Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reflections on Tobago - the second 'T' in 'T & T'

Ah, T&T. Not the drink - the country. 

The side trip we took from Trinidad to Tobago was short, but oh so sweet. It's interesting to think of this country as inextricably linked islands. Trinidad, the southernmost Caribbean island is the country's principle land mass with 1,800 plus square miles, and neighboring Tobago is second in line with a compact 116 square miles. 

It's easy to see that most of Tobago was formed by volcanic activity, as the island boasts steep peaks of lush tropical vegetation dotted with tiny coastal shanty towns one accesses via stomach-churning squiggly byways and a white-knuckle ride. 

Tobago's recorded history stretches back to Columbus days. The island was inhabited by Island Caribs in 1580 when the Brits paid a visit, foreshadowing an eventual incorporation into the British Empire -- but not until after it changed hands more than 30 times. Tobago was united with Trinidad in 1889, then T&T became an independent commonwealth nation in 1962.
Fun map of Tobago. Credit: www.timesofbeauty.com

Tobago is known for its pristine beaches, amazing diving, and ecotourism (its forests became a protected Crown reserve in 1776). It was the filming location for the Disney film Swiss Family Robinson. It's refreshingly non- commercialized.

If you look at the map here, you'll see where the airport is on the southwest tip of the island. We stayed on the east side in Speyside at the recently renovated boutique Blue Waters Inn

We all loved the tranquil setting, the breathtaking views and the aquamarine beach. Poking out on the horizon were a series of wave-crashing jetties, and a home perched on a tiny island which is said to have once belonged to Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). A clay tile with crackled white front and edges worn soft by the sea landed in my hand with an incoming wave, and I dreamed this washed in from Mr. Fleming's home. 

Swim-up dock in front; the Fleming (?) house in back
Tobago is paradise, though I couldn't help but be struck by the obvious poverty despite an economy which should be quite rich considering the energy industry here. Government spending is the other principle driver of the economy and it does not look like much money makes it to the non-government workers. Ergo, lots of poverty. The optimist in me, however, embraces the utter simplicity of life here. 

Warm, balmy wishes from the Caribbean ....
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