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Category: Tobago

Day 9 (and 10)

We woke up to rain. And with what limited tools we had, it seemed like it wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. So we slept in a bit. Eventually we roused ourselves to breakfast, which consisted of some great locally spiced potatoes, a salt fish stew of some sort and some great breads and fried salt fish balls. 

The rain finally let up not long after breakfast, and we began a long walk to check out some local sights. We began with the magnificent seven. A collection of houses that face the queens park, they were built just over a hundred years ago in an odd collection of Victorian styles influenced by the families ethnicity. Ranging from Queen Anne to Spanish moorish architecture, often with incongruent elements mixed in. Some of them were in impeccable shape, while others required tremendous work to return to their beauty. The worst of them was so far gone it had a huge temporary roof built over the whole property to allow restoration. 

We continued around the park checking out more sights and interesting buildings, including the center for performing arts. The far side of the park started become swelteringly hot, and we were having trouble finding the botanical gardens we were after, so we stopped for some water and guidance on directions. 

Refreshed and with a vague sense of direction, we figured out we were steps away from the garden when we decided to change directions and find water. Fortunately the gardens proved to be amazing, and well worth the trouble in locating. Tropical trees from around the world were just out in the open, no need for containing them in glass conservatories that would limit number and size, like at home. 

We were drenched in sweat when we got back to the hotel. The girls decided to try out the pool while I iced my recently injured back. Reading occurred all around before getting ready to set out for one last meal together on vacation. 

The sushi restaurant got to see us twice as a result of another unique notion: closing on Sunday’s. Almost all of Port of Spain was closed that day, which is why we had stuck to just enjoying a walk and seeing sights. This also resulted in few choices beyond crummy hotel restaurants for dinner options. So we went back to what we knew. 

We swapped stories from the trip and passed around phones to look at photos. Wine was poured and sushi consumed. A final walk through the walled neighborhood near the hotel had us go our separate ways for one final, brief, sleep. 

The next day required a very early 3:30am rise for a 4:30am airport arrival. A four hour flight followed by the very rude, literally, welcome back to the United States. A couple hours filled with IPAs and chips and burgers reminded us of a few things we liked, but mainly we were sad about all the things we had left. A three hour flight later, and we were back home. See you in five years, Tobago. 

Day 8

Semi travel day. We have a noon flight from tobago back to Trinidad, so we have time to slowly pack up and enjoy the views of the villa one last morning. Then begin the somewhat stressful drive back to the other end of the island. 

Beautiful scenery weaves in and out of view as cars and traffic slowly increase as we get closer to the airport. I suddenly remember there is a big boat race that weekend, and the now dramatic increase of cars, to the point of traffic jam becomes clear. We still make it to the airport, and had discovered our flight was moved a bit later as well. 

Our flight was moved to put us on a larger 737 plane for the 23 mile flight. Actual air time was just shy of 15 minutes. So weird. 

Our arrival in Trinidad was uneventful, and we quickly found our taxi driver to get us to the hotel. We split from my parents and brother here, as they went to go stay at a local Airbnb while we opted for a more pampered (and more centrally located) hotel. 

After settling in and investigating the amenities, we decided to head out for a late lunch. Abby and Rachel both jumped when I reached the sushi place on my list of places. Trinidad, like many countries that aren’t the 24/7 consumption of the US, adheres to thebrestaurants closing between lunch and dinner, and we were caught in that gap. Fortunately sushi was still open. 

Our walk took us past a bunch of walled, but well maintained homes and some beautiful parks. We would later learn this area was home to many diplomatic houses and locations for ambassadors to stay. A huge park near the restaurant was home to several different groups playing football, and not the American kind. 

Sushi was delicious, and satiated for the moment we reversed our travel to get back to the hotel and have a calm evening. We had drinks on the top floor to watch sunset and the lights come on, and ended up having a late night pizza and bottle of wine to wrap things up. We replaced the usual reading activity with enjoying a local tv station that played nothing but local musicians and their accompanying music videos. It was great. 

Day 7

The last full day in tobago. So naturally it’s time to go back to Pirate Bay. We start the day off early and arrive to a completely deserted beach. Either the earlier arrival or the recent heavy rain led to the fish being incredibly active. 

Hours went by looking at dozens of fish all over. Stingrays and turtles were once again spotted, along with schools of tuna and barracuda. All the while perfect sunny skies and an empty beach. Could not have asked for a better send off. 

For lunch we finally made it to the suck hole, the rebranded beach bar that was getting rave reviews everywhere we looked. A single chef in the kitchen meant food was slow to arrive, but it was absolutely worth it. Beers were plentiful during the two hour wait, and then platters of amazing chicken, fish and shrimp showed up accompanied by oodles of delicious sides. 

Bellies full, we couldn’t quite pry ourselves away from the beach and ocean. We hired a boat to take us to lovers beach, a 100 feet of secluded beach surrounded by high rock walls. Incredibly shallow waters make the ride difficult, but guarantee easy viewing of fish. 

Unexpectedly there were signs of several turtle nests having been laid and hatched as well. Abby found several eggs in the ocean, which we pieced together must have been washed away during the highest tide of the season. Being the incredible animal lover she is, she collected all the washed away eggs and buried them. Fingers crossed they make it! 

After two hours our boat came and got us again, and we began the trip back to the villa. Snacking through leftovers and emptying out the fridge, more reading, drinking and gaming went into the night, knowing we’d have to leave the next day. 

Day 6

We headed for speyside and our boat your a bit early so we could both try and track down sunscreen, as well as see a bit of the blue waters inn. Situated in its own bay, it’s a very well maintained small local hotel with great views, not a bad place to wait for the boat. 

The glass bottom boat is a fun novelty by itself, but we signed up to do a tour of birds and wildlife on the nearby little tobago. A small island off the coast of around 500 acres, it has been a dedicated bird sanctuary for nearly 100 years. 

Our guide, Zolani, was quite funny on top of being extremely knowledgeable. Previous guided experiences had seemed a bit light on substance and touristy, so we were quite happy with how well Z knew his stuff. He pointed out numerous birds, and had Abby eat some termites to confirm they have a carrot like taste. Most impressive was his locating of a trap door spiders nest, invisible when closed. 
A brief stop on the way back to shore had us snorkeling with more fish, a few varieties different than what we had seen on our side of the island. Abby and Rachel finally got to see their first sea turtle as well! A short ride had us back on the shore; time for lunch. We had originally wanted to go to Gemma’s, a semi touristy restaurant built into a tree, but a large delegation from parliament was in speyside for some sort of function, and had decided to have their lunch there instead. Not wanting to compete with busloads of government officials, we went back to birdwatchers. 

A couple grocery errands to make sure we had supplies to finish out our stay, and we were headed back to the villa. We took a short walk down the road to flagstaff hill, a small park with a great view of all of man o war bay. We took a million sunset photos before heading back to our usual evening. Drinks, books, continuo. Rinse. Repeat. 

Day 5


With all the swimming of the previous day, we needed a “break” from the beach and hours of swimming and snorkeling. I know, vacation is hard. 

We decided to go to argyle falls, arguably some of the best falls on the island. It’s amazing that such a small island can have so many waterfalls, but it’s one of the benefits of tobagos steep and rocky composition. Just past the heart of roxborough, we drive down a scenic tree line road for about a kilometer (yes using metric when in a metric country…) before reaching the car park and pay station. A lovely 15 minute walk that ends in a scramble over rocks and boulders reveals the beautiful first three cascading levels of the falls. 

We hop into the water, much colder and less clear than the ocean, but still wonderful and clean. The first fall is a singular powerful stream, with a deep pool that accommodates cliff jumping from various heights. We stick to the low ones for the time being, before exploring further up. 

The third set of falls is the highest we opt to go on this visit. There are rumors of anywhere from a few to a dozen more pools higher up, but as strenuous of a hike as it takes to arrive at number three, we stop there. Here the waterfall splits into several small, but just as powerful, streams landing in a thing and rocky pool that allows you to easily get under and behind several of them. The second pool condenses back down to a single stream, and has a few shallow pools, some of them lending to a jacuzzi effect. 

We finish our visit back at the first set of falls. We do some more cliff jumping, capping the day off with a single jump from the second level falls to the first, somewhere around 4-5 meters. Crowds are now arriving (we had the whole falls split across on three or four groups all morning) so we head out to grab lunch in speyside on the way back. 

The wonderfully simple menu allows for the typical chicken fish or shrimp that so many restaurants offer you, usually only through and audible recitation from the proprietor. In this case we were lucky and they had lobster as well. What always sets a particular spot aside is both the preparation of this main, and the quality and number of sides that come with. At birdwatchers, where we stopped, both of these aspects were quite impressive. After a busy day of hiking jumping and some swimming, ice cold Carib and amazing food were sublime. 

We wrapped up our late lunch, and signed up for a boat tour for the following day before departing speyside and heading back to the villa. A slow evening yet again commenced, and we all found ourselves amazed that hunger had developed following such a sizable lunch. But some simple peanut noodles went well with another round of continuo, all with another amazing sunset in the background. 

Day 4

During the similar coffee, reading and breakfast routine of the morning, the day’s plans revolved around returning to englishmans bay. This picturesque beach is located a solid 45 minute drive away, so we decided to make a day of it and visit the neighboring town of Castara as well. 

The drive takes us along the much smaller, less travelled and aptly named north side road. The benefit of the isolation resulting in fantastic views as you twist around curvy corners and switchbacks, dotted with cattle and dogs, a soundtrack of bird calls and waves crashing the whole journey. 

Englishmans bay was empty when we arrived, and was just as gorgeous as had been remembered. We settled in to go for a swim and investigate the waters for coral and snorkel worthy swimming. As beautiful as the surrounding beach and bay was, the rough seas and steep drop made activities in the water a bit less enjoyable. A few attempts later we decided to pack up and love along to Castara, where we had read plenty of good snorkeling could be found. 

The authors of these comments weren’t wrong. Divided into a big beach and a small beach, we settled on the latter as it appeared to have smaller waves, a plus for casually swimming around looking at fish and coral. Almost immediately manta rays and sting rays were spotted, complimenting an already impressive array of corals and fish. During a longer swim further out, I was even able to see two sea turtles in the wild. Needless to say, we spent a majority of the day here. 

Swimming is hard work, and we were quite hungry, wanting food before beginning the nearly hour long drive back home. Unfortunately we had enjoyed snorkeling a bit too much, and were now in between lunch and dinner time, with most shops shuttered. Luckily one road side shop with two tables was able to accommodate us, providing wonderful fried fish and chicken, along with “chips” and wonderful pasta salad. Simple food done right is a mantra of this island, proven time and time again. 

After a lovely drive back, our evening was once again filled with laid back activities, and fortunately a more laid back DJ down below. A few drinks, books and games later, and we were ready for a solid nights sleep, and perhaps a lighter day on our now sore muscles. 

Day 3

Waking up to a view of charoletteville and man-o-war bay takes some getting used to. A view like this should not exist, and it certainly shouldn’t be right outside your bedroom. May as well enjoy this dream while living in it.

A slow rise with surprisingly good instant coffee, books and parrots chatting about the morning in the jungle below is followed by a simple breakfast. Rice and beans left over from the night before topped with some scrambled eggs.

We head into town for a longer visit to Pirate Bay, parking close to the base of the single track heading there. Another sweaty walk with amazing views and descent down the staircase finds an even quieter beach than the day before. One other family is there, probably annoyed that we ruined them having a beach to themselves. Perspective.

Hours of snorkeling, swimming and hunting for shade to relax under punctuate the central hours of the day. A few other groups come and go, and some brief showers speckle the beach. But the pace is not quick, and the sights continue to astound.

We do some light grocery shopping in town on the way back home, including a stop at the fish market. Eleven US dollars later we have nearly 4 pounds of caught-two-hours-ago tuna to bring home for dinner that night (and likely a few others given the quantity…)

The evening centers around the view from the balcony: book reading, trip planning, run drinking, game playing. As long as it’s near the great view and ample breeze afforded by the open space, what more could you ask for? Maybe for the loud music and DJ in the village below to quiet down a bit…but that seems such a trivial complaint on an otherwise fantastic day.

Day 2

An early rise at our hotel in Trinidad was comforted by teddy yet again showing his immense hospitality. Fresh breakfast had been fetched: delicious stuffed pastries with either salt fish or ham and cheese filling, along with deliciously spiced doubles and fresh orange juice. When asked what the “non local” option would have been, he replied “bacon and eggs”. We made the right choice. 

Carribean airlines requires you arrive two hours before your flight, compounded with a then delayed flight, made the 20 minute transit time between Trinidad and Tobago seem that much more comical, and frustrating. The uneventful flight had us back on tobago after so many years away, and we promptly picked up our rental cars. 

We’ve had friends who have lived in Hawaii and described the oddities of island isolation. But on tobago, even smaller and further isolated, it becomes even more apparent. In this case: gasoline. It was the weekend, and so the closest gas station was being refilled for the week, and can’t dispense gas while being filled. Another station hadnt received the truck yet, no gas there either. Considering there are only five gas stations, striking out at two started to be alarming. Fortunately the third visit was successful and we began our 40+ km trip the Charlottesville, having also stopped and picked up a few essential groceries. Half of which were matouk branded sauces and condiments. Delicious. 

The drive the rest of the gradually has fewer and fewer cars, but almost immediately makes up for it with incredibly narrow, twisting turning roads with sharp drops into either gutters for the immense rain run off that occurs, or just steep hillside straight to the water. We finally made it to our villa after almost an hour and a half of holding our breath in between oohs and aahs at the incredible scenery that punctuates the trip. 

We arrived and unpacked, got mildly acquainted with our home away from home for the week, while drooling over the incredible view offered from both floors. It didn’t take long for abby to request getting to the beach, so we packed up and headed into town to park and begin the short hike to Pirate Bay. 

The familiar single track road and 170 steps were easy to remember. How breathtaking the beach and jungle are is very hard to accurately remember, as is the incredible snorkeling a short swim out in the water. It was a brief evening swim and snorkel, leaving us wanting more. But we needed dinner, and it had been a morning full of travel. 

A quickly prepare rice and beans was still incredibly delicious, and was paired with the wonderful simple Carib beers, and later odd rum combinations with local brand mixers. A “late” game or continuo finished the evening around 9pm. Time for some shut eye so we can dive in and see even more tomorrow. 

Day 1

Just a travel day. With a noon flight out of Pittsburgh to Miami, it feels wrong to even call it day one. But a brief layover and then another flight from Miami to Port of Spain Trinidad at least has us in the right country. 

A cramped van ride by our very gracious host teddy had us at our nearby hotel ready to catch a few hours of sleep before our morning flight to tobago. Teddys hospitality knew no end, as after driving us to the hotel he ran out an grabbed us some Carib and Stag beers. 

Tomorrow is a short flight and a long harrowing drive to return to charoletteville again. 

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