St Joseph’s Secondary School Trip to Lopinot
Early Monday morning we set off on the drive to Lopinot, one of our favourite collecting sites for frogs and their foam nests! The beautiful flora and fauna of Trinidad is spectacular in this valley and we had a bright sunny day to share it with the pupils – 25 kids and 5 teachers from St Joseph’s Secondary.
We started the morning at the recreational area close by the river, surrounded by towering bamboo trees creaking in the wind. Here we set up base in the bamboo huts – locals liming closeby playing reggae tunes and cooking their grub!
At the Agua Viva Community Garden we were welcomed by Sanja in her silk gypsy skirt and long flowing black hair. She showed the pupils how to fish with the dumplings on hooks and rods for the tilapia. This is a type of african cichlid also known as the future fish, as it thrives in fresh water and yields 47% protein providing toxic free fish to local restaurants and families.
Ro ranting on… Fishing industries are suffering world wide due to pollution in the food chain, such as mercury and plastics poisoning the fish stocks and other marine life. In the North Pacific Ocean there is a trash vortex in an area the size of Texas which holds an estimated six kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural plankton as well as many a dead marine creature.View the Ocean Preservation Society Page for Information on how you can help…
Anyhooo… Sanja toured us round the herb garden, offering us leaves to crush, smell and taste.Tea tree shrubs, yummy lemon basil, dill for fish sauce, Zebapique for a bitter tea to cure the flu and fever, hindu basil used for worship, and Stevia used as a natural sweetener. A large range of salad leaves, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and chard a growing in the vegetable beds too.
Sanja shared some tips with us including a recipe for an natural organic pesticide spray: Zebrapique leaves crushed with garlic, hot pepper and Azadirachta indica aka Neem, mixed with water. Neem helps to suppress the hatching of pest insects from their eggs and the Zebrapique acts as an insect repellant. We plan to share these tales with the GU Willowbank community garden – a new organic student led garden at Glasgow, encouraging neighbours to grow their own produce, contribute to the communtiy space with arts and music and consider the environmental impact of the food they buy.We highlighted the importance of Organic gardening to the pupils and how it helps to improve biodiversity and preserve the land and soil, the welfare of the creatures living nearby and on a global level as well as our own health.
And then our tummy’s were a rumbling and it was time to feast! Us Glasgow students dived into our last nights left overs of pumpkin-apricot-raisin-pasta stew with Roger’s Garam masala wheat and dairy free battered aubergines (who knew that was possible!) and cinnamon plantain! The pupils were sharing spicy mango chow and chicken fried peas and rice with scrummy coleslaw and potato salad – school dinners are banging over here! No lumpy custard!
There was time for a game of football or two under the flamboyant trees with orange flowers before the pupils met the Phyllomedusa tree frogs and the range of stick insects we brought for them the look at. At first fearful of the beautiful wee green frogs with their sticky feet, the pupils soon took to them after a few screams and now love them as much as we do!
Later in the day we explored the leafcutter ant hill, the river and the trees – Guava, Banana, PawPaw, Coconut, Almond, Coffee and Cocoa! Epiphytes and Bromeliads were growing in the trees and creeping Philodendrons and vines wrapping round their trunks. The river was full of guppies and a few cichlids locally known as coscarob as well as tadpoles – most likely the Hypsiboas boans aka Gladiator Tree Frog and the Cane Toadpoles (as Gill likes to call them!)
As the heavens opened up above us, torrential rain falling – us Scots felt quite at home – we ran towards to the bat cave! We had saved the best til last – the orange, spikey, Helconia flowers lined the path towards the cave entrance, scampering up the rocks – we dried off inside and ventured in. The brave pupils walked all the way to the far end of the cave guided by torch light; a few shrieks were heard as bats swooped out from their afternoon roosting and cockroaches crawled over their toes. We learnt that there are over 40 species of bat on d’island: many frugivores, insectivores, a few frog eating species and two vampire bats!
Thanks again to the pupils and teachers of St Joseph’s Secondary School for a fantastic day, lovely to have met you all – we learnt as much as you did!
We look forward to visiting you again next year and perhaps meeting some of you in Glasgow if you are coming over for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Look out for an album of photos from this trip in our Gallery section – coming soon.