You think you’ll be here two weeks, you think you’ll have plenty of time to explore, but early on you realize you have to be on the boat to meet, wrangle, cajole and supervise contractors. If you’re not there, work doesn’t happen. And even if you are, workers drift off after a few hours and you have to chase them down and get them back on track. As we finally got within sight of the finish line and saw our time in Trinidad coming to an end we joined another Jesse James tour that purportedly drove around a large part of the island. That it also included tasting Trini’s wide variety of foods added to the appeal.
We started at 9am with my new favorite breakfast, doubles, the spicy chick pea concoction on two small chapati-like breads, and went on from there. By noon I didn’t want to eat another thing but the places we went made a pretty big dent on our tour-time disappointment.
Since this was a food tour we mostly stopped at roadside stands but as we ventured further from the crowded capital of Port of Spain we saw more and more of the beautiful topography of Trinidad, the forested mountains, the farming and dairy lands of the central plains, the more remote southern mountains, and the pounding surf of the eastern and southern seashores silted with the runoff from the Orinoco River not too far away.
We stopped for lunch at a park on the beach where we found a dozen Hindu families picnicking and making offerings to the Goddess of the Sea. I asked a woman if I could take a few photos and she invited me to their makeshift shrine on a blanket where a holy man was tying bits of yarn around their wrists and saying prayers.
“I have shoes on,” I said, holding back because they were all barefoot. “It’s ok,” she said and she took my arm and led me onto the blanket. She told me her name is Joyce and asked where I’m from.
“I’ve been to America many times,” she told me, then asked if I would take her picture “with the baba.”
Joyce invited me to stay and share their food but my group was already making its way down the beach to a free picnic table and I reluctantly left this idyllic spot and these welcoming people. Joyce hugged me and kissed me as I left. I’ve rarely felt such warmth from total strangers before.
As darkness fell we continued to stop along the road for whatever was still on offer this late in the day, like these homemade hot sauces.
With less to look at in the dark, Jesse turned his attention to boosting his numbers by piling on more tastes of Trini, most of which seemed to duplicate things we ate earlier. I wished the emphasis had been a little less on quantity and a little more on variety and distinct cuisines. Nonetheless, the encounter with the Hindu family on the beach will stay with me for a long time.