Trinidad & Tobago - I wish I had that smooth sexy accent

The distance from Venezuela to Trinidad & Tobago is worthy of a bridge.
 Among people following the project Once Upon a Saga now has over 50 nationalities on 7 continents!
There is a bridge that runs from Denmark to Sweden and I believe the distance from Venezuela to Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) would be around the same. But alas, no bridge.  Anyway, in last weeks blog I was already in the boat together with Simon and the captain speeding across the ocean towards San Fernando in T&T.
Simon and the captain getting ready
Rain was a possibility but the sky stayed blue over our small open boat as the engine roared and the boat bounced up and down under the sun. There was no question about it. I would get a sunburn from that! But there was also no chance of reaching out for my daypack without ending up rolling around on the bottom of the boat. So I just held tightly on beneath the wooden bench I was on.
Coast guard approaching 

Simon would sometimes point towards something and try to explain what it was. But the strong wind created by the speed we were setting and the noise from the engines made conversation difficult. However I understood that he was pointing at T&T. Suddenly he pointed at a small boat far away in the horizon and shouted with a smile: "COAST GUARD". In almost no time that small boat had made it up along the side of us and was blocking our passage. The captain turned the engine off.


20 seconds later...

I spent some of my early years as a professional soldier. Sometimes you realize that you know things that would never cross your mind on a daily basis. But I can tell you that within seconds I knew that this was no threat and that the coastguard was highly professional. It's in the way they wear their uniforms, the way they maneuver their hand weapons and in the way they identify who they are standing across from. The first question I was asked was: "do you speak English?" which was followed by: "do you work with the Red Cross?"

After 10 minutes and a thorough search through the captains personal belongings we were permitted to continue. And as we left you could see that the coast guard was watching us for a long time to see if we changed our direction.




You can wonder about certain things in life. Will these 2 men in the boat throw me in the water and keep my personal belongings? Will this man I met online be my friend when I arrive or will I be walking into harms way? Well, Simon and the captain did not throw me in the water. In fact I had very little contact with the captain apart from a few handshakes and Simon had been nothing but helpful and friendly. Simon even bought me breakfast when we arrived: "doubles".

Immigration really twisted my arm to a level where I got annoyed. Why couldn't they just let me into the country??! Why all these questions and why are they not content with my replies? Well, it's been easy crossing borders for a long time so I suppose I got used to that. And the questions I was given were reasonable:

Immigration: how do we know that you are continuing your journey and not settling here?
Me: I'm traveling to another 140 countries. See the letter of intent, the social media, my passport.
Immigration: prove it! Where is your onward ticket?
Me: I'm not flying and will make arrangements for a boat here.
Immigration: where are you staying?
Me: I met a guy online and I'm staying at his place.
Immigration: what's his name and where does he live?
Me: his name is Zaak and I have his number. That's it.
Immigration: Zaak what? Me: I don't know. Let me call him...


I was thinking back to when I entered Suriname and the immigration officer in Surinam asked me where I was staying? I replied that I would find a hostel or guesthouse. The immigration officer said: "okay, I'll write Hotel ABC". As I was talking to immigration in T&T I started to realize that I had come unprepared. I realized that I had gotten "comfortable" and that he was probably representing the kind of security I would like to have for my own country. It all ended when the officer telephoned Zaak and asked if he would take responsibility for me during my stay in T&T? Luckily Zaak, who I had never met, replied yes :)

So who is this Zaak? Well you know how I go on and on about 'a stranger is a friend you've never met before'. Well it's true. Zaak has been supporting Once Upon a Saga for about 6 months by following online. He sent me a message long ago saying that I should definitely stay at his place when I arrived to T&T. And here I am.


This is Zaak and I. I speak like a have a potato in my mouth. Zaak has that smooth island accent: "can I ax you a question? Tanks. Tanks very much".

He has proved to be a wonderful host and friend and after only a few days it already felt like we had known each other for years. He would teach me about the culture and history of his country and we started out with the "liming" and with the "wining". So get this; anytime you are hanging out with someone, sitting in a bar, dancing in a club, spending time on the beach with are "liming". The "wining" is something completely different. I was standing in a club with Zaak. I'm white as the wall, 193 cm tall (6'4') and obviously not from the Caribbean. The Trinidadians have this "wining" concept which is deeply routed into the culture and to them it is nothing special. It's sort of an erotic dance routine and it has me surprised that they, in some cases, are able to walk away from that "dance" and not worry about having children 9 months later. If anybody remembers the Lambada...well, that's nothing! :)

I'm 35. I have a lovely girlfriend. I don't enjoy the club scene too much and I am definitely too Scandinavian not to feel awkward around the "wining". Oh for heavens sake...just look for it on YouTube and you will know what I mean :)  


If you stand for a few seconds on the "solid" part of the asphalt lake you will leave footprints. If you stand in the soft area you will sink in until you are no more. It's easy to spot in the dry season but don't try your luck when it's all wet!

I stayed in Zaak's house with his mother from the day I arrived. His mother is a lovely woman who would cook fantastic meals and pressure me to eat more :) And if that doesn't show the level of hospitality then listen up: Zaak had been planing an itinerary for my visit ensuring that I would see the most important sights and taste the local cuisine.


Shark burger (Bake and Shark)

Given the large number of ethnic identities in Trinidad and Tobago, many citizens have a mixed ethnic heritage due to influences from French, West African, Creole, Chinese, Indian, Irish, German, Swiss, Portuguese, British, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Arab, Lebanese, Russian and African American ancestors (yes, I've been researching). Additionally, there are also nationals of Hispanic ancestry, mostly of Amerindian descent, mainly from Venezuela along with a small number from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Common ethnic mixtures include people of European, African, and Indian descent. And that provides a wonderful mix of spectacular food!! :)
This is next to the temple by the sea. A story which magnitude is worthy of the story of the construction on the Taj Mahal. A testament to what 1 man can do:

I can write a book about T&T but I'll keep it short:

- Zaak is amazing!
- so is his mother!
- and so are his friends!
- and so are most people I have met on the island :)
- if you haven't tried eating "doubles" then go for it (Indian cuisine).
- "Bake and shark" is worth the trip. Yum yum (but save the sharks?)
- the story of "the temple in the sea" is amazing and must be read before you visit the temple.
- the beaches look like something from a movie!
- so does the landscape :)
- religion is trifold...(at least) and peaceful. Hindu temples, Mosques and churches line up next to each other.
- the asphalt lake is impressive and a natural world wonder.
- I should probably have been here for the famous carnival.
- on second thoughts I don't know if I could handle the carnival :)  

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Zaak's mother Faciila soils us with callaloo, fish soup, pilau and "it be uuhhhmmm good" ;)

I have had a wonderful time with Zaak and his friends and family. I have had a great time walking around talking to strangers. And it pains me to cut things out of the blog but that's the way it's going to be because I have experienced so much in only a few days.

The rose has a thorn though. The mosquitos may transfer chikungunya or dengue when they bite. You don't want neither. But here is a little intel on chikungunya: it is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Doesn't sound great now does it? So make sure you wear light colored clothes, long sleeves in the evening, mosquito repellent and sleep in a cold room or under a mosquito net when possible. 

If you observe all of that then paradise should be just that ;)


Zaak and beautiful Nandi on Maracas beach.

A few hours ago I received some bad news. I was meant to get on the freight ship which goes to Granada yesterday. And I was meant to arrive to Granada today. Everything was good: the captain said yes, the boat was ready, it was all good...but the man coordinating this forgot 1 thing; the ship got cleared by customs and immigration in the morning. I was told that they would depart in the evening so I should drop by around 3:00pm in the afternoon. The frustration of standing at the port, next to the ship and looking at the captain was unbearable. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. What could I do? The next ship leaves after a week...

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The ship I should have been on.

If I wanted to know everything I wouldn't be on this adventure. And I'm in this for the full package. I want to feel frustrated and angry at times just as much as I want to smile and feel my entire body fill with joy when things go right. I want to taste something I've never tasted before (which I have). I want to hear a new song, see a new color in a sunset and meet inspiring people.
The interest in Once Upon a Saga has been picking up. I had a good morning chat with Sarah and Big George on "Hot 93,5" and here I am "liming" with Hassan Khan at "WINtv".
I'm now in possession of a two way VHF radio. Now I can get into everybody's head!! Chaguaramas port - look out ;)
My precious communication device

Best regards
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - island hopping again ;)

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