Island boy

posted 07 January 2004
Just got back from three days "down the islands", i.e. at a weekend house on a little island which is tiny even compared to the already tiny island which I'm on. Down the islands is where Trinis go to get away from it all, so when you consider how far away from everything Trinidad already is, you can imagine that's pretty slow. Really relaxing though, and beautiful: forgive me, I'm about to wax poetic, in a way that will be hugely embarrassing to me once I'm done.

Imagine huge, solid hills coated in dark-green tropical forest, crashing steeply into the deep, dark blue-green ocean, sometimes ending in quiet little bays, sometimes ending in sheer granite cliffs a couple hundred feet high, with tiny stunted trees clinging to cracks in the rock on the way down. The sunlight glitters off the tiny waves and the water is crystal clear at this time of year, and you can see down twenty feet to the bottom. At the waterline the islands are encrusted with holiday homes, each a different style and colour with little jetties sticking out into the water. But when I love it most is at sunset.

At sunset the hills are huge black silhouettes framed against a sky that shades from a delicate orangey-pink of sunset in the east through dusky purple directly overhead and ending in starlit blackness in the east, with the full moon already shining down on the water like god's spotlight. The shadows hide the houses and the water is almost completely calm and you sit there in the quiet and the dark, hearing only the sounds of water and you can suddenly imagine how it must have felt when Columbus first sailed up this channel and named these islands: dark and green and mysterious, but tranquil and full of promise at the same time. I'd take a picture, but what kind of camera can take a picture of an entire night sky? You wouldn't get the feeling of being there, surrounded by it.

Because surrounded is exactly what you are. It's not a view, it's a whole world that's beautiful: above, below, and every direction around you are these marvels. Some of the islands are dark green humps rearing out of the sea, like whales surfacing before diving again, while others are high and proud, huge folds of forest curving inwards and upwards to the sharp ridges of the islands, like the sails of some gigantic ship frozen in time. Each one has a personality and a feeling to it, completely unique. The permanence of them is comforting: they are so solid, so massive, so reassuring in their existence, heedless of man's fleeting presence clinging to their rocky skirts as they sail onwards through the centuries.

So tomorrow, when I am fighting up with airline security and being served dreadful food in a cramped airline seat, I will close my eyes, relax, and remember that this is a small price to pay for visiting paradise.

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