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Published: March 31st 2015
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Tobago is just a 25minute flight across the 19 miles of sparkling turquoise water from Trinidad, bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. But in this sleepy land where time melts languidly by each day the choice of a dreamy ferry-ride bears more appeal to both mind and pocket for those with time to spare; asleep in the shade on deck under a knotted-hanky for the price of a few stops on the London Tube - or better still, free for the over 60’s. Trinidad and Tobago certainly offers choice.
Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands of this fascinating Republic. At 26 X 7 miles it’s little more than an hour’s drive from south to north, every inch offering new delights for the discerning tourist. Travel languidly through time, from deserted Desert Island beaches tempting the toes to small isolated communities to satisfy the curiosity, tranquil bays of bobbing fishing boats, steep-sided hills of ancient forest and here-and-there a tiny touch of commercialism; a café shack, a bar for
the thirsty, a miniscule shop or roadside stall with an open shutter up front, dark and dingy, the white of eyes and Colgate teeth with a welcome offer of a Carib beer or an ice-cold Coke to anchor the passing tourist.
One of the first tourists to venture to these parts was a certain Christopher Columbus. He came on a cruising holiday and stopped off for a while to pick up a tan on the beach, 11’15” north of the equator, claiming Trinidad and Tobago for Spain way back in 1498. But Tobago has changed hands many times since then, taken by the French and Dutch and finally captured by the British in the turbulent seafaring days of the 18th
For Tobago, read Tourism. There is little industry on Tobago. White-sandy beaches, their history buried deep, adorn the southwestern side of Tobago; a long strand of deliciously tempting coves and bays graced by wind-blown palms, the shimmering Caribbean Sea and wide-open skies, all but deserted at this time of year. The winding road rises and falls to the north, bordering the thick humid rainforest and rugged green mountains of
the island’s interior.
The Atlantic coast is dotted with tranquil fishing villages and towns with familiar names; Goodwood and Pembroke, Roxborough and Plymouth, a Golf Resort that could be anywhere in Spain approached on roads named Gleneagles and Sunningdale - and at the northeastern tip, the paradise enclave of Speyside, our little three-day reward for good behavior. And there’s the choice; divers and snorkelers head for the crystal coral waters off the private bay at Bluewaters, Speyside , along with those seeking a little peace, a lazy day under the acetylene torch of a searing sun with a worthy book, a lobster-like tan perhaps….. or the chance to take a boat to the nearby uninhabited island of Little Tobago
- to check out the birds.
As if Trinidad’s Scarlet Ibis extravaganza is not enough to satisfy the avid birder, Little Tobago offers yet more delights. It is home to another truly spectacular bird, the Red-billed Tropicbird. Harassed in the air by that wide-winged star of equatorial waters, the Frigatebird, these magnificent ribbon-tailed ocean flyers choose to nest on the ground on Little Tobago around this time of year, in the shelter of lush
The Red-billed Tropicbird
undergrowth on the cliffs above the sea. No day would ever be long enough to just sit here on the cliff-top high above the sea and observe this cruiser of clouds gracefully circling above and below, an invisible horizon where sea meets a turquoise sky and Red-footed Boobies diving into the water like flashes of lightening. Oh, the joy of time and nature!
No trip to the ‘Central Americas’ would be complete without a mention of another of our favourites, the darling of them all, the Motmot. They’re two-a-penny here on Tobago (or one for a TT dollar), each one as sensual as the last, bright-eyed, sparkling with colour, proudly sporting its tail like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, the heart pounding every time we see it.
But there’s little choice of shops on Tobago other than in Scarborough, the island’s capital, where the bustling daily market caters for most daily needs. Beyond the market fringes, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, KFC, Subway and McDonalds flourish, keeping the waistlines of the locals in outsized and oversized order.
You would have to see it to believe it.
The pace of life in Tobago is measurably slower here than in Trinidad, a trick they doubtless learned from the Spanish; why do today what you can put off till tomorrow. Chickens roam the streets and dogs wander aimlessly amongst skinny sheep and tethered goats and abandoned cars, beside the pot-holed roads. And everywhere, another smiling face.
As the years continue their historic journey there can be few of non-mixed race here in Trinidad and Tobago. Most in this young Republic would claim a mixed heritage, a veritable hotchpotch; whether English, French, Spanish, Dutch or German, African, East Indian, Asian or Middle Eastern. The one great delight is their tolerance.
Every religion exists side-by-side in peace here. Churches of all denominations huddle together in the most remote of locations: The Holy Ghost Delivery Centre, Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anglican, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Evangelical Baptist, Church of the living God. Beside the road a busy market stall. A hand-painted sign adorns the rustic wooden fabric for all to read. ‘One God Father of All’, says it all. Here endeth the first humble lesson for us all.
We have learned much. We
One God father of all
Religious tolerance we could all learn from
might have missed the Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, but every day is carnival day here – we’ll have to make do with Notting Hill.
David and Janice
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