Wednesday 8th December 2010
It was clear from the start that Trinidad is different. Port of Spain, the capital, greeted us with a number of high rise buildings and the traffic jams of a busy city. Clearly it has been a prosperous nation for many years. For a country with a population of just 1.25 million, we were surprised by the large, ornate buildings dating back to around 1900, as well as the modern high rise stock exchange and financial offices. There is the most striking Arts Centre, somewhat reminiscent of the shape of the Sydney Opera House. These we admired from a drive round tour which then took us to a lookout point over the city.
We were then treated to some of the local culture in the form of a steel band – which played a series of “pans” created from old oil drums. Whether the smaller drums were purpose made or originated from oil drums we do not know. However, an elaborate process creates a dish-shaped recess in the top surface and varying depths and thicknesses produce the different notes after the resultant shape has been fired to temper the metal. The manufacture and playing of these instruments both seem highly skilled achievements. This is said to be the only instrument to have been invented in the 20th century. The programme was excellent but at over an hour in length was perhaps a little long. Captain Derek Kemp and his wife also took part in this excursion – strange to see him in “civvies”.
We then moved on to a pleasant little restaurant which proved more memorable than we might have liked. Jill and six others in our small party found glass in a local spinach like dish called “Caluloo”. It was said that a cook had broken the plastic spoon used to stir this – which had then proceeded to go through the processor and be shattered into a myriad of pieces. He or she did not report it and apparently thought it would melt in the cooking process!!
In the afternoon we were driven about 15 kilometres over a mountain range to the north coast and the beach at Maracas. Unfortunately though, as soon as we arrived so did heavy rain. Our short stop and the rain meant that we were able to do little there but walk to the sea shore, take a few photographs and return.
Trinidad and Tobago appear strange bedfellows. Tobago is like many of the other small islands, relatively poor and not extensively developed. Trinidad, at least in Port of Spain, shows signs of wealth derived from oil found in 1910 – though some of the very elaborate buildings predate this time.
We did not have a great deal of contact with the local people of Trinidad but they appeared welcoming enough. It seems that they do have more crime than some of the islands.