First things first, Happy Happy 55th Independence Day Trinidad and Tobago. There’s always a lot of negative things in the spotlight, especially of late, with the rising crime levels, inter-island transport woes, spiralling unemployment, and so on. These are serious matters and need to be dealt with, but I believe in also placing great emphasis on the wonderful side of Trinidad and Tobago, because to me, this will always outweigh the bad. Especially on days like today, the pride is undeniable as people celebrate our Independence, and the red, white and black colours flood the streets, and social media feeds. It’s beautiful and heart-warming because when the people of a country come together to make a change, you know that change will happen.
On this momentous occasion of national pride, I wanted my contribution to be the start of a series highlighting the hidden gems of Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a reason for me to personally explore these wonderful places, have some adventures with my friends, meet some new people, and encourage others (Yes you!) to visit as well. I know a lot of people (myself included) often complain that there’s not much to do in T&T. That’s really very far from the truth. It’s just that we don’t appreciate the places in our backyard, and yes even a three hour drive to Matelot is in our backyard, because Trinidad and Tobago is comprised of two tiny islands. I love that there are so many hike groups now, and with social media, it’s easy to see and get reminders of the schedules so you can attend with experienced persons for a minimal cost.
Okay, so what gem am I highlighting today? Well…this past weekend, I ventured to the North Coast to the Matelot Waterfall. Why this one? Well..I want to visit all, but I am quite aware of my limitations, that is, I have not been gymming, or exercising at all of late, so my fitness level is not very high at the moment. So, I was only considering hikes that were rated as easy. I went on this hike with the hiking group, Palance 868 Adventures. We met the group in Arima, and then went with a maxi to Matelot. The drive is 2.5 to 3 hrs from Arima one way, so yeah..it’s long. If you know you suffer with motion sickness, take that gravol. I did. It helped me get some zzz’s on the way up, and if you know me, that’s rare, and I kept all my breakfast down. So, win win. I have long legs, so a small maxi was not the most comfortable for me for a long ride, but it also wasn’t unbearable, but it’s always something to consider. Also, I really appreciated that this tour group stopped along the way for bathroom breaks, and made us feel comfortable, letting us know that if we wanted to stop at any other time for any reason, we just needed to let the driver know.
Ok..so the details of the hike. It was supposed to be an easy hike, rated a 3/10. However, we live in a tropical country, and it did rain, so while the trail wasn’t impassable, it was slippery. This obviously made it more challenging than if it was dry. Now, I am generally a clumsy person by nature. I trip when there’s nothing to trip me. I’ve accepted it, so from the beginning I made peace with the fact that I would likely fall on my butt several times and I was okay with it. I think that in itself made me let go of any fear of falling I had, and made me more comfortable. Guess what? I didn’t fall. Full disclosure, I did kinda body slam into the side of the hill when we were going back up and I was using the rope (badly). It was more funny than bad or painful though. So, the hike was about 40 minutes long, but we took about an hour because we would stop at points for everyone to catch up. This 40 minutes was approximately 25 minutes on land (walking through the bush), and 15 minutes walking through the river. The water wasn’t very high, and if there were points where the current was a bit strong, the hike leaders were at those points to offer assistance.
Then we got to the waterfall, and it was a stunning sight. Nature really is just truly special. It’s enough to sit on the rocks, or on the water’s edge, and just enjoy the moment. It’s peaceful and rejuvenating, and an experience you should schedule regularly into your life. The health benefits are worth it. The water was ice cold as expected, but life jackets were supplied to everyone at the start of the hike, so even if you’re not a strong swimmer, you could still enjoy the experience. I badly want to jump off a waterfall, as several of the other hikers did, but I am not ready for that. I have a phobia of deep water which has made me quit many a swimming class. I will learn to swim soon though, because I am missing out on all of these experiences, and fear is just something to be conquered.
Everyone will be able to manage the hike at his or her own pace, and that’s ok. It’s better to go at a speed that you’re comfortable with, and be safe, than to try to keep up with others and end up hurting yourself. Once you pick a hike that you know you should be able to do at your current fitness level, then on the day of the hike, just go at a comfortable pace. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, just let someone know, preferable a hike leader who is trained, and able to properly assist. Also, while I always try to go on a hike with at least one person, to have a hiking buddy who will check for me, because I’m paranoid like that, it’s not necessary. If you really want to do it, then find a way. You can always reach out to the hiking group if you’re unsure about any details and to confirm that the hike is right for you. Being comfortable is the most important part of having an enjoyable trip, so having a group that knew what they were about, and were very professional and friendly really made the trip great. I’ve already bookmarked a couple more hikes I’ll be attending with this group.
So, what are you waiting on to plan your next local adventure? What are your must visit areas in T&T? Leave a comment so we can all learn from each other, and give this lovely twin island the love and attention it deserves.
These are my tips, but Palance 868 Adventures actually provided a checklist which was very helpful. Thanks guys!
1) Have proper walking shoes – My sneakers were a bit old, and the soles unstuck as soon as they hit water. Thankfully, aside from a couple occasions where branches got tangled in between and I almost kissed the ground, it held on for the duration of the hike, and didn’t make things too difficult.
2) Insect Repellant – it’s not fun to be a scratchy, and spotty mess because you were the insects’ favourite delicacy. Better safe than sorry.
3) Water – Walk with enough. It’s a necessity.
4) Backpack – have a proper backpack (two straps) that is comfortable, and will allow you to be hands-free on the hike
5) Zip-lock bags/waterproof cases – First of all..know what your phone/camera is capable of, and that there is a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant before you go for that great underwater shot.
6) UNPLUG. Take the pictures but enjoy the moment. You can post everything on social media when the adventure is over. It’ll still be applicable.
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Light and love always,