I spent some weeks on the islands, limin‘ & teaching gymnastics. Great food, great beaches and some wonderful people.
Trinidad, Land of the Hummingbird.
My first trip to the Caribbean. Indeed, I studied hummingbirds at one of the world meccas for birders, the Asa Wright Nature Centre, founded 1967, one of many fantastic botanic garden nature reserves established by Brits around the World.
Hummingbirds are very territorial, by the way, driving off bigger birds including hawks.
Trinidad was sighted in 1498 by Columbus, who christened it La Isla de la Trinidad, for the Holy Trinity. It’s only a few kms from Venezuela — I was tempted to swim to South America.
Trinidad and Tobago have been called the Caribbean’s odd couple. Backpackers avoid Trinidad in droves while listing Tobago as the best island of all.
Trinidad is a densely populated, thriving island with a cosmopolitan population and strong regional influence. It’s famous for hosting the loudest, wildest and most popular Carnival in the Caribbean. In contrast, ‘little sister’ Tobago is relaxed, slow-paced and largely undeveloped. There are claims that Daniel Defoe had Tobago in mind when he wrote Robinson Crusoe, and travelers who enjoy its beaches, reefs and bird life still tend to think of the island as the last undiscovered gem in the Caribbean.
I thought Trinidad was great & surprisingly untouristed. This small island has a fantastic variety of bird life, butterflies and flora. I was reminded again how unlucky we are in Canada not to have more flowering trees.
Trinidad enjoys a terrific climate, protected somewhat by South America.
Worst aspect? The days are short. It is dark by 6 PM.
Port of Spain, the capital, is a busy metropolitan hub of over 300,000 people. Tourists come mainly to admire 19th-century colonial buildings.
I stayed a month in Port of Spain in a small apartment loaned to me by the gymnastics association so I enjoyed weeks of wandering the town. It’s got character.
I love the lingo, accent and attitude of the Black urban population.
The zoo is quite good, the largest in the region.
I ate plenty of Roti and fresh coconut from park vendors.
Trinidad is regarded as the most affluent Caribbean country despite frequent downturns in the economy.
It’s a fairly peaceable country, but in 1990 a Muslim coup held 45 hostages in the Parliament buildings. The PM was actually shot in the leg! Thirty died, 500 injured before amnesty was negotiated. (The government later recanted the amnesty as governments are oft to do.)
I knew something of Trinidad from grumpy Nobel Prize winning writer VS Naipaul. Naipaul’s most famous book, A House for Mr Biswas, paints a vivid picture of the life of an East Indian in Trinidad.
St Lucian native Derek Walcott, the 1992 Nobel Prize winner for literature, lived in Trinidad for much of his adult life.
The population of Trinidad is split along racial lines; African (39%), East Indian (40%). Slavery was abolished in the 1830s prompting the British to import thousands of indentured workers, mostly from India. A lesser kind of slavery as Naipaul will be quick to tell you.
My host and gym club owner Ricardo toured me around the north coast on Good Friday. Trinidad is beautiful once you get away from the capital city. Lush tropical forests. Rugged coastline.
On the best beach (Las Cuevas) we ate Shark Bake with plenty of garlic! Mmm. Trinidad is not known for its beaches, but the island’s singular favorite is Maracas Bay, a scenic spot north of Port of Spain.
I can’t resist climbing bridges.
This spot is close to Ricardo’s childhood home in Blanchissuese.
Pitch Lake on Trinidad’s East Coast in the La Brea district, is a 95 acre lake of tar. No matter how much you dig up, it replaces itself from below. It is the world’s single largest supply of natural bitumen continually excavated for hundreds of years.
Yes, it looks like a huge parking lot.
Easter I spent 3 days aboard a small yacht (the Dear Bear) with a gymnastics family. Fantastic. Especially cruising with porpoise. We saw plenty of jelly fish and a man-o-war.
I got sunburned not realizing my great white northern skin could burn simply from sunlight reflected off the water!
My host family for the yacht trip down the islands.
The upper class in Trinidad spend most of their time dreaming of sailing. And of cricket.
The kids and I would take the dingy to shore to explore abandoned nunneries and leper colonies.
My last week I spent in Tobago, wanting to relax, read and snorkel.
The airport town of Crown Point is in the middle of Tobago’s main resort area. You can walk to the beach directly on arrival! I was charmed instantly by the goats wandering the airport terminal.
Tobago is completely surrounded by palm-fringed, white-sand beaches offering year-round swimming. I planned to snorkel a different beach every day.
I was hosted by the Lamberts at their gorgeous home overlooking a golf course. I had my own detached unit with TV, CD and tape player. I ate well and modestly that week.
The golf course view from my pad in Tobago. Unfortunately I was too broke to flog.
I never tire of snorkelling. It’s one of my favourite activities. A superb ever changing 3D spectacle, floating weightless above.
Pirate Cove was my favourite snorkel spot in Tobago.
The restaurant meal in a tree in Speyside was cool.
Pigeon Point is acclaimed one of the most scenic spots in the World. True. Best were the colourful fishing boats and painted shacks. Store Bay was beautiful too.