` Tobago (Caribbean, West Indies)

Tobago (Caribbean, West Indies)

Charlotteville, Tobago. January 2-6, 2006.

January 1st late in the day, I got on a red-eye to JFK (a bad choice for connection to a country near Venezuala; I concede it would have been smarter to go through Houston, but what did I know of the close oil-gas link between Houston and Trinidad, Tobago's much larger cousin in the two-island tropical state?) A week later I came home, thoughtful. In between, I took way too many pictures of palm trees.

I was in Tobago only 6 days 6 nights. 4 nights in Charlotteville, a tiny fishing village in the north, and then 2 nights in Speyside, a tiny village 10 minutes over the mountain by car careening along narrow windy mountain roads.

  1. The inside of my cottage at Charlotteville ("Man O' War Bay Cottages", directly on the brown grainy beach). Simple and plain; serviceable. Hot running water on occasion, not on demand - but lukewarm showers in the hot and muggy weather seemed fine. This is the main room; beyond is a room with two beds, where I slept. All told the small cottage held four beds and went for $50US/night (later I learned this was expensive for Charlotteville).

  2. Dawn on Tuesday, January 3, after a long night of long, hard, drenching rain. My little cottage and its porch. This is the narrow view of the cottage; it's quite long.

  3. It's 37 steps (short steps) to the white gate that separates the Man O' War Bay Cottages' property from the public beach, and then 17 steps to the water. Here it is 6 a.m., looking north from my beach towards the village of Charlotteville. The water is warm, and warms the sand.

  4. Looking south from the same point. This is Man O' War Bay, named for some horrid battle among colonial powers centuries ago. By colonial powers, we mean the English and the French. Trinidad-Tobago ended up an English colony until it gained independence in 1962 as a member of the (British) Commonwealth, and a republic within the Commonwealth in 1976.

    Trinidad was named by Columbus in 1498 for the Holy Trinity, and the native Carib and Arawak Indians have been mostly displaced by descendants of sugar cane plantation workers from from Africa and India. I can't be sure, but it seemed to me the Africans seem to regard the Indians as somewhat illegitimate residents (note that I have a very small sample size). V.S. Naipaul is from Trinidad and perhaps some of his writings talk about the status of Indians in Trinidad. I know that he left Trinidad as a young man and never came back.

    Slavery prevailed only from the late 18th century until 1834 (which is what led to importing indentured workers from India, by the British).

    TT's vast petroleum and gas reserves were only discovered (or exploited) in the late 1990s. Despite the oil and gas wealth, it is a poor country and the people in the north of Tobago seem destitute.

  5. On the right, Gail's restaurant, the best in Charlotteville. It's open-air, like all eating establishments on the island. Across the street is the first internet cafe I noticed - this one uses old iMacs and old software and the resulting connections are much slower than the Windows Internet Cafe at the other end of town.

  6. Tuesday morning (after my first night sleeping through the tropical downpour) was cloudy and damp. I went for a walk up the hill towards Pirate's Bay, and this is the view looking back at Man O' War Bay.

  7. The larger boats (pleasure boats?) anchored in the far north side of Man O' War Bay. Further towards town are the smaller daily fishing boats.

  8. The path back towards town. I didn't make it all the way to Pirate's Bay - the path became a narrow, steep, muddy venture, and I was wearing the only clothes I had and didn't want to take the chance of becoming covered in mud. The airline - BWIA - had lost my luggage.

  9. Rules posted in cottage: Do not feed stray animals.

  10. I named this scrawny cat "Babydoll". I got milk and Nescafe the night before at Man O' War Bay Cottages "commissary". Later in the week I picked up a small can of "Vienna sausage (chicken)", which she liked even better than milk.

  11. Babydoll's big brother (big sister?) takes a break but Babydoll never lets up. I named the bigger one "Oni-chan", Japanese for "Big Brother". Babydoll virtually moved in, hanging around me when I sat on the porch reading, and sleeping inside on the mat by the door, and eventually on one of the unused beds. I wanted to bring her back with me to San Francisco but the thousands of problems with that plan did dissuade me.

  12. Banana leaves shade primordial yellow stalks.

  13. I have no idea what they are, but the top buds are still covered by a fine sheath.

  14. A flower in the process of shaking off its bedclothes. "Tropical Yellow Brain Cells", I have named it.

  15. Morning coffee with Babydoll. Danger: I've finished the book I was traveling with, my little notebook is at its last pages, and still no definitive word, two days in, if my luggage has arrived. A fellow traveler has told me I can get a library card at the Charlotteville library for $10TT ($1.60US), so I plan to do that today. I also decide it's time to buy a tshirt.

  16. The view of Charlotteville from the Top River Pearl hotel and restaurant. Highly recommended for their fresh fruit bowl and real coffee (and any manner of breakfasts, from 8:30 a.m. onwards). Charlotteville has about a half dozen streets (not counting the roads that snake up into the mountains, where many people live) so it's easy to find.

  17. Joy! At this moment, in my driver Churchill's car, is my luggage. We're taking the scenic route back from the airport, which is 1 1/2 hours from Charlotteville along narrow, very windy mountain roads. This route takes us along the Caribbean or northern side of the island. This is one of the spectacular unspoiled beaches along that stretch, Englishman's Bay. It is not far from the small village named Castara.

  18. Looking out towards the Caribbean Sea from Englishman's Bay.

  19. Churchill, my driver, and fellow traveler Jim who came along for the ride and the tour of the north side. Jim is an English teacher in L.A. who is spending 3 weeks visiting 6 islands in the Caribbean. We met at Gail's Restaurant my first night in town (Churchill, who picked me up at the airport, dropped me off at Gail's with his recommendation it was probably the best place in town).

  20. Parlatuvier, another idyllic outpost along the north side of Tobago.

  21. Rocks beyond Parlatuvier.

  22. Far off in the Caribbean, some rocks probably visited only by birds. And divers.

  23. Close-up of Parlatuvier.

  24. Thursday morning coffee at Top River Pearl. (Art Shot (tm).) Unfortunately this is washed out - it was a brilliantly blue sunny hot day. But with the arrival of my luggage, I have my books! I returned unread Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory" I had checked out the day before from the Charlotteville Library with my new card.

  25. In grateful remembrance.

  26. The library, with the police station to its left.

  27. Curtis' fine (operational, fast AND open) Internet Cafe. He also sets up fishing expeditions, or snorkeling.

  28. A sunny Thursday afternoon on the beach in front of my cottage. This would be January 5.

  29. And now looking north, towards Charlotteville.

  30. I carried my porch chair out to the beach. Behind my chair, another of the Man O' War Bay Cottages.

  31. Palms along Man O' War Bay beach. Another washed out Art Shot (tm).

  32. Hmm. I am getting trigger happy.

  33. I have gone to Sharon and Pheb's for a fish and chips lunch, and take a picture of Curtis' Internet Cafe in context. You can see he's right on the bay, as is all of downtown Charlotteville.

  34. Chair on beach.

    For the rest of the pictures, jump to the Speyside page.

Marianne Mueller
Last modified: January 10, 2006