Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Alex Vanko Guest Blogging for Friday May 29th

Early Friday morning, I got up to join Whitney, Heidi, Larken, and Chase for a run around town for my first and last time. Trying to keep up with Whitney was a mistake, and I quickly burnt out. After a quick rinse in the outdoor shower, which I discovered the day before hidden behind a tree branch behind our cabin, we listened to a two-hour lecture about brood parasites, birds that sneakily lay their eggs in the nests of other species. The unsuspecting hosts often raise these intruders as their own, if they don’t identify the foreign eggs and eject them out of the nest first. We also learned about the six biogeographical regions established by Alfred Russel Wallace. According to this system, we are in the Neotropics while North and Central America are in the Nearctic region, which is separated from the Neotropics by the Isthmus of Panama. Lunch after class was an event—it was the first day that we had doubles, sold to us for $4TT each, by an Indian vendor who, by popular demand, returned every class day for the rest of our stay in Tobago. In the afternoon, we loaded up in the vans and followed the winding hillside roads halfway across Tobago to Argyle Falls in Roxborough. After paying a small entrance fee, we met a guide who led us down a short trail through a former cocoa plantation to see the falls. On the way we passed a stand where a Rastafarian craftsman was selling hand-carved bamboo bowls, cups, and wall hangings. On the way back from the falls, a few people in our group bought tall bamboo cups carved with sea turtles, hummingbirds, and other tropical designs. Soon after, we reached Argyle falls, which consists of three falls, each with a clear pool full of silver fish with bright gold and black spots. We climbed up a steep path to the top of the falls, then back down to the lowest pool, which was the best for swimming. Most of us descended along a path so steep that we had to hold onto a long rope that ran the entire length of it as we lowered ourselves down. The braver ones skipped the path altogether and jumped from the top of the lower waterfall into the deep pool below, a good thirty foot drop at least. After relaxing in the pool and showering in the heavy waterfalls, we returned to Charlotteville for dinner. In the evening, we headed down to the beach bar just off the cottage grounds, which, as we’d heard from many the locals, was supposed to be the place to go on a Friday night. I guess we got there early though, because we had the concrete dance floor all to ourselves. As she had done a couple nights before, Liz danced with each of us, trying to teach us some ballroom moves. Due to our complete incompetence as far as dancing goes (for the most part—Ben’s got some moves of his own), she usually ended up taking the guy’s part, throwing bewildered people around the dance floor, making them look like they might actually know what they’re doing due to her strong lead.  By the end of the night, Liz and I had nailed the tricky “Pretzel,” a series of spins that Heidi taught her a few nights earlier. We all had a great time hanging out and dancing, even though we seemed to be the only ones, and got some weird looks from locals sitting at the bar. After a fast late-night walk through town, up and down the hills of Charlotteville (I’m sure we got a few more strange looks), we returned to the cottages to get ready for our weekend off.

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