As I write this blog, I smell of the smoke off a barbeque pit reminding me of the delicious BBQ meal that was the finale to a fantastic day in Castara. Castara is a small fishing village on the western coast of Tobago, a small island in the southeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea. After spending a few days in Crown Point, the main tourist hub, I decided to rent a car and explore the island. I’d had a few strong rum sours the night before, and my morning started a bit later than planned. So, I decided to keep the excursion small and simple, heading up the north side past Mt. Irvine Bay to Castara. Sun shining. Windows rolled down. Reggae blaring from the radio. The scenery was beautiful, as I passed through areas of lush vegetation towards the coast, where I intermittently encountered small beautiful beaches, every one perfect for sunbathing.
Initially, the drive was quite straight-forward, although it was quite an adjustment to drive on the lefthand side of the road. However, once the road climbed up the mountainside, the winding roads became fairly confusing, leading me to unintentionally backtrack to the main highway and circle back around in my route a few times before I gave in and started asking for directions. Tobagans are insanely friendly and helpful, coming over to offer me directions any time I stopped to look at the map or any time I pulled up to ask for help, wishing me a good day as I pulled away. Within no time, I was back on track, winding around the mountainside. I felt so grateful to be able to explore on my own here, as this place has a reputation for being fairly safe (but this is not permission to get carried away, folks).
The drive was so enjoyable, and as I descended down the mountainside into the town of Castara, I knew I had found a sweet little spot. The town is quite small, but it is by no means a ghost town. It is a functional fishing village with a strong local vibe and a smattering of tourists. There are a handful of restaurants and bars, making it an easy place to unwind without a need to go far for the basics.
Castara is situated at the base of the mountains on a bay with a large beach of golden sand, a perfect place for a lazy day of sunbathing. There seemed to be a lack of beachside bars, so I grabbed a cold beer at the little corner store and took it out to the beach. Women who like beer, take note, Tobagan men raise their eyebrows with curiosity at the sight of a woman drinking a strong dark beer. “Are you sure you want that beer?” “Why yes I do. I’m hardy and like my beers with flavor.” “Hmmm…” It is quite amusing. After walking down the beach a bit away from the crowd of friendly men cleaning their cars and boats, I found a slice of golden sand overlooking a bay of turquoise water dotted with small boats.
The tree line behind me was fairly underdeveloped but was dotted with a few boats and small buildings. The beach was quiet. Looking down at one end, there were a few sunbathing tourists and some fisherman bringing their catch in for the day. At the other, there were a handful of kids playing in the water. I enjoyed the views while I polished off my beer, then I settled in for a little nap. The weather was perfect. It was warm and sunny with a few passing clouds here and there. Every now and then, a shower would pass cooling me off in the afternoon sun.
After a few hours and a few dips in the warm ocean water, I decided it was time to spare my fair skin and headed up to Cheno’s Coffee Shop, where there was a covered patio along the roadside. Here, I ordered up some coffee and coconut ice cream, and I caught up on my email with their excellent wifi!
It had begun to really rain, and I had given up hopes of seeing a decent sunset. So, I just sat and read for a bit, while they prepared for their Saturday night barbeque. With the promise of freshly caught fish on the grill, I wasn’t leaving town until I got my hands on some dinner. So, I waited patiently, treated myself to some rum punch, and watched people as they passed by going about their daily business.
The owner, Cheno, was very friendly, stopping by to talk every now and then, very curious as to why I was traveling all alone! People passing by waved and smiled. Finally, Cheno brought me over a plate heaped with grilled fish smothered in barbeque sauce, beans, rice, potato salad and fresh salad. The food was delicious, and the ambience was delightful with music playing and white linens and candlelight dressing up the otherwise casual joint. I enjoyed my meal immensely and was more than satisfied before I set out for the drive home. I was actually kind of sad to leave this friendly little town, and I wished I had left myself the flexibility to stay a few more days.
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