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Trip Report Trinidad & Tobago in 4 Days--Days 3 & 4

Okay, picking up from my last thread: http://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/trinidad-tobago-in-4-days-days-1-2.cfm
Day 3: This was more like a 36-hour day, with some parts too short and some too long. Breakfast was at the Hyatt---again I went with the buffet---with the GM, who told us a few anecdotes about what he's learned since the opening of the property. One funny story was that in preparation for J'ouvert (pronounced "Jovay"), he learned it's best to supply the hotel guests with plenty of towels and outdoor showers/rinsing stations before they enter the lobby. That's because J'ouvert is one of the most racuous party nights of Carnival, where revelers proceed to throw a bacchnalian pre-parade parade (it starts around 2 am the morning of the daytime Carnival parades). Before their day of marching in full-costume the partiers in this procession outfit themselves in anything from mud to axle grease, to chocolate, to multicolored paints---writhing, bumping, jumping, and dancing the dawn away. As you might imagine, returning hotel guests were in no shape to stand on ceremony and proceeded to plop on couches, chairs, even the floor after their debauched night! The entire lobby of the Hyatt' looked like a Jackson Pollock canvas.
From breakfast we started our north coast tour. First was a drive up the slopes of Mt. Saut D' Eau. This was one of the activities suggested by forum member superjuliemango and Facebook user Kerwin M., and it was certainly a highlight. Mt. Saut D' Eau was where freed colored folks established a community in the 19th century, and today it's a beautiful community of estates, farmers, and local working class residents. It's also one of the most vertiginous drives I've ever been on (Lombard street aint got nothing on the twisting, switchback roads that climb this mountain!). You need an experienced driver to handle these steep, one-lane, two-way traffic roads riddled with potholes, and blindsides. It's also what climbers refer to as high-exposure, meaning that there are thrilling views straight down the mountain (or terrifying glimpses into the abyss if you're afraid of heights, as two members of our group were). I enjoyed the ascent, but we took one of the longer routes to the top, and it ate up a large portion of our schedule, which compressed some later activities (which I'll get to later) where I would have liked to have spent more time. Again, as far as payoffs (re: Caroni Bird Sanctuary in previous post), the views at the top were well worth it. Verdant mountain slopes give way to deep blue sea, with a coastline dotted by tiny islands. It was 360 degrees of Caribbean blues and greens, and it was spectacular. We toasted our ascent (more Angostura), and then headed down the mountain on much more civilized, wider roads to Maracas Beach.
It's here that I truly wish we had had more time. We still had an Angostura distillery tour and a flight to Tobago to make, so we could only spend about an hour on this lovely strand of beautiful beach. And, as many of you might know, that's not even enough time to properly enjoy a Bake and Shark, let alone the fabulous beach. But we did manage to wolf down delicous Bake and Sharks---a deep-fried frisson, consisting of tender shark in doughnut bread and all manor of spicy, savory condiments---at Richard's.
On to the Angostura Distillery. Angostura is the progenitor of bitters, a tonic invented by German Doctor, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, in 1824. The full recipe of the secret formula, which has become an integral ingredient in many of today's cocktails, is only known to five people. Angostura also produces rum, and a sampling (which unfortunately didn't include their premium blends, 1919 and 1824) awaited us at the end of what I felt was a mildly fascinating tour. The processes and some of the history was engaging, but there's a DVD presentation from about 1972 that I could have done without. Regardless, if you are a rum fan, this historic plant---truly a one-of-a-kind, family operation---is worth touring.
Then it was to the airport for a 15-minute flight to Tobago. We arrived in Tobago after dark, so I wasn't able to see much on the way to our accommodations. As for our accommodations---a special shout out to Fodor's Forum member qwovadis for recommending the Villas at Stonehaven. Talk about wishing we had more time! I could have spent days simply lounging around our palatial villa, with plunge pool, extensive indoor and outdoor common areas, a patio the size of a dancehall floor, and rooms with individual balconies. From nearly everywhere in these estate-size houses you have incredible views of the sea. After dinner at the nearby Sea Horse Inn (great continental/Caribbean cuisine), the guys and gals were dropped off at our separate villas. We wasted no time getting our massive mancave on! We spread out on the patio with, you guessed it, our Angostura, swam in the pool, and shared travel tales late into the night. It was great fun, and this place would be a pure delight for couples traveling together, families, or even one couple (rates are surprisingly affordable). Reluctantly we left our villa early the next morning for a boat tour of coastal Tobago. As difficult as it was to extract ourselves from Stonehaven, it was well worth it for the exploration that awaited us. We boarded a small, twin engine boat run by Waterholics (tobagowaterholics.com), and went from one secluded cove to the next, each more beautiful than the last. We pretty much went up and down the west coast of the island, stopping for exquisite snorkeling or exploring secret coves where the rainforest meets the shore. This is the tropical paradise---the Jurassic Park like exotica---that you don't get in Port of Spain, and I highly recommend you spend at least 3 days in Tobago for this experience. The boat tour, which can be choppy, so if you're prone to seasickness, take the dramamine offered by the Waterholics staff, ends on a beautiful spit of sand called No Man's Land, where a full barbecue buffet awaits you. However, the denoument is not the meal, which was pretty darn good, but the final stop at the Nylon Pool. A 5-minute boat ride offshore is a sandbar with crystal clear waters said to have magical restorative powers (salacious lore ranges from female age reduction to male enhancement properties). The water is about 4 feet deep, and regardless of the veracity of its mystical healing, it's a glorious, rejuvanating spot to swim, wade, and, once again have some more rum. The folks at Waterholics provide plenty of rum punch, and based on your desires, pump up the volume on the party music or keep it low key. It was an exhiliarating excursion.
Back to Stonehaven, where we should have rested up in preparation for our return flight to Trinidad, we again gathered on the patio and kept the party going.
Back in Trinidad Andrew Welch of Banwari Experience (www.banwari.com) took us to his favorite street-food vendors for an essential Trinidadian meal of rotis and doubles. It was arguably our best meal of the trip, and I write about it in detail in our Blogs (to be posted shortly). Back at the Hyatt, I pretty much collapsed in bed from one of the most exhilarating, inspiring, and exhausting days in recent memory.
Special thanks to all our Fodor's community members for their suggestions. I wish we could have fit them all in. Also a nod to Facebook friend Gil N., who suggested the Caroni Bird Sanctuary and the compulsory roti.
My travel companions, trip leader (Jeniffer of Cheryl Andrews), and Andrew Welch were instrumental in making this one of my favorite press trips to date. I now have an additional travel bucket-list item: Return to Trinidad for Carnival and spend at least 3 days on Tobago!

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