Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Find yourself a scottage on the sea

The first time we visited Charlotteville was in 1990. The curfew after the July coup had been lifted, and we made plans to travel to this remote end of Tobago as if it were a foreign country. The thing is I had recommended Man-o-War Bay to some European friends but had never stayed there. And a few weeks before they were due to arrive, I had a moment of panic: I've never been to that place and I recommended it...! So we booked a week's stay to overlap with their arrival.

Landing in Tobago is like nowhere else: the first breath invigorates you.

We had managed previous vacations with two small children, visiting friends and family in faraway countries, where everything was taken care of in somebody's home. This was the first time that we would go to a place that none of us knew. We sent the car on the ferry where it was collected by a friend who met us at the airport. Our two month old Lab puppy was still small enough to fit in a pet box, and travelled in the hold of the plane.
Don't worry, we nearly there!
The best behaved pup became a seasoned traveller!
The journey from Crown Point to Charlotteville was slow and suspenseful. We enjoyed the windward sweep of Tobago, long beaches with crashing waves, marvelling at the villages with names like Belle Garden, Delaford, Glamorgan, Pembroke. We stopped in King's Bay and Speyside and the afternoon slipped by. We mounted the hill and rounded the last bend before the descent into Charlotteville just as night was falling, and arrived at the "scottage"in the dark. (With no idea of the place except that we had booked a cottage by the sea, the kids had coined their own word - sea cottage, scottage.)

Two tiny bedrooms, a kitchen that was open to a living area that stepped onto a porch surrounded by sand seemed sufficient to our adventure. We could hear the sea but it was night and pitch black, so we ventured no further, playing cards until bedtime

Daylight seeped through the louvred windows, and we woke up in another world. One with sunlight shifting through the leaves of tall shady trees and the sea lapping at the shore not ten yards away. At the other end of the bowl of the bay, a line of low buildings signifying fish market and shops completed the curve of land curling around green sea. It was one of the most amazing "arrivals" in a strange place that I had ever experienced; the not knowing made more magical by the delight of the children and a small playful pup!

Look ma! No hands!

Between the house and the sea!

Man-o-War: a big deepwater bay where cruise ships would anchor sometimes

Far from a lazy seaside stay, the week was one of exploration and discovery: down the 200 step staircase to Pirate's Bay; out of breath to Fort Campbleton; seeing forever off north Tobago; the call of the conch for fresh wahoo; staring through the glassbottom boat into deep reefs off Speyside - ah, there's the biggest brain coral! Getting wet to go ashore for a hot and sweaty hike across Little Tobago to see the red-billed tropicbird, frigatebirds, boobies, gulls and pelicans, a racket of wings wheeling and diving and screaming as we leaned into the wind to see their nests.

Re-energize, find your wild heart again

Sea air opened appetites for simple food cooked in the basic kitchen. There was time for bread to rise between the sea bath and lunch. Fried bake and "rat cheese" made an excellent breakfast. You took your own basin or pan to collect fresh fish, and you bought whatever the boat had just brought in. Late afternoon - limbs too languid to move and wondering about dinner - was the time for coconut ice cream bought from the vendor with the churn - an easily acquired habit.

After a week, we were all more relaxed, more energetic, barefoot and brown, changed into our wild selves. Even the dog seemed to fit a little more snugly in the pet carrier. Tobago was no longer just the Crown Point end of the island. And any vacation would forever require this mystery of newness, bigness to open minds, to fall in love and rekindle intimacy again, and time to sleep deeply, to savour air and food and being - whether in a different country or our own islands.

On top of Tobago, on top of the world!

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