Tours, Vacations Stories and Adventures
It was a few days before I passed through Bloody Bay again. This time I decided to stop for awhile at the CURTIS SHOP. Parrotman took me across the road to show me his herb garden.
"When the boy get lazy, I boil this bush down and drink," he confided, chuckling. Tobago seemed a garden of aphrodisiacs. He pointed out the stack of bricks that would house his new toilet, then disappeared behind a curtain of colored strips. A deafening screech of music erupted from all over the emporium. Hidden speakers lurked everywhere. I noticed wires draped over the bushes, crossing the lawn.
Ease and prosperity have been a long time coming. Slavery on Tobago was followed by long economic hardship, and one place where you can still feel that heritage of suffering is in the local Baptist Church. Spiritual Baptists endured a ban earlier this century, imposed on grounds of the noise nuisance they constituted to a neighborhood. I could understand why: Charlotteville's congregation was small, but I heard the din of singing, clapping, drums, and bass long before I found the church.
The riverside restaurant, Parlatuvier, lunchtime... My girlfriend, Clare, and I are sitting with Gloria, the proprietress and part-time chef, Bryner's wife, who is sipping a pink drink.
"Mmm," she says, with a glint in her eye. "They call this a flag-up. Help the old men to harass the ladies in the night. You want?" she asks us.
Clare laughs. "I'm not so sure."
Gloria nods in my direction. "He don't need?"
Tobago has had a long, hard history since the white man came. Declared "unoccupied" by 16th-century British sailors because only Carib and Arawak Indians dwelt on the island, it was some time before a permanent European settlement was established. First the Dutch arrived, then the English, followed by the Latvians, of all people, in 1634. Courlanders, as the Latvians were then known, struggled to establish a permanent foothold throughout much of the 17th century, battling off the Caribs, the Dutch, and the French.
Dawn in Parlatuvier... Fishing is the chief activity here. Bryner, the man with the bronzed belly, has invited me along on his daily fishing trip. He steps down the soft beach, immerses his body in the water, and swims out to his boat. A moment later I see his silhouette tugging at the outboard. Fuel spits out the back, smoke drifts over the surface of the bay. The smell of two-stroke reaches me.
A Tobago moment: a tranquil beach, a gentle breeze, and the warmth of the Caribbean sun.
Tobago is adamant that it and no other island is Robinson Crusoe's true isle. In the Tobago Museum, an old barrack guardhouse at Fort King George, located high above the main town of Scarborough, I bought a little book titled Crusoe's Only Isle. It was written by a one-time director of the museum.
You couldn't drive far in Tobago without picking up extra passengers. First there was the man in the leopard-skin hat and multicolor waistcoat who was waiting at the roadside, seated on a gleaming white toilet. The bowl, freestanding and clearly not being used for its proper purpose but as a perch, rocked as he waved at us.
"Bloody Bay? Bloody Bay?" he called out.
A Whisper from the Caribbean past, tiny Tobago is stepping out of the shadow of its sister isle.
They weigh in at 1 ton, feature gaping mouths and have long whips for tails. At first blush, a sane person could easily be thought crazy for swimming with Manta Rays...but not in Tobago! In the rich, warm waters off this relaxed Caribbean island, lucky divers call encounters and meet Tobago's Manta Rays - the essential wildness of this unique corner of the Caribbean.
With their power and grace, manta rays are the undisputed masters of Tobago’s ballroom of currents. If a ray allows you to hitch a ride, it’s OK to "dance with the mantas." Just imagine you’re at a debutante ball and:
- Play Hard to Get: If you spot mantas, play it cool and let them approach you. Finning after them will only scare the animals away, ruining everyone’s chances for an encounter. Photographers take special note: this includes you.
Saturday night in Crown Point. In the north, nightlife is a simple affair: diving stories told over dinner at the hotel, and a moonlight stroll on the beach. But in Crown Point, there is nightlife, and a handful of new Tobagonian friends decide to take me out for one last fete at the Golden Star dance hall.
Offering its own twist on Tobago diving, Crown Point on the southwestern tip of the island, where most of Tobago’s 50,000 residents, the major resorts and the airport reside, is well-known for the shallow formations of four-acre Buccoo Reef, also favored by snorkelers and glass-bottom boats. Experienced divers can also sample the coral magic in the sawtooth series of coves along the Caribbean coast, including Mt. Irvine, Courland, Arnos Vale and Culloden bays.