Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tobago: the final one

Tuesday. My last day here. I’m tracking weather patterns back home. As long as there are no storm systems, I wont complain. I live in Madison. In the winter, my town is cold. I tell this to Alex, who basically earns a living taking people out on the warm waters of the Caribbean. How cold? I answer in both Centigrade and Fahrenheit. He shudders. You live like that?

Yes. I have always lived like that. This is the warmest winter week I have ever had in my entire life.

I have thus far avoided the southern tip of Tobago. It’s the tourist center: most of the hotels and eateries are grouped there. But I’m thinking I should at least see it. The reefs are here. And the white sand beaches. Quintessentially Caribbean, no?

My last walk from Bacolet to Scarborough. Sob.

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Tomorrow I’ll be doing mind games to feel warm.

I take the bus to Pigeon Point (at the southern tip of the island) and head toward the water. The strip of sand is almost empty. One child, bathing, as her mother sells hand crafts on the road.

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Up the beach, I come across a man cleaning fish. Such colors! Do we eat these?? They seem like something out of an aquarium at the dentist’s office.

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Still further, I see the boats. Birds are limin’ there now, but these are the boats of fishermen.

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Indeed, I see that the catch is being cleaned and bartered just off the beach. Red snapper, grouper… Big grouper! Huge grouper!
You want the grouper?
That’s a grouper for twenty.
We can grill it right here! Have some wine with it… He’s playing to my foreigness. Who the hell drinks wine here? It’s rum and beer country.
Next time. With beer.

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Did I say next time? I often read guest book comments in inns and b&bs and there is always the (empty?) promise of a next time. We will come again! How many do come again? Will I come again? Which is better – to go back, or to try something new?

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I find Alex on the beach, next to a handful of boats. Can someone take me to Nylon Pool? – I ask.

It’s an offshore spot. An underwater sandbank creates an unusually shallow area of water. The sea here is so clear that Princess Margaret claimed it’s as sheer as her nylons. The name stuck, but it’s a curious choice. I don’t think anyone wears nylons in these parts (lucky them). What for?

Alex tells me that the fastest and best way to get there is by ski jet. Will it disturb the reef? I know little about underwater life, but this is one of the top spots anywhere for reefs and I know that they have been damaged by people poking around.
No, we’ll fly over the surface of the water. But, can you go out like this? – he’s looking dubiously at my sundress.
Sure. I don’t mind getting wet.

He hides my camera to keep it dry and I climb up behind him.

We take off. Man, it is a thrilling ride!
Hold on! – Alex shouts. The wind is strong!

In ten minutes we are there. I jump down. My dress billows out in the water in significantly unfashionable ways. I can't be bothered by any of that. I am in turquoise heaven.

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Alex urges me to find more shallow spots, but I am too content. I am lapped by gentle waves of a warm and salty sea.

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And then we race back. I’m in a hurry now. There is a small wedding back at the Bacolet Beach Club. I don’t want to be late.

Except that I lost my bus ticket. The bus is insanely unpredictable, but I saw it a minute ago rounding the bend. I poke into the nearest shop.
Do you sell any bus tickets?
I don’t sell them, but you can have some of mine.
Thank you, thank you. I toss the money and run to catch the departing bus.

Last walk from Scarborough to Bacolet. I pass an old woman sitting on a stone ledge.
G’d afternoon! Saw you walkin’ by early! That would have been more than four hours ago! Has she been up and elsewhere since then?
And always the friendly advice: pull down your dress a bit. Where your bag is.

She’s right. The dress is almost dry, but it rides up a few inches where the back pack hangs down. I grin and do as I am told. She nods, satisfied. I can be sent out into the world again.

The wedding. An American pair with their two year old, the bride's mom and step dad. That’s it. (I’m there taking photos for them.) They want to exchange vows on the beach. Of course, these full moon days, there is very little beach. The priest person looks skeptical. His shoes are spiffy and undamaged. He finds a ledge to stand on.

The words of the priest person are terribly predictable but the sea holds back on the big waves. The sun dips down and the little boy throws fallen almonds at the waves. By the time it’s over, I feel a spray of misty wetness on my face and it’s not from the Caribbean or the Atlantic.

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In the evening, I eat at the Beach Club. I order a rum mojito and fish soup.

At five the next morning, Beardy drives me to the airport.

Hello, Wisconsin.

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