Icacos Point, Trinidad
Crashing waves and a bellyful of rum - Trinidad
Wild, beautiful, Trinidad is too often overlooked by tourists for its calmer little sister, Tobago. I returned to my mother’s mother country with my water baby sister Sophie to tour the diverse beaches of the island’s coastline.
The Trini ability to party is a matter of national pride and Maracas is the proof. Just north of the capital Port of Spain, Maracas Bay is a year-round bacchanal of food, music and fantastic waves.
This is the beach that defines our memories of Trinidad. Our first stop was Richard’s Bake’n’Shark shack. McDonalds (now dead in Trinidad) could never compete with this: great steaks of battered shark and a kind of deep fried doughy bread which we loaded with salad, chadon beni, garlic sauce, mustard and fiery pepper sauce.
We washed that down with great gulps and burning nostrils full of salt water as we ran into the sea only, to our screaming delight, to be tumbled in the surf. The waves at Maracas ride the crest between terrifying and exhilarating; we played in them for hours to a soundtrack of blasting chutney soca. And then just floated, looking up at the mountains that surround Maracas, covered in thick, unconquered jungle.
Icacos Point the following day provided quite a contrast. At the very south-western tip of the island, this is Trinidad’s Lizard Point - minus the souvenir shops, faded hotels and fish and chips.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if plesiosaur popped his head up,” Sophie muttered as we drove through a real-life Jurassic Park landscape. Almost on cue, a pair of frigate birds flew overhead, their sharp silhouettes cutting pterodactyl-shaped holes in the sky. On either side of the road lay eerily still expanses of swamp water punctured by orange grasses. Beyond that, endless coconut groves.
When we got to the beach, ours was the only car there. The slam of our doors rang out against the hushed swell of the sea and at first it seemed the only other living things there were the corbeaux, Trinidad’s black, hooded vultures, crouching on the carcasses of abandoned boats. Then we noticed a small group of fishermen, quietly sorting their nets and gazing out across the grey ocean. Venezuela loomed on the horizon. In the distance, an oil rig sent up a gas flare. Sophie and I barely spoke as we picked our way along the sand, feeling the smallness of our island and the great expanse of the sea.
After the rural isolation of Icacos came the postcard-perfect Mayaro on the southeast side of the isle. Now this is what you think a Caribbean beach is going to look like: warm golden sand fringed with coconut trees. This is where Trinidadians seek holiday houses, just behind the palms which curve low over the sand in lazy parabolas and sway ever so slightly in the hot breeze that drifts off the sea.
I reminded Sophie of our stay here one childhood Christmas, when we were banned from the waves and our mother turned white with fear as we defied her. In the so-called winter (Trinidad really only does two seasons – rainy and slightly less rainy) the current can be terrifying. But on a still day in July, Sophie remembered what it is like to swim in a sea that feels like a warm bath – if your bath came with an awesome wave machine.
It was at the end of the week on the north-eastern beaches of Balandra that we finally discovered our own rugged piece of paradise. Our near-private bay was strewn with graphically striated rocks which cut dramatically into the sand. While this meant a few minutes searching for a safely sandy spot in the sea – and more than a few squeals of “seaweed!” from Sophie – the waves kept us happy for days
We rented a beach house which could only be described as ‘rustic’ (and something of an obstacle course for my insectophobic sister). But it was perfect. The sunlight through the curtainless windows woke us early each morning and we spent the day moving from sea to beach to river, then back to the sea. Rare were the moments when we didn’t have sand on our skin and sea salt in our hair. We lived in little more than bikinis and bare skin (and copious sun block) and turned brown and freckled. Our smiles widened into grins and our lungs felt full. Each night we barbecued in the moonlight and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves and a bellyful of rum. Some Caribbean clichés are just as good as they sound.
For more writing from Maria Hannah Bass, visit mhdbass.wordpress.com