National Geographic : 1953 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine huts squat on the valley floor, and an occa sional dwelling clings precariously to the ver tical mountainside. The beach at Maracas Bay is as yet un touched by commercialism, even though its access from Port of Spain is by the famed "skyline highway," or North Coast Road. American Seabees built the road during World War II in compensation for the fact that the American leased areas included some of the Colony's finest beaches (page 62). Tall palms line the beach from the high water mark, and their stems provide make shift cricket bats for week-enders from Port of Spain. The balls for these impromptu beach games are "sea coconuts" from the mo riche palm which drift over from Venezuela. In another valley, Santa Cruz, I encoun tered the island's third most important indus try, the culture of "cocoa" (page 71). After a period of decline between wars, the cocoa in dustry was revitalized by high postwar prices and is now prospering. An important Trini dad institution, the Imperial College of Tropi cal Agriculture at St. Augustine, has as one of its many activities the development of new and improved types of cacao trees. Other projects carried on by the college have paid dividends all over the Tropics. Fishing Fleet at Work At Sans Souci I watched native fishermen loading 18-foot boats in preparation for a day's work. About 40 boats, each privately owned, operate as a fleet. I was told a good day's catch might be around 7,000 pounds for all boats. Kingfish up to 15 or 20 pounds are caught on lines of copper wire. Sardines are used for bait. Why Worry, Trust in God, and Tokyo Rose were among the boat names. At Toco, near the northeast tip of Trinidad, I stayed overnight in a guest house. Outside, small night frogs struck up a whistling anvil chorus, a few hitting notes worthy of a fledg ling flutist. So-there are whistling frogs! Many of the valleys in the north coast range of mountains are sparsely inhabited. When I reached Arima, a town of 9,000, I felt I had arrived at an urban center. Formerly a popu lous aboriginal Indian settlement, it is now the Colony's third town. Traces of the Caribs are hard to find, but their legends figure promi nently in the Santa Rosa fete held here an nually at the end of August. Driving through the dense tropical forest near Sangre Grande, I passed trucks and bul lock carts carrying bags of charcoal made from various trees. North of Sangre Grande I also noticed Hevea rubber trees. Emerging onto the east coast near Cocos Bay, I was welcomed by a signpost in the sand indicating that at low tide the beach itself is to be used as the main thoroughfare. I was delighted to speed along at 55 miles per hour. A self-service barge hauled my car across the small stream at Nariva Ferry, superseded last year by a bridge. Mangrove trees cling to the banks of this stream, and I stooped to pick a few oysters growing on branches which dropped into the water. Mayaro Bay, like Cocos Bay, is enclosed by a broad ribbon of sand, some 12 miles long, with coconut palms indicating high-water mark. At Rio Claro I wandered about the streets admiring open-air displays of merchan dise ranging from bolts of cloth to hairpins and Coca-Cola. Government Cultivates Teak Moving on through the Central Range to ward Tabaquite, I stopped to look over the Government's teak-planting project. Several thousand acres of bush were being cleared and will be planted to insure a future supply of valuable wood for the Colony. I was told that from mid-January to mid-March great stands of bois immortelle, a tall shade tree, are ablaze with orange-red blooms along this road. At a Hindu temple near Las Lomas I en joyed an unusual visit with the priest Doon Pundit, awarded the Member of the British Empire decoration in 1949 for his outstand ing social services to East Indians of Trini dad (page 67). Immediately after our intro duction, he asked how old I was and whether I was married. Not to be outdone, I asked a few questions of my own. I wound up learning, among other things, how a Hindu wraps his turban. Doon Pundit conducted me through the Pullman-sized temple, explaining that the fig ures painted on the white walls were various gods and their wives. Outside the temple red, yellow, and white flags, representing Hindu saints, fluttered at the ends of 40-foot poles. Later tea was served, and I found my thoughts preoccupied with this alien race arbitrarily cast up on a Caribbean shore. Rice Grows on 20,000 Acres One day I took the American-built Church ill-Roosevelt Highway southeast from the outskirts of Port of Spain, then the Caroni Sa vannah Road south to San Fernando. The great sweeping plain here forms the heart of Trinidad's agricultural empire. In wide fields of water on either side of the road, East Indians waded knee-deep in rice fields. Some 20,000 acres are utilized for rice growing. Bullocks are most frequently used in cultivation, but I also saw burros pulling drags about the paddies (pages 46, 47).