Cayenne French Guiana
Pointa A Pitre Guadaloupe
Back Home in California
Port O Spain Trinidad: Mounted in the traffic circle connecting the
airport access road to the highway leading to the city are a group of
whimsical sculptures promoting "Carnival" left over from this year's
event in February.
Hello from Trinidad, one of the smallest countries in the world.
I finally paused long enough in Port of Spain TrinidadTobago to pay a little attention to my pile of email and take a stab at catching up with the postcards. The flight here in a nineteen passenger Beechcraft Series 1900 gave me a good introduction to the realities of air travel in this remote part of the world. The noisy cramped passenger cabin left no doubt such travel will long be reserved for necessity rather than pleasure. The hour long flight landed in a rural part of the island with nothing but expensive taxis to the city. "Yes. There are city buses into the city, but you must get out to the highway four kilometers away and that is a LONG walk."
"Hey! Who you think you are talking to?" thought I, instead replying, "Four kilometers is not a long walk for someone who has walked three thousand during the past ten months." An hour later and I reached the roundabout connecting the airport access road with the highway. In the middle of the traffic circle colorful remainders of Carnival still fluttered in the wind; gay replicas of costumed celebrants. The display created an irresistible photo-op and I clicked away while watching for buses. Carnival in Trinidad occurred 27-28 February this year, over a month ago. From nearly every lamp post along the highway into town still hang artistic banners advertising the festival.
The one way ticket I bought in Porlamar on the Venezuelan island of Margarita again turned me into an international criminal! No one is supposed to enter the tiny island nation of Trinidad without an onward ticket. The befuddled immigration officer called for backup while explaining how they could not allow me to set foot on their sovereign soil without such a ticket. Never mind I have no idea where I am going next or when or on what airline. A slight little man uniformed with gold bars on his shoulders, speaking a very strange dialect jabbered away at the exceedingly friendly female immigration agent, finally coming to some understanding with her, none of which I understood. The solution in my special case she informed me, would be to make an immediate reservation to somewhere off the island and actually purchase the ticket by the end of my provisional seven day visa... and promise not to sneak away and become a long term illegal alien... short term illegal alien would be O.K. in my particular case. The day being Sunday, they even allowed me to delay the process of making the immediate reservation until the next working day and turned me loose on the populous.
There is a lot of serious construction in progress along the waterfront near the astronomically expensive Hotel Crowne Plaza Trinidad where circumstances forced me to stay. This hotel is the first and only one I found during my hours of wandering the city. When the receptionist announced $245 as the room rate I thanked him and asked for other accommodation suggestions. Everything he named turned out to be a long way from the city center. An hour later and discouraged from a fruitless alternate hotel search I returned sheepishly asking if the Crowne Plaza didn't have some sort of discount for which I might qualify. "Just a moment." replied the clerk who dashed into a back room to talk with the boss, no doubt.
Returning with phone in hand he addressed me, "We can let you have the room for one night at a $215 rate, but we are fully booked tomorrow night." I paused long enough to realize I had no other choice and said I'd take it. After learning no flight would be available for two days I later returned to the hotel reception desk and pleaded for a one day extension in their previously fully booked house... and got it.
the town one hears a strange Caribbean version of RAP music intermingled
with conversations in dialects I would characterize as Jamaican. Of
course, I don't really know the difference between Trinidadian and
Jamaican dialects. The island nation of
Trinidad is an unusual mix of Caribbean and English cultures. The
national language is said to be English, but the dialect used by most
people makes it nearly unintelligible to my ignorant ears. People who deal
with tourists on a regular basis have perfected a modified version
understandable, if one concentrates.
With credit card fraud endemic throughout the Caribbean getting money out of an ATM machine means tolerating additional security steps like quickly entering the last two digits of your passport number following the PIN number... all without pausing to look up the darned number... or the machine times out forcing one to start over.
Tomorrow I fly over to Georgetown Guyana. That should be the beginning of a special kind of adventure. Street crime warnings everywhere in this part of the world tend to be scary... and believable. Even here in happy Trinidad wild eyed scruffy aggressive black beggars kept me on the alert during my several excursions through the darker dirty streets of the inner city.
Fred L Bellomy