Written by Pieter Jan on Feb 23, 2020 — 3 min read
At: Charlotteville, Tobago
We set off to clear in and explore a bit of Charlotteville. Charlotteville is one of the two only towns on Tobago where you can clear in. The other is the capital Scarborough (population 1000). As we would discover, Charlotteville is full of slightly zany characters and offbeat situations.
Where else would you need to go to the customs officer’s own house, knock on the door and tell you’ve arrived? He opened the door in his shorts and wife-beater, and told us to go to the customs office, he would arrive later. After clearing in, he rang his friend the immigration officer to see if he was available. Immigration is not open on a Sunday. But no problem, immigration would see us around 14:00.
We passed the time walking along the beach. As it was a Sunday, the whole town was out for a swim. Groups of youngsters were playing soccer and trying to put little fish in each other’s hair. Every now and then the whole group erupted in rhythmic chanting and dancing.
We tried to have a bite in restaurant ‘Suck Hole’, but the kitchen was running on island time and after nursing our beers for the best part of an hour, we had to leave empty-stomached for immigration. It was 14:00.
We walked past a stall that sold coconuts for $TT 8 (around €1). Naturally, we had to have a coconut. The lady hacked a piece out of every coconut with a machete and we drank the water straight from the nut. Afterwards, she skillfully cut two razor sharp spoons from the husk to scoop out the coconut flesh.
By now it was 14:30, so the immigration officer would probably be in. We went back to the office and waited for another half hour. We walked back to the customs officer’s house. The immigration officer was just arriving there too to drop off some groceries.
For such a laidback island, the government processes are strangely mired in bureaucracy. We filled in about a million forms, repeating the same information multiple times: Arrival cards for everyone, Ship details, Crew list, Stowaway list (“Give the official names of all stowaways on the ship”), Contagious Disease list (“Has there been an unusual high mortality rate amongst the rats on the ship?”), all in 5-fold, with carbon paper between them. Then the officer wrote our names in a big book — no computers here — we payed $TT 100 for overtime and we were in!
On the way back, a sudden downpour surprised us. A proper tropical watery deluge. We sprinted into a garage where two old geezers were chilling and talking. One of the men quickly grabbed a vat with a tap and put it under the overflowing drainpipe of the garage. “All natural wata, much betta dan dee chemical wata,” he smiled.
The other man guided us through his bedroom and his living room into his bar. We ate a few bags of peanuts and crisps while we waited for the shower to pass. We talked a bit — “I just want you all to be happy”, he kept repeating — and then he left us to our own devices to go chill with his buddy again. Meanwhile, we amused ourselves reading the many random aphorisms stapled to the wall:
“What was so special about it what turn you on most”,
“What is done is already done so you need to just go on with things to be done”
and my favourite:
“You know and I know you, know because we all know”
(that comma placement could probably be improved upon)
We like this place.