I am always amazed at those that do. En route for a morning of whitewater river rafting, I get to witness a part of Indonesia artistic and creative history.



Bali D2 016I watch in an open area shop as employees make some beautiful garments pieces using a process known as Batik.






Hot bees wax is to applied to white material with a special pen (chanting) to make various designs. This material is then colored using a multi layered process.


Bali D2 018The coloring is derived from boiling various plants or fruits.

Avocado skin for greens, mangoes for yellows.






Bali D2 014Old Fashioned Weaving Machine



Another interesting thing at this stop is seeing an old-fashioned weaving machine in action. Although it is explained to me how different threads are used to make the designs, I am still confused but utterly impressed how it is all done.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Indonesia, A Nice Rendezvous



Bali One 004As luck would have it my first taste of Indonesia happens along the main street in Legian.

For about US$5, a Lunch Special brings me to a stop at Rendezvous Sports Cafe.







ST76 Feb 6 018Yummy Tom Yum Soup




ST76 Feb 6 014A bowl of Tom Yum Soup along with a fresh pizza loaded with onions and peppers definitely pleases my taste buds and my palate.







070Sitting at a high top table, I people watch as I take down an Indonesian star, Bintang.

With Bob Marley's “No Woman No Cry” playing in the background, I feel almost right at home.




I know that my time in Bali is going to be a lot of fun as it is already off to a very tasty start.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Indonesia, To Bali


ST76 Feb 6 002Some of the islands of Indonesia come into sight about four hours after leaving Bangkok.

I am on a Thai Airlines A330 aircraft and the view is warm and welcoming.




TG431 touches down ahead of schedule and after paying US$25 for an Arrival Visa it's time to begin enjoying this Southern paradise.