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Published: August 3rd 2019
Friday August 2 - It is so hot here. Sometimes I forget - like when I’m in the shower - but I am quickly reminded. I am always sweating, just existing, and it is so uncomfortable.
Today I followed my original plan from yesterday, visiting Pitch Lake. I started out with a chat to Jeroen and then had breakfast before getting everything ready for the day. Ally left me a note to bring her old boots, so I didn’t get my shoes dirty. I did, and brought my bathing suit as well, just in case.
I left around 8:45 and walked over to city gate. I had not been there before, but I had been nearby, so I had an idea of where I was headed. I think it’s an old train station, from before the train lines became defunkt. Today it’s a bus station. Ally had given me all the directions I needed the other day, so I knew I was looking for a black plastic with a hole cut out to buy a ticket. You can’t just get on a bus here and pay the driver, well, at least not the government buses, which is what I
was taking. I thought I found the right ticket place, but when I asked a guy in line, he pointed me in a different direction. Then I thought it but the woman there pointed me where I had been. Then it happened again. Finally I tried the woman again and she gave me directions to a place she thought would be easier to find, further down, across from the KFC. She was right - I found it. I bought a ticket to San Fernando on the luxury coach and then walked over to it. I was lucky - it was just about to leave. I asked the woman standing out front and she told me to run into a nearby office and give my ticket to another woman. That woman said there was a bus in 20 minutes, but when I told her the bus was still here, she let me go.
The bus was a real bus, not a minivan, and it had aircon, which was nice. I read my book and the ride took about an hour and forty minutes. Then I had to get a minibus, called a Maxi Taxi here, and take that to Pitch
Lake. In these you just pay money to the driver, like normal. It didn’t leave until full, but it was almost full when I got there, so that was good timing. I asked the woman who sat next to me if she could help me get out at the right place, and she agreed. The driver said he would too. This ride took about 40 minutes and they both made sure I got out at the right place.
Ally told me to ignore the unofficial guides at Pitch Lake and get an official one inside. Luckily there were no touts hanging around today. The price for a tour is $30 TT (about $4.50 US), but the guide said it was $50 TT if I was alone. Just then, a group of five came up, and I joined their group, saving me some dinner money. I started to change my shoes, but the guide said to keep my sandals on since we would walk through ankle-deep water in places. Shame to lug around the boots for nothing, but oh well. I also didn’t change into my bathing suit. I just wasn’t thinking about it. My group was a woman, her
sister and her small daughter from Trinidad and two American guys who were with them. One of them was from Trinidad originally, and was either friends with or related to the women. I’m not sure which. But they were all nice.
Pitch Lake is the largest of three natural asphalt lakes in the world. It’s really very weird. Most of the asphalt is solid, and this is how they harvest it. You can walk on it, and it does not feel like a lake, but it is constantly in motion, with the landscape being continuously changing, slowly over time. There are many bubbles in the asphalt, and these are gas bubbles, little pockets of gas you can pop. The guide popped some with the point of her umbrella. I stepped on several, and felt them move and distort under the presssure. Apparently the area is not volcanic, at least partially due to the gas being able to escape regularly. In the rainy season, now, rain water collects on the surface and they have to pump a lot of it away to continue to harvest the asphalt. There is also a lot of sulphur is some parts, and people also
come to bathe in some of this water, for health purposes. The guide also led us to a part of the lake which actually does contain liquid pitch, which makes it dangerous to visit on your own. They have a photo of a man who fell in once, and he’s covered up to the top of his chest in pitch. At the end of the tour, we could swim in the water in a particular area, but I had not put my suit on earlier. One of the women and her niece swam and the rest of us just waded into our knees or so. There were little guppies in the water, which surprised me. There wasn’t much to see or do, but I’m really glad I visited the site. It’s a pretty special place, being that they are so rare. There’s something similar in Venezuela and then the La Brea tar pits in LA, and that’s it. This area is also called La Brea.
Once the tour was over, I went to the museum upstairs, which did not have much to see, and then said goodbye to the others before heading out to wait for a maxi taxi
going back to San Fernando. I would have tried to get a ride back to Port of Spain with the others, but I knew there was no room in their car with all five of them.
It took about 25 minutes for a maxi to come, and the ride back was 35 minutes. Then I had to give in my ticket for the bus back to Port of Spain, and I got a boarding pass for the bus, which left about twenty minutes later and took about 80 minutes. They boarded by boarding pass number, which was funny. It was sunny when I got back, and I walked all the way home, getting there just after 4pm. I had considered heading to the cemetery for better photos, but I was just so tired and sweaty. I even took a shower as soon as I got home, and then started to sweat again right after.
I hadn’t had lunch and knew it would be a while before dinner places were open, but Ally’s cousin had stopped by with some muffins earlier in the day, so I had one of those to tide me over. Ally and I decided to
go get some dinner together at 6:30pm, when everyone should be open and ready for business.
We left a little late, as usual, and just before, I noticed the sky had some great cloud formations that were lit up pink, but there was nowhere I could really go to get a picture from here. I told Ally so she drove me quickly to a lake where I could get some photos. The pinks were gone, but the photos still turned out nice. Then we stopped at a supermarket and I picked up a yogurt and a banana. Then we went into town to get some Chinese food. I ended up with a beef and brown bean sauce, and Ally got a soup with everything - the 3 in 1. Mine was a lunch special (for dinner) that included vegetables and fried rice. While we waited I saw a drink called peanut punch in a small container like a kids milk carton, and I asked Ally what it was. She said it is made with milk, peanut butter and sugar. I got one and had it for dessert. Yum.
We discussed some plans for tomorrow - my last (fun)
day of this trip, and I decided to do her West coast tour, and we’re throwing in the monastery I didn’t make it to, so that should be good. It’s an expensive trip, but it will be nice to end with something good.
After dinner I did a little packing, but will have a little more to do tomorrow.
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