Tuesday, March 27, 2007


After spending 10 days watching the Indian team get thrashed, I desperately needed some cheering up. I had no intention of staying on in Trinidad, hoping against hope that Bermuda would pull of a miracle, so I headed off to Tobago.

Getting there was easy. There are 2-3 ferries each day, and take just over 2 hours. The docks were a short walk from my room, so I just walked. The only problem was that I missed the morning ferry, which meant that I would get there only by the evening. The wedding was in the evening, so I had no chance of making it. It was at the other end of the island, and for a while I thought about showing up in their hotel (I just knew the name), but decided I didn't want to show up and find out they'd all gone partying somewhere else.

Reached Tobago around 7pm with no hotel bookings. The previous day I'd met some other travellers who'd just returned from Tobago. They gave me the number of a cheap hotel, so I called it up. Turned out they were full, but they give me 2-3 other numbers to call. Finally got through to the 4th one, and they had a room available. Shared a taxi with some other rich tourists who were heading to the hotel (they let me tag along for free and seemed more concerned than me about not having a hotel booking).

The guest house I showed up at was amazing. It was about a 5 min walk from the beach, and my room was a self contained apartment, with a full kitchen, living room, etc. I checked again about the price, and the owner was sweet enough to lower it as she realised that it would be easier to convince me to stay on.

Woke up the next morning and headed straight to the beach. It was a Sunday, so quite busy and I noticed a bunch of kids playing cricket. This was something I had to join in, so I just ran up and joined them. I was suprised at how badly they all played though. None of them could bowl. They threw more like a pitcher, and their batting was just a baseball style swing. The wicket was an old tyre, so it resembled a strike zone in baseball. Anyway, I adapted and had a great time. There were no rules, no match going on and no competition. Anyone could bat, anyone could bowl and it was amazing to see a lot of women join in as well. People fielded in the water and each time someone hit a big one, they'd swim out to get it. I got a lot of sympathy after India's early exit, and at the risk of sounding immodest, was technically the best bowler and batsmen there. One guy shouted "Next world cup, he gonna be da captain!"

The last 2 days, I indulged in something I'd never done before - snorkelling. I'd been told about how snorkelling was easy, cheap and great fun. Even for a weak swimmer like me, it was supposed to be not too hard. And it wasn't. The first day, I joined a boat tour, where a guy gave me the mask and told me a few basic things. I swam close to the boat but it was quite mindblowing. Seeing those coral reefs, underwater plants and schools of fish, was beyond what I'd imagined it to be. Since it was a semi-guided tour, I couldn't do it for too long, so the next day, I rented a snorkel and ventured out on my own. It was great and had I decided to stay on in Tobago for longer, I would have done it each day. It started to get a bit expensive for me though.

I made a snap decision to come back to Trinidad today, and will head back to Venezuela tomorrow (hopefully I'll wake up in time for the ferry tomorrow). Living out of a backpack makes it easy to do something like this. I first went to the airport (I actually walked from the beach to the airport) to see if there were any direct flights to the eastern part of Venezuela. Realised the only way was to fly through Trinidad and then Caracas, which was too expensive. Went back to the docks to take the evening ferry back here and will hopefully be in Cumana by tomorrow evening.

Anyway, here are the links to my

Tobago pictures

Cricket articles

Friday, March 23, 2007


India's out of the World Cup, and so am I. Looks like my career as a cricket writer has come to a quick end. All I can say is that I'm happy that I didn't buy any flight tickets, make hotel bookings or buy too many tickets for the matches. All I'm going to lose is 50$ for the Bangladesh-Ireland match.

Will head to the docks tomorrow to catch the ferry to Tobago, and lime out there for about a week or so. After that, I'll have to figure out what to do. I'd planned to stay in the Caribbean for the next month, but there's no point hanging out here for too long. It's a bit too expensive for a cheap backpacker like me.

In about 10 days, I might head back to Venezuela for a bit and then spend some more time in the Amazon rainforests, before heading for Rio. Suggestions?

Anyone interested in buying the Bangladesh-Ireland ticket?

Thursday, March 22, 2007


There's a word in Trinidad which means just hanging out, chilling and doing nothing in particular - Liming. That's exactly what I've been up to. The beaches in the north coast are perfect for that, and I've spent a large amount of time out there.

The other thing I've been up to is living out my childhood fantasy as a cricket writer. I've attended nets practice a couple of times, and by now most of the reporters know me. It's suprising how tired and cynical most of them are during the press conferences. I stand right in front, listening to every word, (I even asked a question once) and taking pictures. What is interesting though, is listening to the gossip when they head out for lunch, their relationship with different players, their impressions of the coach, etc. I'm going to write a piece on that for the website I'm writing for and post a link soon.

A funny thing happened the other day, on the way to the beach. There are shared vans which go from the downtown area so I hopped onto one. I was sitting next to an American couple who were headed there and we were generally chatting. They asked me if I was here for the World Cup. I was surprised they even knew about it, and said yes. They replied, so were they. For a while I thought they might be part of some TV company, doing some backup work. Turned out they were actually in Trinidad as fans watching cricket, and were headed to Guyana for some more matches.

I was very curious at this point, so they told me they'd travelled in India for about 6-7 months about 7 years ago, and being sports fans, started to watch cricket. They realised watching the cricket world cup as neutral fans, was a nice way to travel and have something to do, so they went all the way to South Africa 4 years ago for about a month, and are now in the Caribbean for 2-3 weeks. They plan to go Australia for the Ashes in about 4 years as well as India again for the next world cup.

We've become good friends over the last 4 days, and today I took them to nets practice and they were overawed at the chance to see both the Sri Lankan and Indian teams so close. 3 other friends of theirs are flying in from California for tomorrow's match (they're trying to convert them into cricket fans), and 2 of them are getting married in Tobago on Saturday. I'm headed to Tobago as well on Saturday, so I might show up for it if it's closeby.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

From Sabina Park to the Queen's Park Oval

5 years ago we met had and a nice chat and it brought a smile to both our faces.

Today, I met him again, and even though he was in a rush we both smiled again.

I also met these guys today. They didn't remember me, but were happy to oblige with pics. Somehow, coming here was worth it, in spite of the horrible performance by India yesterday.

More can be found here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cricket update

India's campaign starts tomorrow, and I've managed to get tickets for the India-Bangladesh match in the Trini-Posse party stand. That's the fun stand with a live band, drinks and crazy people. Also managed to get tickets for India-Bermuda and

INDIA-PAKISTAN on Apr 15th at Barbados.


Turns out that barring major upsets the schedule for the next round (super 8s) is predetermined based on the seedings a year ago. So India-Pakistan is conveniently scheduled for a Sunday, and I will definitely be there. Have to see if there are any boats from here or Tobago till Barbados, otherwise will have to take a flight.

I'm also going to keep a World Cup diary for this website. Anyone can log in and write articles on sports, and they get edited by a team. I'd started a cricket blog for a few months, and the people on this site noticed it and told me to start writing for them. I've written a few already. 5 years ago, I went to Jamaica to watch India-West Indies and wrote an article here, and decided that since I'm here for the whole world cup, I'll see what it's like to be a cricket writer.

Still have to get tickets for India-Sri Lanka as it was sold out, but there were lots of people selling tickets outside the stadium illegally. They weren't too expensive, so hopefully I should be able to watch all of India's matches in the first round.

If you're watching the cricket match tomorrow, I'll be in the party stand, wearing an official Indian team shirt with a blue floppy hat.

Finally, I've also uploaded my pictures of the Venezuela trip. Click here for the pictures of Merida, Caracas and Venezuela-Trinidad.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting to Trinidad

Getting here wasn't easy. In fact, there was a lot of uncertainty about the whole trip from Caracas to Port of Spain, so when I finally woke up this morning it felt like a bit of an accomplishment.

There were two main problems with coming here from Caracas. One, I had no bookings for any hotels or guest houses. Whatever I found on the internet was too expensive or too vague. Two, the ferry from Venezuela had no internet presence, and nobody in Venezuela that I talked to knew about it. In a Lonely Planet guide I'd read last month, it said the ferry runs once a week on Wednesdays. I wasn't too sure about the price, and I didn't have too much Venezuelan currency left either.

I spent the last day in Caracas (Monday) looking for some travel guides. Since all my travelling for the last 10 months has been a bit unpredictable, I've resisted from buying any travel guides which I'd have to lug around. Caracas isn't a very tourist friendly place so in spite of going to all the main bookstores I couldn't any information or book about Guiria (where the ferry runs from) or Trinidad. Finally decided that the best thing to do was to leave for Guiria that night so that I could hope to get to Guiria by Tuesday afternoon, find out about the ferry and in case it didn't run, head back to Caracas and take a flight.

There was no direct bus to Guiria, so I took an overnight bus to Cumana and reached at about 6 in the morning. The bus terminal was pretty small and decrepit, and at that time in the morning the main ticket office was shut. Went into a grotty waiting room and hung around for an hour. Finally went in to the ticket office after it opened, and realised that the first bus to Guiria was at 2 in the afternoon. That meant reaching Guiria at 6 in the evening, which was too late. Found out after a lot of gesturing and consulting my bible (the Spanish for travellers book) that one could share taxis till Curapao and then another shared taxi to Guiria.

Ended up in a very old run down Ford, which was probably from the 70s considering the design. Dozed through most of the ride and reached Curapao at around 9 and then found another shared taxi for Guiria. These taxis don't leave till they're full, so had to wait till we could find 4 more people heading there. The drive was beautiful though. All along the coast, with the brilliant blue waters sparking and thick jungle on the the other side of the road. Reached Guiria around noon.

As small towns go, Guiria is possibly the most decrepit, rundown, dirty and shady place I've ever encountered. It's the last town one can drive to on the Northeast coast of Venezuela, and exists only because of the docks and the Coast Guard presence. I'd heard about the beaches in the area and had pictured a pretty, small town close to nice beaches where I'd spend the day loitering around. The beach was pathetic and the whole town looked like it was in serious decay. There were two posadas (motels) in town. I took the one where the room had airconditioning as it was blisteringly hot, esp after a week in the Andes.

Asked around about the ferry and found the office after a bit of walking around. The ferry was running as scheduled on each Wednesday, but I had to pay about 70$ in cash. Since I didn't have much currency left, I went to the only ATM in town, but realised that international cards don't work. 3 days earlier I'd overheard a conversation about this, and 2 Germans had mentioned the way to withdraw cash was to go to a big bank in the morning before noon, with your passport and other details. Since it was 3 the bank was shut, so I had to wait till the next morning. I had barely enough money to eat one meal, and the few euros and pounds that I was carrying had no value. Only US dollars I was told. Found a dirty, roadside Arepa place and munched on a couple of Arepas before heading back to my room and sleeping early as there was nothing else to do.

Woke up early, and went straight to the bank and managed to withdraw some cash with the help of a teller. Then went to the Ferry agency, but they refused to let me buy a one-way ticket. Since I wasn't sure of when I plan to leave the Caribbean, they wanted proof of return. It was time to head to the only internet cafe in town and make another booking on AA.

The internet cafe had really old computers, but like idiots they'd installed an illegal copy of Windows Vista. That meant the computer hung about 3 times, before I managed to make a booking. Turned out the printer was connected to the main computer and they weren't networked. The only way to print it out would be to save it as a text file and then transfer it. Thankfully, I had my ipod with me and managed to transfer it onto that, plug it into the main computer and print out a very shady looking ticket itinerary. It was almost 11, so headed straight to the Ferry agency and then managed to get the ticket. Was told to report to the docks at 2, and the ferry would leave at around 4. Bumped into a French couple and we agreed to share a taxi as the docks area looked really shady.

Reached the docks, and after a long and thorough check of everyone's bags and a long wait, managed to leave the docks around 430. I was really tired by now and wondered if I would have been better of taking a flight from Caracas (it would have cost about the same). But within 20 minutes of leaving, it was worth it. The water was incredibly clear, with great views of the Venezuelan peninsula and loud calypso music on the deck. Suddenly, the world cup looked much closer.

While sitting on the deck, I ended up talking to a Venezuelan who now lives in Trinidad. I asked him about Port of Spain, and he was shocked that I had no bookings at all. Since we were going to reach around 8pm, with a long customs check, he said I had no chance of reaching Port of Spain before 930pm, and doubted if there would be any buses to take from the docks. The French couple decided to help me out and gave me their Lonely Planet guide and helped me write down the names and addresses of some cheap hotels. Then Mr Venezuela, gave me some Trinidadian cash (there was no money changer at the docks), his phone number and as soon was we were within range of his cellphone coverage, let me make phone calls to the hotels on the Lonely Planet guide.

After calling 3 places, I managed to find a very affordable place close to the stadium which had one single room left. Mr Venezuela was even nicer, and gave me a ride all the way to the Guest house, waited till I'd found the room and headed off. He told me to call him sometime, and explain cricke to him. Considering all that he did for a stranger, I'd be happy to oblige him for more.

Did I ever mention, I love all Venezuelan people?

Reached Trinidad

I've made it here finally! It was an eventful trip and things worked out well in the end. Have found a nice and reasonable Bed and Breakfast, within walking distance to the cricket stadium. Am heading out now to see if I can buy some tickets for the matches and organise a few other things - cash, cellphone card, internet connection.

More updates later tonight.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I spent the last week in Merida, staying with Dr B´s brother, A. I´d heard a lot about him from 2-3 Venezuelan friends of mine and was keen to see him and his lifestyle. It was quite an amazing experience.

A is about 36, lives alone in a small house in a remote village outside the city of Merida. His house has spectacular views of the Andes, a small stream running through his front yard, no hot water, no heating and no form of transport. The only way to get to his village is to take a bus or hitch-hike and then a short uphill walk. He´s recently started a master´s degree in mathematics at the University of the Andes, and lives on very little money as I found out. He also doesn´t speak any English either (barely a few words).

I reached Merida early in the morning and called him from the bus terminal. Realised immediately that it was impossible to communicate with him. Thankfully, I´ve been carrying a Spanish for travellers book, and have been reading through it for about a week. Took a bus to the centre of the town, memorised some lines and called him again. Somehow we managed to agree on Plaza Bolivar at 11.

He showed up on time and immediately took me on a walk through the city pointing out all kinds of places. At each point I had to ask him to speak slowly, consult my book, and then talk back. He´s lived around Merida most of his life and knows the city inside out, and also about half the town. Every 5 minutes, someone would stop to talk, wave or shout at him. I was still a bit groggy after a long bus ride, so we stopped at a great fish restaurant for lunch. Merida was even cheaper than Caracas and it´s nice to be able to order food without asking about the price. After lunch, we hitched a ride in a jeep, and went through a long walk through a few villages, stopping at a couple of houses along the way. Being introduced as a friend from India in such a remote place, made me feel like a celebrity. Reached his house in the evening, and I immediately collapsed on a hammock on his porch and dozed off, listening to the sound of the stream and staring in between at the amazing mountain views.

The next 3-4 days were spent hiking. A had spent a lot of time in his 20s as a trekking guide, and knows every trail and mountain. The first day, a friend of his joined us, and the 3 of us hitched rides on various trucks and jeeps to end up at some hot springs. It took a while to get there and apart from a few locals, it was just us. Spent at least 4-5 hours soaking in the hot springs, sipping some fresh juice we´d carried, with a great view of the Andes. The sun was very harsh and strong, so I got pretty badly sunburnt, as I´d laughed at the sunblock they were using. Left the springs around 4 in the evening and explored some of the small villages in the area. Again, A knew a lot of people and we just simply walked into different houses without knocking on doors. At each place the 3 of us went, we were offered food and tea and it was quite astonishing to see how backward the living conditions were in these places.

Spent the next 2 days on a camping trip and I realised how 3 months in Paris had made me very unfit. It was even worse to be accompanied by a former trekking guide who knows everything so well. Somehow managed to chug up to the base of Pico Sucre, and camped there for the night. It got cold at night, and I was quite stiff after all the walking and it wasn´t the most comfortable night. But seeing the night sky and the sunrise in the morning made the whole trek worth it.

Decided against climbing the peak as it was too windy and I didn´t want to push myself too much. Took a different route on the way back and stopped at another hot spring along the way to ease the stiffness. Got back to his place around 5 and then headed straight for a farewell party for a friend of his who was leaving for Caracas. It was supposed to be just a few drinks and a quicky goodbye, but there was no way anybody was going to let A leave early. He´s remarkably popular and though he´s about 10 years older than most of his student friends, he behaves as if he´s younger than them. Even though nobody could speak English clearly, it was fun to communicate through my Spanish book. I think I learned more Spanish in the last 6 days than I ever tried in the last few years.

The last day was reserved for the most spectacular ride that I´ve ever been on. The Teleferica, which is the longest and highest cable car in the world. It was breathtaking and it starts from about 3000m in Merida and goes up to about 4500m in about an hour, with a couple of stops. It was the closest I´ve felt to flying, especially as I sat like a kid in the front row with my nose pressed against the windows. It´s a remarkable feat of engineering and the views one gets of the Andes and the neighbouring valleys and towns are incredible. (I think I used too many superlatives in the last paragraph)

I took the night bus back to Caracas, and had a slightly awkward experience. Was woken up in the middle of the night and asked for my ID. Showed my passport and was then told to come out of the bus. Even though I told them in broken Spanish that I was just a tourist, they insisted on searching me and my backpack thoroughly and asking about where I was going and what I did. The whole bus was held up for about 30 minutes, and it was a bit embarrassing to be interrogated in front of the entire bus. I don´t know why they were doing it to me, but I acted as if I didn´t care. They let me off soon, but the bus driver winked at me and said ¨"Sorry, that´s what Chavez is doing these days."

I took loads of pictures and a short video at the back of a truck. Will try uploading them soon once I can figure out how to connect my laptop. Am off to Guiria tonight, and then to Trinidad by a ferry on Wednesday, so hopefully my next post will be from Trinidad.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Caracas Diary

The flight to Caracas was long and I almost missed the connecting flight at Frankfurt. I´d left for Heathrow at around 4am, so I slept comfortably almost all the way to Caracas. The airport is right on the coast, so as one lands, one can see the mountains in the background and the city is in a valley behind the mountains. It looks quite dramatic.

The moment I cleared immigration and customs, a bunch of fake officials came up to me offering to change money. I´d been warned about this so decided to change only enough to make a couple of phone calls and for emergency. The difference in the official and unofficial rate is almost double due to inflation and strict currency controls. Managed to get through to W, who I was going to stay with, who gave the taxi driver instructions and negotiated a fare.

The bridge connecting the airport to the city broke a year ago so the driver took a really long round-about way to get to Caracas. It meant driving through a lot of the favelas (slums) and as the first introduction to Venezuela, it was quite harsh, even for someone from Delhi. The ride was beautiful though, on a long winding road up to the top of the mountains and then down. The taxi driver kept talking non-stop about a lot of things, with loud music blaring and stopping to whistle and pass comments at all the women along the way.

Reached W´s house around 6pm, and walked straight into a family get-together. Since it was a weekend, his whole clan tends to meet on both days. It was cramped and noisy, but I enjoyed it a lot. Dinner dragged on for a long time and the next day, there was another gathering at someone´s house in the countryside. That´s the weekend retreat for the whole clan and even more people showed up. The weather was hot and to combat the heat, everyone kept sipping beer. Was happily drunk and just enjoyed being treated like a celebrity guest by the whole clan.

Got back around 7pm, and then Dr B showed up. He´d visited India about 6 years ago and stayed with some friends of mine and loved it, so he´s determined to make my visit similar. Took me out to a place which is known for its Arepas and then drove me around Caracas in his car. Gas is cheap in Venezuela (about 10cents a litre) so nobody cares about driving long distances. He jumped 3 red lights and after the second asked "Aren´t you feeling at home?".

Spent the last 2 days exploring Caracas by metro and by foot. It´s a weird city. The location is spectacular, as it´s in a valley with high mountains all around and the weather is great all year. The women are either amazingly hot or very overweight (I was told it´s because of the beer), and the traffic is as bad as Delhi. Architecturally, it´s very ugly. Since it´s the capital and the commercial centre, there are lots of highrise buildings, but most of them look quite run down. There are shops all over and even the old Spanish quarter has lost the charm it must have had as it´s surrounded by shops. The food is great, especially the fresh fruit juices and after walking a lot, it´s nice to chill out on the Grande Sabana, sip a cool drink and watch people play chess.

I haven´t been able to upload pictures yet, but hopefully in a week or so. I´m off to Merida today for 5-6 days. It´s a small town in the Andes, and will be staying in a village just outside Merida, with Dr B´s brother, who is a trekking guide and lives in a small hut. He´s starting a master´s degree in maths at the University of the Andes and also runs marathons. Apparently he doesn´t speak any English, so let´s see how we communicate about maths, mountains and marathons.

Heading to the University right now, to meet with a couple of other people I know through two of my old housemates, and then in the evening will take a cable car to the highest point in Caracas, which I´m told has a spectacular view of the city, the mountains and coast.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Reached Caracas

Should have posted a bit earlier, but my life´s been hijacked by a few friends here. Since I reached this is the first time I´ve had time to post, but it´s not a long one. Reached Caracas safely after an interesting drive from the airport to the city. The weather´s great as are the beer and people. Will post a longer one later tonight.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Getting ready to leave

London's passed by in a bit of a daze. In between meeting the maths crowd, some corporate sharks and some friends, it became quite hectic. It helps that I know the city very well after so many trips so I've felt comfortable getting around. I managed to get my CARICOM visa stamped, get vague ideas of possible employment opportunities after Rio, mail off tax forms and catch up with some friends.

I'm leaving in a few hours for Heathrow and have a one-way ticket to Caracas. My worldly possessions are now even less than they were a few months ago. I can survive for about a week with my clothes, have two books to sustain me and a few gadgets. 2 years ago, I'd gone to Peru for 2 weeks and was carrying exactly the right amount of stuff after many years of always carrying some extra and useless items while travelling. I went hiking for 4 days, and managed to get by easily with what I was carrying. Right now, I've got the same amount of stuff with me.

In the last 10 months, this is the 4th time, I've bought a one-way ticket to head off to a different continent. I don't know if I'm doing something incredibly stupid with no clear idea of what to do in terms of employment, just about enough money to last me till July (assuming there're no screw-ups) but hopefully in about 24 hours or so, I'll be in Caracas.

More once I reach Venezuela.