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Published: March 12th 2013
Harry picked us up at 7:00 and whisked us centimeter by centimeter through Port of Spain’s morning traffic jam. Then up through the mountains. The rainforest gets lots of, well… rain. This causes frequent landslides as mud and rock wash out the roads. This in turn causes lots of the guard rails to be missing in action. All this to say that the roads were so narrow, full of potholes, bumpy, twisty and downright scary (Disneyworld’s Rock ‘n Roller coaster has nothing on these roads) that I closed my eyes when we were driving beside cliffs that fell away from the mountain all the way down to theTrinidadian valley far below. When chatty “Brother Harry” our born-again evangelical cab driver told us that there are buses that race daily through this mountain road it didn’t help much.
Our day at the Asa Wright Nature Centre made the scary drive worth it ten times over. Trinidad is only 80 kilometers by 60 kilometers but boasts 97 mammal species, 400 types of birds, 55 different reptiles, 25 kinds of frogs and other amphibians and 617 species of butterfly. Founded in 1967 on a former cocoa (chocolate) and coffee plantation, it is 1,500
acres of tropical rainforest. Since Trinidad used to be connected to Venezuela by land the wildlife is South American.
We were met by Molly, the nature guide we had arranged. Turns out she came by the job naturally – her Dad was the Centre’s chief naturalist in the 70’s and much to her mother’s dismay, Molly’s childhood involved trying to see how many frogs and tadpoles she could sneak into her home.
Soon into our hike we passed a huge tree covered with big black termite nests. She broke off a small bit and had lots of termites crawling around on her hand. To scare away predators they spray a strong smelling substance that smells EXACTLY like fresh raw carrots. Not the over=processed, watery tasting supermarket bags of ‘baby’ carrots, but fresh earthy just harvested carrots. Really cool. When Molly said that years back people had eaten them for the protein, there was little question what would happen next…
As Marika says “I thought it was daring yet delicious”. Will describes is as “At first the idea was totally weird, but it was really worth it”. I ate one first and it tasted as promised, just like
fresh carrots, and as Kim said “hmmmm…. Crunchy!!!”. Yes, we really ate live termites picked right off the tree. Silly me, lugging around processed power bars from Mountain Equipment Coop – we could have saved the packaging and just munched on termites.
We saw really cool wildlife… bearded bellbirds (cousin of the Three-wattled bellbirds we saw in Costa Rica last year), beautiful green-backed trogons, green and purple honeycreepers, white necked Jacobin and many many other hummingbirds, common potoo, orange-winged parrot, turquoise tanagers and lots and lots of other bird species, golden silk spiders, chubby agouti mammals, a tiny tiny frog, postman and ladyslippper butterflies among others. We searched around where pit vipers often hang out, but no luck seeing any.
Lunch was amazing – rich spicy lamb stew, vegetable rice, beans and salad topped off with coffee grown and processed right at the Asa Wright Centre. Will said it “was the best lunch ever”. Our friends Paul and Jodie stayed at the lodge for a week years back – lucky bums!!!
After lunch we had a short hike to a natural cold fresh water waterfall and small pool. It was exciting and such a huge cool relief
from the very hot humid rainforest.
On the way back Harry drove us through the city of Arima. Then we hung out at the hotel pool in Port of Spain and had an early night of it after our day of hiking Trinidad’s mountain rainforest.
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