The holidays are over and the Hobo’s are back at work but being in the water again is a great feeling. Mike still has a list of jobs as long as your arm but the major tasks are finished. See his page for the latest update.
It is now the start of Carnival season. The Carnival itself lasts for 5 days officially but the build up begins after Christmas. We’ve been told that people leave their Christmas decorations up until after Carnival! Below we have taken an extract from a good web site explaining the history of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Please visit Carnival Power.com for further reading
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad's carnival is a beautiful example of how carnival can unite the world. For in this small nation, the beliefs and traditions of many cultures have come together; and for a brief five days each year, the whole country forgets their differences to celebrate life!
Like many other nations under colonial rule, the history of Native Americans and African people in Trinidad is a brutal, sad story. Spain and England at different times both claimed Trinidad as their colonies. Under British rule, the French settled in Trinidad, bringing with them their slaves, customs, and culture. By 1797, 14,000 French settlers came to live in Trinidad, consisting of about 2,000 whites and 12,000 slaves. Most of the native peoples (often called the Amerindians) who were the first people to live in Trinidad, died from forced labour and illness.
Carnival was introduced to Trinidad around 1785, as the French settlers began to arrive. The tradition caught on quickly, and fancy balls were held where the wealthy planters put on masks, wigs, and beautiful dresses and danced long into the night. The use of masks had special meaning for the slaves, because for many African peoples, masking is widely used in their rituals for the dead. Obviously banned from the masked balls of the French, the slaves would hold their own little carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating their masters’ behaviour at the masked balls.
For African people, carnival became a way to express their power as individuals, as well as their rich cultural traditions. After 1838 (when slavery was abolished), the freed Africans began to host their own carnival celebrations in the streets that grew more and more elaborate, and soon became more popular than the balls.
Today, carnival in Trinidad is like a mirror that reflects the faces the many immigrants who have come to this island nation from Europe, Africa, India, and China. African, Asian, and American Indian influences have been particularly strong.
Carnival is such an important aspect of life in Trinidad that many schools believe that sponsoring a carnival band is a way to teach young people about their roots and culture. In Trinidad’s Kiddies Carnival, hundreds of schools and community organisations participate! In this way, communities work together to develop stronger friendships and greater respect for the many cultures that make up Trinidad.
Visitors and Trini natives alike are welcome to join one of the many "Mas Bands" that provide costumes, security, food and drinks during j'ouvert, Children's Carnival, Carnival Monday, and Carnival Tuesday. We are looking forward to taking part in as many activities as possible. By the time we upload next month’s update we will have almost reached the climax of the season as the two official Carnival Parades are on the 7th and 8th March this year, although there is plenty to see and do in the month running up to then.
We went with a group of cruisers to one of the pan yards to see the winning bands from last year in the opening of this year’s ‘panorama’. We saw the winners of the junior, small, medium and large band categories. The large band winners were the Silver Stars. Remember we have a clip of them back in December 2009. Let’s hope the competition is exciting again this year.
Peter from Passagemaker and his wife Sheila invited the Hobo’s and Karma to their house up in the foothills of the Northern range for a meal. Their house is really lovely, with views looking out over the plains. Sheila does all of the work in the garden herself and it is a real picture. She didn’t know anything about gardening ‘til she came to Trinidad but there is such an abundance of flora here it would have been a sin not to take advantage of it!
Pat went on another hash. This time it was held in the isolated Caura valley, an hour or so drive from Chaguaramas. There is a brief article on Caura here. The valley has an interesting history. Often we have struggled to find cruisers for the hash runs but somehow this time we had 21 attendees! We had to lay on another maxi taxi! We think that most of the ‘virgins’ enjoyed it but we shall see how many come back as the next run approaches on the 5th February. Of course, the cruisers are not a static population. Most have now left Trinidad for islands further north as the hurricane season has been officially over now since the end of November. There are still new arrivals though. People sailing in from South America or from Europe, also people returning to their boats after summer back home. We are a floating village and we keep leaving and arriving all over the world. There is quite often a boat in an anchorage you last met an ocean away.
Just this week we went on an evening trip to see the Tamana bat caves which are halfway up a mountainside on the eastern side of the island. It is officially dry season but we have had lots of rain now for weeks and sure enough, the heavens opened nearly all day on the day of our trip. What should have been a moderate trek of about 20 to 25 minutes to the entrance to the caves turned into a 50 minute slog up and down a very slippery, root strewn trail. It was worth it in the end though, as we witnessed the nightly exodus of hundreds of thousands of many species of bat. They emerged in vast clouds and flew effortlessly around us as we stood close to watch. Apart from a slight twittering they were soundless. A flock of birds that size would have deafened us with their wings. It must be the fur as opposed to feathers! Seriously though, it was wonderful to watch them and was even better when we climbed further and then descended into the back of the cave system and were able to get photos of them waking up from their roosts and leaving on their hunt. Our guide, Snake (again), said they were mostly fruit bats and insect eating bats but there had been known to be as many as 11 species spotted here, including rare Trinidadian-only bats. There is a good web site here, which shows more than we can. This site gives you lots of ideas for all kinds of vacations here. It is well worth looking at. Trinidad is an amazing country.
The only other bit of news is that we have left Power Boats C Dock and have motored the 500 yards or so over to Crews Inn, a marina and hotel complex across the bay. We would have stayed at Powerboats until we leave but they needed the dock space so, as Crews Inn have reduced their rates, we decided to take advantage and experience a few weeks in a real marina. Crews Inn has a swimming pool, gym, free internet access, pontoon moorings - in fact it is quite civilised and we feel we deserve a little luxury after months of work! We are still working on the boat though - we may have lowered the tone in Crews Inn a bit. Ha ha!
Movies and a few photos below.
See you next time.