Recuperating in Tobago

Wednesday 4 February to Tuesday 10 February 2015

travellingross rating = 6/10

It’s never a pleasant experience going to the airport hungover, let alone get up at 4 am to pack all my belongings, get in a taxi, head to the airport in snow, navigate the Denver airport and spend all day travelling. Fortunately, I had Matt with me as we were both on the same flights through to Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. Even more fortunately, I was going to a Caribbean island for 6 nights of 100% relaxation. The travel was ok, but I remember sitting on the tarmac during our Houston layover for more than an hour. And United Airlines (as with most USA airlines) have terrible or non-existent in-flight entertainment or food. Didn’t help that trying to watch Dumb & Dumber 2 on my laptop stopped at the 40 minute mark for no reason and then my laptop battery was going flat. Ah, 1st world problems. Matt and I had enough time for a beer together in Port of Spain airport (yes we can both back it up) as he headed back to Suriname for his last rotation and I boarded a 25 minute flight across to the island of Tobago.

Lots of people have told me to avoid Trinidad, but that Tobago is really nice and worth a visit. Apparently the bigger island of Trinidad is wealthier but full of crime, dirt and people. Tobago only has a 60,000 population and a diversity of things to do. Surprisingly, I had to pay a $67 USD visa to enter T&T which does not apply to USA or Canada citizens. I received mild questioning as to why I did not have a visa before arrival but was able to fill a form and get a visa waiver at immigration.

I stayed at the Kariwak Holistic Haven Hotel. An exotic name for a relaxing retreat. Very close to the airport and tropical with bird feeders, two pools, a yoga hall, hammocks and a general vibe of simple relaxation. This was just what I wanted. I always like to stay by the beach on coastal places but this was perfect. I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol on Tobago. Nor did I swim in the ocean. Time to detox, sleep til midday, laze by the pool (ozone treated rather than chlorine or salt and it was awesome!), read, etc. I did two touristy things – walked to Pigeon Point beach (ok but too touristy for a beach), and a half day rainforest tour of one of the world’s oldest conservation reserves that was founded in 1776 and this was really good. A particular highlight was receiving a random phone call at 10pm from Perth Airport to ask where I wanted my suitcase delivered to!!! Totally out of the blue and unexpected. My bag was finally found. Sure, in Perth which is no good to me, but in safe hands with all contents! Unbelievable.

Overall, Tobago was not that great or memorable. I found Curacao to be better with nicer beaches, better people and cleaner. Tobago felt like Africa in places and too under-developed for my liking. The hotel was great and I’m sure the diving is good. But I think the Caribbean has better to offer than Tobago.

Websites and Tips to Make this Trip

Booked the hotel through www.kariwak.com for USD $205 per night for pool side room

Rainforest tour through Harris’ Jungle Tours USD $65 or 400 TT www.harris-jungle-tours.com

Denver was Coloradical

Saturday 24 January 2015 to Tuesday 3 February 2015

Landing at the Denver airport Saturday night 24 January I was met by my friend Matt who I work with and will stay with him and his pregnant wife for the next 10 days. First task was to talk to the lost baggage people to see if my missing suitcase was at the airport as planned. It wasn’t. I suspected it wouldn’t be based on conversations I had leading up to this moment. Instead of Denver, it’s at London Heathrow terminal 5. hmmm. But the guy at Denver airport has been very helpful. And Matt has listened to my suitcase story so many times that I’m surprised he still let’s me talk about it!

Matt lives in the suburbs and went to a lot of effort to make me feel welcome. His wife is a great cook too. Nice change to be in a house rather than a hotel on my breaks. And have someone play tour guide and driver where everything is organised and planned for me. We did a lot during the ten days.

Highlights Reel

Golden: 9/10 on the travellingross-o-meter. Mainly so high ranking cause it was my first full day on break, in Denver, and with a great mate. We did a tour of the Coors brewery which was free and included many tasters. Went up to the lookout where buffalo bill is buried and looked across the broader Denver area. Not a pretty town in this season with everything brown or grey. Day ended when I took my hosts out for dinner.

Australia Day: 8/10. My fav holiday and this time in the US of A. I cooked BBQ, we played pool in the basement, Frisbee at the park with Matt’s friend (unsurprisingly I suck at throwing a Frisbee when aiming for a basket), I bought a Fosters t shirt from Target, we drank a bottle of Jameson and streamed the triple j hottest 100. The latter made little sense to anyone in the room as not even I know the songs or listen to triple j. But it’s the thing to do on Oz day. It was also the day Matt and Katie found out they’re having a baby boy. Celebrations all round.

Winter Park ski trip: 8/10. The reason I brought all my ski clothes and things back from home was for this. Now they are in that stupid missing suitcase. So we replaced the essentials and headed up the Rockies to one of Matt’s fav ski resorts and only 1.5 hrs from home. Scenic drive up there through winding roads and watching the temp gauge drop. I hate the cold but with the right clothes and for the right reasons (i.e. Skiing) I can tolerate it. The hotel Matt booked was perfect and right on the edge of mountain – no need to carry skis for miles each day like in Japan!! 2.5 days of skiing is tiring, especially with the evening outings, but it’s fun and I enjoy it. The slopes here are diverse and many runs to choose from. My fav was off the Sunny Side lift called Edelweiss. Unfortunately no big snow falls during our stay but clear weather was also nice. I still haven’t had a ski trip in big powder so must go again until I get that. Plus next time I want to take lessons to get better at turns and general technique. I just do it for fun and don’t want to be brilliant. Matt has been skiing since a kid and very good so I’m glad he was patient to go on the medium runs with me. Only once did he try kill me. On Parsons Bowl steep slope, trees and bumps where travellingross had a bit of ski anger cause it was way beyond my skill level. At this point I did not enjoy snow, the Rockies, skiing, or Matt. Thankfully I ended with a few runs on Edelweiss and a shot of jager to bring back the fun travellingross.

Superbowl Sunday: 5/10. The highlight of this day was the 6 inches of snow that fell overnight so when I woke and looked out the window there was such a different landscape than the day before and it was surreal for me. Never seen before. We picked up some booze and headed over to Matt’s uni friends place to watch the game. I have no idea how the game works so just enjoyed the ads, half time Katy boobs Perry show and beer.

Denver HQ: 6/10. I had the morning to myself before meeting Matt at our work head office for lunch. It’s in a sterile ‘tech centre’ and made me glad I work on site. It was good to see the head office after hearing about it for a decade, and catch up with work colleagues I’ve not seen in years, but not a place I’d rush to work at.

Shopping: 7/10. Finally, on last full day, I got a chance to replace some of my missing belongings by heading to the mall. We finished in downtown so Matt could get some “party favours” (novelty items u take to parties or farewells to give to people…yeah right) for his last rotation in Suriname. For final night, I once again shouted dinner and it was one of the best meals I’ve had. Even though I was in a borrowed dress shirt from Matt that was 2 sizes too large, but he says I chose the most expensive in his closet!

Random Observations & Rants

  1. Getting searched by customs when I arrived in Miami was the most intense luggage search I’ve had. I must’ve looked suspicious and no one in USA can comprehend that I work in Suriname, a place they’ve never heard of.
  2. I woke up to a blood nose on the ski mountain – high altitude.
  3. The checking of ID is excessive at restaurants, bars and anywhere that sells alcohol. I got refused a drink twice. Once cause I forgot my ID (at the top of a ski mountain!!) and another cause they wouldn’t accept my foreign drivers licence as ID. Absolutely absurd. And people say Australia is a heavily regulated country. Colorado has legalised marijuana, clearly cause they need to chill out some more.
  4. Coloradical was a sticker on a car I saw.
  5. Having a waiter ask u “how’s everything” 6 times during a meal is so irritating. I get that American wages are driven by tips but the constant intrusion on your table to ask how the meal is, whether you need anything, how’s your day been etc etc drives me nuts.
  6. People are so friendly here that at times I felt like saying “Do I know you?”. When they ask you where you’re from, how you got here, where you work, your blood type (ok maybe an exaggeration but you get the point)….all in the 6 minutes to ride a chair lift up the mountain.

2 Rotations and a Christmas

Wednesday 19 November 2014 to Friday 23 January 2015

Work and life has got in the way of me updating this website as often as I would like, but sitting on planes for hours on end gives lots of time to type the words and sort the photos so here’s a snapshot of the last couple months…

Named Myself Employee of the Month This Rotation

Arriving back in Paramaribo from Curacao on 19 November 2014 (with a cheeky stop over in Trinidad to collect more passengers that I was unaware of) I checked in and headed straight to a bar to meet up with people. I’ve embraced the social side much more than when I would come in and out of Accra, Ghana. Various reasons but above all is that Paramaribo is a city I feel much more comfortable in compared to the unpredictability and challenges of getting around Accra.

Overall, I’d give this rotation a 10 out of 10. I arrived back to site and met up with my friend Ryan who I worked with in Ghana. Surreal to see him here. And then Madison came in. Another person I worked with in Ghana and have stayed in contact with the most. A truly awesome person and makes me happy. I like to think I make her happy too, although she would never admit that. A realisation this rotation was that I don’t laugh enough anymore. The last years have been serious and humour in everyday life was harder to find. But I’m pleased to say it’s back. I have laughed so much at this job that tears roll and that’s a rarity these years. Especially at work. I enjoy the team and the balance.

Memorable highlights:

  • Setting up the hydroseeder to revegetate cleared areas with grasses and getting covered in green mulch
  • Getting positive reviews for my work associated with the CEO visit. Always a boost to get a genuine pat on the back.
  • Having significant wins on the recruitment front as I assemble my team that will represent my leadership in the next few years. One of whom is someone I’ve worked with at Boddington and excited to work with again.
  • Man, I’ve never had boots do that to me.
  • Huge ones. Still not seen a sloth though.
  • End of year company function / Christmas party. Interesting experience.

Perth Christmas 

Coming home for Christmas on 18 December 2014 was important to me. Spending time with family after working in Ghana last Christmas was a perfect way to catch everyone in one sitting. Plus after a couple rotations, I had a long list of things I wanted to bring back to Suriname.

It was all good, got my appointments done, socialised, enjoyed the summer weather, saw in the new year with the Bri where we plotted out our resolutions and reflected on our 2014’s over some champagne just like old days.

Montreal, Lost Luggage and Hectic Work Days

Departing Perth 4 January 2015 I arrived in Montreal where it was -20C compared to the Perth max of 44.4C. What a variance! I was in Montreal for a work meeting for 5 days. The journey there was first time in all my travels that my suitcase didn’t make it. It didn’t make the short connection in Jakarta. Getting it delivered to me should’ve been an easy task but for intensely frustrating reasons that I am so sick of talking about, it didn’t and everyday I was given the impression that the bag would be delivered so I didn’t buy more clothes or a jacket. Particularly upsetting cause I had a lot of stuff in that case that I was purposely bringing back to Suriname. To think u would never see it again was depressing. $4k worth of stuff. But the monetary value is of limited concern. I just want my things! The bag is now supposed to be at the Denver airport waiting for me. I type this on the flights to Denver. I have minimal hope but haven’t given up just yet.

This and other personal things came together to make my 3rd rotation less enjoyable than the high of the last one. I haven’t been this busy at work in many years and many tasks in my personal life have taken a back seat. I’m one who pride’s keeping on top of everything so when I’m not, it annoys me and gets me down. Given the time in Montreal and working extra time last rotation meant my site time was shorter. I crammed 3 weeks of work into less than 2. January is always busy with budget updates, systems, planning the year ahead etc. With my high standards, there was a lot I wanted to achieve.

I ticked most of my tasks and still managed to have some fun times. Got to know people better and there’s always new people starting which I like that dynamic nature of construction. And I was finally able to transfer money out of my USA bank account to Australia, got my last year’s tax return for review, watched a brilliant movie ‘Gone Girl’, got 3 extra staff signed up to join my team next month. Looking forward to that. So that’s all helping to get back on track with my “be more positive” NYE resolution.

The best thing about flying a long distance out on break is you have solid time to decompress and unwind from work. I’m excited to see where my friend Matt lives in Denver, go skiing, explore that city I’ve heard so much about over the years since it is headquarters of the company I’ve worked with for 10 years. Stay tuned for that update…it’ll be quicker this time.