Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trinidad -The Flag Tour - Pitch Lake

Special Note - I am calling this the flag tour because we saw things the color of the Trinidad flag.  The black Pitch Lake and the scarlet Ibis.  Cleaver eh?  I guess the white in the flag could be the skin of the roti's we had for lunch - a stretch but oh well.

Last year I didn't feel much like sight seeing because of the various symptoms of Chicken G (Chikungunya) I experienced.  That was disappointing.  This year we are determined to rectify that.

Our first official island adventure was last week.  We arranged with Jesse Jame's (Members Only Maxi Taxi and Tour Services) to see the Pitch Lake and Caroni Swamp.  Jesse himself arrived at 9am with Calypso music playing and a big smile on his face.  sv Ocean Rainbow (Claire and James), Wild Matilda (Bruce) and sv Moody Mistress (Robert and Carla) hopped in the van with us and off we went.

Immediately Jesse began pointing out things we see on any normal trip out of Chaguaramas.....except Jesse told us the story behind whatever it was thus teaching us the history, culture and inside scoop.  The passion he has for his island/country simply pours out of him and you can't but get swept up.

As we passed the same roadside food stand for the third time (d-oh) on a roundabout, a few in the van expressed mid-morning hunger.  Jesse altered our route and headed for a place known to locals called Doubles Corner.  See the complete write up Trinidad Foods - The Flag Tour

Wading through the outer edge of Pitch Lake

Tummies happy, we continued south toward our first stop, the Pitch Lake.  A local woman was our tour guide there.  She grew up in the village by the Pitch Lake and has been a guide for 24 years. 
Gas bubbles on the surface of the lake
On the black surface of the lake there were many gas bubbles.  We could pop them with our fingers and shoes.  It was fun, like popping bubble wrap but better! 
Pieces of a popped gas bubble
We carefully followed our guide....well MOST of us did!  (no names -James)  This was so we could be sure we weren't stepping in any of the really gooey stuff.  The surface where we were walking felt like a sponge.  It had give to it. 

This is one of three pitch lakes in the world.  The others are in Venezuela and the La Brea Tar Pits in California.  
Tom gets a chance to play with the goo

Originally the pitch was used on ships.  Now it's used all over the world on runways, bridges and roads.  High quality stuff.  Oddly, Trinidad doesn't use it on their own roads.  They need to!
Note the inside of my left foot how I am sinking in
They have mapped the lake and rotate the mining so no area gets over mined.  That was not always the case in the past.  However, now by rotating, it allows the lake to "refill" with pitch.  She kept saying the lake does not grow but refills.  Hum?  I guess that means more comes up from the ground and fills back in what was mined out.  ??  Estimates are that the supply will last another 400 years. 
Footprint by Keen!
She gave us some impressive numbers in terms of the production.  I don't remember those.  If you are dying to know, I am sure you can Google it.  The government of Trinidad owns it, taking over from the British when Trinidad became its own country.  
Tom sinking down

Tom's footprints

She found a spot where we could wet our feet with the rain water and then stand (barefoot) in the warm/hot pitch.  As we stood, we quickly began to sink.  It was a weird feeling but sort of fun.  We couldn't stand too long as it got pretty warm under foot.
Neighborhood house is a casualty of Pitch Lake

The village near the Pitch Lake gave hints the lake was close.  Because of the constant moving and fluctuation of the pitch, gasses and such under the area, the road and any buildings shift all the time, as if on a....well....moving lake.  Therefore, most structures are built on a floating pad to allow for flex.  Really interesting stuff.

Next stop?  Lunch of roti's.  

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