I wasn’t there long enough (and I didn’t hit Tobago at all) to do my usual “ten things,” but a few observations:
1. Trinidad has the world’s largest roundabout, in Queens Park Savannah.
2. According to Thursday’s Trinidad Guardian, in a little box headlined “Mr. Death,” showing an image of the Grim Reaper, there have been over 250 road fatalities this year in T&T. By just one comparison, Northern Ireland, which this year had one of its safest years ever, has around 120 fatalities — with a population some 600,000 larger. The reasons are not hard to imagine: There are many two-lane, non-divided highways in the country, which people drive at routinely high speeds (life seems relaxed everywhere except the roads). Also, the police no doubt have there hands a bit tied up with the 535 murders that have occurred there so far this year — don’t let this deter your visit, it’s typically gang-related stuff owing to the country’s status as a trans-shipment point for South American cocaine.
3. Something I hadn’t seen before: A stretch of road (coming out of Sangre Grande) marked with a sign from British Petroleum notifying drivers that the safety signs on that road were sponsored by same BP.
4. Left-side driving (former British colony).
5. I saw several nasty looking mountain passes where the guard-rails were fashioned out of bamboo (with little strips of police ‘caution’ tape interwoven throughout).
6. Most cars seemed to be low-slung Japanese models with tinted windows and expressions decaled across the front windshield (“Serious,” “Unique Lifestyle”, and, yes, “Bitchmaster”).
7. Accidents will often be explained using the wonderful phrase, “I get ah bad drive.”
8. The trams in Port of Spain, as shown in the House for Mr. Biswas-era postcard above, have long gone.
9. Owing to its own oil supplies and oil wealth, the government has been subsidizing fuel prices. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trinidad “spent about $2 billion last year on motor fuel subsidies — equivalent to 10% of its gross domestic product.” When gas was $4 a gallon in the U.S., it was under $2 in Trinidad. Car sales have also spiked. Not surprisingly, traffic in the capital, and even at seemingly minor junctions, is bad.
10. Any other suggestions?