Port of Spain, Trinidad; Crystal Palace, England
28.04.2015 - 30.04.2015
The Caribbean country of Trinidad & Tobago is just off the coast of Venezuela in northern South America. Tourists usually head for Tobago, much the smaller of the two islands, but my flight from Barbados was to the capital Port of Spain in northwest Trinidad. Like Barbados, T&T is a rich country (thanks to its oil and gas reserves) and gained independence from the British in 1962.
Also like Barbados (due to the shorts incident), my first experience of the place was not great. Nothing wrong with my guesthouse, but at 10.30pm there was no public transport from the airport to get there, leaving me no choice but to take an exorbitantly-priced taxi - £30 for a 20 minute journey. In comparison, the bus I took back to the airport when leaving cost 4 Trinidadian dollars - about 41p.
I only had one full day on the island so decided against anything too adventurous and spent it instead looking around Port of Spain. I went to the Queen's Park Oval, one of the grounds on which the West Indies play home cricket matches and also Brian Lara's home ground. No game going on unfortunately but the ground staff let me have a wander round anyway.
Later I passed the country's striking parliament building, which was red and imaginatively known as The Red House. Sadly it was surrounded by scaffolding and a fence, ruining the chance of getting a decent photo, but I got a half-decent one of the CID building opposite.
That evening I went to a German restaurant and stayed there chatting to the owner and his wife and a couple of locals for two hours before hitting the sack.
The next day I had a few hours left before going home so walked over to the dry and dusty Queen's Park Savannah, a rather disappointing park in that there was nothing much to see or do and it wasn't particularly attractive. However, it happens to be in the middle of the world's largest traffic roundabout, the surrounding road being 2.2 miles long. Despite this dubious accolade, there weren't hordes of people queuing up to see it, and in fact during my time in the city I hardly saw any tourists at all. Near to the underwhelming park I went for an equally underwhelming pizza.
So, a somewhat anti-climactic final day or two, but I was far from disappointed as I was looking forward to getting home, and in all honesty had been for some time. My 41p bus ride, an 8½-hour overnight flight to Gatwick and a couple of trains later I was back at Crystal Palace station, a place where eight months and six days previously I had been sat with my bags stressing about things I may have forgotten to do. On this occasion I was more preoccupied with what my tenants had done to my house in my absence. But not so preoccupied that I couldn't firstly go to the cafe and tuck into a delicious sausage and egg butty, just one of the things I've missed about England, a simple pleasure that for some reason foreigners just can't get quite right.
The reason I went on this trip is because, having been single and in banking jobs for quite some time and with a social life that dwindled further every time a mate successfully procreated, one week was very similar to the next and I was bored. I needed a bit of excitement in life and in that sense it has been a roaring success - I am certainly in a better frame of mind now than I was before I left.
I realise I have played it safe to a certain extent by rarely putting myself in extreme situations or doing anything particularly awe-inspiring, but that is by choice as my sense of adventure only goes so far. I didn't want to be bungee jumping or living in a mud hut with a tribe or trekking for six days without changing my underpants to get to a ruin. I was quite content just drifting between places, pottering about and moving on.
The enjoyment came more from the exploration rather than ticking off the sights. I liked not having any real idea what experiences awaited me, who I'd be meeting or what I'd be doing from one day to the next. Every day was different and if I didn't like a place for any reason, all I had to do was leave and go somewhere else. Though a lack of planning meant I missed out on certain things (e.g. the Test match in Grenada) it was a small price to pay for the freedom I had to do what I wanted.
The end of my trip also means the end of my blog. I've written 49,330 words in total over 49 entries (including this one) and uploaded 1498 of the 5544 photos that I took. I have in mind an idea to write one final entry answering Frequently Asked Questions about my trip, so maybe not quite the end just yet.
As well as the photos I also took a whole load of video clips (88 in fact) on my phone that mostly didn't make it to the blog. They are almost all of animals and scenery, although there is a short one of my mate Jimbo levitating. If anyone's interested they can be seen on my YouTube channel.
I've been trying to think of a suitable way to wrap things up but my well of inspiration ran dry some time ago. Nothing profound or insightful comes to mind at all, so instead I'll just sign off in the style of Charlie Brooker:
"Thanks for reading. Now go away."