When Christopher Columbus set foot on these islands in 1498 they were populated by the Arawak and Carib Indians. Today, they are a cultural melting pot of descendants of settlers from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Most of the settlers were brought in after slavery was abolished to be indentured labour on sugar plantations. In 1889, Britain joined the smaller Tobago to Trinidad. The islands achieved independence from England in 1962 and became the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976. Today, the main industry in Trinidad is petroleum and natural gas. The capital, Port of Spain, looks like any modern city with high rise apartment and office buildings. We arrived in Port of Spain on a Sunday and most people were either in Church or at the Queen’s Park Savannah, where a cacophony of sound was to be heard from steel bands practicing for a competition. (Trinidad is the home of the steel pan drum.) All commercial enterprises were closed for the day except for some souvenir and handicraft stalls at the cruise ship terminal. I walked from the ship as far as the 18th century Botanical Gardens to the north of the Queen’s Park, passing by the modern Parliament Building and many old colonial buildings. On my return through the park I saw some young people playing baseball and soccer. My trip took me about 3 hours in the heat. There are no beaches within an hours drive of Port of Spain and many of the interesting sites are out of town. The next time I am here I will take a tour to some of them. The photos are of some welcoming dancers at the port and the contrasts between modern Port of Spain and its colonial past.
Scarborough, Tobago was our next port of call. Tobago is quite a pleasant contrast to its sister island. Tobago is shaped like a cigar and its name likely comes from the Carib word tavaco which is the origin of the English word tobacco. Some of the major travel magazines have called it one of the last undiscovered unspoiled islands. However, the advertising has caused an increase in tourism, which is the main industry, and a build up of hotels at least near Scarborough. I took a local tour which started at Fort King George which overlooks Scarborough harbour, and proceeded around most of the rural parts of the island, along the coasts and through the rainforest reserve. The photos are of the fort, some of the scenery, the botanical gardens and the town of Scarborough.