“Help me! Help! A medusa!” The cries for help and “medusa” interrupted my hazy soporific sunny afternoon. I looked toward the sound of the cry for help. It came from the aquamarine water where bathers had been enjoying the warm water. The cries continued in a warbling plaintive and pleading cry as the swimmers splashed furiously to get out of the water.
The young woman pulled herself up on the ladder to the boat and the angry red striations were erupting across her chest, shoulders, and neck like wildfire.
Marco, the captain, on the sound of the cries for help, had raced to the back of the boat to help the jellyfish victim. While the husband of the victim dabbed her dry, Marco sprayed a medicinal tonic on the jellyfish bites. I do not have any photos of the bites as I was not taking photos of the victim. But the bites looked like long strings or red mosquito or wasp bites.
This was last summer and I was enjoying the shade from inside the boat while the rest of the group were swimming off the shore of Salina island near Sicily. That’s when I learned that the Italian for jellyfish. Medusa.
Trying the food in Trinidad requires learning the vocabulary:
Pepper (said, “pehpah”) sauce: made from pureed Scotch Bonnet chili peppers. In the lingo of the today, “they don’t play” in “scoville” here. This pepper sauce is flame-thrower hot. Tread lightly. When ordering pepper sauce, it’s “light, medium, and heavy.”
Doubles: this is the most famous of Trini foods. It’s eaten for breakfast and is comprised of two (hence the name) pieces of fried flatbread topped with cooked chickpeas (garbanzos) in curry, with sauces (see one in hand in photo above). Some of the sauces are pepper/chili sauce and some vendors have their own tamarind sauce to add a sweetness to the mix. At most doubles stands, there are two lines. One for eat-in and one for take-out. The take-out line takes longer as the doubles are wrapped in wax paper. The eat-in line is faster partly because some people will eat six to seven doubles at one time. Now, apparently, there are places serving “triples.” You pay after you have eaten.
Buss up shut: A dish of Indian origin with a large stretchy roti in two layers (inside is a think powdery layer inside) which is ripped up to resemble a ripped shirt. Hence the name.
Roti: is a flat stretchy bread. Eaten with curry (curry goat, curry chicken, etc.).
Callaloo soup: Also very popular. Callaloo is a vegetable. The soup is fairly thick and looks a bit like stewed collard greens.
Crab and dumpling (it is a large pasta piece, no filling). See below. In a curry sauce.
Bodi: is the Indian name for long green beans.
Channa: is lentils.
Dasheen bush choka: dasheen is another name for callaloo and when it is stewed, it becomes a dish called choka.
Fry Bake: is fried flat bread usually served as a breakfast sandwich with dried salt cod or smoked herring. Both taste slightly fishy so I’d recommend getting them with a good amount of pepper sauce.
Bake and Shark: is a fish sandwich like a po’ boy in the U.S. The most famous place for this is Richard’s in Maracas Bay. Stop for some pineapple chow.
Chow: is fruit in a slightly spicy brine.
Oil down: is a stew much like chicken and dumplings in flavor but often made with pigtail. As seen here, it is served with “provisions” which are dumplings, plaintains, breadfruit, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods.
Macaroni pie: like mac and cheese but cut in squares.
The drinks of Trinidad and Tobago are plentiful. They drink rum and more rum. I was told that the best rum here was Angostura. They also have a ‘punch’ which is made up of all kinds of other alcohol so strong enough to punch you down for a day or two. One person I talked to told me that he had something to drink that was so strong that it made him stop drinking! Again, the national pastime seems to be “to lime” which is to hang out somewhere to drink.
I did not have cow heel soup which is also a famous Trini food. It’s a thick soup made with cow hoof.
It’s not Punta Cana. I hear that Punta Cana is popular. Instead, the beaches at Las Terrenas are not as populated. Hardly anyone to be seen. Which is slightly surprising considering all the villas and hotels on the beach.
I was lucky to get driven there so I don’t know how to get there. But, I do know that we paid many tolls of hefty amounts (as in 8 bucks, 8 there, etc.) in Dominican cash. The drive took about three hours and went through an area of natural beauty.
Along the way, we stopped for some famous barbecue, at a gas station. It’s the Gran Parador Bellamar, Autopista Nordeste, Carretera Samana KM 1, Santo Domingo. After the first toll. It’s a good pitstop with toilet, cash machine, kiosk, etc.
We rented a luxury villa. I think there were enough beds for 10 or more people, and it was a good party house. But, also great for relaxing. Our villa cost $500 per night but I’m sure there are much cheaper options.
So pack up the cooler with drinks and food! You can probably find a colmado that will deliver!
On the way back, we stopped for some chicharron. Chicharron is pork rind but with meat attached. It’s not like pork rinds in the U.S. This is like greasy barbecue.
I can’t tell you the location because it simply appeared, like magic.
San Andres is nice and has all the usual activities of a sun and sand vacation. Plus, San Andres has some decent restaurants and lots of duty-free shopping.
The only thing that I didn’t notice were too many spas. There was a spa on the beach. But as they appeared to be the only game in town, they only had 30 minutes massages available. They only had one massage table and it was separated from the public by a bamboo bead curtain (which was never closed). The main “spa” activity in the hut seemed to be the fish foot spa. Even with a reservation, we did not manage to get a spa treatment on the beach. We did find a hair salon that also had massages and manicures and pedicures.
Apparently, the smaller (less crowded) Providencia is much nicer than San Andres. Perhaps another time.
If Jaflong provides rocks, then the rivers in the nearby areas provide the next best thing — cement. The sand comes down from India and is considered of the finest quality. It is very fine in size and seeped in my canvas shoes through the canvas.
The process of sand fishing involves getting pails of sand from the river bottom, hauling them up into the boat, letting the sand drain a little, and then letting your colleagues push the drying sand into the center of the boat. At the back of the boat is a bilge pump or a guy bailing the boat. The sand is ferried down to waiting trucks and then the trucks move the sand to hand cranked cement makers.