After spending time in Trinidad holed up in my glorious hotel and scoffing Roti, I figured that I really ought to get out and about on Sunday and check out a little of the scenery.
My original plan was to head to Trinidad’s sister island, Tobago, for the day, but I didn’t count on it being school holidays and all the flights and ferry trips being full up. Well, it turned out that, after I pushed through the crush of people at the ferry terminal early that morning, and finally reached the front of the line, I could get onto a ferry to Tobago, but there were no seats on the return journey. Oddly, you can buy tickets to Tobago at the Port of Spain ferry terminal, but they don’t actually sell tickets for to get back.
I pondered renting a car and driving down to the natural ashphalt lake in the south of Trinidad but, as cool as a lake of oozing grey stuff would be, on the map it seemed a little far to go.
Instead, as a substitute for the Tobagonian beaches, mid-morning, I broke clear of the Hyatt and jumped into a cab. The fare to Maracas Beach, a 45 minute drive, was US$100 return, plus US$12 waiting time. I figured: why not?
Trinidad doesn’t really operate on a system that allows you to easily hail down a taxi on the street. Rather, the nicest taxis service hotels, and you need to have some kind of pre-arrangement with the driver if you would like to get back from somewhere, or else ask someone to call a cab for you. Otherwise, you do run the risk of getting picked up by an “unnofficial” taxi, and not knowing what you’ll end up with. Given Port of Spain’s reputation for crime, with a specialisation in kidnappings (Trinidad was recently ranked no 2 in the world for kidnappings, just behind Colombia), I thought I’d play it safe. Luckily, I’ve found a couple of cabbies that I like and grabbed their cards so I can make sure they look after me when I’m in Port of Spain.
On our way up the mountain to Maracas Bay, the cab driver stopped at a lookout where all sorts of yummy snacks were on offer – everything from fresh sugar cane to pineapple marinated in Coriander, salt and lemon juice, to fudge! (On the way back, I picked up a few goodies; after all, why miss out?)
The journey was just lovely, and were were there in no time. The beach itself is located in a bay, a stunning, fine sand number, with perfect cool clear water, and hills soaring up on three sides around it. Being Sunday, the place was packed, with families enjoying the wonderful surrounds.
In addition to being famous for its beauty, Maracas Beach is well-known for its food staple: Bake and Shark. Yes, folks, shark. The most famous place of all, with a line bending around the corner to prove it, is Richard’s Bake and Shark, which has apparenly featured on TV. For the princely sum of TT$30 (just under US$5) you can nab yourself a generous serving of this particular dish. Several pieces of fish, deep fried in a seasoned flour, and served in a bread roll that seems – well – fried too.
The procedure is that you buy your basic bake and shark, and then line up around a buffet of condiments and salad ingredients. The trick, of course, is that you don’t necessarily know what some of the sauces are and, although the tomato sauce was instantly recognisable, I helped myself instead to a generous serve of green hot sauce (ooops).
As you pile on your ingredients, you reach the end and a man kindly wraps up your overflowing bun into either a take away box, or some greaseproof paper. The protocol seemed to be to leave a tip of TT$1 ($US0.20) so in mine went.
I took my prize onto the beach, where I perched on a tree stump and tucked right in. All I can say is: MMMmmmmmmmmmm! The fish was juicy, and the seasoning tasty, and even my over-zealous hot sauce addition turned out pretty well.
Naturally, I finished off with a loooong swim in the crystal clear waters, admiring the gorgeous view. Apparently, on weekdays, the beach is practically deserted: I pondered how amazing it would be to swim there all alone, those stunning green hills skidding upwards all around you.