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Published: August 5th 2019
Saturday August 3 - I woke up before 6am, thought about going back to bed, and then remembered that I could check-in for my flight at 6:20. I decided to do that to make sure I could get the best seat for my flights tomorrow. After that, there was definitely no going back to sleep. It was also raining, and I had seen that today was likely the rainiest of the days I would be here. We were supposed to leave at 9am, but postponed until 10am to see what happened with the weather. Luckily it got better and we decided to leave at 10am.
Our first stop was Mt St Benedict’s Monastery. It has good views, and was interesting to see, but I’m glad I didn’t make a whole day trip of it on my own. We did see a few birds there as well, which was nice.
When we left the monastery, we headed into traffic as we passed by Port of Spain, which was kind of a bummer. That took a while to get through. We stopped for takeaway lunch, and we both got rotis. Mine was vegetarian and really yummy. We brought them to our
next stop, La Vega, which is a combination of a garden center and nature park, but it also has some places for motorbikes and a swimming pool too. We obviously went for the nature park, but today is a Saturday and there were lots of people there, one group with loud music blaring. There are signs that say no loud music, but that didn’t stop them. We went to eat near the lake and look for birds, but we were quite lucky in that Ally met and chatted with the owner, Bertram Manhin, for the first time, and he said he would come out to where we were to chat more after we had our lunch. He arrived soon after, and then took us for a drive to see a large silk cotton (kapok) tree. We had to walk in about 100 meters, and it was a very pretty area. The tree was huge and beautiful, with large buttress roots and a bat roosting on it. I’ve seen these types of bats before, always on these trees, with zigzag markings on their backs. He said there used to be more bats, but right now there is just this one.
We spent the next hour or more driving around his property, and he showed us different fruit trees that they grow, and gave us a couple to taste, including dragon fruit. I had never seen one that is pink inside before. It was quite the special treatment that he gave us, and I was very appreciative. Mr. Manhin bought the 250-acre property in 1983 and grows plants for sale, and fruits, and is still looking to see how he can expand his business. Ally suggested that he put more focus on the nature park aspect, with hammocks that people can sleep in. Overall, it was a really cool experience.
Our next stop was on the coast, rather than inland. We went to a place called Orange Valley, a little sliver of dock with fisherman, but due to the high tide, we did not see too much in terms of birds that may have been feeding during low tide. We did see some flamingos, but they were a little too far away for me to capture with my camera, and there were a lot of pelicans, which is always fun. I also got a close-up with a black vulture, but
we did not stay too long.
The temple in the sea was next on our itinerary. I was worried it would be too cloudy for a good photo, but the sun came out and it was really nice, despite the fact that it was already about 5:30pm and still oppressively hot. There is a story of the man who built the initial temple after he promised Shiva he would if he lived through WWII. He built it on unused land in the sugar fields,, twice, but it was knocked down both times since it was not his land. So he chose to build it in the sea, since no one owns that. It has been built up bigger and is taken care of by the community.
Sri Dattatreya Yoga Center was our final stop of the day. The building it very pink in the sunlight, and there is an 85-foot statue of the Hindu god Hanuman, possibly the largest outside of India. It is a red monkey god. The sun was behind it, so I was not able to get great photos, but it was interesting to see. We saw some birds here, as everywhere. This is a
good thing about birds - they are everywhere.
We drove home and there was a beautiful sunset, so Ally pulled over for me to take a picture. There are actually highways here in Trinidad, and the roads are typically much larger, like I would expect at home. Trinidad does not feel like any of the other Caribbean islands I’ve seen. It is much larger, larger feeling, and not for beaches.
Back at the house, I skipped dinner, since I was not so hungry after lunch, and just had my last yogurt and some granola instead. I packed what I could and organized my latest photos. I also calculated what I owed Ally for the guiding, and was able to pay her with the rest of my Trinidadian dollars and US dollars. I took a shower right before bed and then had the fan pointed on me, to try to stay cool and not get sweaty before I left. I still went to bed too late, but there was not much to be done about it.
Sunday August 4 - I set my alarm for 3:20am, since we had to leave at 4:00 for my 6:20 flight. On
the way out I took a muffin and a couple of rambutan fruits for breakfast on the plane. We got to the airport by 4:30 and it took ages to check-in. If I had been able to print my boarding passes, it would have been quick. But I think I was in line for about an hour. The actual check-in took about 3 minutes, so I’m not sure why the line was so slow. Security was not too bad, and as soon as I got to the gate, I boarded the plane. There was not even a line - nearly everyone was on board already. It’s nice not to sit around wasting time, but it’s stressful to feel like the flight is about to leave you. The woman who tore my ticket and gave me the stub had accidentally torn the stub off the ticket for my second flight as well. I showed her and asked if there would be a problem in Newark and she asked if I’d like them to reprint the ticket. I said yes and then walked closer to the desk, telling the woman behind the counter that it would be ok if she wanted to
print a business class boarding ticket instead. I mean, it would be great to have a seat I could actually sleep in when I fly from Newark to Munich. We laughed, she handed me my tickets and I went to get on the plane. When the guy scanned my ticket, it buzzed red. He did it again, same thing. He went to get me a new ticket and I was in seat 1E. I had been upgraded to business! It’s even more impressive when you see that I practically look homeless at this point in my travels. I went in, sat down in my first-row seat, and proceeded to get a free breakfast of my choice (eggs and bacon) with real silverware, a non-disposable napkin and tea in a real mug. It was very different from my normal travel. It does not seem to apply to my other two flights, but it was a very nice change of pace.
Newark, on the other hand, may be the worst airport in the country, hands down. I say this confidently with a very small sample size. It took an hour to get through passport control, which is garbage. Then I had
to get my bag and go through customs, which “only” took 15 minutes. About 15 minutes longer than it will in Zurich. Then I had to go through security for my next flight. All I wanted to do after that was find a Chili’s or something similar to eat lunch in. After all that nonsense, I still had four hours to kill before my next flight and just wanted to relax. But no. Not in Newark. They just have a bunch of crappy fast food no one’s ever heard of, and a few restaurants I’ve never heard of, and every table has an ipad that takes up space but you can’t really use for anything. I ended up with a lukewarm chicken sandwich, limp chili cheese fries and a large Frosty from Wendy’s. Not exactly what I had in mind.
Sadly, this was not my only long layover. After an uneventful 7.5 hour overnight flight to Munich, I had a four-hour layover before my final flight to Zurich. In Munich I found a quiet space, with a bunch of reclining chairs. I got in one and stayed the whole time. I played on the computer, read and then rested.
I didn’t sleep, but it was good to close my eyes. Of course, this lady put her kid in the seat next to me, and he was bouncing around, making my chair bounce around, but what can you do?
The flight to Zurich was short and I then found myself waiting for my luggage, looking through a window where I could see Jeroen and his nephew waving. After a quick grocery stop, I was reuniting with my cats, had some soup, bread and cheese for dinner, followed by an after-dinner walk and ice cream. I stayed awake until 8pm - quite a change from my normal 3-6pm nap.
I woke up at 3am on Sunday morning and got home at 2:30pm on Monday afternoon. Travel start to finish - 24+ hours. The ticket was cheap, but at what price? Man, that’s a long trip.
Seven countries, 22 islands, 11 flights, 43 days and about 583 mosquito bites later, and I’m happy with all I saw and did, and pleased to be home.
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