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Published: March 24th 2009
Haley and I just before leaving Tobago:(
So now that I am back in school (MBA) I get a "Spring Break", so this year for spring break Haley and I took a trip down to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). T&T are a set of Caribbean islands just off the coast of Venezuela. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands; Tobago is much smaller, comprising about 6%!o(MISSING)f the total area and 4%!o(MISSING)f the population. I was very interested to check out this somewhat off-the-beaten-track tropical island. It was a little more difficult to gather information and plan this trip because T&T is not a typical tourist destination…which excited Haley and me even more! We were also looking forward to finding a little culture down there, T & T’s demographics lean heavily towards "Indo-Trinidadians" followed closely by "Afro-Trinidadians". I really got into the Indian culture while I was traveling around India a few years ago and was excited to see what happens when you mix that Hindi culture with a typical island (“irie”) feel. And don’t even get me started on the food….curry and jerk in the same place!!
We spent three very eventful days in Trinidad. While researching T&T we got the
This was the view from our apartment....beautiful huh?!?
impression that Trinidad was somewhat dangerous, over industrial, and not really worth spending much time. And while Port of Spain (the main city) is all of those things, the rest of the island has a ton to offer, and I definitely would say it is worth a least a day or two to check out.
When Haley and I arrived in Port of Spain (POS) we were definitely not impressed, POS was what we had read…an over industrial somewhat disappointing city. There was also an undertone of danger that was noticeable by looking at all the gates houses, and barred windows. The thing that was the most concerning was the safe lock box in our hotel room. There was a lock box, in a large metal caged hidden in a secret chamber under a typical looking end table. I was initially not able to find it, and once it was pointed out to me I definitely got a little chill…if they had to go through all that trouble with a safe, there must be something to worry about.
Besides POS, our time in Trinidad was really enjoyable. The day that we landed Haley and I mentioned to find
A nice seascape on our last day
our way into a cricket match (West Indies vs. England at the Queen's Park Oval) we had no idea what to expect and somehow ended up as close to the action as you could get. It was definitely a great thing to walk into, as it was the final match of a 5 games series (my terminology might be a little off). Haley and I were not able to completely keep up with everything (I barely know anything about cricket) but her time in SA did help out a little. The local team ended up winning a huge street party erupted - we grabbed a few Carib’s (the local beer) and joined the festivities.
That same evening is when our short but passionate love affair with T&T street food started. I found a little vendor selling what was called “Roti”. I walked up to him (and the rest of the crowd all huddled around the little vendor) and pulled the typically “let me just hang out and see what everyone else is doing and then I’ll do the same thing and hope all goes well” - this technique has been VERY successful for me in the past, and is
Maracas Bay Beach
Both of us before we started to tan
my typical “go-to” when encountering a new situation. So finally it is my turn and the vendor starts piecing my roti together. It is important to add that although Trini’s speak English, I still had NO idea what they were saying 90%!o(MISSING)f the time, I’m not sure if it was a local dialect or just a heavy accent, either way I was clueless. A roti is kind of like an Indian burrito. There is a large “skin” (like a flour tortilla) that is then filled with channa (chickpeas) mango chutney, pepper sauce (HOT), and then typically a curried meat (in this case it was chicken). These things were incredibly good and incredibly messy. Once the guy finished putting it together Haley and I quickly dove into it (well I was quick to dive, Haley waited for my initial reaction before claiming some of the roti). Long story short…roti’s are amazing….but you definitely burn out on them after eating them (in varying quality) for 7 days straight.
Another similar street food that we discovered the next morning was a “double” which is basically the same thing as a roti, but with a different skin and no meat. These
chilling on the beach!
were definitely our favorite thing to eat on the trip.
The next day (after our doubles) we headed for a drive a long the northern coast of Trinidad. Haley and I have discovered that we really love renting a car and driving along coasts, exploring the countryside, finding remote beaches, random jungle treks, little local shops, road side food stands, getting lost, stopping to take pictures, etc. This kind of traveling really lets us explore and feel like we are our own tour guide. So this is what we did for the entire day, and a couple of other days on this trip.
Along our drive we came across tons of beautiful and remote beaches, tiny little villages, and things of that sort. We ate the famous “shark and bake” which is basically a deep fried shark sandwich (damn good). We saw some rare (huge) red parrots at one of the beaches, and meet a number of locals (one guy had dreadlocks down to his calves). I don’t think we saw another tourist the entire day (what a treat).
The next day we had to catch a flight to Tobago (15 minute flight) but had enough time
Some local flowers
to check out the Asa Wright Nature Centre which was an impressive nature reserve in the center of Trinidad’s tropical rainforest/jungle. We saw some interesting birds, ate some more Roti, and then caught a flight to Tobago.
One thing I would like to mention before I get into Tobago is the music on Trinidad. We were “bumping” 96.7 in our car and it had the most incredible reggae ever, surprisingly even Haley would yell out a “ring the alarm!” or “lorda-mercy” in the middle of a good song.
Our first experience with the island of Tobago provided a lot of foresight as to how the rest of the trip would go. I rented a car from a company called “Naturalist” and met the rep at the airport. He had the car but forgot the contract (he was based out of a hotel on the other side of the island). The car that we rented came with a cell phone and he basically just said that he’d give us a call in a few days and figure out the details. We were both a little dumbstruck….I had not paid, I had not filled out a contract, and I didn’t
We found this sweet little beach swing
even show my license. This guy (Ancle) just gave us a car and said he’d “call us in a few days and work out the details”. Haley shot me the evil eyes so I started asking the guy a bunch of questions but he just simply said that things were different here on Tobago, not to worry about and that he’ll be in touch. With that he got in his car and drove away…..I like this place already!! The drive from the airport to the village that we were staying in was about 1.5 hours but it took Haley and I all day because we did the typical driving/exploring that I mentioned above. Every beach was better then the previous and every little village was more remote then the last one. I didn’t see any hotels, or any resorts….and I liked that a lot. By the time we rolling into our village we were both a little sun burnt a ready for a nice cold beer.
We had rented an apartment from the headmaster of a small fishing village on the far side of Tobago. We had no problem finding the headmaster because the village was tiny and everyone
Maracas Bay Beach
Haley at our first beach of the trip
knew everyone else (and by the end of the week everyone knew us, and we knew most of them). Our apartment sat on the hill just above the village (see pics) with the most incredible views you could possibly imagine. We spent a lot of time sitting on our front porch!
Our 5 lazy days in Tobago were spent exploring the local beaches (which often involved hiking through some dense jungle or following a stream to find), sitting on our porch, reading books, and chatting with the locals (most notably “Super Sims” and “Junior”). We got invited to a wake, a private party put on for a local fishing tournament, and a field day like event. Each evening we’d return from the beach around 4 to watch the fisherman bring in their daily catch. We’d then pick out some choice fish and bring it home to cook (Yellow Fin Tuna, Black Fin Tuna, Blue Marlin, and Dolphin). After dinner we’d head down to the main area, have a few beers with who ever we met that day (hanging out / socializing / drinking is called “liming”) and just relax. I can’t describe to you how amazing it was just
Las Cuevas Beach
Some drift wood on Las Cuevas Beach
to really unwind in this environment. By the end of the week we really started to recognize everyone and would not be able to walk down the street without being stopped by someone to chat (though the conversations were typically short because we still had a hard time with the language). I also have to admit that Haley’s fascination with all the little babies around town definitely helped us make some friends.
We had a lot of experiences during this trip, from snorkeling with a school of squid, to Haley getting officially certified as a scuba diver (CONGRATS!!)…me discovering quick-sand (crazy) and Haley diving with sea turtles (incredible). We never missed a sunset and normally went to bed before 9. We each read 3 or 4 books and ate more fish then we care to talk about. I went on an incredible dive with really strong currents that would send you flying through a chute and Haley managed the impossible feat of being complimented on her looks by the entire male population of T&T (at one point she had a guy blowing kisses at her feet…kind of nasty). Overall our time on Tobago (and T&T in general) was everything we
Look how long those dreadlocks are!
had hoped for and more!!! We definitely plan on going back, and when we do, I don’t think we’ll change anything. I don’t think T&T is for everyone, it is beautiful, but in a raw, undiscovered way. There are no Marriotts and no Pina Coladas….but some people prefer it that way
Additional Photos can be found here: photos
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