Sun, sand, beach bars and a bunch of turtles!

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2009


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Flag of Trinidad and Tobago  ,
Sunday, June 3, 2007

With little more than some board shorts, flip flops and the trusty baggy green VB hat packed hurriedly into a case the night before, Karen and I set off at some ungodly hour to catch the 6.15am shuttle to Gatwick. I'd been working fratically on 'the project' up until COB the previous day and considering it had been eight full months with a grand total of two days off that time, my pale and haggard body was in need of a holiday - stat. After agonising for a few weeks over which gloriously warm sunny clime we should actually head to, Tobago got the nod. For the first time in both our young lives it was a chorus of 'Caribbean here we come!'



The travel agent did not warn us about the 16 hour expedition to get there, including an hour and a half's scenic stand on the tarmac of Antigua's delightfully shabby airport. Mm mmm, gotta love the smell of that disinfectant spray they douse passenger and plane alike with to make you feel thoroughly and refreshingly welcome. However we soldiered on through all that (and just a little cigar-tube claustrophobic madness) to arrive at Turtle Beach in the late afternoon. Which gave us just enough time to survey the deliciously tropical scene that would lay before us for the next 10 days.

Aahhhhhhhhhhh...



Pleasantly surprised by the low-key development nestled amongst the palms that line a wide and sandy Great Courland Bay, we had an invigorating dip in one very impressive pool before necking the first of many lethally-mixed rum punches. Facing north west on the leeward side of the island, this place gets some amazing sunsets, and we wouldn't be disappointed as we sat back in the steaminess of our first night in tropical paradise.

I won't pretend it's not, because Turtle Beach is most definitely a resort. And generally an all-inclusive resort at that, as evidenced by a visit to the buffet that evening. 'Tis no man, 'tis a remorseless eating machine' immediately came to mind watching some of our fellow diners - arm-collared in a vaguely disturbing way but which permitted them to attack the buffet like a bulldozer. Just a little different to the approach on previous travels, but it's the way that more mature markets like Europe go I suppose - hassle-free set-timeframe holidays for stressed masses. Fair enough, but we made a pact that very night that we'd get out of there for dinner from then on.



To our very great fortune we left said dining area, now banging out high octane limbo entertainment in the attached bar area, for a quiet stroll up the beach. This lead us to one of the highlights of the trip, late on that very first night. Turtle Beach is so named because it has been used by giant leatherback turtles for generations as a major nesting ground in the Caribbean. Now the endangered turtles, their eggs and subsequent hatchlings are protected by law, which has seen turtle numbers rise in recent years and gives the resort a fantastic nocturnal attraction (and which is one of the main reasons why we chose this place to venture to).

We actually saw two turtles nest that night - massive, lumbering creatures that are on average 6 ft long and that often weigh up to a tonne - as much as a small car! A small and generally quiet crowd of guests and local dogs watched the strenous process, which takes about 1-2 hours in total. The female turtle emerges from the water and climbs up the elevated beach, somehow identifying a bare patch of san which hasn't been laid in that season. She then takes quite some time to dig a hole about half a metre deep, into which dozens of eggs are laid. Finally she flaps sand back into the hole, partially filling it in to ensure protection from the elements and predators, but not too deep so incubation can occur.



The resulting holes, complete with tractor-like flipper tracks leading back into the water, are more evident in the daylight all along the beach. As June is the tail end of the nesting season, this was the last we saw of the turtles, except for fresh evidence of a single laying about a week later. What we did see was a magical experience however, and I hope that the resort continues to get the delicate balance right to ensure that guests respect the turtles so they aren't driven away from what is literally these females' timeless ancestral home. If you have privilege to see this, remember to keep your distance (>15 metres), the noise down and do not use flash photography.



After that night's excitement we decided we should postphone the relaxation and get out to find some supplies. That meant a visit to the capital (Scarborough) on the busiest day of the month (payday on market Friday) was on. Villages and old sugar mills set amongst hilly, tropical countryside tumbled by as the old but very groovy Nissan taxi took us over the hill, giving us our first real insight into the economic and social state of Trinidad and Tobago.

There is obviously wealth here and many of the inhabitants seem to maintain a relaxed lifestyle that wants for little, however much of what you see is in either a semi-developed or a ramshackle state. It's possibly just too hot to finish anything quickly or keep things in order, which would explain the generally lethargic service levels here too :) Caribbean time mon, alright...



Eventually we did get the relaxation on the beach in - a couple of days just slothing around on sun loungers watching the fisherman haul nets whilst trying to get used to the climate and letting the stresses of working life slowly drained away. We also found an excellent little restaurant, the Black Rock Cafe run by String, about 10 minutes walk up the road. It serves great local foods including goat curry and blue crab with dumplings, for less than half the price of questionable western dishes at the hotel. But time had come to venture even further afield now, so we headed back to the southern tip of the island and picturesque Pigeon Point.



Again dumb luck served us well. We arrived late in the afternoon and instead of taking the taxi all the way there, we wandered up from the Store Bay area and saw the sights along the way - mainly consisting of a clensing Carib beer at a funky little beach bar halfway up the point. Then we took to the beach, detouring the payment area further up the road whilst catching the locals playing beach cricket, lazing under the low hanging trees on the beach or just hanging out listening to loud music thumping out of pimped up rides (as they tend to do).

The further you head north, the less there is up here and the more beautiful it gets. Pigeon Point is truly a white sand and overhanging palm beach paradise, often used on the covers of travel brochures advertising the island. Apparently the place is usually jammed with people enjoying the scenerym, but the only guys we had to share it with were a couple of very cute local pooches who adopted us for the walk. Arroooo! Brilliant.



We'd gone to Pigeon Point late that Sunday because we wanted to stop in at Buccoo on the way back to catch Sunday School. Far from being a religious experience (the island IS extremely conservative and religious), Sunday School is rowdy weekend entertainment for tourists and locals alike, with a variety of street stalls, bands and bars all with a definite Calypso vibe. Getting there early actually worked out well as we got to meet Sasha, an extravagant and vibrant dinner host with many tasty treats on offer, as well as some other local hangouts before they were overrun by busloads of tourists shipped in later on.



Richie Spice's 'The World is a Cycle' tune, which would become track of our holiday, featured heavily on the playlist here. Nice. And the steel band was very cool (12mb video here), although I couldn't get the legs moving enough by that stage to take Karen and dance. All that walking and lazing (and Stag beer) had obviously taken its toll :) We headed home a little early that night but that was ok, we weren't really here to party after all.



There's plenty more to show you around this gorgeous little island so I'll continue with specific sunny adventures in the following entry. One thing I did mention was the religious nature of the place, due to waves of missionaries arriving in the islands starting way back in the 17th century when the Estonians (I woulda guessed that) came to convert the local Carib villagers. The main evidence of this now is the hundreds of small churches that are dotted all over the island - a couple of which down the road at Black Rock struck us as being very cool. No doubt more on this later.



To end this entry up, here's some random images and signage from around the island. Below, it's T&T's entry for 'Great Brands of the World'. After all, who wouldn't want to grab a Chubby? Just remember - No Leaning whilst you're drinking it.



Next entry >> adventures around the secluded parts of Tobago
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Comments

fiona2
fiona2 on

Why not the Okanagan?
Hi Ross:
It's Karen's sister, Fiona; thank you for letting me see that Karen now sports a fringe in her latest hairdo!

Have a good carribean vacation!(I think that's where you're going, right?).

I didn't see any little dots over Canada in your vast travels - when you guys planning on coming here? We'd be delighted to have you and Karen come visit Canada's warmest spot (we get called Napa North)!

Cheers,
Fi and Terry

technotrekker
technotrekker on

Re: Why not the Okanagan?
Hi Fiona,

Nice to hear from you! As per the new page location, it's definitely the Caribbean. We did consider a Canadian adventure but in the end, we're craving more rays than Okanagan could deliver at this time of year - and apparently you're about due for a trip home anyway ;)

Rest assured we'll be over sometime in the future. In the meantime I've passed on the hairstyle tips to the better half. Watch out!

cheers,
Ross

r.fleming
r.fleming on

Here is a challenge...
Hey mate... Love the Tobago entry...

Anyway... a challenge if you wish to accept it is when i backpacked Tobago I was really kindly put up by a Pom who had lived there for 5+ years and had lived in Australia for quite a long time. Anyway i stayed with him for a week and he always told me to tell my friends that they are always welcome. I also put him in contact with a long-lost mate in Aus.

He should remember me... anyway, i cant remember his name (something real pommy like andy!) but he is a dive instructor and worked on the main bon accord road almost at the end of pigeon point... near the corner there on the RHS. He was looking into starting up a diveshop in Charlotteville... if you are walking past the dive shop drop in and he will show you a good time!

I know that is a random challenge...
Rich!

PS flew back to aus from Tobago... 36 hours!

r.fleming
r.fleming on

Re: Here is a challenge...
Ok... i have just caught up with the whole blog... maybe next time you are there!!

See you in Bangladesh soon!
Rich

technotrekker
technotrekker on

Re: Re: Here is a challenge...
Yep, bit late on that one but I know the exact location you are talking about and an outfit called R&Sea was set up there (and recommended to me) so maybe is the same guy... Next time indeed.

Getting keen to come and check Bangladesh out I must admit! Likelihood though - not so sure. Bugger.

cheers.
Ross

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