London Saints

LSCC Caribbean tour: Day 13 – Tarred and leathered

By Steve Keenan (guest chronicler)

Eric is busy writing the match report from our final game of the tour, in southern Trinidad. So it falls to me to write up a few notes on the day’s events (excluding cricket. Pssst: We didn’t win)

Yesterday, we went walking on a lake of tar. Liquid asphalt, actually, one of only a few around the world. They include large ones in California, Venezuela and Norway – but you can’t walk on those like we did at The Pitch Lake.

The lake is close to where we played cricket, so 10 of us took the opportunity to breakfast early and head south for a pre-game tour of this very curious phenomenon. It’s the largest deposit of natural asphalt in the world and produces around 500 barrels a day.

It’s lined the streets of New York and, longer ago, was used by Sir Walter Raleigh to repair his ships (better than Norway’s, he wrote). Our guide (Walter. Seriously. Cost us US$4 each) told us that he level of the lake has dropped several metres as the asphalt has been extracted, and pointed out pumps used to prevent it becoming a lake during the rainy season.

The asphalt is extracted by strip mining, JCBs raking and breaking the surface before it is loaded onto railway tippers and melted at 370C before being barreled. There’s enough for another 400 years. As you walk the surface, there are spots where oil is oozing through the surface. You can press your finger through the conical shapes caused by escaping sulphur. And you can bathe in the pools – the cleanest in the world, says Walter, purified as the water is by the natural gases.

The water has attracted a large bird population, with hummingbirds, kingfishers and lapwings visible on our visit. Sadly the museum was shut – we wanted to see the tree trunks and pottery that the lake has disgorged. But it was onto cricket….

… many rums later our two minibuses headed home to Port of Spain, with The Pitch Crowd taking a pit stop halfway for a pee. And a cheeky rum. The 70 per cent proof plus the ‘normal’ 40 per cent we were given at the cricket was going down very well.

Some headed onto downtown PoS when we got back, others propped up the hotel bar and adopted an Australian. This morning (Day 14), the toll taken was apparent. One dropped out of a visit to our chosen charity, another said he’d gotten out of bed and taken a shower at 3am, several nursed sore heads and Wath couldn’t remember a thing. One night to go – it’s going to be a long one

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