Caribbean Countryside

Our bus ride the length of Tobago was our first real glimpse at the TnT culture.  The public bus.  The bus itself, was nice enough,even as it bolted through hairpin turns on a road not wide enough to share.

The people of TnT love their music.  So much so that they insist on blasting it at max volume, no matter what form of technology they are using to transmit the sound.  Cell phones pumping out a tinny version of Eminem or a mix of hard to understand rap provided our obnoxious entertainment.  The school kids, boys, mostly around 14 or 15 years old, seemed to use this as a form of posturing among their peers – with total disregard for those around them.  This disregard proved to be an underlying thread in their personality as it seeped into their treatment of elders.  Not once did a kid offer to give up his seat to the old ladies fighting their way onto an overcrowded bus.  To the contrary, they pushed their way to the front of the mob, blocking out elders from getting on the bus before them.

We were headed to Speyside – the place in Tobago to dive.  It is a quaint village spread out along the east coast of the island, built into the hillside down to the ocean.  Though our sleep was disturbed by the blaring thump of music playing for the two people in the bar outside our apartment, we grew a liking to the town.  After checking out the three dive shops, we were hooked up with local divemaster, Spencer, through Tencent, whom we met on the ferry.

Despite his slightly annoying overselling the safety and “good time”, Spencer was definitely the right choice for diving.  We were safe, and we did have a good time.

Dinner with locals, Jace and Sharon in their home was the highlight of our 4 day visit.  Enough local fare for 10 people, and a taste of “puncheon” made it a night to remember.  In that one evening, high on the hill overlooking the ocean, we learned of the politics, rasta lifestyle and true hospitality of Tobago.

We went to Tobago hoping to find pristine beaches and clear water, you know…. “as advertised.”  We’re of the thought that those pictures are either doctored to show what Tobago will look like in 10 years, or are past their time showing what the island looked like 10 or 20 years ago.  We’re still unsure whether it’s a has-been or a will-be.  It’s also possible that all of the crystal beaches have been bought up by American all-inclusive resorts for vacationers with a thick wallet.  That Tobago might be a place for you to put a star beside, along with other islands in the West Indies.  As a backpacker, it has a way to go to make it a destination worth exploring.

An Education in Rip-Off

How quickly we learn.  We needed to wait nearly all day for a ferry trip to Tobago. Because we didn’t want to just sit around the less than comfortable pie for 5 hoursr, we went on the hunt for food downtown Port of Spain.  Two white people with packs on their backs — an easy target.  We kept our wits about us, however it didn’t stop our “friend”  Marcus from spotting us down the street.  He insisted on helping us find a place to eat, but not without our obligation of buying him lunch.  Posed as a “tourist safety man”, conversation was easy enough, with his mix of “ I must protect you” and a side of bullshit, we had the instinctive feeling Marcus wanted more from us.  Quickly after we mentioned to him we just got married, he jumped at the chance to offer us a “present.”  A  green present. We declined, while under our breath thinking of a dignified way to ditch the guy.  Our scapegoat was a coffee shop, telling Marcus we were just going to chill out for an hour or so waiting for our boat.  He said he’d be back.  We didn’t wait for his return.  Maybe he came back, maybe he didn’t.  We still aren’t sure whether his real role was a drug dealer, a scam artist, or if he was in fact a genuine guy.  We didn’t take a chance in finding out , not in a city like Port of Spain where I wouldn’t walk alone during the day.  This, unfortunately set us on edge for the remainder of our time in TnT.

In places like this, where you know crime is high, and  tourism is in the state of landslide it’s hard to know who to trust.  A guy like our “friend”  Williams, a taxi driver we hired on arrival to Tobago is a an example. He was confident  that our 15 min ride to Buocco Bay was $10USD and that every registered taxi on the island carried with them an official rate sheet for travel, that you can ask to see anytime.  We took his word for it.  Just two days later, flagging a cab on the road to back to the very spot we had come from quoted us “10”.  10 USD?  No, 10TT, which is the equivialnt of $1.50 USD.   Stupid tourists with the target on their back. Next time, we’ll ask to see the rate card.  Education is expensive.

Now, we know how much it costs from Point A to B and have learned to get in and NOT ask how much.  Just go, carry the exact change and give it to the driver and get out of the car. Simple.

Curfew Calling TnT

The internet as well as concerned friends and family at home in Canada warned us about the safety of traveling in Trinidad.  In particular, the city of Port of Spain.   Maybe this is why our flight to the Caribbean, at a time in Ontario when the thought of snow could become a reality any day,  was easy on our wallet.   Our first stop, Port of Spain.   A late arrival left us no choice but to arrange a pick up from the airport to get inside before the police start combing the streets to fine or arrest anyone outside for breaking the 11pm curfew.

Jeff… the son of Tony of “Tonys Guesthouse” (provided us with some noteworthy tips during our 45 minute ride through the city.  “So, do’s and don’ts… this road here,” Jeff motioned to the very road we were driving on, and “that area over there up to the mountain, “ pointing to the crumbling residential area to our right beside the highway.  “If you are ever in a car and get a flat tire, you just keep driving.  If you stop, people will come out from there and rob you.”  Note taken.  A week later, in a taxi back to the airport, the reality of what Jeff told us sunk in a little deeper.  There were people just waiting along the fence-line between the dwellings and the highway.  Waiting for some poor soul to break down so they could strip his car and loot his belongings.

Shocking, right?  Well, you might be surprised to hear, that our own prized cities have like-minded individuals who would do the same, given the opportunity.  Just ask a friend of mine who got into a car accident on Expo Blvd, very near where the Canucks play in Vancouver.  This past summer, as she was assessing the situation, trying to compose herself, the car (a friends’ she had borrowed that day) now totaled, was being looted right before her eyes.

It’s so easy for us to lay judgement on societies outside the comfort of our norms.  But we fail, or choose to turn a blind eye to what is happening in our own backyard.  There are dangers, everywhere in the world, why is it we are so quick to judge those that are not our own?

A pack on your back

It’s finally here!  By popular demand from friends and family, and our keen desire to document our “honeymoon”, our blog is live.  We won’t sugar-coat the ills of society – here you will get the good, not-so-good and the ugly of it all.   If you so choose to live vicariously through our journey.. read on.

After  dinner with Arielle’s parents at the less than spectacular Ruth’s Chris in Mississauga, our trip began on Wednesday, November 2nd.  With us we each had, a one-way ticket from Toronto to Port of Spain, Trinidad (via Houston) and a backpack.

Prior to leaving, we often got the question, “How do you pack for a trip like that?”.  Our answer…..

Dale’s Pack:  60L (+22L attached daypack)

Clothing: 1 water resistant hoodie, 1 Arc’tyrex Beta AR Gore-tex Jacket, 1 pr long pants, 3 pairs shorts (1 bathing suit), 2 t-shirts, 1 silver thread sleeveless shirt, 4 pair underwear, 1 pair smart wool socks,1 pair sport socks, Flip flops, Running shoes, 1 belt, 1 merino wool beanie toque, 1 sarong

Toiletries: 1 electric razor,  1 electric toothbrush with charger and 2 heads, dental floss, cuticle scissors, toothpaste, ear drops

Misc: Diving mask, salt stone, dive knife, Dive computer, yoga travel towel, manduka travel yoga mat, portable speakers, water bottle with purification filter, 17” lap top, 4 textbooks, calculator, sunglasses, padlock, highlighters, eye cover

Arielle’s Pack: Arc’teryx Alto 62L + 25L packable day pack

Clothing: 2 pair yoga capris, 2 yoga tanks, Lululemon travel yoga mat, travel towel, 1pr smartwool socks, 4pr underwear, 2pr shorts, 1 pair thai short pants, 1 silver thread t-shirt, 2 tank tops, 2 sports bras,1 set light pj’s, 1 sarong , 1 bikini, 1 light weight merino
wool hoodie, 1 long sleeve UV button up shirt, Hiking shoes, Flip flops, 1 Arc’teryx merino wool toque, 1 Arc’teryx Beta AR Gore-tex jacket, 1 maple leaf bandana

Misc: camera, Underwater camera house, Watch, Unlocked blackberry, Ipod shuffle & headphones, Mini binoculars, eye glasses, prescription sunglasses, travel clothes line, journal, Lonely Planet – South America on a Shoestring, Lonely Planet – Peru, Latin America Phrasebook, Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook, pocket notebook, 1 novel (Shantaram 1000pgs), ear plugs, eye cover, 1 TP Massage Ball

Toiletries & first aid: Small shampoo & conditioner, Bar soap, Face wash, 30 sunscreen, Nail file & clippers, Neti pot & salt, hair brush, tampons, Advil Gel caps, Malarone®, Traveller’s diarreah tablets, 5 band-aids, needle & thread, 2 m of duct tape, Aspirin, Tylenol Cold & Sinus, Ciprofloaxin, Dramamine

Shit, we have too much stuff.