Our first day started off with a beautiful beach view from our air conditioned hotel room (a/c was added to the must-have list after living without it in the Amazon). We walked along the board walk to a café that served farm fresh greek yogurt. A farmer up in the hills delivers it daily. YUM! The town of Taganga is a horseshoe shaped bay surrounded by the lush Sierra Nevada Mountains.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so we decided to take a short boat ride to Playa Grande. The woman at our hostal helped us to arrange a boat to Play Grande and called one of her friends with a restaurant on the beach to look after us. Very nice. The beach itself is smallish and full of restaurants, lounge chairs, and lots of people. Upon arrival we were guided to a couple of chairs in the shade where we plopped ourselves down, opened cervezas, and proceeded to watch the world go by. Most of our day was spent swimming, snoozing, and basically just soaking it all in. There was even an ice cream man pushing his floating ice cream cooler through the water ringing his bell the whole time.
When we decided it was time for lunch, we were brought a tray with a variety of freshly caught fish for us to choose from. No filets down here. They just throw those babies on the grill and served them to us head and all! I can’t give the restaurant a rave review, but it was a fun experience.
After a nice afternoon on the beach we boated back to Taganga around 4:15 for a quick shower and get then back outside for the sunset. The Taganga Beach Bay is perfect because the sun sets directly behind the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Tomorrow we are going to try to watch it all from our balcony!
After some delicious beachside tacos and daiquiris we headed back to the hotel to get a little research done and do some reading.
Today was the day I finally got to do some scuba diving. After doing some research yesterday, we connected with Oceano Scuba and scheduled a 2 tank dive for me with Autumn able to come along and do some snorkeling. Oceano was highly rated online and they certainly lived up to their rating.
After a quick breakfast we arrived at the scuba place around 8:15 to check-in, meet our guide, and grab our gear. Patricio was our (English speaking) guide and got us all geared up. Next it was onto the boat and the quick 10 minute ride over to their “beach” hut in Tayrona National Park. After dropping a couple of people off at the beach for their intro diving lessons, we headed out to Isla de La Aguja to do our first dive (and snorkel). The water wasn’t overly clear, with a visibility of around 25ft, but enough to make the dive enjoyable. We dove a nice reef break along the island and saw lots of fish and even a few different eels.
After the first dive we chilled for about an hour at the beach hut and enjoyed some fruit, sandwiches, water bags, and sun.
While I was going back into the water for our second dive of the day, Autumn decided to stay at the hut and hang out with her new Canadian and Australian friends. Similar to our first dive, we got to see lots of smaller fish as well as a couple of HUGE Green Moray Eels. I mean these guys were monsters. Fortunately (or unfortunately) both of our dives were deeper than our underwater camera would allow, so you will just have to take my word on the fish. 🙂
After the second dive wrapped up we picked up the beach goers and headed back to Taganga. We were all very pleased about the day.
We caught another beautiful sunset before heading off to dinner at Babaganoush. Autumn’s friends had told us about how great it was so we had to give it a try. For just around $10 US each we had a delicious three course meal. The food and the drinks were great and we would highly recommend it to anyone in Taganga.
Tomorrow we are off to Minca to do some hiking and sleep in an open mountain hut. Should be fun!
A few miscellaneous other things from the trip to T & T that we forgot to put in the other blogs:
Best quote so far from a guide book in the Airbnb in Trinidad: “Taking a taxi at night is much cheaper than being robbed.”
One of our new vocab words is “Lime” or “Liming,” which in Trinidad and Tobago means to hang out or chill. Examples: “We were liming at the beach.” “Let’s go lime at the bar.” “Let’s lime.”
Exchange rate was approx. $6TT per $1US and stable weather it was a credit card or cash.
Argentina has what they call a Blue Dollar exchange rate which is similar to a black market rate for US. This was brought to our attention, but apparently didn’t since in as much as it should have. Basically, the government has set an “official” exchange rate of around 9.3 pesos/US dollar as of this writing, however due to inflation and other factors US cash is substantially more valuable than the official rate. Most restaurants or stores will use an exchange rate between 14-1 or 15-1 pesos to US dollars. Cash is truly king in Argentina. Just to provide some context, getting money from an ATM gets you approximately 9-1, we received 15-1 from a Western Union in Buenos Aires, and 14 or 15-1 in just about retailer or restaurant. What this means is that if you bring enough US cash you can get a substantial discount on your trip to Argentina. We should have brought more $US. That said, there is a money transfer service called Xoom which allows you to transfer funds from a US account to be picked up at a casa de cambiar or exchange house. It is as close to the blue dollar rate for those of us who didn’t think ahead enough to bring a lot of $US. We have used this once already and are planning on using again when we get to Mendoza, Argentina. We received a rate of 13-1. Not too shabby.
This is a very American problem, but we are having difficulties with the use of bathrooms in Argentina. Nearly all bathrooms have a sign that says :”Please do not put paper in the toilet”. Apparently the sewer and waste water systems aren’t that good down here, so nearly every private toilet comes paired with a nice bidets. For those of us who aren’t used to bidets, this also means throwing all paper in the waste basket. And I mean ALL paper. As you can imagine, some of the paper tends to leave a little odor. We are definitely going to have to figure out the bidets soon.
Autumn on Drew’s weak attempt at a beard: “I’m just not sure that’s how beards are supposed to look.”
I am inclined to think that our trip to Tobago was meant to be. We had not planned on spending any time in Tobago, but it was fantastic. Our original itinerary had us flying from Trinidad to Tobago on Sunday morning at 6:30am then catching our flight to Argentina via Barbados and Sao Paulo, Brazil. As chance would have it our Airbnb host happened to work at Caribbean Airlines, which was the airline for the first leg of our trip. She was able to reschedule the Tobago leg of our trip to Friday afternoon at 1:35pm. What a wonderful culmination of circumstances! We made the 18 minute flight to Tobago and landed on an island that I would put in the bucket “the real Caribbean.” Not only is it a much smaller, safer, and more laid back version of Trinidad, but the beaches are incredible. From our guesthouse there were two different beaches each within a 4 minute walk. I will elaborate more in a bit, but I want to tell you about our guesthouse.
We stayed in the fishing village of Boccoo. When we were researching places to stay it fit the criteria of being out of the way, quaint, yet still close enough to the airport for our Sunday morning flight. We found the guesthouse on booking.com and were able to book it to check in Friday and check out Sunday for a reasonable price. When we arrived in Tobago, there was a taxi waiting for us at the airport to take us to the Fish Tobago Guesthouse. So far so good right? Here’s the rest of the story… Upon arriving at the guesthouse we were met by the proprietor, Brandon. Brandon promptly informed us that they had a minimum of a 3 night stay and we were not able to check-in. His recommendation was that we call booking.com and cancel the reservation and once that was complete then he could talk to us about maybe staying at the guesthouse. Apparently booking.com has been getting this wrong a lot and we were the people that were to help him take a stand. I won’t get into the dirty details, but after about a half hour trying to get a hold of booking.com we were able to cancel or reservation. Our natural response: Shit. Now what?
Brandon, to his credit, was very accommodating post our conversation with booking.com. He let us stay for the 2 nights (for less than we were planning on paying) and said he would definitely make it worth our while for the inconvenience. He wasn’t lying. As soon as we got past the check-in shenanigans we hopped in his car for a little tour of the island. The first stop was Pigeon Point. What a great spot! It is a beach/park with a handful of bars and trinket shops for the tourists. The sand was incredibly soft and white and wrapped around the point on all three sides. Throw in a rum and ginger ale and a beer for Autumn and we definitely started to relax. We did a quick drive back to Boccoo and Autumn and I walked from the guesthouse to Boccoo Beach to watch the sunset. Had we been thinking ahead we would have worn our swim suits and taken in the sunset from the water. A beer at a beach bar capped what had already been an eventful day.
We were warned by Brandon that since we were only here for 1.5 days he wanted to make it up to us by keeping us busy on Saturday; mission accomplished. Our day started off with an 8:30am wake up call for fresh smoothies and coffee in the front yard. Not a bad way to start the day. Apparently one of the other tour guides stayed out too late on Friday night and decided not to show up at the scheduled time. No problems. It is the island and we were definitely running on island time. When the second car finally showed up around 11am we were off on our Tobago adventure. First stop was the Highland Waterfall. During the easy 45 minute hike to the waterfall, we were treated to fresh mangoes and guava right off the trees. Not a bad snack break! To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from this “waterfall.” Tobago does has some elevation, but not a ton so I was not expecting much. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. After the hike and the weather in general (93, humid, and not much breeze) we had definitely earned a swim.
After the waterfall hike it was back to Boccoo for some lunch and to get ready for fishing. I haven’t mentioned yet that Brandon kept talking about a Bar-B-Que Saturday evening and we were to help provide dinner. That meant getting out on the water and fishing for Blackfin Tuna that had been biting well. Once again, Brandon didn’t disappoint. There were five of us in the boat, but only three of us were doing the fishing. Brandon was the guide and Autumn played the role of the paparazzi. So fishing… there was only one fishing rod that was put in the boat, which I found a little strange, but I soon found out why. Turns out we were fishing with hand lines! Sweet! I haven’t hand line fished in the ocean before, but I will say that ice fishing prepared me at least a little (thank you tip-ups!). It took approximately 1.5 minutes for the guide to yell, “Fire! Fire!” and for me to hook my first (and only) Tuna. Actually, another gentleman on the boat had one on at the same time, so our boat had two tunas right off the bat. It all happened so fast and the result was an 11 lb. tuna for me. Not too shabby! We ended up catching four Tuna, a King Fish, and a Trout. Not a bad haul for an hour on the water. We feast tonight!
I mentioned above that we wore shorts instead of our swimsuits on Friday evening when watching the sunset. I am happy to report that we didn’t make that same mistake Saturday evening. The water felt great and the sunset was beautiful. Autumn commented on how fast the sun goes down. I would guess the time it took to go from when the sun’s bottom first hit the horizon until it slipped away to the far side of the world was less than 1 minute. Pretty neat.
Once the sun was down we made our way back to the guesthouse for the fish feast. What a great experience. We ate freshly caught fish, veggies, and pasta, with a group that included people from Trinidad, Tobago, US, Venezuela, and Belgium. Along with a delicious dinner Autumn and I got a chance to practice our Spanish with a family from Venezuela. My abilities are still very much a work in progress. Fortunately for me, Rum is a universal language and the father Freddy and I definitely bonded over shots of Diplimatico. 1-2-3-4. Sault! Me Gusta!
After a much too short trip to Tobago the adventure continues with a day of travel to Argentina. Stay tuned!
We have made it to the island of Trinidad (and soon come, Tobago). It is amazing how quickly time flies even when you are on an island. We have been here for nearly a week and it seems like we just got here yesterday. To start, Trinidad is much larger (with much more traffic) than I really understood. The island itself is about 90 x 40 miles, which is quite large especially when you factor in that about 1.3 million people live here and all of them seem to want to go whatever direction we are going. The time it takes to get around is very much a limiting factor in doing too much exploring on the southern side of the island. We are staying in Maraval which is north of the capital, Port of Spain by about 15 minutes. Well, actually depending on the time of day it can take 15 minutes or 1 hour to drive to Port of Spain, but I was being generous. Unlike the tropical vacations Autumn and I have been on, Trinidad is much more industrialized and with a substantial oil and gas industry. Apparently Hugo Chávez had even threatened to take over Trinidad for its natural resources at one point. I suppose from a location perspective it makes sense as the southern end of Trinidad gets as close as 7 miles from Venezuela.
One comment on the roads in Trinidad; even with all of the money that the country is bringing in via oil and gas, the roads are crap. I mean BAD. First of all, they are seriously narrow with plenty of tight turns due to the mountains. Add in lots of pot holes, rain water gutters runs along the side of the roads, and the fact that traffic rules are more “guidelines” than anything and it makes for some seriously crazy driving. Having lived in Nassau, I thought I had a good handle on the island driving experience, but this is at a whole new level. Just in case you don’t believe me, the rain gutters run from 6 inches to 3 feet in depth and don’t typically have a curb to let you know if you are going to drop a tire into it. You could be driving along and have to move over for someone coming down the middle of the road and end up with your car’s front end on the ground. Not fun. That being said, I am driving like a champ! It is not without some nerves, but I guess if you constantly expect the unexpected you are bound to do alight. I told Autumn today that there is no “should” when talking about other drivers, there is only what “is”. Someone parked in the middle of traffic to get out and get something from the store? Ok, no reason to get mad, just pull into oncoming traffic, honk, and keep moving. Mom and Dad I do not recommend you two driving down here.
Enough of the background, let’s talk about activities. Autumn and I are finding that we are really good at jumping into doing things, but we are not so good at taking pictures of doing things. Don’t worry, we are working on being better about it. Without getting too much into the daily specifics, let me cover off on some of the highlights; Green Market, Maracas Beach, Las Cuevas, Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Paramin, and Pitch Lake.
Green Market. Our friends Zahra and Marvin took us to the Green Market on Saturday morning. The best description I can give is that it is a farmer’s market with cooked food stands in addition to the produce and local products. This was our first opportunity to eat some real Trini food. We jumped right in with Roti. Roti is a flour based almost tortilla like dough that is cooked and stuffed with delicious goodness and rolled into a wrap. It can also be served with the Roti on the side allowing you to eat by hand with the meat or stuffing coming on the side. We dug in and it was delicious!
Maracas and Las Cuevas Beaches. Besides the awesome beaches they had much to offer for Trini foods. Mango Chow and Pineapple Chow are delicious spicy herbs mixed in with the fruit juices and poured over the fruit. Awesome! Autumn thought it was great, but I thought it was a little too hot. Then, we also were lucky enough to enjoy BAKE & SHARK. Omg. It is breaded shark on fried bread. That alone would sell anyone, but then they offer a condiment bar to die for. There are tons of sauces (we had zero idea what any of them were), slaw, veggies, and pineapple. Fortunately, the first time we ate there we were able to guess correctly with the sauces (equaling a very complimentary mix). The second time we were braver and unbeknownst to us we layered on the hot pepper sauce. HOT< HOT<HOT!! We still didn’t really care due to the awesome breaded shark, but no amount of Carib (the Trini beer) could quench our thirst!
The Beaches themselves were beautiful. The bays are surrounded by lush mountains, palm trees, and plenty of sand. We had numerous chances to body surf and fight the big waves in Maracas. In Las Cuevas the beach was much longer and it was perfect for walking (minus the sand flies). Many people at the beach were locals, but the tourists that were there were mainly South American; probably Brazilian or Venezuelan. It was cloudy and a little rainy most of the time that we are on the beach, but it was okay because it was 93 degrees and humid.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary. This was recommended to us by many people, but Autumn was hesitant. Once she found out there was a boat ride she jumped on board. As this is not really the tourist season, we were able to get a big boat for us and another couple. The tour took us through a swamp where we saw snakes snoozing in the trees, and crabs (tree climbing crabs) climbing up branches. But, the main event was the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird. 2-3 months of the year these birds fly to Venezuela during the day to feed and then come back to the swamp to roost (a 7-15 mile flight both ways). After a lovely boat ride we awaited their arrival across the lake from their roosting spot. Hundreds of Ibis, as well as white egrets, flew above/around our boat to find their home for the evening. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience!
Paramin. This is a mountain-side village full of great views and small farms. Our host, Anne Marie, was kind enough to drive us up the mountains in her truck. You need a 4-wheel drive vehicle up there as there are crazy switch backs due to the steepness of the mountain. The drive was fun and a different sort of intense versus the rest of the driving we did. I’m glad I wasn’t the one doing the driving so I could enjoy the scenery too. It is beautiful up there. We were at about 2,500 or 3,000 feet in elevation which is impressive considering it drops right down into the sea. The views from the top were gorgeous!
Pitch Lake. The Pitch Lake was something that we had been told about almost from when we arrived on the island. As it was described, it was a lake of tar on which you could do a walking tour. After much debate, we decided to make the 2 hour drive down there on Thursday, our last day in Trinidad. The drive down to the Southern end of the island was an adventure in itself, but the lake and the surrounding area was worth the trip. Unlike what I was thinking (a bubbling lake of tar with dead stuff in it) the lake was actually covered in water and more resembled a swamp than anything. The neat part was that the ground was “pitch” or tar that was pushing up and making some very cool fissures, water pools, and underwater topography. The water pools are said to have healing and restorative powers like a fountain of youth. We were not prepared for swimming, but we put some on our face, arms, and legs. I’m pretty sure my legs look younger than they have in years. 🙂 Another interesting thing to note is that the whole area, towns, roads, farms, etc. all sit on the pitch so the roads and house are constantly moving. Unlike other places in Trinidad where houses are made out of concrete, houses near Pitch Lake are built on wooden rafts that sit on the ground with the house up on stilts. Every 2-3 months they have to jack houses up and move them back or level them off because the ground is always moving. Very different, but very neat.
After a nice week in Trinidad we are headed over to Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad for a couple of days before our flight on Sunday to Argentina. The flight is an arduous 18 minutes. Up and Down. We will definitely let you know how it goes. We have been told that it is much more “Caribbean” than Trinidad with plenty of nice beaches, good fishing, and good swimming too.
The blocks have been removed from under the tires of the plane and in a flash we are gone. While most of you were sleeping, Autumn and I began our journey this morning. I’m not sure what exactly it is about travel that makes me feel so energized, but a 3am wake-up call was all I needed to be ready to take on a day of traveling. While I was able to sleep soundly last night, my wife was not so fortunate. It’s a good thing she can curl up and sleep just about anywhere. 🙂
In an effort at full disclosure I will tell you that both Autumn and I agree that this feels almost surreal. We are physically on a plane flying to the tropical island of Trinidad and yet both of us have yet to mentally detach ourselves from our previous day-to-day. My strong prediction is that when we land and see the faces of our friends Zahra and Marvin, things will start to sink in. Nothing like old friends in a new location to snap you into the present moment.
Until we are able to step foot off the plane in Trinidad, and while we zoom across the Caribbean at 530mph, we going to watch some shows we downloaded from Amazon Prime and work on letting the reality of our new life start to sink it.
Greetings all and welcome to our adventure. As you are now well aware, Autumn and I have decided to take our show on the road and see what this great big world has to offer. Before I get into why we are now “locationally unstable”, I wanted to make a disclaimer about this blog. Neither Autumn nor I aspire to become literary giants and with this lack of ambition comes a level of written mediocrity that we are both willing to accept in the name of sharing our stories with all of you. Please don’t take us too seriously, but enjoy our stories and don’t hesitate to reach out to say hello. Now follow us on our journey and be with us until we meet again!