Trinidad & Tobago are the twin-sister islands located right off coast Venezuela and are the most southern country of the lesser antilles. The capital city Port-of-Spain lies in the North of Trinidad and the smaller island of Tobago lies about 80km north-east. Famously known for its carneval festivities, tropical waters, magnificent beaches and relaxed vibes it sure is one of world’s topspots.
I boarded my JetBlue flight from JFK and about 6 hours later I landed in Port-of-Spain, where trouble was already waiting for me. The thing is, I got my passport when I was 15 and back then I had shoulder-long hair and whenever dealing with airport or border authorities I used to get a lot of laughs, due to my picture. I liked it, because it would ease things up at the usual serious vibes at immigration. Not this time though.
The immigration officer looked at my passport, held it up to my face and didn’t believe it was me. I told him it’s an old passport, I had long hair and offered to show him my driving licence with an more up-to-date photo. He then asked me what I had planned during my stay. I pretty much summed it up with relaxing, going to Tobago and explore some beaches. Then he asked for my flight ticket out of TT. Then I made a rookie mistake. I use Tripit to have all my flights at one place and I opened the App and showed him the flight from POS back to JFK. I didn’t give my iPhone to him, but he swiped and there it was. All my seventeen flights showed up. He somehow grinned to himself, like he convicted me of trafficking or whatever he had in mind. The immigration officer waved to two colleagues and he told me I need to go to ‘secondary immigration’ now. One of his colleagues took my backpack and the other officer cuffed me. I didn’t realize that he was taking out his handcuffs and when he bend my arms behind my back, I didn’t really react. I was not in shock, but in utter disbelief. The horror of this moment occured to me, when I looked back and saw the terrified faces of my fellow flight passengers, who were waiting in line a couple meters behind.
At first I was kinda laughing to myself, as it was ridiculous. When we entered the room and they put me in a chair with my arms behind, it hit me. I started to get a little nervous. I knew they thought I was hiding or had something illegal on me. But since I hadn’t, I also knew they couldn’t do anything to me. But I also knew they are in charge, they are the alpha dogs now, they can do pretty much anything they want to with me. I tried to focus and stay calm. One of the officers started to look through my backpack and the other one sat down on the table, smashed my passport in front of me and looked me deeply in the eyes. Then the interrogation started. He asked what I was doing really here, if I’m going to meet somebody and who my friends were and who do I know in general in his country? The fact, that I haven’t had a reservation for a hotel didn’t really help in my situation. In my mind was one scenario chasing another. I told him I travel a lot, got cheap flights and am a student and citizen of Austria. He didn’t believe me, asked the questions over and over again and just shook his head. In between they were speaking spanish, apparently I didn’t understand it. I was thinking about my options. If I had any. Then it struck me. I could argue my way out of it and offered to show him pictures. He kinda nodded, unlocked me and I pulled out my iPhone. Quickly I searched for Wifi and then turned on my roaming. I didn’t care about the extra cost. I just wanted to get out. I went on Facebook and showed him pictures of my family, friends and told him about my university and work and when the other officer finished scanning my backpack I knew I was about to get out. I was the alpha dog again. He asked for my flight out again and noted all the details and said I should be at the airport early enough as an officer would be waiting to scan me again. A different guy escorted me out into the Arrival Hall and made sure I got an hotel and a ride. I was pretty sure they wanted to know where I stay and make sure I arrive exactly there. I was very relieved and soon crushed to bed. The next morning I checked out and moved to the hotel on the next street.
I spend all day around Port-of-Spain, which got a skechy reputation, but I felt safe walking around and hanging around at Independence Square, but you should take care, especially at night. I asked at my small hotel for the best way to get to Maracas Bay. The woman told me she has a friend that wants to go there tomorrow and she’ll call him. Next morning a young guy from Venezuela, called Javier, picked me up and we got along really fast. He asked me if another friend of his from Cuba could join us and off we drove to Maracas Bay.
Maracas Bay is about an hour drive from Port-of-Spain, with an amazing beach where Trinidans relax and spend their weekends. Since we went during the week, we had it almost to ourselves. The beach was seamed with tall palm trees and small beach huts selling beers and food, but most importantly “Bake n Shark”. Bake and Shark is a traditional trinidadian street food dish. It is a flatbread filled with shark meat, sauces and some other ingredients. I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. I am against shark fishing and finning and as this dish is very popular the shark demand is immense high in Trinidad. But I always try local specialties and really loved it. The real famous Bake n Shark is widely associated with Maracas Bay, because the shark meat is from the sharks caught off in the Maracas Bay area. I would happily have lived without that information, while swimming there.
It started to rain and we sat under the palm tree, drinking caribe beer and chatted about life in europe, in the caribbean and life in general, like we have known each other for years. I learned a lot from Javier about Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago and its difficulties, but also about the beautiful side of life in the caribbean- Good times!
It’s experiences and days like this, why I cherish travelling so much, you spend a day with complete strangers, get an insight in their life and culture, learn more about the challenges people face here and see the beautiful sides of a place and then you say good-bye, sometimes it’s a good-bye forever, but it’s the experiences and knowledge you gain that, in my eyes, are of more value than anything else I can buy with money. It’s the main reason I travel, I would never have the chance to grow so much as a person, when staying in my hometown.
Next morning I took the air taxi between Port-of-Spain and Tobago, which is a 20 minute scenic flight, and was ready for another round of serious beach life.
Tobago is the most relaxed place I’ve been to. Nobody is in a hurry, the sun is shining 24/7 and there are beaches all around the island, challenging each other for the island’s most beautiful. I stayed in Bucco, a small village in the south of the island, where I had a whole beach to myself. Sometimes kids would come to swim, then they would run around me laughing and running off.
Then there’s Pigeon Point. Which is some sort of Heritage Park, where you pay a little entry fee, in return you get a clean beach with facilities. Definitely worth the few bucks as it is exactly as you’d imagine a caribbean beach. Turquoise waters, palm trees, white sandy beach… one of world’s finest! Period!
There’s not much to say about these days on Tobago, despite the famous slogan ‘Trinidad is nice, but Tobago is paradise’ is absolutely true. I carpe’d the hell out of every diem. Back at the airport the immigration was a breeze this time and I flew up to JFK again for another night’s stay, before I’ll head to EWR for my flight to Bogotà, Colombia.