The thought of flying internationally alone was a little unnerving for me. I had heard all the immigration horror stories from various countries around the world and even a couple from past Earthwatch volunteer participants. As much as I love air travel it is a major source of anxiety to be solely responsible for finding my way and the reviews of the Miami airport did nothing to quell my nerves. ORF is a tiny airport by all means so that part was easy. Get there, check in, security and I was all set. The plane was the smallest I can remember ever being on and the were only a total of fifteen people set to fly so after an “is that it?!” from the pilot we were on to an early takeoff.
We touched down in Miami twenty minutes early and I got into MIA following people who looked like they knew what they were doing. My temporary follow the herd mentality payed off after four escalators and two tram rides I got to the baggage claim to collect my things and made it back to the hotel to burrow in for the night. The MIA airport hotel was entirely adequate.
The next morning I got up and made my way through check in and security. This plane was much bigger and I took my window seat happily. The little girl next to me even offered to share her cookies with me. I considered my self lucky that MIA hadn’t unleashed it’s poorly run wrath onto me.
Touching down in the Piarco Airport is when the real fun began. Immigration took over an hour to get through. There was a large mismatched group ahead of me that was scrabbling to get the proper information to all its members. As I looked around the line behind me I thought I saw one of the other members of my group but I wanted to wait until later to potentially make a fool of myself. Baggage claim was a breeze and I eventually met up with J (turns out it was her) and we headed out the doors. The briefing we got indicated at our taxi would come pick us up between eight pm and ten pm to accommodate for the two others joining us from a later flight. It was near two-thirty by this time so we had a wait in store. Scouting around the airport for something to eat we encountered three restaurants centered around fried chicken and a subway. We went with the latter and asked around for the best wifi spot. Naturally it was up two flights of stairs in a pizza restaurant which curiously didn’t serve pizza, or anything for that matter not for lack of employees buzzing around. It was unbelievably cold in the airport. The Internet connection was good and we situated ourselves by a window watching planes going in and out while we passed our time, making the trek up and down the stairs every once in a while for snacks or a chance to stretch our legs.
The closer it got to the flight arrival the more time slowed down. Deciding to wait near the entrance we sat in front of a flight schedule board telling us that the rest of our group had a sizable delay. No worries, we thought, we’ll just hand our bags off to the Nature Seekers driver when he arrives at eight and have a look around. Eight rolled around and we waited then eight-thirty came and we waited some more. Having been asked by the same man if we needed a taxi no fewer than fifteen times we were a little flustered. By the time nine-thirty came we were a downright concerned. C and K finally walked in from the baggage claim at about ten-thirty. J and I were pretty sick of the Piarco Airport at this point. Assuming that now that the group was complete they would come pick us up we waited a bit longer, finally deciding to call the number given to us. We were told that the driver had been waiting just outside of where we were for the past half an hour. He told us to stay put and he would come get us. The amount of time it took him to walk the alleged fifty feet from where he supposedly was to where we were made us a little suspicious that maybe he had just arrived.
Our driver Gregory led us to the taxi. Exhausted we piled into the van and were promptly disoriented by the twists and turns of the narrow roads through the small city. He told us all about Trinidad while dodging packs of stray dogs (eliciting more than a couple gasps) then proceeded to blast an odd array of music including some Celine Dion. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at one point. But was shaken awake by the condition of the road. The Tourism Ministry is finally fixing the main road after years of heavy machinery and large amounts of rainfall made it practically impassible, but they don’t start that for another few weeks. Gregory pushed on though pausing only to answer his mewing kitten ringtone. We got to Susan’s Guest House in Matura at half past twelve, were shown to our rooms and given a quit delicious snack of bread, potatoes and pumpkin. I fell asleep with in five seconds of laying down and slept through. We had arrived in Trinidad. I couldn’t believe this was happening.