All the Caribbean islands we've visited have been different, but Trinidad
is so different it might almost not be in the Caribbean -- which it
almost isn't. For one thing, the island lies only 30 miles off the
Venezualan coast, in the mouth of the Orinoco River, so there's no
crystal clear water. There are jellyfish -- not like the Chesapeake
varieties we're used to, but more compact, with little short tentacles
that hardly sting at all, and they zip around, swimming almost as
fast as fish. We wonder where they're going in such a hurry, as they
have no brains or anything to tell them where to go.
between Trinidad and the other islands don't stop with the water
and fauna. The culture here is like something that would come from
crossing the Islands with, say, New York City. For example, everybody
here is in a hurry. Car horns, which are used elsewhere in the Caribbean
to say "Hi" with a short toot, are used in Trinidad for what God
intended horns to say, "Get that ****** thing moving!"
When you ask
about getting work done anywhere in the Caribbean, you're always
told that the job will be done in a few days; you quickly learn
to discount or even ignore these estimates. Not so in Trinidad,
where a busy craftsman is likely to say "There's no way I can get
that job done in a reasonable amount of time." And at least most
of the time, if they say the job will get done tomorrow, it gets
done tomorrow. All sorts of stores and shops abound, and Chinese
restaurants are almost as common as Creole and Indian ones. The
Trini people are really friendly and nice. Despite the closeness
to Venezuela, there isn't much Spanish influence here. It's formerly
Brit, but the population is primarily black and East Indian. Apparently,
when slavery was abolished, someone got the idea of importing lots
of Indians and Pakistanis, so the population now is about 45% black,
40% Indian and the rest mixed or white. Unlike several other islands
we've visited, there's virtually no racial tension that we could
fairly prosperous, though there are some panhandlers and homeless
in evidence. They have a booming natural gas industry, some big
plants for processing alumina and ammonia, lots of shipping (6 or
8 ships in port at any given time), and the Caribbean's largest
rum distillery, where they make Cruzan, Bacardi, and of course their
own Fernandes Black Label, which is cheap and excellent. We met
the manager of the Fernandes distillery, and when we asked how they
compared in size with Mount Gay, he laughed, saying that Mount Gay
was a small blip on the horizon compared to Fernandes.
boat storage and repair business is incredible. The yards are enormous
-- easily the largest we've ever seen -- immaculate, and well run.
One couple we met had just bought their boat, and, after starting
a list of things that needed to be done, went to the yard for help.
The next morning a gang of workmen showed up and accomplished the
repairs so fast that the owners were unable to add items to the
list fast enough to keep ahead of them!
There's a maxi
motor yacht here that has just had a complete refit, meaning everything
is new -- wires, hoses, engines, the works. To accomplish this,
the workmen gutted the interior entirely, and as of last week all
the wiring and new engines, etc. had been installed, but there were
no decks, furniture, or even bulkheads. Despite this, the crew assured
us that they would be ready to sail in one week. Less than a week
later, all the new teak decking, bulkheads, and cabinets have been
built and installed, and it looks as if they'll really make it.
All this, and
beers cost US$1.20 a bottle -- in a restaurant. At the Carnival
sites, they're 70 cents US. A good lunch is US$3.00, including beverage.