Toco Here We Come

When your friend randomly suggests a drive to Toco, what else can you say other than an emphatic YES! I’ve not been to Toco since I was a child, so I was eager to explore. I have one memory of being in Toco with my father carrying me out passed the deep waters to a shallow area. Also remember a river flowing into the sea. 

Every time I mention to people that I’ll be going home to Trinidad, the assumption is that I’ll be on the beach a lot. That couldn’t be any further from my reality. My mom lives at least 20 minutes from the nearest beach in Chaguaramas, and it’s not the white, sandy, beach resort type place I’m sure is being visualized in people’s minds. The next two nearest beaches (Maracas and Las Cuevas) which are more in the image of what people expect, though still not resort-like are at least an hour drive on winding roads through the mountains of the North Coast.

We started out later than expected and cloudy skies while going up the highway were a bit concerning, but alas, clear blue skies awaited us. The drive to the most North East end of the island where Toco is located took more than 2 hours. If you are prone to motion sickness, be prepared to have your stomach be very unsettled for at least an hour of that drive. My mom, though she didn’t complain at the time, didn’t enjoy the winding roads as we headed towards Toco. Thankfully, my stomach co-operates and I’m not known for getting car sick.

Our first stop before reaching Toco was a pull over on the side of the road where we walked onto a beach. The rough waters and crashing waves were definitely not welcoming us to dare set a foot passed the sand. I captured a few images and off we went again. 

Sarah, our pilot for the day, has family who lives in a village on the way to Toco. We stopped by for her to get homemade honey. This was my 1st time seeing and eating honey from a honeycomb – Yummy. I made sure to get myself a bottle as well. While there her aunt mentioned there were lots of ripe fruit available to be picked, including my favorite pommecythere. Stick in hand we proceeded to knock the fruits out of the trees. Our haul included mangos, limes, pommecythere, sour oranges (used to make juice), green figs, paw paw (papaya) and cassava. Nothing tastes better than freshly picked fruits and vegetables. 

With the car trunk stuffed and legs stretched – off we went towards the end of the island. More winding roads with questionable two lane traffic capability awaited us. We drove pass the official Toco beach facility and made our way to the Toco lighthouse, which I don’t remember ever visiting before. Luckily it was open and I was able to walk to the top and enjoy the view. The steps started out like regular spiral steps against the inside of the lighthouse at the first of the three levels and then narrowed as I ascended. By the time I got to the top level of the staircase, the depth of the steps were maybe six inches, and I’m probably being generous. At the top platform the head room was less than four feet so it was down on all fours as I approached the no more than 3′ x 3′ door to exit onto the balcony. The balcony, which was not more than 3′ wide, afforded me a 360 degree view which was nothing short of amazing. The high winds whipped about as the waves crashed on the rockes below. The setting sun made a great backdrop to the undulating mountains of the Northern Range. It was more than worth the precarious steps up and down. . 

The area by the lighthouse is definitely not an area for swimming. This area is in an unusual location as one side gets water from the Atlantic which is pretty rough, while the other side has the calmer waters of the Caribbean Sea. The official Toco beach facility is on the Caribbean Sea side. Sitting on the rocks which are at least 20 to 30 feet above the water still garners a splash when the waves hit. It was such a clear day that I could see the mountains of Tobago in the distance. The sound of the waves crashing along with the strong breezes made me long for a hammock, the shade of a tree and a good book. As we made our way through the winding roads in the Toco area, we stopped off at a local shop for some homemade ice cream – wooden pail and all. I enjoyed every lick of my creamy coconut ice cream on a crispy cone.

This is definitely a trip I’d make again as well as other parts of Trinidad and Tobago yet to be seen by me. To top it off, on the return trip the dark skies afforded me the magnificent views of the stars and planets in the sky, most notably the alignment of Mars, the moon and Venus in the sky.

Giselle Pemberton Photography

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