We never really saw the rest of Trinidad because we only stayed in Grand Riviere, so during our second day in Tobago, I convinced the Dr. to rent a car from The Naturalist and drive us around to check some points of interest on the map. It was our fifth day in the country and our time there was coming to a close and yet, we still haven’t had a decent cup of hot coffee. We signed all the rental paperwork by 8:30am (You told me it was 10am!), and as soon as he got the small Nissan up the hill from Castara Bay, we were on Northside Road to the next beach over, Englishman Bay.
The long stretch of sand appeared untouched yet smooth, and not because of the time of day, but because the entire area remains undeveloped. Not even the familiar purple and poisonous balloon-looking Portuguese Man O’ Wars were scattered on the beach. There was one restaurant but it was just opening up, so the lady could only offer us black coffee. It was still among the worst coffee I had in the country, but I needed the quick boost of caffeine which prepared me for the windy roads of Tobago.
As the Dr. maneuvered the wheel from turn to turn, I cringed at every other speeding car or truck that met us head-on. I was on my toes the entire time and my shoulders hurt from flinching. I can’t imagine paying attention to driving when your surrounding is a constant yet welcomed distraction. From the side of the road, I liked how below us was a grass-covered hill that rolled all the way down to the beach. Everything around was a rich green. And even though the sun couldn’t decide whether to come out or not, the tropical breeze was enough to keep us content.
It was finally time to eat something by the time we entered the town of Speyside. We parked our car across the large playing field where we were both welcomed and harassed by the local Rastas into giving them some change. I walked over to the bakery to buy something to eat for both of us and was quite disappointed that it was actually an abandoned storefront. The lady waiting for the public bus asked me what I was looking for. Roti, I said. I haven’t had roti since we arrived and I really want to try them. And in that heavily-accented Creole English, she told me to go over to the bright yellow house across the way and buy them from there.
I gathered the one member of my troop, went inside the yellow house and asked the big black momma inside for a roti. She said a lot that was undecipherable to me, but I ended up ordering two large rotis to eat right on the bench outside. I just know that there was a short lecture about how a small girl like me won’t be able to finish a large-sized roti.
All the signs we saw advertised “hot, tasty roti”, much like how Mexico City had their “rico tacos” on every street corner. Roti, the country’s unofficial national dish, is essentially a stretchy “skin” used to wrap curried meat and vegetables. In our case, we had the buss-up-shut, which is a thin cloth-like skin that was wrapped like a burrito. We tore the skin to scoop up the chicken, chickpeas (channa) and potatoes (aloo) inside. And hot and tasty they were. I returned to the store to proudly let the lady know that I finished the large roti. She showed her appreciation by giving us some water to wash the yellow curry off our fingers before we set off to the other side of the island. Our first ever Trinbagonian roti was enough to make up for the awful coffee.