Last week I had the privilege and fun of hosting 4 adventure writers; Rob Story of Bike Magazine, Tom Bie of Canoe and Kayak, James Dziezynski of Women's Adventures and Shannon Schiner of Cheryl Andrews Marketing. Assisting me was my right hand Sheldon, Dane and Wayne Filmalter the honorary Trini. My purpose for the week was to show the writers a great time so they can tell all how great T&T is.
The adventure started with mountain biking up some fairly tough single track, then hiking to Jacatan Waterfall in Grande Riverre. One section of the trail is a tough climb on the bike. On the first attempt no one makes it up, so a couple of us try and try again. Eventually it ends up James and I doing it until we make it. I did it on my third try, James almost made it - twice! Then we hiked the waterfall which was very refreshing, at least for most of us; Tom and James spent all their time comically and unsuccessfully trying to catch crayfish. Tom will do anything to catch fish, its an instictive reaction in him, which means that his brain does not always engage and that led to him entertaining us with mad snatches at crayfish. Our way out was a fun and fast down hill, where braggin rights were gained a lost a couple times.
The afternoon was spent kayaking on the new Cobra Quads I just bought. Tom captained one boat and I the other, both towing fishing lines. Tom concentrated on fishing while I concentrated on exploring what my new kayak could do and the coast itself. On looking at Tom's boat it was noticed he seemed to be the smallest person there, so he was then rechistened "Chinee" since In Trinidad's wonderfully polically incorrect language anything short is Chinese, which we say as Chinee. With James on the bow and Wayne right in front of me, we went up the coast battling wind, current and waves to a small secluded beach that gave me great ideas for a kayaking tour. I was very pleased with the Quad's performance as it tracks very well, is stable yet quite fast. Heading back was far easier as the wind, waves and current was now behind us. On returning we found out that Tom had caught and released a nice fish, so he was happy.
That night after another fantastic meal at the Le Grande Almandier we looked at well over a dozen Leatherback Turtles nesting on the beach, allways a treat for me, and I have been seeing them since about 7 years old. We got up at dawn where we counted another 20 of these massive dinosaurs still nesting on the beach; splendid. I also noticed the track of a turtle hatchling that was quite dizzying in its spirals and zig zags. I started to follow the track and soon found that Wayne and James had done the same and had actually found the feisty hatchling heading up the road, they were on a mission to release him next to the sea.
The day continued with a drive to Mt Harris, where we rode on paved and dirt roads and single track to Plum Mittan where we had a fantastic curry lunch. Then it was onto the much anticipated Tamana Cave and its hundreds of thousands of bats! On entering the cave Tom transformed to his true identity: BAT MAN!!!!! So with the Masked Marauder in tow we entered the cave fill with his cousins. Tamana was its usual variety of insects / guano / cockroach filled, smelly, batty yet exciting self. All got through the squeeze hole intact and investigated the further reaches of the caves system.
When we got out the cave a stream of bats was already flowing out the cave so we joined in. This event is one of nature's spine tingling moments where we have the chance to study the nuances and magnitude of nature. We all had a great time.
That night we retreated to the Pax Guest House for a lovely meal and the warmth of Gerard and Oda, our hosts. A surreal experience after the cave. After beakfast at the Pax we headed off in different directions. Tom went to Chaguaramas to go kayaking in the Gulf of Paria with some adventurer buddies Phillip Fung and Chris Kelshall, while Shannon headed to relax and do some errands, as James, Rob, Wayne and I departed on our biggest mountain biking adventure.
The mountain biking trail starts in Cuarita on the leeward side of the Northern Range at about 1000 feet elevation with brilliant views of the valleys below us. The trail is a fantastic cross country trail slicing the Northern Range in half and has a long history starting with the Carib Amerindians, then the Conquistadors and on to farmers and hunters until it was abandoned in the 70's. The mountain biking community both local and foreign have been clearing the trail for about 4 years now. It took us three years to fully clear it as it probably had about 200 trees across it initially; now we maintain the trail with about 20 trees down by wind and rain each year, of course there is constant re-growth; the rain forest is constantly changing.
We start with a climb on jeep trail and after 15 minutes we hit the single track we have been aiming for. Its fun as we pick up speed, but initially there is a wooo factor as the right side of the trial is often a steep cliff. Soon we enter old growth rainforest and the trail is littered with leaves, sticks, roots and times rocks. We motor on and arrive at the pass called the Rest Hut, which used to have a hut but only the name remains now. Form here we are in sight of our destination; Las Cuevas Beach, but are only quarter way there. We relax, refuel and motor onto the windward and more rugged side of the range. The trail now redefines single track as it closes in and at times its difficult to see the trail, so its now technical when you ride it fast because you never know whats coming at you, which makes it ass kickin, adrenalin pumpin fun. Difficulty is then boosted up a notch by a proper tropical down pour, Trinis call it 'bucket-a-drop'! The down hill is followed by Tarzan impressions (we needed Bat Man here) and a tough bike/hike climb, which is followed by a sweet downhill of serious root / rock infested switch backs. Kind of like Bob Marley: Roots, Rock, Reggae! ;-) I can be corny at times.
The ride is tough and fun as we storm headlong through the dense rainforests amazing at its wonders. Eventually we meet up with the section that we have not recently cleared and our progress slows a bit as we navigate around fallen trees. Then it happens: we are carrying our bikes over an old landslide, on the way down my foot slips then jams in a rock twisting my ankle hard. So we stop and I elevate my ankle and put a cold pack on it to stop swelling. After a bit we motor on with me riding and the guys carrying my bike over obstacles as I cannot lift my bike. Determination, bad mind and desire to GET OUT combines to make me bomb the down hills, I even leave out James who has been close on my tail for the most of the ride. Rob and I wait for Wayne and James and after a bit the feeling is that something is up. James comes around the corner and his leg is covered with blood. He said he had done a sweet endo and left some skin and scab in the brake levers. I now have a permanent sample of his DNA in the brake levers. We cleaned his leg up as best we could and motored on. Of course we had some tough hills yet to climb which we pushed over and got the just reward of the descent. Somewhere in there I heard a loud shout from Rob who reported that his front tyre decided to change direction without his implicit approval, so he tasted some Northern Range dirt; yumm. In the end we made it out in one piece and big smiles all round. Back at the buss we cleaned up and traded war stories over some beer supplied by the vivacous Shannon.
Our journey continued onto Brasso Seco, a village situated in the heart of the Northern Range surrounded by dense rain forests. In the rum shop we meet my long time friend, Cristo, who immediately give me my new Chinese name - wait for it - Limping! With my new name in tow we headed up to our night's abode and some bottles of rum. There we met Tom the Bat Man, who now had turned a discernable shade of pink, so he now became the "Pink Chinee"; the evening's entertainment had begun. In the spirit of naming we decide that James is now "Scab" because of his wonderful gash. Cristo is the Shaman of Trinidad's Carib Community and a Parangdero. Parang is a unique form of music for in Trinidad that is a mixture of Spanish Catholic and Amerindian culture coming here through Venezuela. A Parangdero is someone who plays in a Parang Band, Cristo is the lead singer of a band made up of family and friends who regaled with stories, laughter and music over a bottle of rum. Some where in here one of Rob's toe nails descides it had enough and departs fo good; hmmm!
The night's slumber passed quickly and after a local breakfast we headed for the airport and onto Tobago. Soon Rob was in his most beloved past time other than riding; sleeping, that man could sleep on a fence or in a rat hole. Wayne, Sheldon and Dane separated from the marauding crew at the airport and we took the flight to Tobago, soon we were headed to the Buccoo Reef for snorkeling. We met up with Derek and his crew at Undersea Tobago, geared up, got on the boat and headed to our first dive site; Buccoo Reef.
Buccoo Reef is Tobago's largest Barrier reef and offers wonderful snorkeling. We all got in and immediately were treated to many reef delights like damselfish, and I had a brief glimpse of a queen angel. Soon Rob reverted to his non mountain biking status of sleeping, fortunately he did this on the boat and not in the sea. The waves were a bit choppy here so we headed over to Mt Irvine for a calmer snorkel.
At the new location all jumped in, the others found an eel, while I found schools of squid for them. Shannon chased to squid around while Tom sought something he could fish for. I was the last in the water and on the way back to the boat I heard something plunk into the water next to me, I look up and all on the boat are grinning at me. It seems that Rob has thrown a golf ball at me, this clearly demonstrates our general level of maturity, if fact many would question if there was any maturity at all. As I am getting in the boat the Dive Master points out a large Stingray swimming right below me. I drop back in and swam with the ray for about 10 minutes. This of course made me think of Steve Irwin and how unlucky he was, swimming with the ray was far less dangerous than the insane stuff he did with massive crocs and deadly snakes. To see a ray flying through the water is a magical experience.
We drive across the island enjoying the views of the windward coast, except Rob who is sleeping for most of it; of course. We arrive at Blue Waters Inn our abode for the night and Tom is not too enthusiastic to go kayaking as its later than we expect but the sight of gulls and frigate birds fishing in the bay gets his game face on and soon we are out there. Now I have heard many times how great fly fishing is but until then I had never experienced it. Tom is an obvious expert as he time and time again drops the fly 20 to 30 yards away right on top of where a mackerel has broke the surface chasing sardines. Then I realize that he is actually a Fishing Bat, which is a real bat that uses highly eveolved echo location to catch fish swimming at the surface. Its fun to watch him display such skill. We had a great time chasing the fish but catch none, returning we get a great workout battling currents and riding waves. We all trade stories over a wonderful dinner.
The next morning we have breakfast and chat about various things; there was a mention of cheese and an observation of the many goats that Tobago has, then Rob for some inexplicable reason gave his favorite chant of "Go Chiefs!" which harkens to his other addiction of American Football, which I have to separate from actual football (had to get that in). However there was a lost in translation moment and we heard "Goat Cheese", so Rob Story has now been rechristened "Goat Cheese" :-) Rob, James and I head to meet Sean de Freitas of Mountain Biking Tobago for a day of riding. Of course I am just sticking to the down hills because my foot is fairly swollen and I am still limping. We meet at the Arnos Vale Waterwheel, gear up and the guys ride out while I follow in the mini bus. The ride is along mostly dirt road, first easy then they hit a tough climb. At the top of the climb I gear up and join the crew for the descent of "Coke Kills", so named because it is fast and steep and the road which becomes the trail is called "Coker Trace". The ride is fast, the scenery is of astoundingly Caribbean beauty and the switchbacks sweet. We descend 1000 feet to a secluded beach where we relax and enjoy lunch. My ankle is now so swollen that it is bulging over my shoe; so my riding is done for the day. The guys spend the afternoon riding single track to a waterfall and I am sore for missing it. Ah well.
That night we link up with Shannon and the Pink Chinee the Fishing Bat Man (Tom) and head back to Trinidad to St James for Roti (a curry meal) and the sweet music of steel pan and jumping rhythms of a drumming section. In the music and instruments we hear influences of Europe, Africa, India, America, Amerindians and more all gelling into a unique sound and experience that is the creation of Trinidad and Tobago's people. It makes me proud to show this amazing gang of adventurous foreigners to our shores such a wonderful experience. I then reflect on the week as a whole and I think of the cornucopia of sounds, smells, sweat, tastes, falls and laughter all I can think is WOW!!!!
The tally goes something like this: 25 miles of single track over 3500 feet elevation increase, 3 great hotels, 10 miles of ocean kayaking, at least 20 gallons of sweat each, 1 sprained ankle, 1 nasty gash, 1 lost toe nail, several nick names applied, hundreds of thousands of bats, thousands of cockroaches, 1 vine swung, lots of squid, fish, corals, 1 stingray, 1 fish caught and released, great music, great food, fun exciting people, many many hours of laughter, smiles, teasing and giggling all add up to a fantastic week. Thanks all.
I want to say a huge thank you to Goat Cheese, Pink Chinee the Fishing Bat Man, and Scab for trusting in me and allowing me this wonderful opportunity to show them a great time. Oh, and their help in pushing the bus on the last night :-) A huge thank you to Wayne for all his assistance, and Wayne and Shannon as some of these photos are theirs. Thank you, thank you thank you to Janelle and Shannon for setting this up and helping me in many ways. Thank you to Sheldon, Dane and the gang for their constant support and assistance, I'm lost without them. Thanks to Chris and Phill for helping on the kayak, we have to make this a habit.
Thanks to the Tourism Development Company for their excellent support and sponsorships and dealing with my criticisms. Thanks to Le Grande Almandier, Pax Guest House and Blue Waters Inn for their sponsorships and always being there for me and for constantly putting up with my more often than not dirty, sweaty, grubby tourists tracking through their very clean accommodations.
Last week I had REI Adventures on tour, it was just one couple, Randy and Kay Skov. On this tour I took some really beautiful and interesting photos of a Leatherback Turtle that came up on the beach at 5pm as the tide started to rise, which helps them get through the surf and to start up the beach easier. It was just a beautiful sight to see it come up the beach to nest during daylight but then it left the beack as the sun was setting, just a perfect exerience!
On the way to Tamana we stopped on Guyamara beach and I got a really nice shot of a Portuguese Man of War, which usually turn up on our East Coast at this time of year. They come with a much larger migration of jellyfish, which is mostly made up of Cannonball Jellyfish. These Jellyfish is the only food for the Leatherbacks, hence the nesting season is timed to coincide with the migration, so after the females nest they can regather strength feeding on the Jellyfish.
When we went to Tobago we did more snorkeling than usual and I got some great shots of the island's amazing marine life. It started at Mt Irvine with some beautiflul feather Dusters, also called Plume Worms. These are marine worms that disolve holes into the corals, from which they expose their very striking mounth parts to filter feed in the water. I also finally got some great shots of squid.
All photos are property of Courtenay Rooks
Well it's me, Courtenay Rooks, again with a story of a whole new adventure that had its highs and lows: It all started very brightly with a splendid day of kayaking on the Marianne River and hiking to the Pettite Marianne Waterfall. I was joined by just two intrepid souls, Steve and Jinny Hustead, on this February 2007 edition of the T&T REI Adventure. The water was alive, clear and invigorating to the senses, the sky was blue and we had not a worry. The warm day up went pefectly; the sign of a graet adventure to come.
Monday started with a slight delay but we were soon back on track, ate the wonderful concoction of chick peas in a fried dough that doubles is, then washed it down with cocunut water, a Trinidadian power breakfast. Since it was only two people we did not do the usual tour but headed straight to Kuchilal's house on the North Western edge of Nariva Swamp to gear up. From there we headed to the south western end of Nariva and rode along dirt and gravel roads through wetlands, rice fields, farms and cocoa forests to and area called Sand Hill, which is forested with Low Land Forests and is an excellent place to see Capuchin Monkeys. Within monents of entering the forest we saw a young male Capuchin moving easily among the branches, we followed it off that path and it evaded us several times only giving us the odd glimpse. Then when back on the path a female and her young crossed the path behind us, stopped and checked us out to make sure we were ok. Then the youngster got off her back and started to romp around the area; what a great sight.
The afternoon was spent riding and ejoying the fantastic lunch we usualy have at Kuchi's, then we went to Grande Riverre and checked in at my favorite lodge in Trinidad, Le Grande Almandier. However when I unpacked I realized I had forgotten my toothbrush at ho me, so I rode into the village to get a new one. None of my choices had if they were firm of soft, so I bought the fanciest looking one, of course it was all for show and it was just a cheap brush at TT$7 for it. This will turn out to be the world's most expensive cheap toothbrush. When I got back to Le Grande
(Look for more on this article as it is unfinished)
On Suday 14th Jan Ken and I hit Cumuto on the road next to the Aripo Savannas at dawn and within a few moments I hear Silvered Antbirds calling, which is a suprise as I have never had them in the sanannas before. We stalk them for quite a bit with only fleeting glimpses and only a couple seconds of film. Then Sulphury Flycatchers fly in and start calling noisily. So I once again mooch Ken's Swarovsky scope and photograph them in a Moriche Palm next to the road. The excitment grows when I hear the strange call of a Black tailed Tityra, on finding it we soon realize that its actually a pair that are building a nest in a Moriche Palm next to the road.
After enjoying the Tityras for about 30 minutes suddenly I heard this beautiful singing and saw a pair of Moriche Orioles land for a couple seconds and fly off. These are very rare birds whose populations have been decimated by wild capture for sale as caged birds. Unfortunatly the Orioles passed too fast to be photographed.
Ken headed off after the Antbirds again when a Merlin flys in and lands in a near by tree. I get a couple photographs when it launches straight at me! I am looking at it in the scope so I look up and its coming directly at me, which is disturbing. Then about 25 feet away it veers to the right and attacked some palm tanagers. Even though it missed I stood in awe!!!
We then decided to head for a Yellow Rumped Cacique roost, but on the way a flock of about 8 Red bellied Macaws flying over, I am all excited shouting Macaws! Macaws! Macaws! With wonderful luck they land in a Moriche Palm about 100 feet away, so we very quietly get out of the vehicle and photograph them for at least an hour while they feed on the palm fruits. If you are a Trini you will know these fruits as your beach cricket balls. Kids in Trinidad and Tobago would use the small black round seeds of the palm fruits as balls and the stems of coconut palm leaves as the bat and you have a game of cricket.
We eventually got to the Caciques, as the roost was next to a rum shop we also enjoyed the sweet sounds of calypso and raggae.
On Saturday 13th January after excellent birding in Roussillac Swamp and a great curry lunch Ken Archambault and I headed to the Sudama Steps on the Oropuche River to look for a couple specialties. Ken is a bird videographer and has great equipment. I was using his Swarovski scope to digiscope using both his Sony and my Pentax cameras for this, with excellent results.
We very quickly found two of our target species; the Spotted Tody Flycatcher and the Red capped Cardinal. However Ken only got a couple seconds filming the flycatcher and the cardinal was a juvenile so it did not have the red cap, which is actually bright scarlet. So we spent the afternoon hunting mostly the flycatcher but also the Cardinal and the Greater Anis. Along the way we saw lots of great birds like the Red breasted Blackbird and Green Kingfisher which can be seen in my other blog.
We trudged through mud that ca ked everywhere, of course I was wearing sandals so the mud oozed into my toes. In the end we got great shots of the flycatchers, and reasonable shots of the anis, though we never saw any more cardinals.
For the days final act we hear to a mud flat in Laromain. We find that I have timed it well and tide is falling so the birds are actively feeding. There are about 20 Scarlet Ibises feeding with Cormorants, Gulls, Pelicans, Sandpipers, Plovers and Ospreys. We focus in on 5 Ibises that are feeding near to us. At first they are suspicious of what we are doing but quickly get accustomed to our activity, which is nothing more that standing behind a scope, and move closer, both Ken and I get excellent shots.
On November 24th folks started to arrive for the November into December multisport trip i do for REI adventures. It’s a fun trip packed with adventures. We all gathered on sunday 26th November for breakfast and introduced each other. There was: Rick Hardcastle, Dave Haddock, father and daughter Tammy Bailey and Ron Hess, our only married couple Mike and Leah Townsend, Doug Bridges, Tonya Legros, Jessica Morrell, Kristin Osterloh and Mitch Golden was supposed to join us but got stuck in airline hell and never made it. I am Courtenay Rooks, leader and very ably assisted by Sheldon, Dane and Jessie.
The first thing we did was to drive up the north coast for a warm up day, starting in Blanchisseuse with an easy kayak on the Marianne river. The mood was excited as was the chatter as everyone got to know each other, even though there was an age gap of 41 years between the oldest and youngest everyone got along very well. It was quickly decided that Rick had traveled the farthest as he was from Alaska. The fun continued as the kayaks slid up the marianne river with ease, though with some directional problems. Leah was less than excited when I mentioned that she should obey Mike’s instructions in kayaking as he was sitting in the back and was therefore the navigator. Mike seemed to like the concept more; it’s a rare occasion when we men get to tell our wives what to do! Soon we stopped for a swim, which included short jumps off the rocks into the pool; the big jump was blocked by bamboo that had washed down the river in a recent flood. Leah did the no headed jump, Jes and Kris did the double jump and I did the big jump (of course; I am the fearless leader – yeah right).
We were then treated to a local sunday lunch of rice and peas with stewed chicken, plantain and a salad. Jessie and dane had to take off to try to extract a friend who had stuck his 4x4 nearby. Battling the ensuing macajuel (mac-a-well) syndrome, which is sleepiness brought on from large amounts of food (the macajuel is a boa-constrictor snake and they sleep after eating), we head onto the afternoon’s pursuit of a jungle hike to a waterfall.
On the hike we enjoyed stranger figs, birds dancing for a mate and various human acrobatics while attempting to cross streams with dry feet. The waterfall was at full strength and magnificent, everyone had a swim and some braved getting under the waterfall. Dave was the bravest as he not only spent the most time under the waterfall; he did it with shades on! Kris was the scaredicat and seemed to be freezing, which is something i always find entertaining; when people come here from freezing cold places and find the 80 degree water cold!
We returned by hiking up the river then driving back down the north coast. On the way we met Dane and Jessie in Jessie’s 4x4 which looked like a entirely different vehicle because it was literally covered in mud, completely! And they had not even managed to pull out their friend, instead they nearly got stuck themselves. Their antics both give me grey hairs and keep me young at the same moment.
Monday morning started for me at 3:30am loading 14 bikes, coolers, tools, hiking and biking equipment onto the van and at 6am picking up the REI gang and their luggage. We stopped for a local breakfast of doubles (curried chick peas in a taco like bread that is unique to Trinidad), fruit and coconut water to wash it down – the Trini version of a power breakfast. We go to plum road; which is in east Trinidad south of Sangre Grande, and gear up for a warm up ride. Bikes and helmets are assigned, and pedals changed to the sound of lively conversation. Riding gets going on a country road with short climbs and descents. I give instructions to mountain biking technique and rules of the road. The pace is steady as no one is notably slow or super fast, which is a relief for the crew as we are not chasing around too much. The forest closes over us as we enter the lowland forest of Mount Harris, it gets a few degrees cooler and we hear howler monkeys in the distance sounding like the wind groaning. Adventure continues with a hike up Mt Harris, Leah, Mike and I mountain bike up the trail, well actually mostly push up as the trail is very slippery for the bikes. The forest thickens further as we get deeper, the summit is only a trig point in the ground but after that there is no longer a trail but only my memory to find our way through the virgin rainforest that is verdant as it envelopes us with greens, browns and splashes of red, yellow and dazzlingly blue butterflies floating by. The trees tower over us in their extremely slow battle to the death. Rotting branches, golden silk and jumping spiders along with a variety of other insects round off the “deep in the jungle” feel of this forest.
Getting out meant a down hill ride for Leah, Mike and me, of course Leah as the worst rider was the one who did not fall! Mike did an acrobatic endo (end over end) in front of Leah who thought it was hilarious, of course. Then I miss timed a small wheelie over a log and got stuck, tried to save it by balancing on a tree which turned out to be rotten and I went crashing and again Leah thought it was hilarious. I think she nearly peed herself, hope she keeps up the kegels!
At the bottom of the trail it was mostly a fun down hill ride on road to my friend Kuchilal Sooknanan’s house where his sister Nisha makes us a delicious curry lunch. So we meet the Sooklnanan family, they are farmers in a rural area of trinidad called plum mittan, they grow watermelons, peas, cucumbers, corn and peppers in a crop rotation. With everyone turned from hungry to stuffed and happy we relax for a bit before our last ride for the day, which is a one hour ride back to where we started but on a different route.
We started on a easy climb through the village of Plum Mittan, of course we always create a bit of a stir as we look very strange to the locals here, the kids always love us and get excited. We then ride through rice fields and get into some reasonably tough climbing. At the end of the climb we gather up one by one and Dave rides in looking a bit pasty then Sheldon brings up the rear with Tammy who is obviously suffering from a bit of heat stroke, as the last portion was in direct hot sun. So we chill for 5 minutes and rehydrate. Fortunately the rest of the ride is mostly covered. We push on with a short climb and a fun descent over dirt road. At the bottom of the hill Sheldon calls me to say Leah has some bike trouble. I ride back and find that the brake pad on her disc brakes have slipped out of the holder and jammed between the housing and the disc. Everyone is teasing her about her sudden sliding stop. I try brains first but resort to brute force and a hammer and we are going again. The dirt road turns to muddy road as the bamboos and teak trees arc overhead. Our biggest obstacle is a part of the road where a land slide was repaired with logs mike, Dave and I make it across but most don’t even try. We get back to the vehicles about 5pm, Tammy is last as she was not feeling well, but had a definite look of accomplishment about her. We load up and hit the two hour drive to Grande Riverre, where we arrive in dark but a shower and great food revive all and spirits are high.
The next day several of the group are up early enjoying the beach which the hotel is next to, we are the only ones there besides one couple. After a hearty breakfast we ride on a country road that follows the coast to matelot. After warm up we hit a reasonably tough climb and it was a bright and sunny day. The group kept well together and all were sweaty and smiling at the summit. The down hill into shark river was fast and fun as we followed the road to matelot, once there we stopped, snacked and Kris found a friend in the form of a brightly coloured Frangipani caterpillar that is poisonous to eat, so we did not eat it! Rain hastened our return ride, we suffered up the now very steep climb, which i broke up with a stop at a nutmeg plantation.
After lunch everyone hiked to a waterfall, except Mike and I who mountain biked. The first part was steep and rocky, so we cursed pushing the bikes up but then the trail was tough and fun riding up on wide bench trail with switchbacks. At my first lecture point we encountered a baby Fer-de-Lance, or Lance Head Viper, a venomous snake related to rattlers, at about 2 feet long it was small but still we look and don’t touch. One of my rules is “don’t kill the clients; its not good for business” J about half way there we dumped the bikes and all continued on foot to the waterfall which included a really cool steep climb down to the waterfall. Once there we all swam and got a great massage under the waterfall. We had small river shrimp pinch our toes looking for dead skin to eat. Once out of the river I fed the shrimp and after a bit i lured the big ones out, the smallest were about an inch, but the big ones were about 8 inches, Dane entertained us by trying to catch them, they were faster than he was. Of course the ride down hill was “da bomb” as Mike and I got back way before the others with much bigger smiles. Back at Le Grande Almandier we hit the beach for swimming in the sea, body surfing and kayak surfing. As i got in the water rick took a nasty dump while bodysurfing which left a Gorbachev like scare on his forehead and a bit dazed but none worse for wear.
Next morning we head off on the much talked about Tamana Cave adventure. After a beautiful drive along the coast we have a casual dirt road ride to the trail head. We have lunch then hit the trail and hiked to Tamana’s summit from which we could see the length of Trinidad. We hiked back to the cave and geared up with rubber kitchen gloves and lights, then slid and climbed down into the cave as the bats above started to fly about us. We entered the 1st chamber though a hole 4 feet high and when everyone was in we turned on the bright lights to see at least 10,000 bats dashing around us. Things got quite squooshy of the yucky kind as we made our way through at time ankle deep bat guano (shit). The cockroaches were not bad this time, just a couple hundred. The conversation got very excited between screams as bats or roaches passed too close. Rick and Dave seem to have an especially good time, while Jes and Tonya had decidedly looks of both fear and fun on their faces. After the first chamber the group thinned as Tammy, Tonya, Ron and Doug decided not to go through the squeeze hole. The rest of us did the squeezing to chamber 2, where we saw the wonderful stalactites and stalagmites and much larger bats in small family groups there. At this stage the bats were flying everywhere as some were already exiting for the night’s feeding. So we headed out the cave and everyone were amazed by the bats flying right through the group as the exited the cave. A few bats even buzzed Doug who was in the back. The hike out was slippery and in the dark, a couple falls added to the fun and teasing. Back at the vehicle all changed and washed in the very dark and deserted road for the drive to pax guest house, which we arrived at 8:30pm. On the way back Rick suggested we should have sacrificed a virgin at the cave, we all decided that since Kris had white pants on she would be our sacrifice, but she laughed so hard and scandalously at being a virgin we edited our sacrifice to a formerly virgin with formerly white pants; kind of brown with bat shit.
Thursday morning we hit the airport, check in, got on the plane and as we sat we were asked to exit as there was a report of a bomb in the airport. So we went back into the terminal and sat for an hour when the police reported it was a bogus call, some idiot’s idea of fun, we got on the plane and 30 minutes later we were in Tobago. After a local lunch that included curry, crab, dumplings, macaroni pie, stewed chicken, peas, lamb and more.
Snorkeling was first in the world famous Buccoo Reef where all jumped in anxiously except kris, who played fraidycat until her hero captain Clint hand held her into the water, then she got brave and did the rest on her own. We saw wonderful reef formations, a large puffer fish, butterfly and angle fishes among many other multi coloured reef inhabitants. All was well until Ron decided to chum for sharks; the yucky way. So we head off to our second location where there was a beach so Ron and Kris jumped off and went on the beach while we snorkeled. The highlight was a Morey eel with lots of teeth, I got some great photos of the eel and fan worms, which are marine worms that feed using gill like structures in the water, and if you pass too close they suck in the gills. We headed back to base; a couple of pina coladas and rum punches were had before the drive to Blue Waters Inn.
Next morning were we up at dawn and hit the trail to Pigeon Peak, our toughest hike through montane rainforest which was recovering from various hurricane hits. The forest is still beautiful and the hike is quite tough as it is steep and slippery. We had a snack stop about 2/3 the way and most of us sat on a log which everyone blamed Ron for breaking since he was the last to sit, regardless of the fact that we made up much more weight.
At the summit i cleared roots of a strangler to sit on, which first had some nasty ants on it, when they cleared out Tammy sat and the sap from the tree burned her like acid had been thrown on her. I had heard that the strangler’s sap was caustic, but that was worse than i thought. On the descent I caught a snake locally called Dos Cocorite, interestingly it did a croc like death roll when i held it by the tail trying to get away. We also encountered beautiful birds called Blue crowned Motmots and had a Tarzan swing on a vine.
Back at Blue Waters for lunch and an afternoon kayak and snorkel which was beautiful complete with a turtle that Leah found and large schools of fish in an amazing variety of colours.
The day faded into night over rum punches and after a long wait the steel drums arrived. I tried hard to get everyone dancing with only few reluctant takers. That all changed Mike consumed enough liquid ambition and got his grove on. Then it was easy encouraging others as they saw how much fun it was. I tried to teach how to gyrate hips and asses like locals (a dance called wining) but had limited success, Rick was the worst but very enthusiastic, Tammy was the best. Dave, Ron, Doug, Tonya, Kris and Jess got down to the music while Leah and a rosy cheeked Mike got their “grove” on.
The last day was the toughest with a long ride. We geared up by an old waterwheel that was used in the days of sugar farming, Sean de Freitas supplied the bikes and support and helped lead the ride which started riding on a dirt road with some not too hard climbing. After 30 minutes we hit the tough stuff with a climb of 1000 feet elevation over 3 miles, most in direct sun. This took us to Moriah and after a bit of road riding we hit the down hill. I sweep and make sure that all is well and take off behind the leaders. Then Sean, Mike and I bomb down the dirt road to king peter’s beach at the end. In my opinion Mike nearly bites it but he says it was all part of the plan. At the beach we enjoy a picnic lunch while watching and dodging the very rough surf. Mike and Sean tackle the return hill first, while Kris, Leah and I follow, the rest shuttle to the top. About half way there Leah and I bail and I go through great lengths to put my bike in the support van all the while sure that Kris will bail soon, well i was wrong, she shocked everyone by just motoring on, pedal after pedal all the way to the top, everyone is very proud of her so she is rechristened “queen of the hill”.
The fun down hill along road then trail to highland waterfall then ensues, as I give instruction to a reluctant Tonya. The waterfall is a thoroughly enjoyed reward and we head out via a trail on the side of the river. With improved mountain biking skills Doug and others cross the river riding. It was then back to the vans, a bath, hit the airport where Mike, Leah and Tonya stayed for a bit extra of tobago and the rest of us returned to pax guest house and a farewell dinner.
For more info on adventures in Trinidad and Tobago contact Courtenay at [email protected] or check our website at www.pariasprings.com, to book REI Adventures Caribbean Multisport, which is the tour above check it out at http://www.rei.com/adventures/, while there take a look at their many fantastic adventures worldwide or get the latest gear at www.rei.com
Welcome to my new blog about eco adventure tours in Trinidad and Tobago. It will cover action as it happenend on tours so if you had a tour with me you can relive the fun and if you will be coming you can get more info on what happens here.
The tours we offer are ecotourism based adventure, natural history and cultural tours. We offer hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, caving and cultural interactions.
This is me kayak surfing in Grande Riverre during the recent REI Adventures Caribbean Multi sport that I led. We covered both Trinidad and Tobago during which we hiked, mountain biked, kayaked, snorkeled and wwent caving with thousands of bats.
REI tells me that the bats never attracts anyone to the tour, but it is often rated as the most memorable part of the tour.
This weekend I will post of the REI tour
For more info check my website and/or email me