March 18, 2012
It was not easy to roll out of my sleeping bag this morning. I have been on the small island of Tobago for almost a week now. I think this island is closer to paradise than its sister Trinidad. Trinidad is very commercial and I like things a little more natural than you find in Trinidad. Not that it is not a very natural place; in fact it is. I think the fact that we are still in the high season is one of the reasons I am not totally overwhelmed with Trinidad. Tobago is just more my style. Less people that don’t seem to belong here. I
think it is important to try to become a part of the culture you are in at the time. Maybe that comes from my training as a journalist or maybe, just maybe it is common sense. If you want to enjoy a culture, you become a part of it as much as you can. That is enough about my preferences and philosophy.
More about why it was tough getting out of bed this morning. I can sum it up in one word, Irish. As my name implies there is a thread in my heritage that leads directly back to Ireland and Scotland and I am always proud of that heritage. But on one day a year, I search out others that have the same proud heritage in order to share our heritage and hoist a few in honor of those who came before us. Last night was no different. We found a little bar not far from my beach of choice here. I think the name of the bar was Bamboo Mile, at any rate it was only a short ride in a friend’s rental car. We started the night there with a couple of Stouts and one thing led to another and our party went from three of us to at least twenty five of us laughing and singing and telling tall tales of our travels and our heritage. All in all, it was a great night and early morning as we closed place after place and eventually ended up on Granville Beach waiting for the sun to rise. Our crowd had dwindled to a baker’s dozen and we sat on the beach with a full canopy of stars overhead charting our course through this vast universe.
As the sun rose this morning I said good bye to all but two of my friends and lay down for a couple of hours of sleep before the sun got too warm to make my place on the edge of the beach to warm for comfortable sleeping. And that is what brings me to now. I am sitting in a little shop enjoying a couple of bolillo (great local rolls) with fruit spread and plenty of black coffee. I really love this island and her people and her relaxed way of life. I don’t know if the high season is waning or if Tobago is just this much more relaxed all the time, but this a wonderful stop on anyone’s tour of the islands. It is very important to remember, though that these islands are not tolerant of things we may associate with the islands. Let’s just say, “certain herbs are not welcome.” Keep that in mind when you are sailing from island to island and find yourself this close to South America. I am not saying this would not be a great place to stay, but I don’t think I would want to be confined to an 8’ X 8’ room with bars while on my extended visit here.
Over the past few days I have toured this island and all of her pleasures. I again rented a scooter and have spent my time traveling from place to place crisscrossing from north to south and east to west in my search of her true character. The search has been an easy one. It seems everywhere I turn there are islanders intent on sharing their culture, their food and their lives with me, even if it is just for the few hours I have to spend with them. The southern part of the island is full of moderately sized towns and a myriad of villages and neighborhoods that offer a fantastic glimpse into island life. If you take a ride on your scooter you should check with your hotel or local contacts to find the places they don’t recommend you trek. Take their advice and you will be left with a seemingly infinite number of places to explore. My travels have carried me along paved roads that look as if they were planned for tourist with a little less adventurous blood to gravel and dirt trails that wind through the hills leading to hidden jewels only the curious will find. If you decide to spend the time to ride these back roads you need to understand that you may travel miles down a road with no signs posted anywhere only to find that it dead ends in to creek or a hillside or in many cases, just stops because that is where the road ends. That, of course, is part of the lure of this island. When traveling in the north, it is more rural and less spoiled by tourists so you can move at a slower pace taking the time to soak in the culture of the island, get to know her people and understand her customs. I traveled at a much slower pace through the north. I ate at road side stands along the way and occasionally have been invited in homes to dine with families. As for the beaches in the north, they are in many cases pristine and unspoiled. Speyside is a great destination when looking for the flavor of this island. Be prepared for less of everything in the north except beauty, friendliness, nature and time. It’s almost like traveling back in time a few decades to wind through these roads and walk along these isolated beaches. I highly recommend you take the time, if on this island, to slow your travels down and spend some time getting to know northern Tobago and her people. If perfect weather isn’t enough to get you here, the people should do it. I have enjoyed great food, good beverages, interesting encounters with locals and vistas that are unique to this part of the Caribbean.
Though I have really grown to love this island, over the next few days, I will be trying to find transportation to Grenada a place I am a little more familiar with.
On this, the day after St. Patrick’s day, I think I should leave you with a simple little toast. By Jonathan Swift. “May you live all of the days of your life.”
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise