Sitting in cold rock with icy water pounding round my shoulders; no Temptress has not run aground in northern parts but is safely tied up in Coral Cove, Trini whilst her crew enjoy the delights of the wonderfully cold Maracas river just down from the enormous, eponymous falls. It being the rainy season the falls themselves were a stupendous cascade of water dazzling in the midday sun, and at over 300 feet tall, are the highest on the island. Kevin, Nick, Annie and the kids joined a local gentleman who was indulging in his weekly “massage”, whilst I paddled and took photos. A little further down the river tumbles over the rocks in gentler drops providing a series of jacuzi pools in amongst the lush rain forest to cool us off after our leisurely 50 minute trek up the mountain to the base of the main waterfall. Jerome our guide was not only very knowledgeable about the plants, insects and birds we spotted but patient with Zach and Joely’s inquisite questioning and pace of exploring.
Apparently Trinidad’s northern range of mountains which reach over 3000 feet in places is an eastern spur of the Andes. If that sounds a bit exotic it is – the flora and fauna of Trinidad is closer to that of S America than the other Caribbean islands with howler monkeys and parrots as well as many black vultures (the locals call them “Corbeau”) who spend their days soaring over the mountain tops or checking out the local rubbish tip!
After the noise and bustle of the boatyards of Chaguaramas our next anchorage was Chacachacare, the furthest west of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and a former leper colony only abandoned in the 80’s. The island has no inhabitants except occasionally the lighthouse maintenance staff. We trekked up the islands only road to picnic on the verandah of their breezeblock quarters under the gaze of thirty or more vultures perched on both the lighthouse and the adjacent radio mast. We were also able to pick a few avocados and some mangos from the trees there before descending back to sea level during a heavy deluge, grateful for the trees that sheltered us from the worst of it but happy to get soaked and therefore cooled. Zach and Joely made some new friends in the form of two French boys of a similar age from SY Tadorne. Their parents, teachers from French Guyana who are at the start of a year’s sailing sabbatical, were equally glad that their boys had new playmates, there was endless swimming back and forth between both boats during the two days we were at anchor there.
From the peace and quiet of the leper colony to the seclusion of Scotland Bay where the Chaguaramas National Park reaches down to the sea; unfortunately this deep, sheltered bay is within easy reach of Port of Spain so the shores are littered with polystyrene plates, beer bottles and other BBQ and camping debris. The view upwards however is incredible – high peaks of green rainforest, many trees in pale flower looking like a sprinkling of snow, cloud clinging to tree canopy in the valleys. We also didn’t have it to ourselves for long as from lunchtime onwards motor boats sped in prior to either waterskiing or anchoring to take advantage of one of the several rope swings. We were surprised that most kept their music volumes low and their speed reasonable when passing through the anchorage – the youngsters of Trinidad are obviously better boaters than those elsewhere in the Caribbean. Thursday night was unforgettable firstly the fish eating bats came swooping after the fish started jumping, then a fish landed in the dinghy with a splat and finally after everyone had retired to bed a huge thunderstorm lit the sky prior to one of the heaviest downpours we’d experienced on the boat; sleep was hard to come by.
With the prospect of the weekend crowds filling Scotland Bay and a forecast of more southerly winds which would make the bay uncomfortable, the following morning Temptress headed out for pastures new. Chris Doyle’s Guide failed to furnish a phone number or VHF channel for our intended destination and a quick search online once a mobile service was gained only delivered a “wrong number”. Regardless Temptress ploughed on; the seas lumpy but not too much so, the wind on the nose making sailing impractical. We rounded the southern end of Gaspar Grande, the island that forms the southern boundary of Chaguaramas Bay and enjoyed distant views of Port of Spain, an oil rig and various commercial vessels whose purposes we could only guess at – oil rig supply vessel, cable layer, gas carrier, deep sea tug?
On the south east corner of Gaspar Grande (aka Gasparee Island) lies a small harbour, Bay View Resort and Marina. We thought that having a restaurant and a swimming pool as well as an inviting beach according tot he aerial photo’s it would be an ideal spot to spend the weekend. Turns out that the place it up for sale, a residents association is currently maintaining the many holiday homes ashore and the newish manager is trying to revert this lovely rather forgotten corner of Trinidad to a profitable business. A fisherman who fancied his chances as an entrepreneur charged us $30US per night for using “his mooring” (we later discovered we probably shouldn’t have paid anything). The concrete quay is a bit tumble down but we could securely moor stern to, though we hauled ourselves well off over night to avoid any potential damage if the wind should get up. The marina is not insured so we are here at our own risk. Everyone is very friendly, happy to share this bit of paradise. The pool has been “renovated” to the point where it is cool, clean and usable though the kids were a bit surprised to find it filled with salt water – the fresh water supply on the island is purely what can be captured in giant rain barrels, every dwelling has several lined up alongside it. Some of the houses are well maintained brightly painted in primary colours with trimmed lawns and plants, others are at the start of a long decline overgrown, paint peeling whilst more than a few are held up only by the fact that their tottering wooden walls support each other.
The Bombshell Bay Café served us huge portions of Bake ‘n Shark or wraps and fries for lunch – none of us could manage supper later, though the crew’s nightly dose of Mexican Train dominoes was accompanied by the remainder of the wraps together with the last few squares of squishy strudel chocolate cake. Following in the tradition of every group of mexican train domino playing cruisers we’ve met Temptress has adapted the rules to suit our circumstances, we started play at double six and are enjoying just a couple of rounds per night until Zach and Joely are ready for their bunks.
The following few days were spent swimming and having fun, we even managed to get ourselves a berth in the upmarket Crews Inn Hotel and Marina for the last weekend of Nick and Annie’s stay with its large swimming pool, lawns and supermarket. Too soon the holiday was drawing to a close but we had time for one more treat. Having invested in a rent-a-wreck for the second time in their holiday the six of us headed to Yerette to get up close and personal with some of the many species of hummingbird that live in Trinidad. Yerette is a private villa high up in the Northern Range not far from Maracas Falls and welcomes pre-booked groups for lunch. Theo gladly introduces their visitors to the amazing life of the hummingbird – the only bird that can fly upside down, backwards and straight up as well as hovering like a helicopter. These tiny birds drink nectar or the 25% sugar solution provided in the many feeders hanging around the garden devouring huge volumes during the day but actually spending more of their time at rest than flying. After a lovely soup and salad lunch provided by Gloria and plenty of opportunities to attempt to photograph the birds Theo entertained us with a presentation of the very bet of his own collection of photographs – we were simply stunned by the beauty he had captured. Check out their Facebook page for some of these.
During the trip home we made a small diversion to Zipitt a zipwire-tree canopy adventure Zach and Joely had been wanting to do for several days but we’d not been able to squeeze in due to the horrendous traffic delays on the sole road into and out of Chaguaramas. They and their father Nick were dressed in safety helmets, industrial gloves and harnesses over hairnets and latex gloves, then after a quick briefing headed up to the treetops. There are seven interconnected zip lines and a great time was had by all as Annie blagged some Carib from a local heading home for the three of us who remained on terra firma!
One postscript; our take on the semi-comic service at Crews Inn’s restaurant where we attempted to eat one evening can be found here