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Tourists in own country!
“And people say there is nothing to do in Trinidad except fete,” I mused as I stood in what used to be a window of someone’s home in Piparo. This house was smothered by mud on February 22, 1997 from an eruption of the mud volcanos, which, we were told, sent the family running through the streets for their life in their nighties and pajamas. As I stood in the window of what is now the crumbling shell of this family’s home, looking out onto the barren dome of sun-hardened mud, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the family that fateful night, and what must have been their view from this same window.
“And people say there is nothing to do in Trinidad except fete,” I thought again, shaking my head at how much I had already learnt from the Indian Arrival Day expedition to parts of Trinidad I had never been. My thoughts drifted to the start of the day’s events, and I realised how physically active the day had been, filled with climbing, walking and exploring.
After the 90 minute drive to Knolly’s Tunnel, Tabaquite, I was thrilled to stretch my legs walking through the quarter mile long tunnel. Built in the late 1800’s and named after then Colonial Governor Courtnay Knolly, the Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the Caribbean, and was built to connect urban communities like San Fernando and Chaguanas to agricultural areas like Tabaquite and Rio Claro via the “Manicou Train.”
What must have been a stunning piece of engineering for its time, the Tunnel is now dark and filled with hundreds of bats who were obviously very displeased with these humans attempting to walk through their territory. Rather than brave bat territory again for the return, we climbed on top the Tunnel and searched through the bush for a route back to the entrance. However, impassable, dense bush forced us back through the tunnel again, much to the bats’ annoyance.
After the closure of the Tunnel by Dr. Eric Williams, the NAR Government tried to restore the area as an historical site, clearing acres of land and beautifying the area. We attempted to walk around but the only remnants of this beautification process were two dilapidated huts and a felled “Do Not Litter” sign, next to which was an empty plastic water bottle and plastic bag strewn on the ground. As with everything in Trinidad, nothing is maintained and we left, upset that this historical landmark was not better respected by the government and the public.
Our next stop was the Navet Dam, and the home of some wonderful people who cooked some of the best curry I had had in a long time. We were disappointed that the dam has been closed to the public due to recent drownings, but the hospitality of these farmers soon distracted us. Surrounded by livestock and produce, we ate cashews and fat pork off the tree and I was educated on how to eat Cocorite fruit from the Cocorite palm. I felt like quite the “Town Bookie” and am sure our hosts had a good laugh on our heads. After an education in growing tomatoes and pimentos, we were presented with two bags of gorgeous tomatoes and a bag of the largest pimentos I had ever seen.
We were then on our way to the Triveni Mandir which sits on the cusp of three neighbouring villages, Sister’s Road, St. Julien and Dyers Village, much like where the Ganges, the Jamuna and the Saraswati rivers all meet, also called “Triveni,” meaning “three.” Again, we exited our cars and explored the majesty of this temple, walking around and taking pictures, tourists in our own country!
It was then off to the Piparo mud volcanos, but not before stopping at what we thought was a dilapidated temple. We soon learned that it was once Dole Chadee’s home. It was overgrown and mildewed, with the barbed-wire remnants of the failed effort to convert it to a drug rehabilitation centre. I stood in awe at how this executed drug lord had surrounded himself with carvings of Gods, and built himself a temple as if he thought himself a God. What irony.
I was pulled out of the daydream by friends who had just joined me in the frame of the window. It was time to go. The kids were tired from the hectic day, and so were we. It was a fantastic break from the rat race of “Town,” both mentally and physically. Trinbago offers a wealth of historical, cultural and social opportunities to be physically active. One just needs to find them. This “Town Bookie” has been educated!
Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Total Rehabilitation Centre in San Juan.