Friday, January 2, 2009

LAND AT LAST January 2, 2009

Friday January 2, 2009
The rain has stopped, the sun was shining brightly through my window, but the prospects of getting off the ship today seemed bleak. The Japanese couple I had hoped to go with decided to sign up for a tour, there was only room in a taxi for Marissa, Mark and Florence, because a space was needed for the wheel chair, and the one other person I had made plans with couldn’t be reached because his room phone was out of order. Florence did suggest that I check at the terminal to see if there were passengers who would want to share a cab for a city tour.

On the way to the terminal I met up with a woman whose tour had also been canceled and she was willing to look for fellow passengers to join us. As there were no other cruise ships in dock today, there were ample cabs available and all the drivers were looking for business. According to our driver not many cruise ships stop in Trinidad, as it is much further south than all the other Carribean Islands. In the waiting room, a driver told us to wait and he would find two other passengers to join us. The flat fee for the cab is $60 for two hours—or $15 each for four passengers. It was a very comfortable air conditioned mid-size car. I was lucky enough to get in the front seat with the driver so I had an unimpeded view.

Port of Spain, capitol of the two adjacent islands, Trinidad and Tobago, is a major shipping terminal—and there is a lot of dock activity. It is also an important financial center. Unlike Manaus and Santorem which are unkempt and seedy, Port of Spain is handsome, with many architecturally beautiful, modern, high rise buildings. Circling the city are the steep volcanic mountains. Everything is green and lush, many of the trees are in bloom, and all the streets, wherever we drove, were spotlessly clean. This can only come from a population which takes great pride in its environment. There were numerous, beautifully landscaped public parks and gardens. Even the most modest homes were painted and well kept, with private yards neatly maintained.

On the outskirts of the downtown area we passed an unusual building under construction. When completed it will be the center for Carnival, theater and the arts. On the construction site was a large billboard with a rendering of the final design. The lines flow and curve like no other building I have ever seen. It will be a stunning edifice when completed in a year or two. Many of the older building and private homes are also architecturally beautiful—drawing on the influence of English, French and Indian designs of the late 1800’s early 1900’s.

We were surprised to learn that Trinidad has a very large East Indian population. Our driver is of Indian descent and a practicing Hindu. At one point, early in Trinidad’s history, East Indian slaves were imported to farm the plantations.

Our driver offered to stop if we wanted to take pictures—but three of us were impaired and using canes and the fourth lady did not have her camera with her—so we only stopped once high in the mountains for an overlook of the harbor and city.

We returned to the ship at lunchtime and I walked the top deck taking pictures of the docks and downtown area before the rains started again. I had lunch pool side—but remained under cover as it rained intermittently for the remained of the afternoon.

We sailed at four and had a briefing on tomorrow’s tours once we were underway. I had signed up for an afternoon whale watching tour, but discovered that my ticket assignment is for the 8:20 am tour. It seems that there were so many requests for this tour that a second trip was added and I neglected to check my ticket time until early evening. I’ll just have to push myself to get up, have a light breakfast and be ready. I really am not a morning person anymore.

There will be land tours daily for the next several days, and I have signed up for one in each port. I do hope there will be no more heavy rains and landslides to keep me from these activities. Of course, I also have to be concerned about the noro virus which has spread through the ship. Almost everyone I have spoken to has been affected by it. So far it has passed me by—but there is still seven more days to travel.

Tomorrow Domenica.

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