A day in the life of a Retiree…

“So what do you do every day?” – the number one question I receive at least once a week.   I am touched that so many people are interested in my whereabouts now that I am retired and it always brings a smile to my face, especially because I am really not sure if the person is baffled, worried or simply interested in how I am managing this thing called ‘retirement’.

It is an important question, mind you – what you do with your days after 35 years of being consumed with your job, children, hobbies and life in general. There is a major gap to fill when you retire to an empty nest.  And I strongly believe that you need to prepare yourself mentally, physically and financially for this new stage of life.  But I was genuinely never worried about filling my days with ‘busyness’ because quite frankly I wanted them as empty as possible so that I could fill them with what I wanted to fill them with.  That was my goal, and my mantra – nowhere to be and lots of time to get there – continues to guide me.

My answer to this question is oftentimes – ‘Whatever I want to do’.  It really doesn’t answer the question and may sound rude but in essence it simply means that I am free to do as I please, that flexibility rules my day.

Today I thought I’d document my every move – because sometimes I too, am not quite sure what I’ve been up to.  So here goes, for those who are really interested in my sometimes-daily routine.

5.00 – Internal alarms goes off – meaning that my eyes can no longer stay closed which I am told is a mature person’s curse.  I have not set a morning alarm since I’ve retired, and you have no idea how ‘freeing’ this is. I get up and start my day and I’ve chosen to fill my early morning with exercise.  So, I quickly feed the dogs and I am out of the house by 6.00 to take a leisurely 8k run.

The sun is rising, lights are still on in my neighbourhood, the air is cool, the birds are already up and searching for food.  As I stroll down my hill, I take in the lush views of the mountains and begin my run slowly, enjoying the peace and quiet on the roads.  I am smiling.

The route is quiet at first but as the rest of the world begins their daily commute to school and work, the sound of the birds chirping is drowned by the noise of vehicles rushing to get where they need to be.  I am still smiling – I have nothing to rush anywhere for.  I feel at peace even with the hustle and bustle around me.

As I finish my run in my favourite park, the squawking of the parrots come back into focus, the squirrels are scurrying from tree to tree, and I share the usual morning pleasantries and chats with my morning exercise buddies.  As I pass the school on my way home, mothers are frantically doing last minute homework with their kids, quick hugs and kisses, and they are off to start their day.  I remember those days and I smile.

This particular morning, the traffic is thick.  I slowly walk back home engaging in conversation with at least four drivers who are at a standstill.  I laugh and jokingly thank the traffic for letting me catch up with some friends on the way.

8.00 – I peruse my garden – feeding the wild birds and the pond fish.  There’s nothing like walking through your garden, trimming, pruning, chatting with the flowers and wildlife along the way – picking the fresh produce of the day.  It’s peaceful and rewarding.  As I sit having breakfast, the hummingbirds are darting back and forth from the flowers to their feeders, the wild birds are having a blast with the fresh seeds, the butterflies flitting gracefully from flower to flower.  The morning is cool.  The rest of the day looms ahead.

10.00 – Hobbies are cast aside today as I have some last-minute shopping to do readying for my big trip next week to see my boys.  At the mall I meet up with my sister unexpectedly. With nowhere to be and lots of time to get there, we catch up on the last days’ events, laugh and even reminisce, forgetting that we have anything else to do.  Then, oops, we do have things to do and continue on our merry way, all the better for having met up with each other.

Alas, nothing like a nap when it is raining…

1.00pm – Lunch while catching up with the BBC and some other personal messages. However, a day is never complete without succumbing to the call of the sleep gods.  And it is raining.  YES!!!  A movie and a nap are in order for the afternoon quiet time.  This was always a must on my retirement list of ‘things to do’ – nap time, relax time, meditation time, me time – call it what you will – the only flexibility about this time is its length, but it happens every single day.

3.00 – I thought I had set aside my hobbies for the day, but my sewing machine is clambering for some attention, and I dutifully answer the call – finishing off some projects before my impending vacation next week.  I am still smiling.

But by 6.00, the sun is on the verge of setting and I prepare myself for the end of another beautiful retired day with a glass of wine.

It was a good day.  I am blessed and grateful. Looking forward to tomorrow ….

Hike to the Avocat Falls

I discovered the Avocat Falls two years ago during the Covid lockdown.  Even though we were forbidden to visit any water sources, beaches or otherwise, the outdoors beckoned, and my husband and I ventured to this quiet part of our rainforest to soak in a bit of nature.  I was enamoured with the silence of the forest, the magnificent roar of the waterfall and the clear clean water filling the many pools we crossed as we made our way down to the mouth of the Marianne River.

Getting to the Avocat Falls

The Avocat village is located off the Arima Blanchisseuse road, and you can trek to the Falls the easy way (20-minute walk both ways) or the more scenic adventurous path (2.5-hour turnaround).  And well I am sure you can easily guess that we took the longer route.

Since then, this hike has become our go-to when looking for a ‘quick’ outdoor fix.  It begins with a 15-minute uphill climb through the lushness of the rain forest.  The birds are always nearby calling out to each other and the sound of the river fades at you move further away.  The descent into the river is gentle and you are soon serenaded once again with the rush of the water flowing down river.

There is a slight wade through the river and a quick swim across a pool before you feast your eyes on the roaring waterfall.  What a sight to behold.  The world stops.  You are in a sacred place that nature has provided for all to enjoy.  You sit and ponder the strength and beauty of the water gushing over and thundering into the pool below.  Tempting for the brave to jump in and enjoy the cool refreshment the water brings.  Serene enough for those who just want to sit and enjoy the beauty that surrounds.

Avocat Falls

You are mesmerised and want to stay a while, and only pull yourself away because you know there is more to experience as you make your way down the river, swimming through the many pools of water, soaking up the natural rock formations, breathing in the sweet scent of the white peace lilies that line the river bank.

We have since taken many friends on this hike with us.  And always, but always, it’s a joy to see the smile on their faces.  The sheer delight in visiting one of the best waterfalls in Trinidad and Tobago.

It’s your turn now.  Go venturing.

Avocat Falls

Bermuda

As a child, Bermuda was synonymous with the legendary Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, a place somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean where planes and ships were reported to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  Even though this myth has been dismissed by the experts, it is still ever present in my mind.

Bermuda is in fact an archipelago consisting of over 150 islands with the most significant being connected by bridges, making it appear as one landmass.  You can literally run from one part of Bermuda to the other in just over 8 hours depending on your level of fitness.  Or if you prefer, you can simply drive around at your leisure in less than a day.  But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in beauty.

It is located out in the middle of what seems like nowhere, approximately 1000 km to the west-northwest of North Carolina.  Even though I live on an island myself, it’s still kind of scary living so far away from any other landmass, considering the increasing number of hurricanes recorded annually off the east coast of the US.  But in essence Bermuda, even though it has experienced the wrath of hurricanes over the decades, receives some protection from a coral reef, and its position at the north of the hurricane Alley limits the direction and severity of approaching storms.  As safe a place to be I imagine, as any of the other Caribbean islands.

Bermuda remains one of the British Overseas Territories. With a population of just over 71,000, its inhabitants reflect its rich history of slavery, colonisation and migration with descendants from Africa, Britain, America, Portugal and the mixtures in between.  The buildings whether commercial or residential share a similar paint pallet all with white roofs, giving it a feeling of unity and purpose.  A very warm and welcoming people greet you and you immediately slip into the vacation-I’m-gonna-have-a-great-time mode. With an ocean view at your every turn, you remain calm, relaxed and always with a smile on your face.

We were fortunate to spend our time with some long-time friends or ‘locals’ as you would say, affording us the privilege of visiting every nook and cranny of this wonderful island by land and sea.  From St. Georges at one end to the Royal Naval Dockyard at the other end of the island and all the beautiful beaches, hilltop views, walking trails and restaurants in between.

Thanks to our very generous and gracious hosts, I’d say a time very well spent.

Blanchisseuse

In my humble opinion, there’s not a bad spot, view or beach on the north coast of Trinidad. Not all beaches are accessible but the views are certainly there for everyone to enjoy. The drive is long and winding but the lush flora and the oceanview makes is all worthwhile.

This is just one little beach with so much beauty to offer. Enjoy the pics.

Hike – Argyle Waterfall, Tobago

I’ve been going to Tobago annually for the past 30+ odd years.  Since my boys were toddlers and infants.  It’s such a lovely place to spend your holidays with your children.  Beach, sun and fun.  That’s all children really need to have a great vacation.  And friends of course.  And we are fortunate enough to belong to a group of friends who have weathered the test of kids, time and growing pains so that our children were surrounded by what they have grown to call their ‘normal friends’.  Friends who have been with them always.

As a form of entertainment, we have toured Tobago by land and sea.  It’s a small island after all.  So that’s an easy feat to accomplish year after year.  But by far the most enjoyable times have been our adventures by boat and of course hiking.

Our kids may no longer be with us as they are grown and growing their own families, but that hasn’t stopped the adults from continuing the exploration of Tobago without them.

Argyle waterfall, located on the northeast side of Tobago just past Roxborough, is one of the highest falls at 54m cascading down 3 levels officially.  And I say officially because that’s what is told to you by, well, the officials let’s say.  But we managed to hike up the sides of the waterfall to seven levels of pools and rocks.  Each level taking you through the lush green woodland that surrounds, and affording you the opportunity to relax and refresh yourself in the cool water of the rock pools that greet you.

The hike begins with a short 20-minute walk through wide paths adorned by huge trees and the lush flora.  The silk cotton trees were in full bloom and we were somewhat mesmerised by the seeds floating across our path.  You can hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance and your first impression upon reaching the falls is that this cannot be it.  But as you climb further you realise that that was just the beginning of what is truly Tobago’s finest waterfall.

Note though that there is a small entrance fee.

The Marianne River – Trinidad…

The mouth of the Marianne River

I constantly boast that there’s not a bad spot, beach or view on the north coast of Trinidad.  And even though I’ve driven along this coast hundreds of times, I am still in awe of its beauty.  The rugged coastline, the small, isolated islands embellishing the ocean view, the lushness of the flora lining the road and cascading down to the beaches.

There are many beaches that are easily accessible and some that take a bit of a hike to get to.  But all are beautiful, peaceful and welcoming.  The Marianne beach and its river mouth are no different.  Frequented by beach lovers daily, this spot has become a much-loved location for weekenders and those seeking a quiet getaway anytime during the week.

We simply intended to take a quick refreshing swim in the river, but lingered on peacefully until the sun set. Highly recommended to relieve stress and put a smile on your face.

Matura River Hiking Trail – Trinidad

Pristine waters of the Matura River, Trinidad

I suddenly felt that I was in the middle of a dream, floating gently down a body of water, not quite sure exactly where I was, for the beauty that surrounded was like no other.  The clear turquoise waters, the lush green forest, the babbling of the water running over the rocks, pool after pool after pool.

Swimming in the Mystic Pool in the Matura River

As a group of avid hikers, we were in search of the Mystic pool – one of the many pools which form the Matura River in the north-eastern part of Trinidad.   The nearby Matura beach is known as one of the best turtle watching sites in Trinidad, but I can assure you that there are other natural resources which make this small village spectacular beyond words – a dream for nature seekers.

The hiking trail is by no means challenging, except maybe for the short decline and ascent to and from the river, but the trek through the river, with its numerous waterfalls, picturesque gorges, and amazing swimming pools will more than make up for any discomfort you may endure.

We had ample time to swim, dive off rocks (mainly the teenagers in our midst), swing from the ropes hanging from the trees (not only the teenagers but the young at heart as well), snack, capture the natural beauty in our heart and mind and cameras, wade through the waters and, of course, loll in the many babbling brooks.

Certainly having fun…

Did we have a great time?  We certainly did.  A must visit for all nature lovers.

Hike – Brasso Santo Trail…

An early morning start with a drive to the beautiful Caura Valley to begin our hike.  Honestly our small twin island state abounds with such natural beauty, it is a shame that I don’t explore it more often.

Already as you drive through the Caura valley you can envision the peace and quiet you will be trekking through.  The mountains now awakening still covered in mist, the calling of the birds as they start their day, with the distinctive ‘tocking’ of the Bearded Bell Bird also known as the Campanaro, native to the upper regions of the northern range, and the peekaboo views of the Caura River as you near the beginning of the trail, all contribute to building the excitement for your journey.

The Brasso Santo Trail is home to hikers, bikers and hunters and much thanks must be given to our bikers who have made the trail passable with their ongoing efforts to keep it clear of fallen trees.

The beginning of the 13.5 km trail takes you along a meandering path criss-crossing the Caura River several times before making your way up the mountain.  The water is clean and refreshing, the river shrouded at times in Bamboo, and the banks are lined with the white peace lily giving off its characteristic scent.  You begin to relax and smile not realising that you will soon begin the gradual ascent to the top of the ridge traversing the northern range. Your elevation gain will be a total of 777m with a maximum height of 500m.

Along the trail there is evidence of hunters as you pass a makeshift shed and if you are a keen observer, you will notice our local version of ‘sentry posts’ created to spot unsuspecting animals all along the path.  These are strips of branches laced or nailed between two trees so that the hunter can either sit or stand unseen for hours awaiting their prey.

The forest is not dense and allows just the right amount of filtered light for you to enjoy the beauty of the natural flora keeping you cool along the way.

There are several check points on this trail – the ‘Belly of the Beast’ lets you know that you have reached what seems to be the lowest point in the trail. The ‘Bathtub’ – a very welcoming small pool of refreshing water filled by an endearing waterfall.  And ‘Base Camp’ – an arbitrary meeting and look out point where you reap the rewards of your climb with views stretching along the north coast with Las Cuevas beach to the west.

It is undulating territory as you leave Base Camp, primarily downhill along the path when you finally exit the forest and enter the open landscape where you can catch a glimpse of your final destination La Fillette bay.  You’re almost there.  And after a 4-hour hike, you are content knowing that you have just spent a relatively short time crossing but a small part of our beautiful northern range experiencing nature at its best, shedding some of your worries and anxieties.  I would say a morning well spent.

This trail is one of Trinidad’s finest.

The joy that is the Poui season…

The Poui tree plays a very significant role in our dry season in Trinidad, giving us a break in the otherwise browning of our beautiful Savannah – an iconic spot in our capital of Port of Spain, dotting the hills throughout the surrounding areas of St. Anns and Cascade with strikingly yellow flowers as well as brightening up our Savannah with magnificent pink and yellow blossoms along its perimeter and within its boundaries.  I have to admit that this is the highlight of our dry season and usually marks the slow transition to our rainy season.
Many years ago I experienced first hand the other side of the Poui tree, when I moved to Cascade and found that my new home was surrounded by Poui trees.  Both pink and yellow.  These trees provide lovely shade in the morning and evening and are home to many species of wildlife including a variety of birds – corn birds, doves, blue jays, kiskadees, hummingbirds and our local parrots.  They also provide a home for iguanas, squirrels and the odd woodpecker. I thought that I had gone to heaven and started building a garden that would prosper alongside these beautiful creatures – providing natural food for all things wild, including a small family of agouti.
But when the leaves started to shed making way for the flowers, my heart began to sink, slowly.  Every day for just about 6 weeks, there would be a carpet of dead leaves covering my lawn and drowning my plants.  It became a chore keeping my garden clean, and my plants un-smothered by leaves.  Slowly my dislike for these trees which had given me so much pleasure during the past year, set in.
Then one morning as I peaked through my window I saw a small burst of yellow.  And as I ventured outside, a small smile replaced the curiosity on my face.  I looked across the valley up towards Lady Chancellor and saw, spotted across the lushness that the yellow Pouis were coming to life.  It was almost as if they were calling out to each other across the valley saying ‘Here I am, here I am. Look at me.”
Over the next couple of days my trees were in full bloom and glorious.  What I could see from underneath was nothing compared to what those persons on the opposite side of the valley were experiencing.  And I smiled broadly.
As the wind blew, and the flowers fell, my garden which was once covered in brown leaves, were now smothered in a carpet yellow.  A sight to behold.  My dismay turned into sheer joy.
Now, as the dry season sets in, I look forward to the shedding of leaves, knowing that for just a short moment in the very near future, I will be blessed with a beauty like no other.

Hike – the Gorges @ Heights of Guanapo…

As an avid lover of all that is outdoors, the opportunity to discover places new to me is always welcome.  And as a blogger it is always my intent to use this forum to share my experiences as I explore my surroundings.  However, I am having great difficulty in describing the true beauty and sense of pride after having hiked the gorges of the Heights of Guanapo, a hill with an elevation of a mere 218 metres and located in the Northern Range on my island of Trinidad.  But I will try.

This adventure began with a long, winding drive through the foothills of the northern range on the Guanapo Road.  This area is home to the Guanapo quarry which has contributed significantly to the road damage and dust pollution as you make your way ever so slowly to your destination.  It’s worth the effort though and the banter in the bus of course almost helps you forget the passing of time.

You stop at the side of the Tumbason river and begin the hike with a short 40-minute walk through the forest until you reach the part of the river where you now continue through the waters to the gorges.  Some swimming through pools, some wading through the waters and mostly strolling through the riverbed, takes you to the beginning of the gorges. 

For the most part the beauty that surrounds is pretty similar to other rivers in the forest.  As you enter the gorges however, you are literally silenced by the imposing magnificence of the rock formation reaching towards the sky.  There is little sunlight, and the water begins to get a bit chilly, but you are impelled to move forward craving more and more of this splendour.

The river takes you up a few levels over minor waterfalls, until you suddenly, and without much fanfare, reach a small pool where you can go no further.

It’s not a challenging hike and very much worth your morning.