My Island Paradise

posted 06 January 2005

Today my mom and I visited the Asa Wright Nature Centre, a world-reknowned (allegedly) bird-watching centre that any tree-hugging hippy (I'm looking at you) would love. The centre itself has recently clamped down on day-trippers wrecking the environment, so you're no longer just allowed to walk around for free -- you have to walk in a group, for a charge of £5 each (which is exorbitant if you're a Trini, but sounds quite reasonable once converted). It was quite pleasant but very slow, as our guide Jason (who was in his early twenties and quite pretty) spent a long time explaining everything we were seeing. It was extremely informative, or would have been informative, if we weren't natives of the country who knew all the stuff he was telling the tourists anyway.

I also tried my hand at photography, which several people have sneered at for being subjectless and not bothering to fiddle the photos through photoshop, but whatever, I'm trying to give an impression here.

This is out in the relative civilization of a village on the way to the centre. The little white gaps between the otherwise continuous forest of the hills is the village. On the left is a corrugated iron shack: that's someone's house, as evidenced by the little strings of Christmas lights just visible dangling from the edge of the roof.

This is a close-up of one of the houses in the village (we'd stopped to buy a snack). That's the whole house -- probably a living room, a porch, a bedroom and a kitchen with a bathroom out the back somewhere. The house is one floor but raised on stilts about five feet off the ground. This is common in Trini houses: when houses were made of wood this was to protect them from damp and insects, and in flood plains they protect household goods, but it has become an established architectural style, so there are a lot of concrete houses on hills built this way, like this one, where there is no practical reason to be on stilts.

Another typically Trini aspect of this photo is the continuous riot of green around it. There are at least three food-bearing plants in the photo: the broad-leaved things in the foreground are banana trees (as always, found in thickets). The broad trunk in shadow on the left is a big mango tree, and you'll have to trust me when I say the spindly collection of branches in the mid-ground between the bananas and the house are those of a pommecytherre tree (locally pronounced pom-see-TAY, despite this being clearly inaccurate). It's really quite difficult to stop fruit trees growing in Trinidad, which is why even though there are a lot of poor people there are almost no hungry (at least in rural areas).

Update: Several people have asked why I didn't get a clearer picture of the house itself. There is no clearer view of the house available, the house is completely surrounded by jungle. Temperate gardening means encouraging green things to grow; tropical gardening involves occasionally setting fire to things to hold them back.

Let the jungle pictures begin!

Your standard our-country-is-way-prettier-than-your-country shot.

I shot this accidentally while trying to get the next shot, actually, but it might interest you to know that the thing in the foreground looking like a botanical firework is a pawpaw tree, where you get breakfast melons from. You can see some really teeny-tiny melons just starting to form, sticking directly out of the trunk. This is just growing randomly by the roadside; nobody has to try hard to find a melon around here.

More pretty jungle. You have to be a fan of jungles in general, maybe, to like these photos.

We also do discounts on bulk jungle. This place is only about 30 minutes' drive from where my parents live, which is about the most built-up part of the whole country. We have no shortage of jungle. Or hill. In case you're wondering, the big white thing is not a chalk cliff, it's a small concrete fence-post painted white, crammed into the foreground by your amateur photographer. It's part of the thoroughly inadequate little fences they put on corners on these little roads to gently suggest to cars that they shouldn't fall down the side of the steep little valley into which the roads are cut, a reminder made much more eloquently by the little sections of the road which have in several places decided to make the trip themselves, little landslides that leave the already narrow road very tight indeed in some places.

I hope these were entertaining. I'm enjoying my newfound verbosity; apparently being on vacation for the first time in six months is quite stimulating...

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