Journal 1: Aussie Adventures 1
Journal 2: Aussie Adventures 2
Journal 3: Indonesian Escapades
Journal 4: Singapore & Malaysia
Journal 5: Langkawi, Malaysia
Journal 6: Thailand Trekking 1
Journal 7: Thailand Trekking 2
Journal 8: Indian Ocean, Maldives, & Oman
Journal 9: Oman & Yemen
Journal 10: Pirates, Eritrea, & Sudan
Journal 11: Egyptian Adventures 1

Journal 12: Egyptian Adventures 2
Journal 13: Egypt to Israel
Journal 14: Cyprus Crossings
Journal 15: Turkish Tales 1
Journal 16: Turkish Tales 2
Journal 17: Greek Odyssey

Journal 18: Italy & Spain
Journal 19: Why Go Cruising?
Journal 20: Airplanes are Faster
Journal 21: Barbados

TRINIDAD – Carnival (February 26- March 1)

It was an all too brief visit down to Trinidad to see David. 4 days of freedom from the hustle of the emergency department gave me just enough time for a 12 hour flight into Port of Spain. I went from scraping ice off my car to slathering on sunscreen. Don’t you just love the tropics! But I have to say that my timing was impeccable! I arrived during what is arguably the high point of the T&T (Trinidad and Tobago) year – CARNIVAL!! Time to party! I just needed to find my castanets!

T&T is known for its temperate climate, pristine rainforests, diverse population, and Carnival. T&T has been colonized by the Spanish and the British over the years. These colonial powers brought in slaves to work the fertile soil of Trinidad. The population is a combination of Hispanic, East Indian, African, and Chinese peoples. Culture, language, religion, and ethnicity all blend here. And for some reason, there does not appear to be racial tension between these different groups.

There were a couple thousand sailboats and yachts that descended on T&T for the Carnival festivities. The marinas were jam packed. Exit Only was lucky enough to find a berth at the Coral Cove Marina. I was fortunate to find David waiting for me at the airport before a barrage of taxi cabs vied for my attention. I was whisked away back to the marina. Although, I should mention that “whisk” might be too gentle of a term to describe our experience of driving the T&T streets. It really would be closer to the running of the bulls. Cars darting in and out of lanes....Sudden stops and evasive maneuvers. Thankfully, we made it in one piece back to the marina. Just enough time to unpack my bags of all the American goodies I had brought with me and then fall into bed.

Music is such a huge part of their culture. Calypso music was developed here. Steel pan drums are the crowning jewel of the Trinidadian music world. You can hear them everywhere! As I arrived in the airport, there was even a band playing outside. Rastafarian dreadlocks bounce to the beat of calypso, a slow and warm smile … now this is the real T&T. Soca music is a little newer on the scene. It seems to be a combination of calypso and techno with a twist of social commentary.

Most songs seem to comment on issues of poverty and crime in T&T. The songs are so groovy and the rhythm so enticing that the message just seems to sneak up on you. Before you know it, political statements are running through your head!

Festivities were already well underway before I arrived. For weeks before Carnival there had been concerts, costume pageants, and competitions. Everything leads up to Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) when the people take to the streets. Carnival is so important to the T&T calendar that officials plan the festivities close to a year in advance. Themes and costumes are researched and developed. Carnival participants sign up for different costume groups called "bands".

Costumes are fashioned with sequins, beads, and feathers. On one extreme, you have costumes that are no more than little slips of glittering cloth that barely conceal. At the other end, you have gigantic head dressings with elaborate designs and everything in between.

I arrived on the opening night of Carnival. Party time! The official festivities start at 4 am with "J'Ouvert" (also called "dirty mas"), which lasts into the early morning hours.

The basic tenets of J'Ouvert are:
1) Wear ridiculous costumes. For example, some yachties that we met at the yacht club were dressed up like old fashioned sailors complete with white uniform, square neck collar, and hat with ribbons.

2) Get as plastered as possible. Beer and rum flow like cascading rivers through the streets. Everyone is rip-roaring drunk which can make for both funny and devastating situations. Maybe that accounts for all the weaving traffic.

3) Avoid the Blue Devils and the Red Devils at all costs. These guys walk confidently down the streets covered with blue or red body paint. Their favorite thing to do is hound the tourists by getting right up into their faces until they get a free drink or some easy cash.

4) Get covered with body paint. grease, and mud. I don’t know if this is unique to a T&T Carnival celebration but everyone seems to roll around in the stuff. Mosh pits and paint orgies crop up here and there.

We caught up with some yachties in the morning who were covered head to toe with paint! The party lasts all night long! And then it starts all over again the next day!

For Mardi Gras, we headed into downtown Port of Spain with a large contingent of yachties intent on enjoying the festivities. We had an early (for us non-J'Ouvert-ers) start at 8 AM. The parades and the parties go all day. We were dropped off in the center of town next to the viewing and judging station.

Over the course of the next 8 hours we watched thousands of people dance their way down the street in full costume. Each band had their own unique theme – the Chinese Ming Dynasty, Roman Domination, American Indians … are you starting to see a trend? For some reason there is a fascination with empires.

The most popular theme was the Roman Empire. There were ladies draped in togas with olive leaf crowns on their heads, sweaty gladiator men, and even some women wearing metallic bikinis and armor like centurions.

Each band was accompanied by a flat-bed truck covered with loud-speakers, musicians, and DJ’s. The trucks competed with each other for dominance by blasting music. The bass frequencies had been turned up so much that I could feel my liver quiver as the truck drove by. Even now, I think that I can still feel the effects.

The bands really kick into high gear when they pass a judging station...the volume increases at least 10 decibels and the energy level approaches frenetic. Parade watchers were frequently drawn in by the rhythm to dance down the street with the band.

David filmed the entire parade. Holding a professional camera was a huge draw for partiers. I can’t tell you how many people shimmied up to the lens and to the cameraman. Parade participants took turns to dance and strut their stuff. My favorite was an elderly gentleman who demonstrated various dance steps that bordered on tap dancing. It really ended up more like a slow shuffle....

But come to think of it, most people were shuffling down the street as they danced (it's a dance style called "chipping"). Shuffling steps seem to be the result of alcohol intoxication and sleep depravation from partying through the night. We stuck with water and must have gone through gallons of the stuff. We made all the street vendors happy! After eight hours of watching costumes and floats, I was ready to find a nice cool place to sit back and relax.

Back at the marina we took a break from the Carnival festivities. David and I decided to head out and explore the neighborhood. We walked for hours enjoying the warmth of the sun. Locals were out enjoying the holidays by lounging at the beach, swimming, and napping in their cars. They were recharging for another night of partying.

We trooped the docks and some of the nearby marinas. It’s always fun to check out other boat designs, renovations in progress, and meet new people. With so many yachties in town for Carnival, marinas and dry docks with jam packed with boats. We even spotted another Privilege catamaran (like Exit Only) that had been completely gutted after being flipped over during Hurricane Ivan. The water damage was so extensive the owners reduced the boat down to its hull.

My holiday in the sun ended all too soon. 3 days later it was an early morning departure for me at 4 AM! We got to the airport by 6 AM but were so early that our check-in desk had not even opened. We contented ourselves with watching the sun rise just outside the terminal. My time in Trinidad and Tobago may have come to an end but I know that I have more adventures to look forward to....like the British Virgin Islands!

My private jet with lots of extra windows

I overdressed again


Fish lady

Close up of a Carnival Queen

The Queen in full regalia

I'm taller but she's cheating

Donna joins the Fancy Indians

David is very popular

Playing mas

I'd like to take this rig back with me to demoralize
that Honda Civic/annoying subwoofer guy

Snowcones. Yeah, we know how to party

This web site is a companion to Outback and Beyond.com.