Tobago – Scarborough

You meet all types of people when on a cruise ship, the Magellan is by no means the largest ship plying its trade on the world’s seas but it still has its fair share share of oddities.

It is no surprise that any establishment that provides wall to wall food and drink, 24 hours a day will naturally attract those of a larger girth, but the opposite also applies; there are those that are more parsimonious in their eating habits and tend to inhabit the sunbeds and/or gym in their quest for their version of the body beautiful. The oddity lies in those that take either regimes to extreme, we now have a few individuals on board that closely resemble Tutankhamun’s corpse, the colour of burnt toast and skin the texture of a wrinkled leather handbag.

Then there are those that clearly have more money than sense and don’t read the onboard literature, listen to the announcements or have done any research in preparation for their cruise. In conversations with fellow passengers we have been asked: Where does the ship get its electricity from? Did it rain last night, because the sea seems much higher today? Has the captain turned the ship around because our cabin is now on the other side? (Whilst standing in the prison on Devil’s Island) One couple asked, “We heard there is a prison here, where is it?”. Whilst going down alone in the ship’s lift, it stopped at one of the floors and a lady asked as she stepped in, whether this was going down? (the lifts on board only stop at a floor if they are going in the direction you have pressed the button).  Amusingly I quipped, “No, this one goes sideways.” She stepped out.

We listened with incredulity to the tale of one passenger (there are plenty of other similar stories) who was mugged by two thieves  whilst in port wearing a gold chain. Despite endless warnings in the ship’s daily magazine,  the port and tour presentations, over the Tannoy system and by the crew as you disembark reminding you not to wear jewellery or openly carry anything of value off ship when in particular ports. His wife gave the excuse that he never takes his chain off and has worn it for years. Really? Well he won’t be from now on. Also, there is plenty of advice/warning to those (there are many) who are unable to  walk down steps unaided or step safely onto a tender boat. They should consider carefully whether they are able to get ashore at the ports where we are at anchor. They are advised to watch the disembarkation process from the decks above and gauge if they are capable of disembarking. Delays caused by crew having to lift/manhandle passengers in and out of tenders are common and some have fallen, injuring themselves, the latest occasion involved a broken hip, hospitalisation on shore and then a flight home. No one to blame but themselves, but no doubt they will try.

However, to date the most stupid example of passenger behaviour was a fight that broke out over a discussion on Brexit, appropriately (I suppose) on the day the UK officially left the EU. I can understand to some extent the frustration that both parties have felt over the last three years, but not to move on with your life is just plain belligerence and to jeopardise your ejection off an expensive cruise and to have to fund your own way home, is a demonstration of crasse idiocy. As is the passenger who was caught stealing (on CCTV) from the ship’s shop in Manaus and is now somewhere between there and Holland, with his wife.

It took a sea day to get the small island of Tobago in the Caribbean. For once we didn’t have to tender ashore and moored alongside the single dock in the capital Scarborough, during breakfast. Sue and I watched the procedure from on high at the stern. The Magellan slowly approached the concrete finger of a jetty before rotating 360 degrees and gently backing in alongside, as perfect an example of parallel parking as you could get.

The ship was due to disembark passengers at 8am, but there was a delay with clearing the ship’s paperwork by the port authorities, the first didn’t leave until 9am and we were among them. There was a large number of trips heading off on many differing adventures today, but we were not joining them. We had decided to explore Scarborough on our own and had worked out a route plan that would take in the sights.

Passing our fellow mariners queueing to board their various buses we left the port and headed along Main Street, upwards to the 18th century fortification, Fort King George  that dominated the city’s skyline. It had been refreshingly cool on the deck of the Magellan as we watched her moor, but now on land it was terrifically hot and humid, with oven-like heat being reflected off the uneven concrete sidewalks. We had chosen the fort as our first visit so that we would be climbing during the cool of the morning, but the delay had put paid to that and we suffered for it. Annoyingly we were easily passed on our increasingly slow climb upwards by two fellow passengers. Talking to them later we learnt that they were from Cairns in Australia and these hot and humid conditions were normal for them, pride had been spared!

Columbus discovered the island in 1498, but since then its rule has changed thirty one times between the Spanish, Dutch, French and British. The island was eventually ceded to Britain in 1814, before being annexed to. Trinidad in 1889. The fort was originally built by the French then strengthened by the British.

Much remains of the fortifications and many of the buildings are still functional, two being turned into museums, an art gallery, information office and the rest as they originally were. There are a few obligatory souvenir stalls that vend tasteful local arts and craftwork. The grounds are well maintained and very pretty, with lush and colourful exotic plants and trees. However, as you would expect from any fortification, the site commands wonderful views over the port, city and sea. Sue and I sat under the shade of large tree covered in bright scarlet blossom admiring the vista with two small hens chirping inquisitively by our feet, getting excited every time we delved into our rucksacks for water, hoping to see a sandwich or biscuit being extracted. I apologised several times that we had nothing to share, but they kept hoping. India has its  untouchable cows which can be seen roaming absolutely everywhere, Tobago has hens (more convenient and leave much smaller piles).

Having cooled ourselves in the breeze blowing upwards off the sea we headed back down into the city, stopping briefly at a supermarket to buy ice cold drinks. We had planned next to visit the market place but instead we returned to the ship for more iced drinks and lunch.

We ventured out again around 1pm, first to wander the market streets and then to visit the Botanical Garden. We had a good meander through the garden, scampering from shady tree to shady tree, stopping regularly to sit on shaded benches. There were few other people around but as we were leaving, parties of smartly dressed school children began to appear, probably on their way home. The garden is pretty, though doesn’t seem to contain a great variety of species, it is well used by the locals and is worth a visit as a respite from hot concreted streets, or just to have a little glimpse into the lives of the islanders in relaxation mode. We christened the largest tree there as the ‘Urine Tree’ as we bore witness to its use on several occasions. It seemed to be growing well on its frequent watering.

Passing through the market streets again we headed along the coastal road to the city beach. I expected to be greeted by hordes of locals and cruisers, but except for a couple of the latter it was empty. We amused ourselves walking along the tide line looking for shells or anything of interest, but we found nothing but a cool breeze and a wonderful view of the ship with a backdrop of Fort King George. There was a small pavilion quite close by which seemed to be THE place where the older children sat with book and pencil in hand and did their schoolwork,  so sweet to see.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

One lasting memory of Tobago is the friendliness of the people, they seem to wear a permanent smile and love to engage you in conversation, often ending in a burst of laughter. They live in a lovely part of our planet and I think that they appreciate that. We have only had a very brief visit but I like the place, the people and its atmosphere. I wouldn’t mind returning one day.

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