Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the party mecca of the Caribbean. Dubbed the land of the humming bird, boasting the greatest show on earth – Carnival, and giving the world calypso or soca music are a few of its cultural peculiarities, but I’m not going to talk about that.
I first visited this twin-island nation (whose soccer team recently beat the USA team at the 2017 World Cup, 2-1) with a gal pal on a get-away trip. We were eager to escape our routine lives in exchange for a little adventure and to explore a nearby island. So, we packed our bags and left on a 17 day vacation to T&T to chill with close family friends.
Traveling with a friend can be fun. We shared laughs and encountered many firsts together. Back then neither of us could call ourselves experienced travelers. We didn’t have an itinerary, specific travel plans or even carried all the travel essentials that we insist on carrying today. We only knew we wanted to see places we had often heard spoken of like: Arima, Maracas, Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and Tunapuna to name a few. Reminiscing with my friend about this trip brought back memories I had completely forgotten, nothing sinister, but better left unsaid. It was also interesting to note what impacted her the most.
We spent our first 10 days in Trinidad visiting the bustling city – Port of Spain. We rode the “Priority” (our first experience of riding a bus going faster than 30 mph as in our homeland). We visited the world famous cricket grounds of Queens Park Oval (it brought back memories of a popular poem written by Paul Keens-Douglas “Tanti at De Oval“). We ate callaloo, all kinds of flavorful roti and a variant version called “buss-up-shot”.
The next seven days we spent in idyllic Tobago. There the pace was much slower. Tobago is the retiree’s haven, the rich and famous escape destination, the ‘do-not-disturb’ person’s kind of place to go and relax. Driving in the countryside at night along the winding, narrow, hills and valleys with no street lighting other than the stars and moon was rather perturbing. Scarborough, the city, was not much to talk about at that time, however, this little island possess some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the world.
Among our many firsts in T&T here are three experiences you may find hilarious as I still do today.
After spending the day sightseeing and walking around in Port-of-Spain, we tried to hail a taxicab to take us home and were shocked to see others jumping into the cab ahead of us. We couldn’t understand why total strangers wanted to share our ride. It took a few taxicabs leaving us behind before it became clear that this was a transportation sharing method to keep the fares low. To back-up our belief, written on a wall in big, bold letters not to far from the taxi depot were these words, “Taxi men keep your fares low or blood will flow.” Those words were indelibly written on my mind for fear of impending violence, also it was my first introduction to graffiti. I know by now you’re probably wondering where was I living all this time. LOL. A sheltered life no doubt. A family friend eventually rescued us and we were able to ride home in the cab that we wanted.
Another first occurred in Tobago while we were staying at our host. The island had experienced a few earthquake tremors and, I don’t know if the two were related, but the houses in the neighborhood, including ours, had no water. The problem existed for about two days, but it felt like a lifetime to me. The locals were going down to the river to bathe, but would soon return saying, “De river come down.” I didn’t understand this statement. Aren’t rivers suppose to flow downwards? Well, again I learned that due to the heavy rainfall high up in the mountains, the riverbanks would usually swell and overflow, bringing with it mud, debris, rock, etc., making the river inaccessible for bathing, washing or catching clean water, hence, de river come down.
My final recollection was new to both my friend and I. It was our first sighting of the gecko, a white version of GIECO’s green lizard. For the entire night we stayed up watching the ceiling to see where those lizards would go. We huddled in the middle of the bed and didn’t get a wink of sleep, for fear that those lizards would come near to us. When we told our host the next morning we had lizards in the room and described what happened, they laughed so hard we could only join in and laugh too as they explained about geckos. Suffice it to say, we didn’t give the geckos any further thought for the remainder of our stay.
In retrospect, Trinidad and Tobago lived up to our expectations and more. We were young, impressionable and enjoyed every minute of our stay in that Republic. I’m sure much has changed since our visit but the adage is still true, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” If you take a trip there today you will certainly find roti, callaloo, buss-up-shot, carnival, calypso, soca, hummingbirds, cricket at the oval, and many other interests that help to make up this vibrant destination. I enjoyed looking back on this vacation and recounting it to you, so don’t hold back on your comments. Who will be the first?