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J'ouvert - The start of Carnival

Using the French word for "opening" or "day break", J'ouvert (Joo-vay) begins at 4:00am on Carnival Monday and almost anything goes. It is a time for the creatures of night – bats, devils, imps and so on to become part of Carnival and the ritual of J ’ ouvert is that no one avoids being painted.

For us, it also ended up being a very long day. Sunday night was Dimanche Gras, the final night's competition for Calypso Monarch and the King and Queens. Since the competition started at "Trini Time" (which means it started late), we only got back to the maxi-taxis near midnight. We had also been warned that several huge "fetes" (or parties) were going on near the marina, so traffic would be a problem. It took us almost two hours to drive back to the marina at which time we had about 90 minutes to change into our J'ouvert clothes and then drive back to Port of Spain.

It was almost 4:00am when we arrived a Trevor Wallace's Mas (or Masquerade) Camp . Trevor and the other Mas Camps around the city build the huge costumes for the King and Queen competitions as well as the expensive personal costumes for Parade of Bands on the last day of Carnival. But for J' Ouvert, they make fairly inexpensive clothes which will be covered by paint and mud. Outside Trevor's camp, there has a huge flatbed trailer that was covered with enormous speakers. In the front of the bed, a 40,000 watt generator was running to provide electricity for the sound system. We had been warned to bring ear plugs - the sound was deafening. Just up the hill, a smaller flatbed trailer included the rolling bar which was very popular, even at 4 am in the morning. In fact, we were late leaving since the truck for the bar was late - no way that anyone was going to leave the bar car behind! Finally, just behind the bar were several tables full of colored paint - a finger-painting extravaganza that we would have killed for when we were kids.

Finally, the truck for the bar car arrives and gets connected to the flatbed, the music system goes on overdrive and all the revelers start walking to Port of Spain. Just around sunrise, we ended up in the Woodbrook area with several thousand other partyers which included a dozen other music trucks and extra paint. Finally after 6 hours of "chipping" (walking & dancing), drinking and painting people, it was time to go home. It was great to clean up (even if we had to wash on the dock with a garden hose) and take a long nap. Carnival in Trinidad is fun, but it is work!

Terri & Jan ready for battle.
Jan and Terri are ready - this is as clean we will be all morning!

Follow the music.
Following the music down the road.

Daybreak arrives. The music is still loud and throbbing and the bar-car is still full cold beer, but the question in everybody's mind is: Where are the bathrooms? As it turns out, nothing is open at this time of the day and the scheduled potty break isn't for at least another hour. You do the math....

Don't paint the photographer!
Steve from Receta thinks the photographer needs a little touch-up.

Paint cans
The paint station. No matter how much paint you lather on you initially, there's more where this came from.

Terri getting painted for J' ouvert
Terri gets painted - this guy was not Picasso.

The bar truck
The truck arrives and is hooked up to the bar-car.

The music truck.
40,000 watts of rolling thunder.

Getting dirtier.
Terri's getting dirtier and dirtier....


In the Bag
Jesse, our maxi driver, had an easy solution to keeping his clean taxi full of painted cruisers - bag 'em up! Lee from Tranquility gets in the bag for the drive back to the anchorage.






Copyright © 2009 Jan Buskop