My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure
WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views  | Comments  | Scholarship Entry
Ants. Everywhere, ants. Swarming over our shoes, up our legs, from every branch we brushed in our headlong flight. Our headlamps illuminated dense thickets that clutched at us as we ran through the dark. At every stop, the ants were upon us, tenacious, mandibles steadfastly clamped on our shoes even in death. We were lost, wet, hungry and under attack.
It was the end of our first day hiking from Matelot to Blanchiseusse, a sparsely traveled trail connecting 30 kilometers of uninhabited beaches across the northern coast of Trinidad. We had made a late start, missing the bus from Grand Riviere and walking most of the way to Matelot before hitching a ride into town. West of Matelot, the trail rose into steamy, densely forested hills edging the sea. Our plan was to hike about ten kilometers each day, camping on beaches, no company but the waves. We had not seen another person for hours. Having neither guide nor map, our confidence was buoyed by the fact that keeping the ocean on our right would lead us to our destination.
But daylight faded quickly, clouds piling up ominously as the forest dimmed from grey to black. Our effort to reach the beach thwarted by nightfall, we were stuck on a ridge, assaulted at every turn by ants. Reluctantly, we backtracked to a rocky clearing, any
discomfort of sleeping on stones tempered by a welcome absence of insects. We slipped into our leaky tent as the evening rains began in earnest.
The next morning broke sunny and warm, tendrils of moisture evaporating from the forest floor. A clear blue sky and the unmistakable scent of the sea greeted us as we emerged from our soggy tent. We descended to an empty beach, a crescent of pristine white sand that would be the first of several en route to Paria Bay. The tropical sun beat down mercilessly as we trudged along, insects buzzing in our ears and the cloying smell of overripe mangoes filling the air. Late afternoon, sweaty and tired, we crested a hill and took sight of the bay. Bamboo groves gave way to a gentle hillside cultivated with herbs. A fishing boat bobbed in a lagoon, tethered to a makeshift shack.
As we descended, two small dogs approached tentatively, followed by a smiling man in rubber boots and a dirty red t-shirt. "Hello! Hello!" he beamed. "Would you like some dinner? I have crab." So began our friendship with Robbie, a squatter living alone with his dogs. I filled his water cans at the spring. He cooked for us dumplings and curried crab. We spent the evening in relaxed conversation.
At nightfall, we pitched our tent on the beach, content. But Trinidad held yet another surprise. I awoke later to a soft swishing sound, crept from the tent and was transfixed. Sea turtles dotted the beach like boulders, slowly shifting the sand as they laid their eggs. I woke my companion and we walked quietly among them, awestruck.
Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011
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