Rishad Saam Mehta gets dizzy with delight, as he takes in the sights, sounds and food at the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival
In Trinidad and Tobago, life is one big hoppin' party during the Carnival. A party that is rendered zesty and exciting by copious amounts of rum poured out by generous bartending women atop huge bar trucks that drive along the streets as mobile bars.
Another ingredient to this spicy party is Chutney — not the edible spice paste! Chutney in the Caribbean, especially Trinidad, is an indigenous music style that has evolved from the fusion of traditional Indian music and the very popular Trini Soca music.
So, besides the bar trucks there are huge bass pounding truck trailers that roam the streets following revellers.
Atop these trailers are DJs who belt out local music at ridiculously loud volumes. In fact, it makes me wonder why the Carnival survival kit that every reveller is handed has no ear plugs. The kit has hydration salt, deodorant, mouthwash and even contraceptives, but ear plugs, no!
The carnival usually kicks off with an event called J'Ouvert or ‘Dirty Mass' and I can tell you first-hand that you cannot walk the streets of Trinidad during this festival and come away clean. You'll be smothered in paint, grease, mud and even chocolate. The festival is a wonderfully mixed ethnicity party.
People from all over the world come to the Carnival, and laugh, drink, and dance together. More than any other emotion, what you experience on the streets is joy.
J'Ouvert is so popular that hotels usually set up temporary showers in their lawns and hand out shower gel and bathrobes so that revellers can rinse themselves before stepping into the sparkling lobbies of hotels.
When the music starts rattling my brain, I escape it by heading down to Maracas Beach at the north of the island of Trinidad, about an hour from Port of Spain, the capital. It seemed like a lot of other people too wanted to escape — the beach was quite crowded with locals as well as tourists. The water of course was divine — warm and blue and ideal for swimming.
A safe bet
Maracas is a safe beach in a natural cove and this safety is enhanced by a team of alert life guards.
I try the speciality here — Bake and Shark, and Shrimp and Fries. The first is a fried shark sandwich, where even the bread is fried. It is loaded with condiments such as tamarind and mango chutney, fried onion, horseradish sauce and a few others, and it's ready. Agreed eating it is stuffing your arteries with cholesterol, but it is incredibly tasty and an absolute must-try.
Maracas is the perfect mid-Carnival break, and I'm rejuvenated for the next day during which the carnival peaked with incredible costumes, gaiety and one big mad party.
(For more on Trinidad and Tobago visit go to www.gotrinidadandtobago.com. The most convenient route to Trinidad is via London. While you don't need a visa for Trinidad, you will need a U.K. visa for transit in London)