Tobago. To.Ba.Go. Trips off the tongue like a song doesn’t it? The baby sister to Trinidad is a 3 hour ferry ride away, or a 15 minute flight. We opted for the ferry so we could take our car. It was an eye opening experience. For an 8.30 departure time we had to be at the prot at 6.30 am where we lined up our car and napped until the loading began. Once we were parked and the handbrake firmly pulled up we entered the ferry.
I immediately realized what a soft and gentle bubble we live in. Here in all its glory was the other Trinidad. The colourful ladies poured into their super tight white shorts and stretched to breaking point in those hot pink t-shirts lined with glitter. Here was the gold, dripping in chains, set into teeth. Here was the hair piled high, the booty party in all its force. Normally women so endowed might opt of the subtler shades of colour, in hopes of perhaps muting the impact those propeller boobs and super booty might have. Not so on this ferry! Squeeze that body into the brightest lycra! Drape those breasts in fuchsia and red! Roll out the glitter! And that was just the ladies. The gentlemen, gathered into loud card playing groups, turned their volume up high. By 9.30 am most were drunk. The bottles of rum were half empty, the cans of Stag lager crushed under foot. Outside the wind was blowing the cigarettes into the sea, the bucolic sight of playful dolphins over shadowed by the sight of Trinis drunk so close to dawn.
As the ferry roared into Scarborough we stuck out like sore thumbs. We were neither drunk nor merry, we emerged into the light glad to see land and shell shocked by the combined consumption of hard liqor and fried food, sometimes in the vomit bags, often in the sink. Relieved to be free we clambered into our car and headed off to our Villa, a shiny Ivory Tower facing the golf course.
We spent two weeks in Tobago, happily ensconced in our fairy world far from the reality of gold teeth and happy morning drinkers, enjoying the delights of cousins and family.
Sadly Tobago is a crumbling baby sister to its fast paced sibling. Many Trinis come to Tobago for the slower paced life, the tranquil beaches, the liming, the surfing, the gentle breeze. It is not a Caribbean island like any other. There are no hotel chains, despite being the tourism island in comparison to Trinidad, known for its industry. In fact the Hilton pulled out, not wishing to attach its name to the disappointing edifice that lacks vigour and colour. No one seems to care, no one makes an effort, and no one wants the money, nor the tourists and certainly not the business that Tourism would bring onto the island. All the hotels, the golf course, the restaurants ( bar2) were mostly empty. The grocery stores had given no thought to the tourists staying in self catering villas; in fact the choice of produce was well below the level of quality available in Trinidad.
50,000 people live in Tobago and there are many beautiful corners of this little island. It is rustic, unspoilt and untouched by the demands of tourism that often leave Caribbean islands feeling like holiday playgrounds for the rich and white. I consider beautiful Barbados in this category. However Tobago takes this lack of regard for tourism to an extreme. There is such a total disregard for what could be the money ticket for this poor island that Tobago leaves a neglected and rather sad impression on the traveler.
I regret not being able to show my family the shiny big sister that is Trinidad. Tobago is certainly third world, backward, slow and inefficient. The lives of the Tobagonians would be much improved by an injection of pride and business savvy. My question is this. Why? How could the government of Trinidad be so short sighted as to fail to see the potential of their little sister island? When the gas runs out and 25 years down the road Trinidad and Tobago is steeped in the mire of disappointment and poverty, regret will surely set in.