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Scarborough,Tobago–Sugar, Breadfruit and Curtis

November 18, 2010

The small island of Tobago is only 26 miles long and 7 miles wide. It lays north of its sister island, Trinidad. I read somewhere that both islands were once part of Venezuela. The Orinoco River is said to still influence the waters surrounding Tobago.

Our ship anchored in the Scarborough harbor. By now Mike, Dave, Darlene and myself were quite accustomed to the daily rhythms of cruising island to island. We breakfasted at the Waterfall Café because we heard that the chef was making some pretty wonderful Belgium waffles, and well, who would want to miss out on that?

During breakfast the four of us discussed the day’s plans. Waterfalls? No. Forts? No. Rain forest? Definitely, no. Walk through the streets of Scarborough? Maybe…we headed down the pier, full of waffles and whipped cream and high hopes of adventure. After we cleared the security checkpoint, we began walking through the streets. Scarborough was similar to the other harbor towns we had visited. The only difference I could see was the interesting vendors who were pushing around large stereo systems powered by car batteries.

Portable stereo

The music was blaring, the streets were crowded, the sun was blistering hot. We walked through a couple of souvenir shops and once again decided to hire a cab to see the islands—anything but the aforementioned sites.

We asked some of the cabbies if they would take the four of us around the island. The one who was most interested in driving us was a man with a small car. We considered the heat, the length of the drive and how we wanted to remain friends after the tour. We turned him down, but as we did so, we were approached by another cabbie who had a larger car. He walked with us to show us the car and we decided that we would ride with him. His name was Curtis and he had a gold tooth and the most amazing dreadlocks I had ever seen.

“How do you get your hair to do that?” I asked Curtis. “You just keep twisting it and let it grow” he flashed a smile and the gold tooth gleamed. “It’s really quite impressive” I said.

Curtis, our driver

Curtis asked us where we would like to go. And we told him that he was driving and perhaps he could make a few suggestions. He asked us if we would like to see a former sugar plantation, now defunct because they no longer grew sugar on the island. (Why? High Fructose Corn Syrup!) Sugar plantation did not fit into the fort-rainforest-waterfall category so we agreed to go.
Curtis drove east to the Arnos Vale Sugar Plantation near Plymouth. We were the first group of tourists to arrive at the former plantation that featured a restaurant and large waterwheel. Soon, however, more tourists came and soon we were listening to the tour guide explain how the waterwheel and plantation processed the sugar cane.

Arnos Vale Waterwheel

There were trails to hike but we left with the tour bus and Curtis took to Fort James. He thought we needed the history lesson and it was located in Plymouth, near Arnos Vale.

As we drove, he told us how the island was named after tobacco, which had been grown on the island. Curtis pronounced the name ‘to-ba-go’ rather than ‘to-bay-go’. He also told us that breadfruit, bananas and mangoes grow everywhere on the island and if you get hungry you can just pick the fruit. He asked us if we had ever eaten breadfruit. We said no and he explained that it is a delicious starchy melon that is used as a staple on Tobago.

Fort James was a pleasant respite from the heat.  We walked around the fort and enjoyed the breeze from the Caribbean and the pelicans that were flying near the shoreline. From there, Curtis suggested we visit some local artists, which we did. There were beautiful hand carved masks and other artifacts. From there, Curtis suggested we stop at a local beach bar near Buccoo Bay and have some refreshments. We asked him if we could buy him a beer, and he said that he doesn’t drink alcohol, but we could buy him a ginger beer.

We enjoyed an ice-cold Stag lager brewed by Carib Brewery Limited and available only in Tobago and Trinidad. Like all of the lagers we had tried in the Caribbean, Stag had a nice balance, crisp and with the hint of sweetness that only malt can provide. When we finished, we went back to the car, but when Cutis turned the ignition, nothing happened. “Oh no” I said (visions of having to hire a helicopter to return us to our departed ship). “No problem” Curtis said “I have another battery in the trunk.” I immediately wondered if Curtis used his battery to power a walking stereo.


Replacing the battery

Mike and Dave helped Curtis replace the battery and in a few moments we were heading back to Scarborough. On the way, Curtis got a phone call, which he answered, but only to tell the caller he would call them back. “Tomorrow is the beginning of Diwali—a holiday and we are making preparations.” We learned that Diwali is a Hindu holiday, lasts for 5 days and is celebrated in Tobago and Trinidad.

Soon we were approaching the pier. Curtis let us out of the car and Mike and Dave paid him. “You have one more island tomorrow, yes? He asked. “No Curtis” I said. “You’re our last island, and our last tour guide. We will go home with fond memories of Curtis with the gold tooth and the great hair.” He smiled at me and gently fist-bumped my shoulder. “You have a safe trip home” he said.  “And you have a happy Diwali” I answered.
We walked back to the ship after a most enjoyable day on Tobago. Tonight there would be packing and the start of our journey back to San Juan—603 nautical miles away.

Tomorrow: Aboard the Summit



One Comment leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010 2:28 pm

    Bookmarked your website. Thank you for sharing. Definitely worth the time away from my workload.

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