Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago

Me in Tobago
I had never been to the Caribbean before and I was able to use my United Airlines' miles for a round trip to T&T for 35,000 miles + $66. Also, Indian citizens don't need a VISA to visit some of the Caribbean countries like T&T, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos islands etc., so that was another motivating factor.

Near Castara Bay, Tobago 
I landed in Port of Spain at around 7:45 in the evening after I'd started at 6 am from Kansas City. The flight from Houston to PoS is about 6.5 hours and I had to catch the flight to Tobago the same day from the PoS airport at 10:45 pm. The immigration was a breeze as there was virtually no waiting time. If I'd known it before I'd have probably booked an earlier flight for Tobago, but the average wait time is from 30 minutes to up to an hour sometimes, so I didn't want to take any chances. 
At fort James in Tobago
The questions asked during immigration were: 1) Is this your first time to T&T? 
2) Do you know anyone here? 3) Are you travelling alone? 4) What do you do in the US? 5) Can you show me your return flight ticket? 6) How much cash do you have, and do you have credit cards?

Following which, the officer stamped the Passport for a stay of up to 3 months. After clearing the immigration, I had to head outside the airport and re-clear the security at domestic flight terminal to Tobago, although they are both technically within the same airport.
View from Glasgow bar
A couple of the previous flights were delayed and hence, my flight took off late. The flight landed in Tobago at a little after 11:30 pm and I was picked up, outside the airport, by the owner of the guesthouse I was staying in. By the time I got to the guesthouse I was really tired from the almost day long travel and hit the bed almost immediately.

Day 1: The following day I had booked a tour with Wayne, one of the local tours guide and he promptly picked me up at 9:10 am at the guesthouse. There were 5 of us in his van, so we all got personalized attention. We first headed to fort James for some awesome views. The British army maintained a post here, during their rule.
We then headed over to Castara bay for a swim in the ocean. The beach was surprisingly empty and there were only the five of us there. We then headed over for lunch to a place called 'Glasgow bar', the restaurant has some of the most beautiful views on the island. We relaxed on the upper deck eating Caribbean chicken and rice while swapping travel stories with each other.
Argyle Falls
Pigeon Point beach
Next, we headed to the Argyle waterfalls. The falls are actually quite small
but about 18 feet deep. The walk to the falls is though a jungle and you may happen to spot a woodpecker or two, on the way. The day ended with another swim at King Bay beach and a final stop at Fort King George which was built by the British during the 18th century.

Day 2: I had slept early after a tiring day exploring Tobago with Wayne, our tour guide. The next day I got up and headed to Pigeon point beach, which was walking distance from where I was staying. The beach is well maintained. There is a $20TT (~$3US) entry fee.
Afternoon, I caught the flight to Port of Spain, as I saw India lose the World T20 final to Sri Lanka at the Tobago international airport. About 3 flights including mine were cancelled, and hence we had a Boeing 777 for the 20 minutes flight.
Richard's Bake and shark
The guesthouse owner's son picked me up at the airport and drove me back to his place.

Day 3: The next day I headed to Maracas Bay beach and the plan was to relax the whole day by the beach; something I can't remember the last time I'd done. I used the "maxi taxi" system to get to the beach. The taxis are a hop-on/hop-off kind of a deal. They pickup people from different places and drop them off at the city-center in Port of Spain. They cost anywhere between $3-$10TT (~$1-2US) and are the cheapest mode of transport within and near by the city. The locals are really helpful, and guide you to perfection. Also, it is the best way to experience the local culture and interact with them.
Asa Wright nature reserve
I had to get two taxis; one from the guesthouse to the city center and another from there to the beach. For lunch, I had baked (fried) shark and king fish at Richard's bake and shark. It really is a must have with all the customization options (chutneys., mustard, salads etc.) they have there. Also, in PoS, you have to try the "rotis", which is basically chicken curry inside Indian flat bread and doubles(chick peas in roti).
I used the same taxi system to get back to the guesthouse in the evening.

At the Queen's park oval
Day 4: The night beforeI requested Tony, the guesthouse owner, to arrange a taxi for me to the Asa Wright Nature reserve, as there're no "maxis" available to get here. The driver, Manuel, picked me up at 8:30 am and drove me to the park, for the tour which was beginning at 10:30 am. The park is filled with exotic birds and plants. The tour lasted about an hour and half but I didn't have the lunch at the park, as I didn't want to keep my driver waiting for too long.
Though, he was in a very generous and fun mood and offered me a "round about" route for getting back, as we went riding along the Northern coastline. We stopped at Chupara and Las Cuevas beaches on the way. He was a good conversationalist, and knew a lot about the local culture and Caribbean politics. Last stop, we headed over to the Queen's park oval stadium to just relax in the member's lounge.

This brought to an end a wonderful four days spent in the Caribbean twin island republic.  I hope to return some day again, but until then I have the memories of one of my best trips till now!

What businesses did I use?
Hotel in Tobago : Candles in the wind
Hotel in Trinidad : Tony's guesthouse
Tour in Tobago: Wayne Kennedy
Airlines: United & Caribbean ($48 Round-trip from PoS to Tobago)