Thursday, July 06, 2017

Chilling at the Pool in Tobago

Today was pretty much just a chill out day at the Turtle Beach Resort.

At breakfast we were already knocking some things off of our food checklist. Clockwise from the top was salt fish, sausages, pineapple, pumpkin choka, and roti. Roti is pretty much Indian pita bread.

The food was just good enough but I really like how close the dining room was to the ocean.

I thought we shouldn't spend the whole trip cooped up at the hotel so we went on a hike to the nearest grocery store. The trip was a little scary at times.

This house had a massive mango tree in front of it. I think one of my life goals may be to have a place with a giant mango tree. Or maybe just to have enough money to buy a lot of mangos.

We saw lots of animals on the way. Chickens I didn't mind but there were a few nasty looking street dogs that I was forced to walk within biting distance of that I was keeping a close eye on.

We grabbed a few snacks at the store.

They had a nice local coconut water and I was glad I bought two bottles.

Back at the hotel we had an exotic chip taste test.

We then got back to our true calling, hanging out in the pool. We met a girl who was maybe 6 named Mira. Her mom was German and so she quizzed us on the meanings of German words and made us guess pretty much her whole family's names as well as how to spell them. We really had a lot of time on our hands. Later on she treated us to a rendition of some songs from the movie Moana.

Her mom was going to get her a piece of cake and she said "make that three" so we could each have a piece. That was cute.

Lydia taking pictures of a toad.

By this point we had the gist of the hotel food and wanted to get out and see a real restaurant. We picked the imaginatively named Mesoreen Cafe Bistro.

I didn't remember this place being quite so RED.

Crab and dumplings was a local food that sounded awesome but wasn't too exciting when it arrived. It was like one big chicken noodle with some meat inside. I could honestly barely tell it was crab. Oh well.

Lydia got an order of bake and shark. It was pretty much shark fritters. I was reminded of the conch fritters that they were rocking in the Bahamas.

I thought that the sauteed shrimp was well presented. The big frilly thing was a giant plantain chip.

The urinals had mothballs in them which was horrid. Had to hold my breath.

It was an interesting dinner and we got to try a couple of the local foods we'd read about. I'd say it was a successful mission.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Giant Turtle Lays Eggs on Beach in Trinidad and Tobago

So like many Americans this year when the 4th of July came around Lydia and I both looked at each other and were like "meh, let's get out of America". I liked to tell people that we had to go on a vacation because we were stressed out from planning our upcoming trip to Australia. I assume that everyone hates us.

JetBlue has been running a promotion where they are giving 3 points, essentially 3 cents, on the dollar for Amazon purchases. I am doing my best to punish them for their oversight. Initially they were counting Amazon gift card purchases for 3 points, then when I turned around and spent that same gift card they'd give me another 3 points. 6% back on purchases ain't bad at all. When they finally figured out they were doing it wrong and announced they were changing the game I bought $10K in gift cards that same day to send a message. The message was: I am a bad person.

A good thing about JetBlue is that they fly to several countries we haven't been to yet. A bad thing is that they don't fly to St. Louis so we had to position ourselves before we hopped on a JetBlue... jet. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale, spent the night, then the next day we traveled the rest of the way to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Lydia and I were excited because Southwest Airlines gives free drinks on holidays. Unfortunately they have a strange taste in holidays.

When I finished my in-flight magazine crossword puzzle the whole plane started chanting "hot and smart, hot and smart". It was embarrassing but in a flattering way.

Florida airports have a sculpture series that I have entitled Schlubs of the 80s. There's a different doofus living at the airport in Orlando that we visited last year on our way to Cardinals spring training.

I don't think I've seen a branded immigration form before.

Countries that speak Spanish generally have the pronunciations of things settled, but T&T has a former British colony creole thing going on so you never know what a word you read is going to sound like when spoken. Here Tobago sounds like toBAYgo.

On our Florida day I wore my classic Target sale-rack nautical camouflage mermaid t-shirt. Luckily I changed clothes because there was a sign posted at customs saying that camouflage is illegal to bring into the country. Play it cool John, play it cool.

I've never been so excited about an airport food court. After slavery was abolished the British needed another workforce that they could exploit so they shipped in a sizable population of indentured servants from India. As a result T&T has a really interesting Indian food scene. There was a long list of foods that I wanted to try on this trip.

After initially landing in Trinidad we took a tiny little plane to Tobago where we would be adventuring.

There was a sign posted of the taxi fares to all the different hotels so I didn't bother trying to haggle. Our taxi driver was a character.

This is the rainy season in Trindad and Tobago so I thought that was a good place to start a conversation.

"So is it going to rain all day today?"
"In Tobago we call it liquid sunshine."
"Ok. Well is it going to be liquid sunshining all day?"

There seems to be a bit of rivalry between the two islands. When we told him that we would be leaving straight from Tobago back to the US and giving Trinidad a miss he replied "well done".

As you can see from the map that I posted above T&T is just north of Venezuela. I asked him if the instability there was having any effect on his country and he said yes that they were smuggling in drugs and guns. Lovely.

He said that Tobago food is sweeter because they use more coconut. They have some sort of block parties on Sundays that they awesomely refer to as Sunday school. I'd read about those but unfortunately we won't be here that long.

I was trying to steer the conversation towards something interesting because if I didn't he would slip back into cab salesman mode. I always take their business card out of politeness even if I'm not planning on calling. He went on and on about how we should only ride in licensed taxis because if we are in a private car and the police find drugs or guns in it then we can be held liable. Thanks for the tip. I asked about local industries and he steered back to his pitch. Tourism is the only industry. Puts food on the table, "depending on you to give me that call". It was too much to handle. We didn't call him.

We opted for the inclusive package at Turtle Beach by Rex Resorts.

Every hotel should have a welcome drink. Let's make that a thing.

The room wasn't ready immediately but we were happy to chill a bit and wait.

The guy that carried our bags to the room was quite the smooth talker. "You are a nice couple and have nice eyes. When you have kids bring them here. Kids under 5 are free." That was worth a dollar tip I thought.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out. They had a swim-up bar which is my favorite. Getting out of the water is for idiots. Speaking of the bar it was funny because everything was off-brand which was fine. But then they had Campari which is a new discovery of mine that is actually kind of expensive. So I had a lot of negronis on this trip. Looking a black bartender in the eye and saying the word "negroni" is a little uncomfortable but like everything else it gets easier with practice.

I liked this place. I feel like it was nice enough to be enjoyable but rough enough around the edges that I didn't feel guilty for staying in a gilded castle separated from the locals. Speaking of locals there were always a few hustlers on the beach hustlin. I avoided them.

We were annoyed to see that there was a dress code in the restaurant for the food that we'd already paid for. Luckily I just did what I wanted and no one said anything.

The view from the restaurant was killer.

We were hanging out in the room about to go to bed when the phone rang. This was maybe the only time I've been happy when the hotel phone rang. There was a turtle on the beach! Turtle Beach lived up to it's name in the first day we were there. We put our shoes on and ran out the door. 

It was pretty dark and we had no idea where the turtle was other than the general direction. There was a local marine biologist present with a red flashlight. The turtle uses the light of the moon to know which way the ocean is, as its eyesight on land is crap. So if you were to shine a normal flashlight it would be confused.

I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. It seemed to be barely real.

On this beach a few steps from our hotel room was a leatherback sea turtle the size of a refrigerator.

I was transported to that early scene in Jurassic Park where they meet a sick triceratops.

It had big beak and made lots of snorting sounds as it worked. It had a sort of snot running from its eyes.

A hole behind it was full of bright shiny eggs, maybe each the size of a golf ball.

You could tell when another egg was about to drop in the hole because the turtle's tail area began to flex. It was kind of surprising that the fall from the turtle to the hole didn't hurt the egg but I guess this has been done before. I obviously didn't touch them but the eggs seemed sort of like a hardboiled egg with the shell removed. Kind of mushy and and not as delicate-looking as a chicken egg. Turtle man said that the turtle would lay around 120 total, about 30 of which were decoys.

When she was done laying eggs she covered the hole back up. This process took forever. Imagine digging a hole with two surfboards horizontally attached to your body. When it had finished flopping around it moved a bit, dug yet another hole as a decoy, filled that one back up, then dragged itself back out to sea. It was an amazing sight.

Tobago is the vacation destination for Trinidad, so there were several locals on the beach watching with us. The turtle man kept telling them not to take pictures with a flash and they kept doing it anyway. Finally he told them to beat it or he would call the police. Listening to him yell at them in his colorful Caribbean way of speaking was actually kind of fun.

If we got on a plane immediately this trip would already have been worth it.

Lydia spotted another turtle on our walk back to the room.

Back at the hotel bar a guy was playing familiar pop tunes on a steel drum. This might be the best day I've had in the Caribbean.