"South America on $320" story # 11

King's Bay Waterfall, Trinidad & Tobago           July 6, 2002

Tobago is to Trinidad what Shannon Durando was to Davin Durando in the high school I went to. There could be no better comparison.
     Davin Durando, to be exact, was an oily, greasy-haired troll who relaxed in his seat and spoke through his chins like Jabba the Hut. His younger sister, Shannon, had golden blond hair, a darling smile and face, and the voice of a lamb. Nobody could figure it out.
     Similarly, Tobago is the smaller, more pretty, friendlier, much much more pleasant sister island to Trinidad.
     I left the yacht I was staying on many days during Sailing Week to eplore god's gift, Tobago. Simply driving on the rural island was immaculate. Especially driving north up Tobago's eastern Atlantic coast, possibly the most beautiful drive ever.
     During the hour-long trip, the road climbed green, rich mountains and descended. My maxi-taxi sped alongside walls cut from the hills. Posterous trees mingled in the rainforest ball-room above, some dressed like duchesses in their extravagant evening gown leaves.
     Steep, green valleys had been cut out to our right, leading far down to the ruling sea below. The water was rough on the dark beaches who'd chosen to be alone. Vivid blue dominated between land and horizon, as marching white waves neared the end of their pilgrimages from lands far off. In some spots, big rocks sprung up, only to be held captive by the surrounding water king.
     Below the royal surface, treasures gleamed in every kingly hue.
     I snorkeled in Tobago alongside broken rock ridges. A school of dark-loving minnows with enormous, round stomachs huddled beneath riffled ledges; long, dark grey, devious-looking eely fish kept their distance near the sea floor; and tiny, orange, three-toothed coral mouths surrounded a perfect coral vase, in which hid a large, white, black-spotted pufferfish and his dark, worrisome eyes.
     I snorkeled in Tobago near beat-up stones protecting entrances to calm coves. Big, feathery green leaves with the texture of stained carpet swayed in the current, attached to burnt orange and dark purple coral lumps; an ugly sturgeonfish with a red-orange, warped face and discolored backside swam by and scared everyone.
     I snorkeled in Tobago at comfortable, palm-accompanied beaches, swimming past the breaking waves off from land. Fish with with blue heads followed by black, light blue, and black streaks and green backsides dove in twenty feet of water; purple-and-turquoise parrotfish and silver-and-scarlet parrotfish chased one another beside round brain corals; a small, murky sea-turtle sped off quickly.
     I snorkeled beneath the jetty in the sailing harbor too, where a school of squid-like cuttlefish hung out horizontally with dark maroon heads. However, worried that I might not have money for a roti and want to eat them, they turned white and fled from me vertically.
     And ALL THAT is only the BORING part of my Tobago snorkelling adventure! (I say this under the assumption that you all find snorkelling as emphatically, delightfully, barumptuously exciting as I do. But, if you actually did find all that boring ... well, you're in for a long one.)
     My first trip north up Tobago's Atlantic side had been so delicious I thought I'd try it again. In the capital city, Scarborough (pop. a whopping 14,000), I awaited my maxi-taxi and watched the locals (who are almost all blacks and who like to call themselves "Tobagonians," though I think it's more funny to call them "Tobaggons" and explain that a tobaggon is something we ride down hills on in Michigan during winter; the Tobagonians, however, don't have much of a sense of humor about this.)
     I waited near an old Tobagonian lady in a brown tribal shirt and hair-cloth twist. She had coke-bottle glasses and a cane. With age, her mouth had sagged to be ape-like. Her skin was lizard-like. We didn't have Tobaggons like that in Michigan. Nor "Michigaggons," for that matter. (OK, I took that wisecrack on people from Michigan quite personally. We're not called Michigaggons, we're called "Michiganders," for pete's sake. Where's the respect?)
     At any rate, I got a maxi and headed north to small-town Speyside. Speyside rested on a long, muddy beach between two protruding, green mountain capes. Straight out from town sat two big island mounds.
     In flippers and mask, I swam in the direction of the far-off islands, toward a long line of pushy white waves. The water was quite murky. I distanced myself from shore for ten or fifteen minutes before reaching the breaking waves and flat, brown coral.
     Following the wave line, the drab coral soon became fantastic, taking the form of giant spheres or E.T. headpieces. Diving deep and following the coral down, there were plenty of twisty ledges to look around.
     It would've been a diver's dream, but everything was brown. Visibility was only eight or ten feet, and I feared I might run into coral. It was a good thing this Michigaggon hadn't forgotten his ganders! I mean, that this Michigander hadn't forgotten his goggles. The waves crashed roughly near me when I surfaced, and being far from land was scary and exhilirating.
     The black angels - spade-shaped black fish with yellow dots - were also fearless, swimming with me in the murk amid coral channels and deep below coral balls. There were also small, bright orange fish with painted white marks like stitches on an American football.
     And that's Not EVen THE MOST EXCITing PART OF! THE!! SNORKELLING!!!
     I swam back to shore and began walking south along the newly-paved main road. I climbed the road up. High in the rainforest hills, birds flew around and sang like Beeker from the Muppets.
     I descended the other side of the hill, passed quiet King's Bay Beach with its wooden fishing boats tucked inside the surrounding jungle, and reached the turn-off point to King's Bay Falls.
     Here, flat stones were set out as steps through the thin lawn that conveyed me to the falls. Colored plant ferns bordered the enchanting path, and solitary bush-trees showed off purple and red flowers. Lizards sprinted on the bright lawn, and birds travelled in the trees.
     Birds with doves' eyes and speckled coloring like Cookies 'N Cream ice cream flirted about. One such bird had a black, indian's head-dress for a crest and probably had no problem getting babes. Resting alone, there was a blunt-headed bird colored like light ash with black eyes so peaceful I almost emulated him and sat on a branch.
     A small bird looked like his fuzzy head had been blow-dried, and antique-brown birds with white-oval tails congested the skies. Above, sleek-bodied king-fishers soared threateningly with colors like orca killer whales.
     Pulling myself away from the birds, I reached the Falls. A small line of water followed a tall rock face down. Pulling myself up rocks to the side, I traced the water to a small pool secluded by the Tobago hill's luscious depths. Refreshing myself in the cold bath, the oncoming water-flow dumped on my head and crabs nibbled my feet.
     Going down, I came upon a nice "Winnebagonian" rastafarian farmer named "Emperor." He excitedly greeted me as he and his partner, a gray-eyed, pettite, happy, 19-year old rasta Canadian, Emma, did their wash. It was as refreshing to talk to them about travelling and rastafarianism as it had been to bathe in the cold pool. Emperor actually cared about personality and thoughts, unlike the Trinidadians who were interested in only money, alcohol, and gossip.
     I said good-bye and headed to the road. On the way, two dark, dark navy hummingbirds scampered about the flowers by the path. One of the little birds rested on a branch very briefly. With his wings slumped to the side, he looked as if he was seriously disappointed in himself for needing the rest. A second passed, and he rushed to the next flower to get caught up.
     I reached the road, where a not-so-smart maroon-headed woodpecker pecked determinedly on a street-light.
     And this leaves only the story of THE MOST EXCITING place I snorkelled in Tobago. I can hardly wait, can you!!!!?
     Too bad. You're going to have to. That story, my friends, is for another day.

Until then, Modern Oddyseus

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