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In search of sea turtles

The grey dawn revealed rice paddies and the source of the strange, almost haunting cries – small wading birds with curved beaks. And with the dawn came an end to the rain that had transformed a mildly uncomfortable night into something truly unpleasant. The thatched-roof shed had provided adequate shelter from the rain initially, but the wind had picked up and driven the rain through the open sides of the shelters. Retreating behind a half wall had provided respite, but then came thick streams of water running across the floor of the shed. The only option left was to squat, cold and damp, and wait for morning.

The night had started with such promise. This was our second attempt to see nesting leatherback sea turtles – pouring rain had caused us to cancel our previous trip. We had made it past Sangre Grande, almost to Fishing Pond, hoping that the rain would let up, but reality eventually intruded. This week the weather had been more promising (although, regardless of what the weather was like it St. Augustine, it always seemed to be raining in Grande). Problems began with a late start – so late, that by the time we arrived in Fishing Pond the guides had given up on us and gone home. Being adventurous and moderately outdoorsy, we figured we could find our own way through the scrub and mangrove to the beach. After all, we could hear the sea, we could smell the sea…and there was a clear path. What could possibly go wrong?

The paths, it seemed, led nowhere. We followed them in what appeared to be circles. Instead of leading us to the boardwalk through the mangrove, one path dumped us into the mangrove, ending in mud and water. We obviously weren’t on the path to the beach – instead, we were probably following paths used by crab catchers. They didn’t lead anywhere – the scrub we were trying to find our way across was probably the intended destination. After about an hour of trying, we gave up and joined the rest of the group who were milling around outside a pair of sheds. The maxis that had dropped us off were long gone. There was nothing to do but wait for them to come back for us at sunrise. It wasn’t a horrible idea – we were with friends, we were away from campus, it was a nice night. And then it started to drizzle…

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