Highlights of Tobago

If you can brave the roads and the other drivers, then Tobago is quite a nice place to drive around.   There isn't too much traffic, especially at the north end of the island, and the roads are mostly sealed, which is more than can be said for many places in this part of the world.   Of course, some of the road works leave a little to be desired...

road barrier made of branches

...but at least you know that in places where it really matters, like this 60 foot ravine, there will be solid barriers, made of the best bamboo that money can buy - or that the workmen can cut out of the surrounding forest!

bamboo road barrier
derelict church

The reward for your labours will be quietly pleasant sights, like this old church on the main west coast road.

I was sort of hoping that there would be bats in the belfry, but I was disappointed.

I wasn't the only person who thought that the church was photogenic; just after I arrived a couple stopped and started snapping a series of photographs.

A ten or twelve year old boy came along shortly afterwards and brazenly asked me for money.   I told him I didn't have any, so he went and repeated his request to the other people.   I suppose enough tourists stop here to make this sort of activity worthwhile!

derelict church bell tower
Main Ridge sign

As this sign says, the Tobago Forest Preserve, which stretches about half the length of the island along the main mountain ridge, has been around a long time, so there is some good old growth forest here.

Driving into the preserve from the south, guides are available at some of the trailheads, and you can hire rubber boots and buy cake from them - I even had one of the small boys wash my filthy rental car for me so I wouldn't have to!   The guide I hired was very good, she seemed to know all the names of the birds, and she told me some of the history of the area.

This is the view at the top of the road through the preserve looking, I think, north-west.   There's another trail starting here, but since it was getting late I didn't go down.   However, I did get some nice photos of leaf-cutter ants here, walking on the trail they'd made through the short grass, as well as photos in the fading light of some rufous-tailed jacamars and a blue-crowned motmot.

view from the top of Main Ridge

A guide I picked up in Speyside took me up to the Hillsborough Dam, which is where I saw a whole family of rufous tailed jacamars sitting around.   The dam is also a good place to see anhingas and caimans, the local version of the crocodile.   When I arrived there was a dead caiman floating belly up, which doesn't seem very appropriate in a reservoir for drinking water!

Hillsborough dam

There are a couple of waterfalls which you might also want to visit.   The waterfall in this photograph is the Argyle Waterfall.   It's not obvious, but at the time I took this shot it was pouring down with rain!

Argyle waterfall
Rainbow Waterfall

This is the Rainbow Waterfall, a little south of the Argyle Waterfall and, for my money, a little more attractive.

my bogus guide jumping off Rainbow Waterfall

The guy jumping from the waterfall is the "tour guide" who approached me when I stopped by the side of the road to read my map.   The tour turned out to be more of an adventure than I expected!

He told me he was an official guide and asked me if I wanted to go up to the waterfall, so I said "yes" and off we went up a dirt road, until we came to the river.   He then suggested that I let him drive up the riverbed, so I gave him the keys and up we went.   When we got to a rocky section of the riverbed, we parked on the bank and started walking up the track to the waterfall, about a kilometer.

As we walked I asked him about some of the birds I was seeing and it became pretty obvious even to uneducated me that he didn't know much about them.   We got to the waterfall and he swam over, climbed up the rock face and jumped into the pool.   I then swam over and stood on a rock ledge just above water next to the waterfall, while he took my photo.   When I got home I found out he wasn't much of a photographer, either - it was very blurred.

We started back downstream.   He heard a motor and said, "that might be the police".   I had no idea why he would say that, but I didn't think anything more of it.   I then stopped for a while to take some photos of a bird flitting around on the riverbank.   When I looked around, Mr Guide was about 200 meters down river, and that's when it hit me that he still had the car keys, and he knew there were a couple of hundred dollars sitting in the glovebox!

I started walking quickly down the riverbed and caught up with him at the car.   We got in and he started driving down the riverbed, fast.   He then handed something over to me and without even looking I took it - a marijuana joint.   At precisely that moment a four-wheel drive going even faster than us passed and then pulled right in front of us.   We stopped and out of the Land Rover jumped four guys, three of them holding automatic rifles!

Turns out they were police, so I quietly spirited the joint away!   My companion was in rather more trouble, because unknown to me it's illegal in Tobago to act as a guide unless you're licensed.   Off he went with the police, and I was let off to go on my merry way, at which point I found that the money was still where I left it.

In retrospect, I did almost everything wrong, but "all's well that ends well"!