Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Savannah, Port of Spain

View across the Savannah toward downtown Port of Spain
Officially called the Queen’s Park Savannah, this enormous park in Port of Spain provides a good afternoon’s entertainment as you walk around and look at the sights. We started off on the south side, just as it started to rain. Luckily, there was a restaurant handy to duck into for lunch; we had a nice bite while watching the rain from the covered outdoor seating area. By the time we were finished, the sun was back out, and we commenced walking. Portions of the Savannah are vast open fields, but the northwestern corner was prettily landscaped area with plenty of trees, ponds, and foliage. Across from the Savannah to the west are several old mansions, some in disrepair, others undergoing repairs, and still more being used by various agencies. Across the street along the northern side, we passed the zoo, botanic gardens, and the Trinidad and Tobago president’s house, which looked to be undergoing some renovations; its gardens were beautiful. Many of the larger trees in the Savannah were identified by labels, which is always nice, and the benches had colorful mosaics. Back on the southern side, we passed the impressive metal-and-glass performing arts center. All in all, a nice urban stroll.
One section of an elaborately built mansion

Performing arts center

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Found It!

The goal: find the hypersaline pond on Chacachacare

Snake plants, but no snakes
 When we flew back into Trinidad in September, the plane came in low over Chacachacare, and we saw a pond on the southern side. This pond is indicated neither on the nautical chart, nor on the drawn map in the guide book. Well, I see that as a challenge; we’ve got to find it. My recent blog on hiking Chacachacare detailed our first attempt to get to the pond, or even just to see it. It looked like we might be able to go over or along the western ridge to get to it (hence our fighting our way to the hot, rocky top of that hill), but that didn’t work out (though we did get a nice hike out of it). So the next time we were at Chacachacare, we followed the offshoot trail we found that traversed the southern ridge, and—BINGO!—there it was. Along the way, the trail passed through four distinct groves of snake plants (related to and resembling the plant known as mother-in-law’s tongue), and another short offshoot led to a cliff overlooking a little beach where we saw the tracks of two nesting turtles. The trail terminated at a rocky beach that looked south over the Gulf of Paria. It had rained hard two days before, and the mosquitoes were out with a vengeance (we each had our own little buzzing entourage), so we used a lot of Deep Woods Off as we traipsed through the woods. We were hot and sticky and smelled of bug spray by the time we got back to the dinghy, but we had accomplished our goal—always a good feeling!
Turtle tracks on isolated Chacachacare beach

Chris leads the way with our trusty cutlass

Monday, October 22, 2012

Local Adaptation

Ha! All you evolutionary biologists and ecologists thought I was going to talk about population isolation and environmental parameters and shifting equilibriums and perhaps the increased rate of genetic change in small populations. Nope! I’m going to talk about food (so what’s new!). It’s not uncommon to see American fast-food chains in foreign countries. In the Caribbean, Kentucky Fried Chicken is particularly prevalent (those guys must have a wicked marketing department). The menu is pretty much the same as it is in the states – fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, etc – but there are some concessions to local palates, such as this made-in-Trinidad, scotch bonnet and habanero pepper hot sauce. We put it on our tuna sandwiches. Delicious!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A BIG Bottom Job

You know, we complain sometimes (okay, all the time) when we’re buying anti-fouling paint to paint Mr Mac’s bottom, as it tends to run a couple hundred dollars per gallon. I shudder to think how much it costs to paint something like this ship in dry dock at one of the Chaguaramas shipyards. The guys on the blue lift are painting the depth scale down Krakow’s bow. The top of the scale is fifteen meters, and at this point they’re working on the nine-meter mark, with a ways yet to go. But doesn’t she look pretty!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It’s Still Two Weeks to Halloween!

All right, I thought Americans jumped the gun on holidays, but here in Trinidad, even before the second week of October was up, Santa Claus was already clearing space in the stores and installing racks of Christmas decorations, and playing Christmas music was on the loudspeakers. I guess the Christmas holidays down here last as long as a presidential campaign in the states – forever! Oh, well, I guess we’ll have to think about decking the deck with boughs of palm fronds.